Juvenile Justice Reform Project reviewing sentencing
November 8, 2013
Juvenile Justice Reform Project reviewing sentencing

Under the Juvenile Justice Reform Project, more rehabilitative rather than punitive sentencing will be explored in the region.{{more}}

A two-day training conference was hosted in St Vincent and the Grenadines from October 31, to discuss various aspects of the Juvenile Justice Reform project.

The project is coordinated by the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Secretariat and funded by USAID.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Head of the Social Development Unit of the OECS, David Popo, highlighted that as part of the project, they have moved around the member states to interact with juveniles; the persons who the project is about.

Popo noted that the findings were interesting, as mothers of children who have been in juvenile centres have commonly articulated pride in seeing the extent of behavioural modification.

“All of them said that if it was not for this particular centre, their children would not have gone astray,” he said.

Additionally, Popo explained that children cited various sources of their deviant behaviours, which include the absence of a father figure and peer pressure.

In his feature address, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves highlighted that the objectives of the project address legislative reform, capacity building, modernization of programs and strengthening the civil society.

“I always say that when the asteroids hit earth, many many years ago, the dinosaurs did not adapt and they became extinct, but the small mammals evolved and thrived and we are the small mammals, and of course, we have to treat the juvenile justice system as a small mammal which has to adapt to the changing circumstances…otherwise we are going to be extinct, we are not going to serve the young people who we are supposed to serve,” he said.

Gonsalves noted there are several institutions in St Vincent and the Grenadines that do good work as it pertains to rehabilitating youth.

“We have had an expansion of civil society groups in this particular field,” the prime minister said. “We have more substantive, long standing institutions which do good work…like Marion House; they do good work on an ongoing basis”.

The Ministry of National Mobilization, Social Development, Family, Gender Affairs, Persons with Disabilities and Youth is responsible for planning, implementing and monitoring the Juvenile Justice Reform project.

The minister, Frederick Stephenson, thanked USAID, the OECS Secretariat and UNICEF for their financial support and gave a general update on the progress of the project in the country.

Stephenson stated that since the official launch of the project in St Vincent and the Grenadines in 2012, the ministry has been able to make several donations to rehabilitation facilities in the country.

“We have been able to provide a total of US$100,000 worth of equipment to increase the capacity of state and non state organizations of the Juvenile Justice Sector,” he said.

“Of this allotment, phase one of the equipment ranging from computers, beds, kitchen equipment and tables and chairs have been delivered to the Liberty Lodge Boys’ Training Centre, Guadeloupe Home for Girls, Student Support in the Ministry of Education”.

The minister also stated that phase two of the project will begin in the coming weeks with donations being made to the Salvation Army, the Police Youth Clubs, Marion House, the Family Court, the Director of Public Prosecutions office, the Ministry of National Mobilization and the Family Affairs Department.

Additionally, Stephenson noted that the first national consultation on Juvenile Justice was held in January, where consultants developed national coordinating strategies, communication strategies, juvenile justice information system and legislative review and harmonization.(BK)