Gangs from a youth detention centre have been accused of turning Melbourne into "Melbronx" and the city has been compared to Johannesburg in South Africa.

Car jackings, home invasions and violence is rife in Melbourne and many of Australia's worst young criminals are in the Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre, a place where gangs often take over and cause chaos.

This week 15 youths escaped from the justice centre, which is located north west of Melbourne, after assaulting a guard and stealing a security pass. They went on a crime spree across the city, breaking into homes, stealing cars and causing harm to civilians.

One even bragged about breaking out of the justice centre and posted "I escaped mothers******" on Facebook.


During the crime spree on Wednesday, civilians were bashed and robbed by the detention centre gang. A woman was dragged out of her car while her daughter watched on and a man, Herman Klynhout, had his car stolen after he was visiting his wife's grave.

The detention centre is filled with trouble makers, who have assaulted security and caused riots previously. But in the past, these have been settled by giving them pizza.

WorkSafe found there were about 40 violent incidents towards staff at the justice centre in just one month, and the Herald Sun reported youths would pretend to fight so they could lure staff closer and assault them.

The inmates are volatile and guards have previously been assaulted with a fork. In 2013 a youth worker was punched when he asked a teen boy to change out of a singlet he was wearing.

In September 2016, inmates triggered two hours of terror and climbed onto the roof of the detention centre with metal poles and makeshift prison knives.

Violent and sporadic behaviour has also caused staff at the justice centre to barricade themselves in offices or the kitchen while inmates go on crazy rampages, causing thousands of dollars of damage.

There was another riot in October 2016 that lasted three hours. Dozens of youths armed themselves with metal bars at the detention centre, which is 100km northwest of Melbourne.

The youths ripped benches off walls and armed themselves with metal table legs.

One of the escapees from the Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre. Photo / Supplied
One of the escapees from the Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre. Photo / Supplied

Community and Public Sector Union spokesman Julian Kennelly said there was a gang culture in youth detention centres and "ringleaders" were recruiting young offenders and intimidating them into joining rampages.

"One of the problems is there is no consequence for the actions of young offenders and they know there is very little the staff can do to take control. Offenders are almost egging them on," Mr Kennelly said.

A Four Corners investigation in 2016 found it was hard to control some youths in detention centres and staff went to barbaric lengths to discipline them.

The ABC programme revealed a teen was locked in isolation for up to 10 days at the Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre.

Commissioner for Children and Young People Liana Buchanan said this could cause more trauma to the young offender, instead of rehabilitating them.

According to the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, children are bored and angry.
Peter, who did not reveal his last name, turned to crime after dropping out of school in year 10. He drank alcohol and was involved in brawls and stabbings.

He was put in the Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre for eight months in 2012 after committing an armed robbery. He said "little s***s" were running around everywhere at the detention centre, committing violent and aggressive acts.

"They're still kids, they haven't even grown up yet. They have that mentality of thinking they're invincible. They start trying to be fearless, acting up again and again, even after they get caught," he said.

A family member of one of the detention centre escapees told the Herald Sun the youth prison was like "criminal school".

The mother said her son was a "naughty boy" but he needed help.

"Instead of being rehabilitated, he just gets worse, he's a naughty boy and everything but he needs more help than punishment," she said.

"It's like he's in criminal school at Malmsbury.

"They all train each other how to commit crimes better to get away with them."

Victoria's government has vowed to make "sweeping changes" to the state's youth justice system including bringing in guards from adult prisons and building a new high security unit.

The promised overhaul comes in the wake of the major breakout at the Malmsbury youth detention centre.

"We are seeing far more violent offenders coming into our youth justice system than has been the case in the past and obviously the system needs to change and move accordingly," Youth Minister Jenny Mikakos said.

"Victoria is going to get a fit-for-purpose, high-security youth justice system and there will be more beds in that system than we have at the moment."

Corrections Victoria staff reportedly moved in to the Parkville and Malmsbury youth justice centres from Friday.

There will be about 40 staff members moving into the Parkville and Malmsbury detention centres.

"This is a big step, but it is exactly the right thing to do in the light of the completely unacceptable security breach," Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on Friday.

"Work has already begun to deploy those Corrections Victoria officers, those prison officers, to secure those facilities and that work will continue throughout the weekend. As I said, it's already started and it will be completed by the end of the weekend. In the meantime, Victoria Police have primary responsibility for the security at Malmsbury and we have complete confidence that they will do that job well."

Mr Andrews said a new correctional facility for serious youth offenders should have built years ago and he has vowed to finally build one.

"Many would argue that it perhaps should have occurred a long time ago. I can't change that, but I can certainly put this right and that's exactly what we intend to do," he said.

- with AAP