Unit 18 'inhumane' and a 'war zone' before teen's death

A nurse who tried to save an Indigenous teen who harmed himself in the youth wing of an adult prison has told an inquest the unit was like a war zone and conditions were inhumane.

Cleveland Dodd was found unresponsive in the early hours of October 12, 2023, inside his cell in Unit 18 at Perth's Casuarina Prison, becoming the first juvenile to die in detention in Western Australia.

The 16-year-old had made eight threats to self-harm and multiple requests for medical treatment and drinking water in the hours before he was discovered and transported to hospital, where he died eight days later.

Cleveland Dodd
Conditions in the wing where teen Cleveland Dodd harmed himself have been described as "inhumane".

A coronial inquest into his death in Perth on Wednesday heard the situation in the unit was so bad before the incident, that registered nurse Fiona Bain started keeping a diary of events to preserve her mental health.

She agreed it was like working on the front line of a war zone and that she was overwhelmed and there was a "huge" staff turnover.

The coroner heard some detainees were held in cells without running water for more than 22 hours per day.

They ate their meals and went to the toilet in the cells, which were described as disgusting, dirty and grimy, but could not wash themselves.

"There's leftover food in there, the smell of possibly urine, faeces, sweat ... a lot of graffiti, a lot of damage to the cells," she said.

Ms Bain agreed the cells were unliveable, inhumane, a health risk and an "appalling state of affairs".

The inquest also heard some boys had not been outside for months during their limited recreation time because the Department of Justice placed two sea containers in the basketball court area.

They were on-site for about eight months and the plan was to use them as offices, but it did not happen and they were eventually removed.

Ms Bain said the department had planned to increase the number of detainees in Unit 18 before Cleveland died and she raised concerns with a manager about the lack of facilities but was ignored.

She told the coroner she was in her office on October 12 when she heard youth custodial officer Daniel Torrijos tell a senior officer in a panicked tone: "I need the keys, I think Cleveland has (harmed himself)."

An inquest heard sea containers were placed in the basketball area.
An inquest into Cleveland Dodd's death heard some boys in the wing had not been outside for months.

"I was thinking what's going on but we heard it that often about boys," she said.

She said numerous staff members passed her office on their way to Cleveland's cell soon after that but none bothered to advise her.

The court heard CCTV vision showed Ms Bain walk towards the wing where Cleveland's cell was before turning back and collecting emergency medical equipment.

"I knew it was dire and it was an emergency but I didn't actually know what happened at that stage," she said.

Ms Bain also told the coroner some senior officers did nothing when detainees covered the cameras in their cells or scratched them, as Cleveland had done before fatally harming himself.

It prevented staff in the unit's control room from being able to check on their welfare, and was an issue for detainees who required increased monitoring after they threatened to harm themselves.

Ms Bain said the problem was so widespread before October 2023 that it was common to see most of the screens in the control room blanked out and that some senior officers ignored the issue, saying there was nothing that could be done.

Premier Roger Cook said the evidence was distressing and disturbing.

"But I'm pleased that evidence is there and I'm pleased that those stories have been told,' he told reporters at an unrelated media conference.

"It's all part of the journey that we need to go on to make sure that we improve the way that we address juvenile justice issues."

Lifeline 13 11 14

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store