Offending Institution: Reiby Youth Justice Centre

boy in a prison cell

Youth detention centres have gained a horrific reputation throughout Australia. 

“Troubled” children who are defined as “delinquents” were once locked away from their families, forced to follow rigid rules and routines and in some cases subjected to various forms of abuse — whether it’s beatings, starvation, isolation, harassment or even sexual abuse. 

No one knows this better than the children who were locked away in Reiby Youth Justice Centre in the 1990s. Opened in 1973 by the NSW Department of Youth and Community Services, Reiby was originally a girls-only centre until 1977 when it became co-educational. This became a serious problem in the late 1990s.

In 2017, two female juvenile justice officers were charged with sexually assaulting inmates between 1996 and 1997.

A third female officer was charged in 2020 for assaulting a male inmate who was only 15-years-old at the time.

This officer abused the teenager before and after he left Reiby.

Adult female offenders are often a shock to the community. With thousands of male paedophiles in the news, female offenders — and their victims — are often lost amongst the noise.

Not anymore. In this article, we share the horrendous crimes that occurred within the walls of Reiby Youth Justice Centre. 

Life inside Reiby Youth Justice Centre

Whether they are remanded for petty crimes or accused of murder, children are sent to Reiby Youth Justice Centre all the same. Lined with high walls and barbed wire, it’s normal to feel nervous and scared walking into Reiby for the first time, especially with friends and family so far away.

In an interview with SBS, one of the inmates told reporters he entered Reiby when he was 11-years-old and had multiple stays at the Centre. He was intimidated by the experience but said he had got used to it. 

“I’ve been in and out, so it feels like home,” the boy said.

“I know nearly every single worker here. They treat me with respect. I treat them with respect.”

At the time of the interview, the boy had a few personal items in his cell — shampoo and conditioner, a hairbrush, rewards for good behaviour and a bed that took up most of his cell. Like the other children, he had very few liberties — the inmates were not allowed on social media and were only allowed 10-minute calls to their families each day. 

Half the time, they weren’t even able to socialise with each other.

The inmates’ lives were regimented and reclusive. They are separated into four units, each containing up to 15 minors. The groups rarely mingle and they are separated by locked doors and thick walls.

Everywhere they go, the inmates are followed by officers who are hooked up to radios and braced for the threat of violence. After day-release, the inmates are returned to the centre and strip-searched by the officers — a practice that has frequently caused outrage in the community.

According to the NSW Inspector of Custodial Services: 

“Youth Justice NSW staff are trained on the legislative provisions around partially clothed body searches and cease routine partially clothed body searches before and after visits.”

However, many are calling for the practice to be discontinued altogether as the experience can be traumatic, especially for children who have been sexually abused. Psychologist Susan Pulman claims:

“Children and young people subjected to these searches may suffer trauma, anxiety, fear, shame, guilt, powerlessness and stress.”

It is still common practice at Reiby, along with many other detention centres, to search the children for contraband. Disturbingly, this opens up the opportunity for officers to sexually abuse the inmates — and the threat was much worse back in the 1990s.

Multiple female officers were arrested under Strikeforce Redcliffe

Following the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse, detectives from Campbelltown Local Area Command formed Strikeforce Redcliffe, established to investigate allegations of sexual abuse at Reiby.

In 2017, the detectives made two arrests. The first involved a 43-year-old former officer who was arrested and taken to Campbelltown Police Station to be charged with 75 offences

More than 20 were sexual offences including aggravated assault, aggravated indecent assault and the sexual assault of a child between the ages of 10 and 16-years-old. Police alleged the woman assaulted numerous inmates between 1997 and 2004.

She was also charged with numerous drug-related offences, but this was not related to her employment at Reiby.

A 47-year-old woman was also arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault. The abuse occurred between 2001 and 2004.

She called him “Romeo” and signed off as “Juliet”

In October 2020, Katherine Asiminaris was jailed for engaging in a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old male inmate of Reiby Youth Justice Centre. 

Asiminaris was 23-years-old when she was a guard at Reiby and would send him love letters calling him her “Romeo” and signed off as “Juliet”. She would slip the letters under his door or place them right in his hand, and would often put cigarettes in the envelope for him.

At the time Asiminaris instigated the relationship, she had only been working at Reiby for a month. 

The pair would exchange letters and according to Asiminaris, they “expressed love for each other” and had a “desire to be together”. At the time, the boy thought they were in love and planned to be together long-term when he left Reiby.

In December 1996, the teenager was allowed out on day-release for the first time. Asiminaris gave the child her phone number and told him to call her. Asiminaris would pick the boy up from his parent’s house and take him for drives.

On one occasion, she met the teenager at a train station where they had sex in her car. Inside Reiby, the boy was living in a self-contained cell nicknamed “the granny flat”. The pair had sex there on numerous occasions.

Mid-1997, the teen was released from Reiby to his mother’s home. One night, he stayed overnight at Asiminaris’ brother’s house where once again, Asiminaris had sex with him.

When he turned 16, the pair moved in together. It wasn’t long before the teenager found out Asiminaris was pregnant, although she couldn’t confirm who the father was. Their relationship ended soon after.

The court heard that the boy consented to all of the sexual activity. However, Judge Sarah Huggett said Asiminaris was “an intelligent person” and should have known the relationship was “completely prohibited”. 

The abuse was not reported until 2016 after the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse. The ex-inmate was contacted by the authorities and he finally told them what had happened at Reiby.

At 46-years-old, a teary-eyed Asiminaris was given three years in prison. The Judge said Amisinaris showed no evidence of remorse — especially after first claiming the teenager had forced himself on her, making her the victim. 

Underprivileged and delinquent children must be protected in state care

The crimes that female officers committed at Reiby were disturbing, to say the least. The officers used their position of power to abuse underage boys, bribing them with cigarettes and special treatment. 

The boys were young and impressionable. The officers should have known better.

The treatment of children in youth detention centres continues to be problematic. Reiby is just one of many centres that have failed to care for, protect and rehabilitate the inmates. 

Enough is enough.

If you were sexually abused in a youth detention centre, please contact Kelso Lawyers today. We can help bring your abusers to justice and achieve compensation to help start the healing process.

Get the justice you deserve with Kelso Lawyers. We want to hear your story. Call (02) 4907 4200 or complete the online form before you accept payment from the National Redress Scheme.

Image: Unsplash