‘Inhumane’: girl held in isolation for seven years, disability royal fee hears | Incapacity royal fee

For seven years Melanie was locked in a room with no daylight, often for more than 23 hours a day.

On the walls, she is said to have “decorated the room with her own blood,” and two lawyers who visited her and saw the conditions in which she was held said the experience would stay with them for the rest of their lives.

“I had a bad upbringing,” said Melanie, 39, the Royal Commission on the Disabled in a recorded statement, “but I am a strong, proud, black Aboriginal woman who is here in front of you today for help, where I need it. ” it and fight for my rights. “

In this week’s Brisbane hearings, the commission began investigating the treatment of people with cognitive disabilities in the criminal justice system and heard from experts and supporters on the complex issue.

The treatment of Melanie, detailed in her own words and detailed by her supporters, is among the most shocking pieces of evidence ever heard at the commission, which began in September 2019.

The commission heard this week how the 39-year-old, who goes by a pseudonym, has essentially been deprived of food and medication if deemed badly behaved.

And it was said that sometimes she was not allowed out of isolation for consecutive days due to staff restrictions or a “traffic light system” that monitored her behavior.

“Solitude,” noted the commissioners, was essentially isolation, or some version of “solitary confinement”.

Melanie lived in different houses as a child and was allegedly sexually, physically and psychologically abused. She was eventually taken to an asylum before being sent to juvenile detention after a violent incident.

While in juvenile detention, Melanie committed another “act of violence” that resulted in the “tragic death of an employee,” Crawford said.

The commission heard that it had been found unable to be tried. In 2011, when her term would have expired under normal circumstances, Melanie was transferred from prison to a forensic hospital.

A statement to the NSW guardian Megan Osborne describes Melanie’s environment during this time.

Osborne describes two secluded spaces that are separated by an inner courtyard. In their “sleeping environment” there was a hard-formed bed with a thin mattress and blankets, depending on the weather, and an adjoining bathroom with a sink and a steel toilet without a toilet seat.

In the second locked room where she spent the day there were some posters on the walls, another bed, and Melanie was allowed to listen to music and watch selected television programs at set times according to her routine.

But she couldn’t leave a room except for an hour on weekdays or 45 minutes on weekends.

“I will never forget the feeling of visiting these seclusion rooms and I will never leave me,” said Osborne.

Melanie’s lawyer, Helen Seares, of NSW Mental Health Advocacy Service, said authorities missed several opportunities to help her client before she was sent to juvenile detention.

She recalled the first meeting with Melanie in 2013. “Melanie was dressed in a safety gown at the time,” Seares told the commission. “There was blood on her forehead that looked like fresh blood. There was dried blood in front of her smock. And her room was empty.

“What struck me the most about this room is that Melanie adorned the room with her own blood. The smell of dried blood mixed with body odor and the sight of that graffiti will stay with me until the day I die. “

Documents submitted to the commission state that Seares referred Melanie’s case to the law firm Maurice Blackburn for a possible claim for damages.

“I didn’t know I would ever get out of seclusion,” Melanie said in a previously recorded statement. “I thought, ‘What, I have no light at the end of the tunnel, I don’t see any light, where is the light? God show me something. “

Gary Forrest, the executive director of NSW’s Justice, Health and Forensic Mental Health Network, told the commission he was upset when he first learned about Melanie’s situation.

He took on the role in 2016.

“These seclusion rooms are designed for short-term use,” he told the commission. “They are not designed for long-term seclusion.”

He did not want to comment on whether Melanie’s treatment had violated the law, but admitted that the relevant guidelines had not been correctly applied.

Forrest said staff had tried to reduce the amount of time Melanie was in seclusion from then on, but it was difficult, also because they were “pretty scared” of her patient.

“There were several factors that made it difficult to get Melanie out of seclusion, so the ideal would have been to get it right at this point,” he said.

“But it was a complex situation for both employee culture and safety, and all of that had to be addressed before we could get Melanie out of seclusion.”

In November, Melanie was finally brought out of seclusion to a room on a subacute ward.

She said in her statement that there was “not a day in my life when I did not want to get out and had a life and wanted to be happy on the ward again”.

“It was inhuman to keep someone locked up for so long,” she said.

The lawyer who backed the commission, Janice Crawford, said Melanie’s experience and another one examined by the investigation later that week were “unfortunately not isolated”.

The commission also heard the story of Winmartie, the pen name of an Aboriginal person diagnosed with a brain abnormality and who “received severe treatment in prison, including frequent physical, mechanical and chemical restrictions”.

He had killed his only caregiver at the age of 16. Before going to a forensic disability department, the commission was told that if the guard became frustrated and started beating his head with a sedative, the guard would pin him down, take him to a restraint chair, and inject him.

“These cases are going to be faced by many,” Crawford said. “The two people have acted seriously violently from time to time. Many will not agree with their plight.

“Others will be open to understanding how everyone got to their location and want to know how we as a society can do better for them.”

The request continues.

In Australia, the crisis support service is Lifeline 13 11 14. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. Further international suicide helplines can be found at freundienders.org

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