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Department of Correctional Services reports 27% decline in self harm and suicide attempts among children in juvenile correctional centres

Published:Thursday | March 31, 2016 | 3:00 AM

Commissioner of Corrections Ina Hunter Fairweather has indicated that there has been a 27 per cent reduction in self-harm incidents and suicide attempts among children in juvenile correctional facilities.

Hunter Fairweather was responding to concerns raised in the 2016 Amnesty International Report for Jamaica, which has indicated that there has been a high level of attempted suicide in the juvenile correctional facilities in Jamaica.

"Conditions of detention and treatment of juvenile offenders were poor. The non-government organisation Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) documented high levels of attempted suicide among children and young people in juvenile prisons, raising serious concerns about the psychosocial health and well-being of juveniles in state institutions," the report said.

According to the Amnesty report, JFJ also reported that juvenile offenders were not presented promptly before a judge, exceeding the constitutional period to assess the legality of detention and contravening the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"Suicide attempts in these facilities have not gone unnoticed. Specific measures geared towards averting these situations have been in place, are working, and continue to be evaluated. In fact, there has been a 27 per cent decrease in self-harm/suicide attempts among children in juvenile correctional centres," Hunter Fairweather said in an email response to The Gleaner.

Department of Correctional Services (DCS) data indicate that there were 63 reported self-harm incidents and suicide attempts in 2014 in comparison to 46 such incidents reported in 2015.

Hunter Fairweather said several measures have been put in place to address the issues faced by the children in correctional facilities.

Hunter Fairweather pointed out that the DCS has increased interventions and psychosocial support by DCS psychologists, psychiatrists, Ministry of Health personnel, and psychologist and therapists from the non-governmental organisation Stand Up for Jamaica.

ONGOING TRAINING

She indicated that a suicide standard operational procedure was developed and is contained in a pocket-sized handbook for each member of staff.

There is ongoing training of staff in the management of self-harm/suicide, mental-health awareness seminars facilitated by the British High Commission, and a suicide-prevention room at one facility for special cases.

The room was specially designed for close observation, monitoring, and intervention

"The DCS has implemented diversified programmes to include a cricket club, yoga, music, scouts, a mentorship programme, performing arts, including the National Youth Orchestra, and life skills courses. These programmes engage children after school and on weekends," she said.

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com