Probation staff cleared of misconduct in teenager’s death

There is no evidence that serious misconduct or corruption played a role in the death of an Indigenous teenager who self-harmed in a detention center, a corruption watchdog says.

Cleveland Dodd was found unconscious in the early morning hours of October 12, 2023, in his faulty cell in Unit 18 of Casuarina Prison in Perth, becoming the first juvenile to die in a Western Australian detention center.

Hours before he was discovered and taken to hospital, the 16-year-old threatened self-harm, repeatedly asked for medical attention and covered the CCTV cameras in his cell.

He died eight days later, sparking outrage and sadness in the community.

The Washington State Commission on Corruption and Crime was tasked with investigating serious allegations of misconduct made against corrections officers working when Cleveland harmed himself.

The investigation into Cleveland Dodd’s death found no evidence of serious misconduct at Casuarina Unit 18. (Aaron Bunch/AAP PHOTOS)

It turned out that Unit 18, a stand-alone youth wing in a maximum security adult prison, was trapped in a cycle of destruction.

“The cells were defective because young people destroy them,” they wrote.

“They get repaired and then damaged again.”

Cleveland was placed in a damaged cell, which made it easier for him to self-harm because it was the best of a bad situation “and the decision to hold him did not involve any serious misconduct.”

The commission found that the employees failed to ignore Cleveland’s threats of self-harm.

“Although they were not recorded as they should have been, they were not disregarded,” the report said.

A review of phone calls showed that officers were generally concerned about threats from Cleveland, even though inmates made many similar calls every day.

A report presented to the state legislature Tuesday shows officers responded to Cleveland’s last two threats within a minute.

However, the failure to discover a CCTV camera in his cell likely played a significant role in his death, as staff were unable to monitor him.

The commission found that officers working at the time Cleveland self-harmed had not followed Justice Department policy requiring them to discover the camera, but it was not serious misconduct.

The inquiry also examined the actions of the senior officer supervising Unit 18, who was asleep on the job when Cleveland self-harmed.

Although the officer did not respond immediately when alerted to Cleveland’s self-harm, he reached the teen’s cell within 40 seconds and assisted in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the commission found.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the public officials involved in the case committed, in the performance of their duties, an offense punishable by two or more years’ imprisonment,” he said.

“As a result, the Commission is not satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that serious misconduct has occurred and has not delivered any opinion on serious misconduct.”

An extensive coronial inquest into Cleveland’s death is also ongoing, with the next hearing scheduled for July.

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