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Joshua Michael's story

Joshua was born in the early 1990s, and lived in the Northern Territory with his parents and siblings most of his childhood. At school he had his ups and downs, and didn’t spend much time in class. He left school around Year 7, and ‘got in with the wrong crowd, starting stealing, break and enters’.

At 13 he was remanded to a juvenile detention centre in Darwin. The guards at the centre treated the boys as though they were fully-grown men. Violence was common, both between the inmates, and between inmates and officers.

One day, some of the boys asked Joshua to go into a room to play cards. When he entered the room, he was held down, and raped by an older boy he had considered a friend.

Joshua cried out during this attack. One of the guards heard this, and came to see what was happening. He told the boys to keep it down, but did nothing to stop the assault.

Afterwards, Joshua was placed in an observation unit. He does not think he was considered at risk of self-harm at this stage, but this measure was taken to protect him from the other inmates. Nobody asked him how he was after he was released from this unit.

Joshua reported this assault to his mother once he was back home. ‘She was wild.’

‘As the time went on, it was still playing on my mind ... and I started self-harming.’ This self-harming behaviour continues to this day. ‘I try to keep myself busy. My family tell me to just forget about it, but it’s hard.’

Joshua kept offending. At one court appearance the judge barred him from the city, so he moved interstate, where he ended up in a juvenile detention facility again.

When Joshua was in his mid-teens he was involved in a standoff with police. He wanted to die, and was attempting to provoke them into killing him. The same year, he was prescribed antipsychotic medication, but when he was later placed in mainstream adult prison he was prohibited from taking this.

Joshua has spent most of his adult life in custody. He finds living in the community overwhelmingly stressful and difficult, and turns to self-harm to cope. ‘I don’t do it inside [jail], I do it outside .... On the inside I do it easy, don’t have to stress out that much ... On the outside, I try to get a job and that.’

Joshua met with the Commissioner in prison, to talk about the abuse and its impacts. As he does not like speaking with other inmates he mostly keeps to himself. He finds it hard to trust anyone except his family, and pushes most people away. Since being in custody this time he has undertaken some trade certificates, to help him obtain employment when he is released.

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