Stakeholders review juvenile justice reform draft

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Various stakeholders attended the first day of consultations on the Juvenile Justice Reform Project (JJRP) at the John E St Luce Finance and Conference Centre yesterday. (Photos by Makeida Antonio)
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By Makeida Antonio

[email protected]

The country’s justice system is upgrading to prevent young people from being on the wrong side of the law.

Yesterday, officials from both government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) met during the first day of consultations intended to overview a draft of policy framework that can be implemented to reduce the chances of young law offenders from reoffending.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Transformation, Sandra Joseph, who gave the welcome remarks, told Observer that the consultation highlights the outstanding work conducted by the Family and Social Services Division.

“Over the years they have been very gracious and very supportive and we expect that will continue as we interface with them. We contact them, they contact us, and we enhance the relationship that we have because only together can we achieve the pursuit of ensuring all our youth are self-actualised,” Joseph said in an interview.

Advisor to the Minister of Social Transformation, Focal Point and National JJRP Co-Ordinator Althea Byers highlighted that young people would be better able to make informed, age-appropriate decisions which can protect them from experiencing gender-based violence (GBV) once the policy is implemented.

Also, Director of the Family and Social Services Division Feona Charles-Richards listed several existing frameworks and programmes including the Juvenile Justice Act (2015), ‘Dare To Be Different’, and the DIME and RICH programmes implemented in 2020.

She called on private companies to assist the Division with funding and pushed for more private citizens to become mentors for the nation’s youth.

Minister of Social Transformation Dean Jonas also commended the work done by the Family and Social Services Division as he discussed plans to rebrand in an effort to change the outlook for juveniles in the system.

He told Observer that work is ongoing in developing methods to assist young people. 

“We have gotten a lot of support from the OECS, from UNICEF and so on to move this programme forward. The government has given us about 40 acres of land to expand the facilities, modernise them and we are also doing a home for girls in conflict with the law. It will all be done on the 40 acres of land at the same facility, and also a shelter for women, we will be building one as well,”

Minister Jonas added that work has already been done on the Boys Training School in accordance with funding received under a previous project, but there is still more to be done.

“The building has been refurbished as well. There is another building that needs refurbishing and the entire facility needs to be cleaned up, but it goes way further than that. We are introducing a lot of new programmes and plans so all of that will be rolled out very shortly.

“Now that we have things in place, you will begin to see us going ahead within less than a month. We have donors willing to fund the construction of the home for girls. I’m now looking at the MOU that they sent to us and once the Cabinet agrees, you will see additional construction going on.”

Several group exercises were conducted by the meeting’s participants following the vote of thanks given by Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Public Safety, Stacy Gregg-Paige.

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