I’ve been at Rangeview for seven years now. I began mentoring kids and I really enjoy it. I was told I had the right temperament to be a group worker so that was the motivation for me to become a Juvenile Custodial Officer. The job’s quite easy once you get into it. You’ve got many tools available to manage the behaviour of the kids.
There’s this vague idea in Rangeview that a criminal is a criminal but you sort of work there longer and you get the story from the kids and their backgrounds. Many of the kids learn their behaviour from their parents and know no different.
Sometimes the kids don’t have a lot of choice. There’s a girl with a high media profile who just wanted to get back into the centre for 3 square meals a day and not have the really bad home life she has, so she reoffends in order to come back in. A lot of kids do, they get their medical care, looked after by the staff who develop a rapport with the kids, meals, change of clothes . . . especially the streetkids. If kids are given Supervised Bail, Rangeview Remand Centre won’t release them until they are satisfied these kids have a place to go to (whether that is a hostel or the home of a close family member) and have appropriate supports. If the kids then decide to abscond or don’t want to stay where they are placed, then that is their decision.
The young girl I was talking about, one of the teachers at Rangeview who used to teach this young lady, would say to me that this young girl would reoffend purely to get back into this teacher’s class. The teachers and the Juvenile Custodial Officers form a bit of a bond with these kids and you wonder how much of a bond these kids are looking for, that they don’t get on the outside.
A lot of things that could help these kids from preventing crime on the larger scale is the distribution of wealth and giving the families the infrastructure and access to the support they need, that would go a long way. Some of these kids are just living hand to mouth and do crimes just to get a feed.
During the week or over night, if someone gets arrested, they go to the police station where they are processed before the police contact the young person’s family or caregivers. Depending on the nature of the charge and whether they’re not a repeat offender and haven’t hurt anyone, the police would try and get mum, dad or a caregiver to take them home. If the parents have said no or they can’t be contacted, they go to Rangeview and spend the night there, before going to court the next day.
If the offender isn’t processed before 6 am on a weekday, the police take the kids straight to the Children’s Court before 1 pm. We don’t accept kids at Rangeview after 6 am on a weekday. If the police don’t process them before 1 pm, they’ll take the kids straight to Rangeview where they’ll go to court the next day. If it happens on the weekend, they’re taken to Rangeview and go to court on the Monday.
In Rangeview, the kids get up at 8 am and have an hour for breakfast, to get dressed and clean their rooms. Then they go to education if they’re under 15. If they’re over 15, they go to an alternative program like the gardening, cleaning or activity groups or TAFE, which is like a woodwork room. Then at 3 o’clock they go back to their living units and are amused by the officers with unit activities or sport. Sport is a huge factor in Rangeview. We have a Sports Coordinator who comes in Monday to Friday and on the weekends to organise activities for the kids like yoga for the girls as well as tee-ball, volleyball and football. Dinner is at 5 o’clock, clean up and then they get locked in at 7.30 - 8 o’clock.
All the girls go to Rangeview whether they’re sentenced or on remand. There’s about 10 girls with about 60 – 70 remand boys in Rangeview. Any surplus of boys, we normally send across to Banksia Hill, which is purely a detention centre so people who’ve been caught and given a period of detention, serve that time out there.
On the weekends, it’s very similar. They get to sleep in a bit longer and are unlocked by 8 but usually rise between 8 – 9. A relaxed breakfast, bit of a clean of their cells on Saturday, scrubbing the tiles in the shower and the bathroom. The same on the Sunday, the kitchen is done, the windows and laundry up until lunchtime where they have recreation and go kick a footy.
We have a hierarchy model. When the kids who are on remand for 2 or more weeks behave and maintain good behaviour, respect their peers and the officers, they get Playstation, take away food, new release movies, baths, more gratuity and first dibs at everything. They’re also given nicer living quarters too. You usually find that the best behaved kids look after their areas a lot better. The cells are a lot cleaner and the units are generally better looked after. If they show the right behaviour and attitude, they go up in the world and it works.