Understaffed staff at troubled Malmsbury jail, windows covered

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Understaffed staff at troubled Malmsbury jail, windows covered

Staff levels were critically low in the days leading up to an escape from Victoria's troubled Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre and bedroom windows were covered, staff revealed.

On August 6 the ABC received details from workers who told centre management about the lack of staff, procedures not being followed and increased stress Two young men smashed through the plaster ceiling of their cells in the admissions unit, and escaped through the roof cavity of the centre, north-west of Melbourne.

The facility was understaffed on the night of the escape, and there had not been a single night when the centre had been fully staffed over a recent 10 day period.

A minimum of 14 staff was needed for the overnight shift, but figures seen by the ABC showed that was not close to being achieved on several nights before and after the escape.

Half of the staff was required for the night shift on two nights.

Since the escape, there were at least two nights when the base minimum of overnight staff was not met, indicating an inability to properly staff the centre.

Staff could not complete routine headcounts during their shifts because detainees had covered windows to their rooms.

One worker described how they had difficulty sleeping since the escape, and complained of severe anxiety and extra pressure to keep units settled while understaffed.

There was a serious assault between the young people in the facility in the lead up to the August 6 escape.

There was no support staff as we had close observations due to an earlier serious assault, the source said.

Windows were covered, an issue that has been reported on daily. The ABC has previously reported on violence inside the centre.

The ABC understands that the recommendation to upgrade the unit the two men escaped from was ignored by the ABC.

There were internal recommendations to upgrade the security and infrastructure of the unit, including the ceiling and roof, due to security concerns and the risk of escape.

The older building was not surrounded by a fence.

Premier Daniel Andrews said last week that he would follow up the ABC's report that youth justice management had rejected recommendations to upgrade the admissions unit at Malmsbury three years ago.

He didn't express his confidence in the centre's management until an investigation into the escape was completed.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice and Community Safety said any escape was taken seriously and the safety of the community was of paramount concern. A review into how the pair escaped is underway.