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Lundi 09 Décembre 2019

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The sound I didn't expect to hear in a juvenile detention facility

Tuesday 30th of July 2019 | Océanie, Australie
The Sydney Morning Herald
Nouvelle

I turned to my escort as we walked together through the desolate central yard of Frank Baxter. It wasn’t the ten foot or so tall razor wire fence or the CCTV cameras in such abundance even Orwell would shiver that I found the most unsettling. It’s what was not there that threw me. Sound. Aside from the odd crackling of a guard’s radio or clanking of heavy steel on steel as doors were locked behind us, there was none. Not a whisper. Dead silence. ‘So the centre’s not full?’ I asked the juvenile justice worker who was taking me to the secure classroom where I would be helping an NGO deliver a workshop, assuming the lack of noise corresponded to a lack of inmates. ‘Actually, we’ve been operating at full capacity for some time now’.

Opened in 1999, Frank Baxter is NSW largest and most secure male juvenile facility. There’s no higher security classification. This was the first of six visits to the centre before last week’s riot. As I  wondered how a centre could be supposedly full, yet the only life visible a few weeds pushing through the steel and concrete, out of my periphery from the direction of the squat besser block structures that made up the centre’s accommodation units, came a precession of eight teen boys all clad in standard issue green tracksuits walking two by two.

Soon they arrived with their guards to where I was already waiting as my escort fumbled for the right key to unlock the training room. The boys seized upon this slightest gap in what was otherwise a tightly controlled routine to take a breather. Legislation relating to child offenders prevented me from being told their individual crimes. But I was given a general overview. Terrorism, murder, sexual assault right through to more minor offences, but committed repeatedly enough to earn them a place here.

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