Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
SPANISH TOWN, St Catherine:
AS PART of an overall strategy to ensure that juveniles in the care and protection of the State are adequately cared for, Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna and National Security Minister Peter Bunting yesterday participated in a familiarisation tour of the Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional Centre in St Catherine.
The tour was also used to assess areas of the facility which needed to be upgraded.
Other persons who visited the juvenile correctional centre were Vance Lewis, district governor, Division 7020, Rotary Club, British Virgin Islands; and Manley Nicholson, president of the Kingston Rotary Club.
Hanna, who chairs an inter-ministerial task force to address the issue, said the Government spends close to $1.5 billion for the care of children in places of safety, in children's homes, and doing regulatory work for children who come in conflict with the law.
She disclosed that a number of interventions have been implemented since January to bolster the care given to wards of the state.
"We've signed a $1.5-billion agreement with UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) to have activities to help lessen acts of violence against children. We have put additional social workers with CISOCA (Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse) and we've been able to keep over 1,000 children out of the state care since January," said Hanna.
She added that the Government was concerned about the increase in the number of girls who have come into conflict with the law.
"The statistics are worrying because what we are seeing are young girls and juvenile girls are fast committing offences and coming more in conflict with the law than the boys, and we are also seeing where young women are certainly being sentenced more than adult women," noted Hanna
In the meantime, Lt Col Sean Prendergast, commissioner of corrections, said a number of areas at the facility needed to be improved.
"If you look at the complex, many of them are obvious - building the capacity of the type of educational programmes that we deliver, improving the capacity in the skills training, the workshops, the equipment," said Prendergast.
In July this year, the Rotary Club of Kingston launched a BACK2LIFE project, which focuses on young male wards, aged 12 to 17, at the facility.
Nicholson said the project seeks to rehabilitate the youngsters at the centre.
Bunting described the intervention by the Rotary Club as integral to the prevention of crime and violence.
"It represents the approach we need to take as a society if we are to get on top of the challenges we face with crime and violence," said Bunting.