Facilities for offenders under age 18 being planned
By MIRANDA LA ROSE Thursday, January 3 2013
The Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development is collaborating with the Justice Ministry to establish a facility for male and female offenders under 18 years so they would not be placed at homes for boys and girls.
In addition, Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development, Marlene Coudray, said her ministry was working on a strategy to deal with reports and rumours of abuse of children in homes, as well as a sensitisation campaign to reduce sexual offences.
Coudray spoke yesterday at the formal commissioning of a 20-bed dormitory at the residential St Michael’s School for Boys in Diego Martin.
The first of two dorms was blessed by Anglican Bishop Rev Clyde Berkley, and Coudray thanked the Anglican Church and the board of St Michael’s for their work in maintaining the school for boys.
The two dorms were destroyed in an electrical fire on December 29 2011. They are being rebuilt at a cost of $3.4 million. The second dorm on the top floor is still undergoing renovation.
According to administrator of St Michael’s, Allison Salandy, following the fire, the children, whose ages ranged between ten and 18 years were all placed in two dorms instead of the four, normally used. At present the school has 70 children.
Speaking about the establishment of a facility for young offenders, Coudray said there were no dedicated facilities for young female offenders, either at St Jude’s Home for Girls, or at the Women’s Prison. Young male offenders were placed at St Michael’s School for Boys where orphans were also placed.
“We have a lot of issues we are dealing with, including the mixing of offenders with other persons at homes,” Coudray said.
“The ministry, in recognition of the need for young offenders,” Coudray said, “is collaborating with the Ministry of Justice to ensure a facility is provided for accommodation for young males and young females who have been remanded.”
The facility, she said, will promote rehabilitative initiatives for the young offenders, and reduce the incidence of offences.
Whatever unfortunate circumstances that would have befallen young offenders, Coudray said, “this Government intends to provide the support systems which would ensure their reintegration in society.”
The challenges young offenders face, she said, were a reflection of society, and it was incumbent on civil society, religious organisations and the State, to assist in overcoming the difficult social challenges they face. It was for this reason, she said, the ministry was collaborating with the Justice Ministry to establish a facility for juvenile offenders.
On reports of abuse in homes, she said, “there are so many negatives being reported about abuse at children’s home in this country. We, at the ministry are extremely concerned.”
At present, she said the ministry is engaged “in a tireless effort to ensure that systems are put in place that would eradicate the basis for such negatives.”
Asked what systems were being put in place, Coudray told Newsday the ministry is looking at several options, including placing cameras in strategic places. A technical committee headed by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, she said, is addressing that issue.
On the high incidence of sexual offences reported for last year, Coudray said the ministry is “very, very concerned.”
The ministry is working with non-governmental organisations to develop a master plan that will also include an advertising campaign. The campaign will target parents and family members to recognise signs of abuse among children; how to address them, and to encourage children to report abuse.