Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
Work to retrofit a number of police stations to better accommodate juvenile detainees will start by month end.
"The awards should be coming out as we speak now and we should begin construction for Barrett Town (St James), Moneague (St Ann), and Bridgeport (St Catherine) by the end of September," said Joan Young Davis, the special projects coordinator in the Ministry of Youth and Culture.
Young Davis was a guest at a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the newspapers North Street office in Kingston yesterday.
The Nain Police Station in St Elizabeth and the Four Paths Police Station in Clarendon are among the facilities earmarked for improvement under the first phase of a $75-million project.
Retrofitting and refurbishing of the juvenile-only section of the stations is in keeping with efforts to make them compatible with the internationally accepted standards under which juveniles are housed. Members of the Child Development Agency, Department of Correctional Services, Office of the Children's Advocate, and the police have collaborated on the new standards for housing these detainees.
Young Davis explained that at Bridgeport in Portmore, where juveniles have been housed for two years, it will be just a matter of doubling the capacity from 12, but other stations will require major construction work.
Explaining that the procurement process had been completed, she was adamant that the start-up deadline would be made, insisting: "By the end of this month, I believe we will be starting construction."
In addition, the station kitchen where meals are prepared for inmates housed at the '100 Man Station' will also be renovated to meet the increased demand.
Meanwhile, Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna said the improvements would extend well beyond the housing conditions, with the Arts for Life Programme specially designed to meet the extra-curricular demands of children in detention centres.
She disclosed that the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education Fund will be financing a two-year project, also starting at the end of September, which will be conducted in collaboration with the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, and the National Gallery.
"When we visited some of the girls and boys, many of them wanted a sense of art, and many of them are good at drama and painting," Minister Hanna said.