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Gov’t to build centres for troubled girls

Friday, August 15 2014

BOYS who run afoul of the law are often sent to special State facilities, but it is a different story for girls who end up breaking the law — they are sent to the adult Women’s Prison.

Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development, Clifton De Coteau, yesterday announced that Cabinet had approved construction of a battery of facilities to house truant girls. The total package has an estimated cost of $191 million, though no contracts have yet been tendered.

Speaking at the weekly Cabinet media briefing, De Coteau said, “As a result of the limited range of facilities available, the institutions will house children in conflict with the law; children needing care and protection — including those who have been physically and sexually abused — and children beyond control.”

But for girls, the situation is particular.

“The Youth Training Centre (YTC), located at Golden Grove, accommodates boys between the ages of 16 and 18 years who have been convicted of certain criminal offences,” the minister said. “However, there is no equivalent facility that exists for girls. Similarly, girls convicted of criminal offences are accommodated at the Women’s Prison which is not in line with the best practice.”

He said a review of the youth justice system in 2013 revealed that 97 percent of the girls housed at St Jude’s were beyond control while 76 percent of boys at St Michael’s were there for the same reason.

“The review also showed that many of the children deemed beyond control by the court have had a history of childhood abuse and or mental illness and with little or no social or medical support for these children there is little or no chance of recovery,” the minister said. “The Government has agreed, in principle, to the establishment of two rehabilitative centres in support of girls in conflict with the law and assigned to institutional care by the state.” He said this was needed to address, “The urgent and critical needs of girls in conflict with the law.”

Of the total amount, he said $23 million had been ear-marked for the construction of two “youth empowerment centres targeted toward females.” One facility will be in the north while the other will be in south Trinidad. He could not give a time-line for construction, except to say the new facilities would be built, “quite soon once we go through the tenders process.” He assured facilities were also planned for Tobago.

The minister had no update on the probe into matters at the St Michael’s Home for Boys.

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