The members of a new juvenile justice reform advocacy group have proposed a policy that juveniles who offend the law be given three chances at reform before they are dealt with harshly by the courts and by law enforcement.
Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the group Youth for Justice, Restion Harris, called on the public at large to join the group in lobbying the government of Antigua & Barbuda to enact such a policy.
“We are saying, give them at least three chances to have strong counselling and community involvement. We’ve decided to lobby the government to put things in place different from the Boys Training School – have a boys camp,” he said.
Youth for Justice is to be launched this evening at the Precision Centre at 7 pm. Harris said while the body is ready to begin its advocacy campaign and incorporation it is awaiting a seal of approval from the Office of the Attorney General.
The group’s founder is former inspector of police Trevor Young.
“It’s all about helping young people mend their ways by reaching out to them. We are not for sending them to prison because they come back out with a criminal record and cannot get a job. If they steal a phone valued at a couple thousand dollars, let them go into the community and work to pay back the wrong,” Harris said.
He argued that an intervention needed to be made as soon as juveniles display behaviour offensive to society and not after they had committed a serious crime.
Harris also said, “Having a youngster going to prison among hardened criminals – guys that do not have any intention of repenting of their evil ways – it’s a step back. People come back feeling vengeful and spiteful, and instead of healing, these guys – we leave them with open wounds.”
The group has been organising for over six months.