Thu | Mar 22, 2018

Gov't considers moving juvenile centre from 'war zone'

Published:Saturday | April 1, 2017 | 12:00 AMRyon Jones

Consideration is being given to relocating the Metcalfe Street Secure Juvenile Remand Centre less than six years after it was officially opened.

Correctional officers and civilian workers have, for years, been calling for the facility to be moved from the violence-stricken Denham Town community in West Kingston, claiming their lives are in constant danger.

"This is definitely something that is worthy of consideration," Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security Pearnel Charles Jr told The Gleaner.

"There are some correctional officers who have expressed some concerns with the location of that facility and, in that regard, I do believe that it is worthy of consideration and discussion.

I have actually had some preliminary discussions with the commissioner of corrections regarding the relocation of the facility and any other suitable alternatives that may be available," added Charles Jr.

The correctional officers say they regularly get caught in the middle of crossfire as warring factions clash.

The latest incident took place last Tuesday night when a staff bus was damaged by bullets in Hannah Town, where men were engaged in a fierce gun battle.

"It was a very traumatic experience and it still lingers in my mind," the driver of the bus told our news team.

"It happened around eight o'clock when I was going to pick up staff. One of the bullets went through the windscreen and others passed through the bus through open windows. If we were coming back, someone would have been hit because of the volume of staff that comes in on the bus," added the driver, whose name is being withheld.


Industrial action


The correctional officers took industrial action the following day, but resumed normal duties Thursday. They argued that their actions were in the best interest of all, including the boys, as the area is unsafe.

"The situation now is we are in a very volatile community surrounded by all the leading war turfs," said one correctional officer.

"On a regular basis, you are here and there are shoot-outs right outside the gate, and it is just a chain-link fence around, so we are at risk," the correctional officer added.