- Brad Royce is the new Corrective Services commissioner
- He replaces Mike Reynolds who’s been stood down
- Paul Papalia says a new facility will be built for ‘challenging’ juveniles
The WA government has replaced the Commissioner of Corrective Services and suspended a staff member in the wake of the state’s first recorded death in youth detention.
Cleveland Dodd took his own life in his cell in Unit 18, an isolated facility within maximum security adult Casuarina Prison, earlier this month.
He was found unresponsive in his cell and was revived before spending a week in hospital on life support, until his family made the heartbreaking decision to turn it off.
His death is being investigated by the Department of Justice internally and will also be the subject of a coronial inquest.
In a statement, the department confirmed a staff member had been stood down as part of that process.
“A staff member has been suspended from duty pending the outcome of a departmental inquiry,” a spokesperson said.
“The department won’t comment on specific matters under investigation.”
Last week WA’s Corruption and Crime Commission made the rare move of also announcing it was investigating the circumstances around Cleveland’s death.
Corrective Services Minister Paul Papalia said as a result of those investigations, he could not comment on why the officer had been stood down.
Commissioner had years left on contract
A 35-year-veteran of corrective services, Mike Reynolds had served as Commissioner since November 2020, before being appointed to a five-year term from April 2022.
Mr Papalia today announced Mr Reynolds had been replaced by Brad Royce, who is currently serving as Assistant Commissioner of WA Police.
Mr Reynolds remains employed by the department, Mr Papalia said, but he would not be drawn on what role he would now move into, saying it was a matter for the Director General.
The role of Deputy Commissioner for Young People, Christine Ginbey, would also be split to have a deputy focused specifically on youth justice.
Ms Ginbey had received dozens of letters of complaint, including one from Cleveland’s lawyers two weeks before he died, but did not respond to many of them.
The government has yet to appoint someone to the role of Deputy Commissioner for Young People, which Ms Ginbey will retain in the interim.
The ABC understands once that appointment has been made, she will keep her role as Deputy Commissioner for Women.
It is not yet clear what position former Commissioner Mike Reynolds will move into, if any.
Changes offer a ‘reset’
Mr Papalia said Mr Royce’s 30 years of policing experience, including “strong leadership skills” and an ability to affect “cultural change” would stand him in good stead for the new role.
The minister said the changes built on the work done since he took on the portfolio in June, particularly improvements at Banksia Hill.
“We have not achieved advances in Unit 18 to my expectations and my desires,” he said.
“And what we’ve done is a reset.
“We’ve brought in a commissioner with known leadership skills, proven leadership skills, and capability of effecting cultural change and improvement across an organisation and that’s what we want to have happen.”
Mr Royce said his appointment had been a “fast process” over the last day or two and that his first priority would be the staff.
“You have people doing a really tough job and if you don’t give them what they need and you don’t support them then you end up with what you deserve,” he said.
Given lasting criticism of conditions in youth detention, and particularly Unit 18, Commissioner Royce said he was not shying away from how challenging the task would be.
“[The detainees] are there for a reason. These are decisions made through the community, through the justice process,” he said.
“Corrections has a role in making sure that whilst they’re in the care, they’re looked after, and when they return to the community, they have better opportunities but it’s something that has to be done.”
Mr Papalia said a review of the infrastructure needed across youth detention continued to be considered by cabinet, with further announcements to come in “not long at all”.
But he suggested the government’s focus would be on building a separate facility for “the most complex, challenging and often violent” group, rather than splitting detainees on remand from those who are sentenced.
Reynolds a ‘sacrificial lamb’: Opposition
The state opposition accused the Cook Government of using Mr Reynolds as a scapegoat for its problems in juvenile justice.
Corrective services spokesman Peter Collier said Mr Reynolds was not responsible for setting up Unit 18, yet he has lost his job following Cleveland’s death.
“Mike Reynolds is the sacrificial lamb, he’s the scapegoat for the Labor government, and it doesn’t remotely surprise me on this litany of failures,” Mr Collier said.
He accused Labor of weaponising the corrective services portfolio over the last two years for political gain.
“It’s been used to highlight their so-called tough-on-crime rhetoric from the corrective services portfolio,” he said.
“And in the meantime, the lives of inmates and in particular juveniles have been put at risk. And that’s the shame of it.”