Jodi-Ann Gilpin and Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writers
The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has revealed that 37 wards of the State were being housed in two adult penal institutions up to Monday.
Commissioner of Corrections Lieutenant Colonel Sean Prendergast said 20 juveniles were being housed at the Fort Augusta Prison in St Catherine and 17 at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre in St Andrew.
Despite claims by children's rights groups that the practice is illegal, Prendergast said he was not aware of any plans to have those at Horizon removed because the facility is "gazetted" to house juveniles.
In an interview with The Gleaner yesterday, he also claimed there was no interaction between the juveniles and adults.
"While they are on the same compound, it is a completely separate block that houses juveniles," Prendergast said.
The issue of juveniles being held in adult penal facilities was again placed in the spotlight last week after a 16-year-old ward of the state, Vanessa Wint, reportedly committed suicide at the Horizon Remand Centre.
Children's rights activists have long complained that the practice of holding juveniles in adult correctional facilities is in contravention of the Child Care and Protection Act.
work under way
Prendergast reiterated that work was now under way at the South Camp Road detention centre which is to be used to house juveniles.
Head of the Mustard Seed Communities, Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon, has offered to partner with the Government to find space to house juveniles currently in adult lock-ups.
Late yesterday, Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna said she has arranged a meeting with the Catholic priest to discuss the suggestion and to keep the lines of communication open.