Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre to shut within days after tear gas riot

Darwin's Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre is to be shut down within days, after staff used tear gas to subdue teenagers during a riot last week.

Six teenagers tried to escape last week after arming themselves with glass, barricading doors and smashing windows and light fittings.

They have already been moved to the Complex Behaviour Unit at the new Darwin Correctional Precinct.

The remaining 13 juvenile detainees, including two girls, will be moved by the end of the week.

Northern Territory Correctional Services Commissioner Ken Middlebrook told 1057 ABC Darwin that the breakout attempt had been carefully planned over at least several weeks.

It was the first time in his Northern Territory career that tear gas had been used on teenagers.

"It's unfortunate Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre is no longer fit for purpose," he said.

"It's very much domestic in design.

"We're really not able to hold these young fellows who are quite violent.

"It doesn't have really good secure facilities. They were able to use building materials and fixtures in the cells to fashion them into weapons.

"The [mental health facility] is annexed off the main jail.

"They won't be in the adult part of the new prison. The special facility is built off the side.

"It's a very good facility."

Why we used tear gas on teenagers: Commissioner

Mr Middlebrook said the use of tear gas as the safest option for both staff and detainees, saying at least one detainee had armed himself with a fire extinguisher.

"They were interested in smashing the facility and unfortunately other detainees were starting to get involved, belting doors, banging doors," he said.

"My concern was for overall safety of staff and the community.

"It was obvious discussion was not going to calm the situation down.

"The young people were given directions to lay down weapons and lay on the floor.

"They refused. In fact they had barricaded one of the two exits which made it hard for us to get into the facility.

"When these things happens the most appropriate action is to use a small bit of chemical.

"It certainly distract peoples from their actions.

"Over my years in the correctional business I could almost count on one hand when we've had to use this sort of force.

"Apart from a cut to a member of staff from a flying missile – there were no further injuries.

"It was a difficult situation and we bought it under control very quickly."

A Department of Correctional Services spokesman said Berrimah's renovations would be completed towards the end of the year.

The Complex Behaviour Unit has been re-gazetted the Holtze Juvenile Detention Centre.

It has 24 beds with the capacity to separate boys and girls.

'Deeply concerned' by use of tear gas

NT Children's Commissioner Dr Howard Bath said he would investigate the tear gas incident and submit a report to the Government.

"Under our legislation we have a set of powers to gather the necessary information," he said.

"I was deeply concerned to hear of the use of tear gas, and reports the dog squad had been called in.

"I acknowledge dangerous and complex situations can develop.

"We don't know yet what happened.

"It will be looked at carefully."

He said Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre was not an adequate facility.

Earlier this month five teenage boys escaped from Don Dale after threatening staff with gym equipment.

Days later, the Government acknowledged the centre was at capacity.

It said it would spend $800,000 on renovating the old Berrimah Prison for men into a detention centre, catering to both genders and several different age groups.

The previous Labor government had promised to demolish Berrimah Prison and replace it with a housing development.

The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency said not enough money had been allocated to convert the jail into a suitable place for juvenile offenders.