Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, says that special arrangements are being made to have social workers assist in the rehabilitation of children in custody, who are placed there for exhibiting “uncontrollable behaviour”.
The Minister, who was addressing the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of St. Andrew, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston on Tuesday, January 29, said the social workers will be going in to assist the children, while also working with the parents.
The ultimate aim is to persuade a judge to release the juveniles back into the care of their parents after they have undergone significant amount of therapy.
Ms. Hanna stated that the majority of juveniles in prison are remanded, with the consent of their parents, for uncontrollable behaviour.
The Minister also pointed out that there are legal implications for handing over juveniles in State custody to private groups, such as the Mustard Seed Communities.
The humanitarian organisation, through its founder, Father Gregory Ramkisson, had proposed late last year to take the children who are currently housed at Adult Correctional Centres for uncontrollable behaviour and that the Government provide a building to house them as well as a recurrent budget for their care.
In response, the Minister noted that while a noble proposal, the law would have to be amended for this to happen.
“We would have to ask the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General to review the law, because no Ministry can go into a facility and take children out or ask the court to give the children over to someone unless the law is amended,” Minister Hanna explained.
She pointed out that she has had meetings with the Ministers of Justice and National Security, as well as the Attorney General, to look at the Mustard Seed proposal to see whether it is possible.
The Minister also stated that the Government has a responsibility and the Child Development Agency will be working with the Department of Corrections to ensure that there will be a therapeutic approach to rehabilitating the children who come in conflict with the law.
“What we are trying to do now is create prevention mechanisms and really take those children and work with them to give them back to their parents and also have a therapeutic facility, which we have identified,” she said.
She added that funding has been identified for this programme, several psychologists have expressed interest in working with the children and a curriculum has been developed.