Mar 14, 2012

Serco training manual: how to ‘hit’ and ‘strike’ detainees

A prison-style training manual produced by the company contracted to run Australia's detention centres contains explicit instructions on how to "hit" and "strike" asylum seekers.

Andrew Crook — Former <em>Crikey</em> Senior Journalist

Andrew Crook

Former Crikey Senior Journalist

A prison-style training manual produced by the company contracted to run Australia's detention centres contains explicit instructions on how to "hit" and "strike" asylum seekers. The 400-page, illustrated 2010 and 2009 Serco induction training documents, obtained by Crikey, shows how prison staff are trained to kick, punch and jab their fingers into detainee limbs and "pressure points" to render them motionless.

Serco, which has a $1 billion contract with the Gillard government to run nine asylum outposts, has repeatedly fought the release of similar documents, claiming other versions are not in the "public interest" and could cause commotion inside lockups. (Read the full manual here). The "control and restraint" techniques included in the 2009 training course manual recommends the use of "pain" to defend, subdue and control asylum seekers through straight punches, palm heel strikes, side angle kicks, front thrust kicks and knee strikes. "Subdue the subject using reasonable force so that he/she is no longer in the assailant category," it explains. "If justified, necessary force is to be used to bring the subject to cooperative subjective status whereupon they respond favourably to verbalisation." Under a section headed "principles in controlling Resistive Behaviour", guards are told to cause pain, stun, distract, unbalance and use "striking technique" to cause "motor dysfunction". Guards are told to target specific "pressure points" in the manner of riot squad police to squeeze nerves as " a valuable subject control option". "They enhance your ability, to compel compliance from unco-operative subjects," it explains. The "expected effect" is "medium to high level pain". In one instance, guards, referred to by the government and Serco as "Client Services Officers", are taught to attack detainees' jugulars to cause them to fall over. In another, they are told to employ a "downward kick" to the "lower shin" to cause "high level of pain and mental stunning" lasting up to seven seconds. Batons are a useful weapon for guards to cause "medium to high tensity [sic] pain" and "forearm muscle cramping". "Strikes should be delivered by a hammer fist," it says. Underpinning the kicking and punching and baton instructions is "two forms of strikes". The "cutting strike" using a baton, "impacts" the detainee, "continuing through in one fluid motion ... this could be equated to following through when swinging a bat". The Fluid Shock Wave principle is employed to "...generate optimum fluid shock with a hand, baton or knee". The language in the document appears to have been inspired by a prison manual -- Serco also operates the Acacia prison 60 kilometres east of Perth. This morning, Fairfax Media reported the Immigration Department had developed its policy on media access by consulting the United States' rules for Guantanamo Bay. Serco subcontracts some of its security personnel to Indian-owned security behemoth MSS. It is not known whether the training manual has since been updated.

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6 thoughts on “Serco training manual: how to ‘hit’ and ‘strike’ detainees

  1. Pamela

    Both Labor and Liberal governments have defended their record of detention on the basis that it is “administrative” not “punitive”. If this is so why is there a whole manual devoted to teaching guards how to ensure compliance through pain.
    The manual teaches guards to control through pain and gives them extensive lists of pressure points, nerve endings etc to attack.
    No matter what the government says the facts are that SERCO are contracting direct “client”to MSS security guards on CI who nothing more than CERT 2 training which is what qualifies night club bounces to act on drunks etc .
    Also that SERCO are unable to get enough staff even though they are paying unskilled, un trained people $2100 per week on CI, Scherger, Curtin and other isolated camps. They went off to recruit in economically depressed NZ and came back with guards- some were recent Humanitarian refugees from Somalia who did not know what they were letting themselves in for. It got worse on arrivall when they found out that they were not FIFO(fly in fly out) but stuck for 12 months. on top of that they are having to endure the racism of other guards calling them “monkeys” and refusing to work with them.
    Into this volatile mix come the asylum seekers fleeing torture, killing and persecution. is it any wonder that mental illness depression and suicide result.
    Australia has lost its way and asdly most Australians do not care.

  2. dee roo

    Too right, Australia lost its way years ago when vested interests lobby & effectively get to make up the rules to suit themselves. Its almost everywhere, in security, transport, law, finance, accounting, health, tertiary education, etc.. Reality needs to be exposed. Pity the mass populous is so numbed up with gratuitous commercial violence they feel little compassion, (unless it happens to themselves). This is no excuse to maintain false pretences and ignoring what is not measured/monitored/reported.

    I recall the camp out from Woomera and was shocked, looked like a concentration camp, who knows what the more civil world thought while I felt shame to be ‘Australian.’

    One thing should be put straight though, SERCO don’t pay anything, WE DO!

  3. cannedheat

    Bit of a devils advocate comment.

    Lets assume the guards (or whatever they are called) were given no direction on what to do in a confrontation. Presumably there would be a bad outcome with varying levels of harm due to adhoc and employee devised criteria for dealing with confrontations.

    The real issue here is the detainees are imprisoned in remote locations due to a) bidding to the bottom for racist’s votes b) the wrong headed idea that making life hard for arrivals will deter other arrivals (and possibly prevent them being drowned enroute).

    The solution is to treat boat arrivals the same as air arrivals. Where identity is indoubt clamp on an ankle bracelet.

    Otherwise I think this is a beatup. Training for these folks should cover all possible situations.

  4. Stevo the Working Twistie

    “If justified, necessary force is to be used to bring the subject to cooperative subjective status whereupon they respond favourably to verbalisation.” Did they forget to add “going forward”? Or did Crikey edit that bit? The language here is almost as sickening as the procedures it describes. George Orwell knew exactly what he was talking about.

  5. Rena Zurawel

    Apart from anything else, this fantastic enterprise cost us not only fortune but the reputation as a democratic country.

  6. Jenny Haines

    The Government should demand as a contractural obligation that
    Serco stop using this manual to train guards and if Serco doesn’t stop
    using it or won’t, then the government should cancel their contract
    with Serco. This demonstrates again how unsuitable Serco are for
    the management of refugees. They are not criminals. They have
    committed no crime. They should not be in detention. Why did
    we call centres that received refugees after WW2 Reception Centres
    but now they have to be Detention Centres? And after WW2 there
    were war criminals entering the country , who were subsequently
    never prosecuted, especially if they helped ASIO fight communism.
    Serco are jailers. Refugees do not need to be in jail. They need fair
    processing and understanding by the Australian community that
    they are fleeing war and trauma and torture.

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