Joel Mathew's story

Joel was born in the mid-1990s, and grew up in Northern Queensland. His dad wasn’t around much, so his mum raised him and his younger siblings on her own. In his mid-teens, Joel started getting into trouble with the law, after falling in with the wrong crowd. From then on, he was in and out of juvenile detention centres.

When Joel was around 14 years old he was placed in a centre in far north Queensland. When he came through reception, he was subjected to a strip search which was conducted inappropriately.

One of the male workers made him take off all his clothes at once, and stand there naked. The normal requirement was to strip the top half first, and then the bottom half, rather than requiring a young person to be fully unclothed at any one time.

When he got older Joel realised that what this staff member did was not right, as nobody else ever searched him this way. ‘I knew you’re not supposed to stand there naked, know what I mean? ... It wasn’t happening every other time.’

Now he tries not to think about what happened. He remembers that when he was in custody he felt safe when he was around the other boys, but not with staff. He does not think that if he’d reported the incident to other staff they would have done anything about it.

Joel’s criminal offending continued into adulthood, and he has spent significant amounts of time in prison. He is completing his Year 10 certificate whilst in custody, and enjoys studying even though it is hard. Although he hasn’t engaged with any counselling whilst in prison, he is trying to make sure he has support in the community when he is next released.

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