DETAINEES at Tasmania's youth justice facility are treated with contempt by staff who band together to avoid outside scrutiny, a former employee has said.
David Bell worked at Ashley Youth Detention Centre between 2006 and 2008.
He said comments made recently by Tasmania's deputy chief magistrate, and leading children's magistrate Michael Daly showed the underlying culture at the centre had not changed materially in five years, despite an internal review and public inquest following the death in custody of an 18-year-old detainee in 2010.
Mr Daly said in sentencing comments published last month for a youth who pleaded guilty to damaging Ashley Detention Centre property and assaulting a staff worker that there was an ``apparent harshness and unreasonableness'' in the regime that was contrary to its purpose of rehabilitation.
Mr Daly raised particular concerns about ``code blue'', the worst classification on Ashley's behaviour management model, which he said appeared to be effective isolation.
Mr Bell said staff treated detainees with contempt during his time at Ashley and banded together when questioned.
``What I was told when I started was you are pretty safe because no one finds out what happens there,'' he said.
Mr Bell said staff referred to detainees on code blue as being ``locked down''.
``They are doing nothing to rehabilitate those kids, they are just putting them in a hot-house where they - well, they get worse,'' he said.
Children and Youth Services acting deputy secretary Dr Susan Diamond denied Mr Bell's allegations and said the colour-coded ``incentive scheme'' was based on best practice.
But Mr Bell's comments were supported by former Commissioner for Children Aileen Ashford who said she heard several allegations from detainees that they had been assaulted.
Speaking for the first time since her resignation in April, Ms Ashford said she visited the centre after one such phone call in which a detainee alleged he had been beaten by five staff members, and saw blood on the wall of his room.
Ms Ashford said in that case, as in others, an internal review was conducted and staff conduct found to be justified.
``What can you do? All you have got is a kid's word,'' she said.
Ms Ashford said Magistrate Daly's comment that he wrote twice to the Health and Human Services Department, but received no adequate response accorded with her experiences, and said there should be an independent complaint investigation process at Ashley.
The 30-bed detention facility costs $9.7 million a year to run, and on Friday housed just nine detainees - one of whom was on code blue.
That's 75 per cent of Tasmania's youth justice budget for about 0.2 per cent of children on youth justice orders.
The government is reviewing the centre as part of a broader review of Tasmania's youth justice programs.