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Ministry, CDA removing children from lock-ups

Published:Friday | June 21, 2013 | 12:00 AM

SOME 148 children were removed from lock-ups for care and protection between January last year and May this year, Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna said.

The minister, who was speaking during the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, said the removal of the juveniles from the lock-ups is the result of improved coordination between her ministry, the Child Development Agency, and the police.

"I ensured that I receive on my desk, on a weekly basis, a report from the police on children in lockups. We have been able to track the police stations that hold children for more than 48 hours and based on the legal authority of the CDA, and my legal authority as minister with responsibility for children, remove those children that are in need of care and protection," Hanna said.

The minister told Parliament that Jamaica should, within two years, be in compliance with international treaties and local laws governing the rights of the child.

"As minister with responsibility for children, since January 2012, I pledge to bring Jamaica in compliance by the end of 2014," Hanna said.

22-year breach

Jamaica, Hanna said, has for over 22 years been in breach of the United National Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (commonly referred to as the Beijing Rules), which we signed on September 2, 1990.

She said children have been coming in contact with adults at police stations and in correctional centres, and children are being held at police stations for more than 48 hours.

The minister also said, under different administrations, the Government has been in breach of the Child Care and Protection Act passed in 2004.

Hanna told legislators that the effects of state care on children have not been lost on her. She told the Parliament that many of the children who end up in state care have experienced significant trauma in their lives, including sexual abuse, neglect and exposure to domestic and other violence.

"Many suffer from depression and other mental illnesses, and some try or succeed in harming themselves," Hanna said.

The minister announced that a model place of safety for the appropriate medical, psychological, and psychiatric treatment of such children is to be constructed.