ONE CHILDREN'S rights advocate has warned that with successive administrations failing to address the issues concerning those in conflict with the law, Jamaica is creating a "factory of abused children" who are likely to get involved in criminal activities.
Gillian Rowlands, chairperson for Hear the Children's Cry, who issued the warning on Wednesday at a press conference at the Jamaicans For Justice office on Fagan Avenue, Kingston, said the treatment of children in conflict with the law has become "a national crisis" that will have a far-reaching impact on the society.
"It is going to swallow all of us up ... our children are angry, and they are the citizens who are becoming our criminals," said Rowlands.
"Those same children are the angry youths that make up the cohort of our criminal population ... that 15 to 24 year-old age group," she added.
Arguing that a majority of the children who are in conflict with the law are from poor communities and families, Rowlands charged that society has "intentionally or unintentionially" created two classes of children in Jamaica.
She said the children of the poor are treated differently than those considered privileged.
Two sets of rules
"Because, if you can lock up children, which is against your child protection act, against the rights of the child, and there is no outcry ... no will to address it, then you are saying there are two sets of rules for our children, depending from where you come," she argued.
"If they were middle-class children ... if they were children of the privileged, there would be such an outcry in this country," she continued.
The Hear the Children's Cry chairperson charged that the issues relating to how children are treated in Jamaica have not be taken seriously by successive administrations.
"We continue to gloss it over, and if we look across parishes, we will see that our young males and our young females are involved in a lot of dysfunctional and criminal activities," she said.
Rowlands added: "It is part of the whole history of the abandonment of our children."
"I want to ask everyone across Jamaica, what would you do if your child was put in the lock-up and not given a proper place of safety ... what would your concern be?" she asked.