Sat | Feb 24, 2018

Gov't, NGOs to pump millions into juvenile reform

Published:Wednesday | June 21, 2017 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott
Claudeth Hamilton, director of juvenile services, Department of Correctional Services (DCS), shows some craft to (from left) Pearnel P. Charles Jr, minister of state, Ministry of National Security; Billy Heaven, CEO of CHASE Fund; Shawn Shepherd-Martin, director of rehabition of (DCS); and Floyd Green, minister of state in the Ministry of Education, yesterday.

The Ministry of National Security, in seeking to get juvenile offenders get back on the right side of the law, yesterday launched its We Transform Youth Empowerment and Reintegration programme.

The programme, themed 'Save a Child, Save a Nation will be implemented in four juvenile centres and targets 242 juveniles in state care.

The initiative will help juveniles acquire the requisite skill sets and attitudes to become productive citizens after they have been released from state care.

According to the national security ministry, the programme will also address risk factors resulting in juveniles reoffending, as well as to help reduce stigma attached to former wards of the State.

It will be implemented in two phases.

"Phase One starts immediately and will include engagement in innovative training through academic and vocational education, employability and life skills, a mentorship, internship and job placement programme and an annual competition and exposition where the youth can showcase and publicise their talent," Robert Montague, the minister of national security, said yesterday, addressing the launch at the Police Officers' Club in St Andrew.

Phase Two, the minister said, will involve parents and guardians of wards of the State who will be exposed to proper parenting skills.

Pearnel Charles Jr, state minister in the national security ministry, under whose portfolio the Department of Corrections falls - which has responsibility for the wards of the State - said the programme's ultimate objective is to reduce crime.

He said the We Transform programme was a powerful platform which would demystify the stigma attached to wards to the State, which he argued, is in line with the strategic objectives of the national security ministry.

In the meantime, quizzed by The Gleaner yesterday about funding for the programme, the state minister said the ministry was actively seeking funding, but noted that funds earmarked for other projects have been reallocated to the project. There is, as well, corporate sponsorship.

Several corporate entities and NGOs, including Hawkeye, Tastee, the Jamaica Public Service, USAID, JMMB, and the CHASE Fund, which is contributing $7.7 million, are powering the programme.