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NT juvenile justice royal commission hears escaped inmates gave themselves up for a McDonald’s meal

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IS THERE anything a McDonald’s burger can’t do?

The popping up of a Macca’s in a foreign city is one of the first symbols of the spread of western culture, the “Big Mac index” is said to reveal the relative price of everyday staples worldwide and their cheeseburgers defy the laws of nature by never rotting.

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Now, it seems, Happy Meals can end potential prison riots.

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The Northern Territory juvenile justice royal commission on Wednesday heard from the man who ordered the tear-gassing of boys in the now notorious Don Dale Detention Centre.

Former corrections commissioner Ken Middlebrook said on one occasion three inmates were coaxed down from a roof with just a McDonald’s meal after causing nearly $40,000 in damage.

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Mr Middlebrook authorised six Don Dale detainees to be gassed after one escaped his isolation cell and began trashing property in 2014, a scandal that sparked the inquiry.

He told the inquiry that in August, 2013, three teenagers attempted to escape the youth prison by breaking into the ceiling through an airconditioning unit.

Early on August 12, the trio damaged a number of other ceilings and areas to the tune of $37,000 before authorities lured them down a ladder with fast food.

“Staff with the assistance of NT police negotiators coaxed the detainees down with a McDonald’s meal,” Mr Middlebrook said.

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An incident review found the potential for a serious injury or death to the youngsters in the roof was heightened due to the existence of electrical cabling, but the power supply was never switched off.

For this reason police, paramedics, firefighters and power utility workers refused to enter the ceiling cavity.

Mr Middlebrook said the increasing number of female detainees posed a serious issue and referred to an alleged Don Dale inmate “sex romp” in February 2008. According to a media report, boys allegedly sneaked into the girl’s room after dark while other detainees distracted guards.

Mr Middlebrook said the allegation could not be substantiated, but inadequate infrastructure meant “the potential was there”.

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He told the commission a “tough on crime” political agenda has no chance of rehabilitating kids in jail and reducing reoffending.

Mr Middlebrook, who is now a corrections consultant, said NT incarceration rates were among the worst in the world, but heavy-handed punishments did not help. “Tough on crime means more numbers, more overcrowding and stress on the system … building prisons is not the answer,” he said on Wednesday. Mr Middlebrook said he was embarrassed to be in charge of a system that was rampantly locking up people, yet he could not control government policy. Mr Middlebrook said he tried to shift the focus from custody to indigenous community policing support, but ministers told him voters wanted tougher sentences.

“I think we live in a very punitive society where people want their pound of flesh,” he said.

“I often wonder what it’s going to be like in another five years here.” NT prisons also struggled with overcrowding, budget shortfalls and a poorly trained and casualised workforce, the inquiry heard.

Former corrections minister John Elferink and ex-chief minister Adam Giles will also give evidence this week.

Online Source: news.com.au

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