Tue | Jul 16, 2019

Gov’t to roll out child diversion programme by November

Published:Monday | June 17, 2019 | 12:12 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter
Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck listens keenly to Mariko Kagoshima, representative, United Nations Children’s Fund, during a high-level stakeholders breakfast session on child diversion, held at the Courtyard Marriott last Friday.
Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck listens keenly to Mariko Kagoshima, representative, United Nations Children’s Fund, during a high-level stakeholders breakfast session on child diversion, held at the Courtyard Marriott last Friday.

The Justice ministry has announced that they will begin to engage Jamaican children as they prepare to roll out the child diversion programme islandwide, which is designed to steer children away from wayward activities.

The programme is to be rolled out by November.

The Child Diversion Act was passed in August 2018 and the Ministry of Justice says it is now ready to implement the programme under the act.

Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck, who gave the opening remarks at the first sensitisation session on Thursday at the Courtyard by Marriot Hotel in New Kingston, said the country’s children are under siege in far too many communities.

“Let me say it clearly, the Government is very concerned about the use and abuse of our children,” he said. “Our children are under siege in far too many communities, they are victims not only of their parents, but of the community, and it’s time that we take charge and ensure that our children are properly protected.”

Chuck also said that the initiative has been on the cards for too long, across administrations, and now that the act has been passed, the implementation must be done properly.

INT’L PARTNERS

“It has long been coming, but we want to ensure that when we roll it (child diversion programme) out, which is from today, that we get it right. We have been in touch with our international partners and certainly, the policy that has been developed is in keeping with our relationship with our international partners, and [sought] also to ensure that the relevant international and local instruments are taken into consideration as we go forward”, Chuck told the gathering.

He said it is important for the policy to succeed so that children are not recruited by gangs. He asserted that dons use children to further their illicit activities.

“The nearly 300 gangs that operate no longer have potential members to join them if we succeed, and we must ... Jamaica’s children must be protected, and Jamaica’s future will be a better one”, Chuck said.

Child diversion consultant Ruth Carey told The Gleaner that the sensitisation sessions, which began Thursday, will run until September, with a rollout of the full programme scheduled for November.

They will start by meeting with all other agents of the State and stakeholders.

Chuck said the days of calling child offenders criminals are no more.

PARISH DIVERSION COMMITTEES

“We are going to ensure that our children who get into conflict with the law, that we don’t continue to label them as criminals, take them to court, charge them and send them off to some correctional institution. The history will tell you that once that is done, you have really labelled them for life. When you go to the prisons, the inmates are persons who started crime from an early age and have not been diverted away from criminality, and they end up being unable to function in modern society,” Chuck said.

He added that the Government will be setting up parish diversion committees in every parish and that the child diversion policy will be a game changer.

“We are going to put a child diversion officer in every parish who will be at a justice centre, and there will be a justice centre in every parish”, Chuck said.

Sancia Bennett Templer, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice, said: “The Child Diversion Act provides an important factor for the protection of one of Jamaica’s most vulnerable citizens, our children.”

The United Nations Children’s Fund and National Integrity Action have collaborated with the Ministry of Justice to roll out the programme.