Gov't moving to improve conditions for wards - Hanna
The Jamaican Government announced yesterday that it is taking steps to have a police station in each parish equipped to handle children who come in conflict with the law.
The announcement by Youth Minister Lisa Hanna comes as the Government seeks to appease children's rights advocates, who have raised numerous concerns about the long-standing practice of housing juvenile wards of the state in adult prisons.
But Hanna, who was speaking at the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of St Andrew at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, did not provide details on how the proposed facility would operate.
She said the project, which would be undertaken with assistance from the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP), will be reviewed by the ministries of justice and national security before it is presented to Cabinet.
"We are working to have, through the JEEP (Secretariat), one police station per parish that is equipped to deal with children (who come in conflict with the law)," Hanna said.
"The figures have been prepared, the police stations have been identified and that will go forward," she insisted.
According to the youth minister, some 5,226 wards of the state are now being housed at children's homes and places of safety, while 452 children are in juvenile remand and correctional centres.
Male wards of the state are being housed in a facility established for them while female wards are held in adult prisons, though they are separated from the general population.
ESTABLISHING MODEL CENTRE
Hanna said following her recent visit to the Fort Augusta and Horizon adult remand centres, her ministry has put plans in place to secure a facility that will be used to establish a model therapeutic centre to treat all wards.
She said a pilot project is now being undertaken to provide therapeutic interventions for female wards at both facilities, along with the Homestead Place of Safety, in St Andrew.
"We intend to eventually roll this out to all state-operated juvenile correctional centres, places of safety and children's homes," the minister said.
Hanna said the initiative, which will expose the wards to music, drama and dance, will better assist their development.
Meanwhile, Hanna said there was data to suggest that there is significant mental, psychological and emotional trauma affecting children.
She said it is estimated that 10 per cent, or 100,000 of the nation's children might have a mental disorder while five per cent, or 50,000, could be suffering from a severe mental disorder.
"This is magnified where children are institutionalised, whether for care and protection, uncontrollable behaviour or for committing offences," she asserted.