Amid continued criticism and pressure for her to remove children from adult correctional facilities, Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna today led a team of medical and childcare professionals on a visit to the Fort Augusta Correctional Centre and New Horizon Remand Centre in St Catherine and Kingston.
In a release this morning, the youth and culture ministry said the visit was in line with the minister’s efforts to “encourage increased medical and therapeutic intervention for children in the care of the State”. It also forms part of her ongoing visits to children’s homes, places of safety and juvenile correction centres across the island.
Among the team of experts on today’s visit with the youth minister are psychiatrist and president of the Medical Association of Jamaica, Dr Aggrey Irons; chief executive officer of the Child Development Agency (CDA), Carla Francis Edie; and Commissioner of Corrections, Lt. Col. Sean Prendergast.
Minister Hanna’s first year in office has been replete with criticisms from lobby groups, youth groups, the Opposition and the public over her handling of affairs relating to children in police lock-ups. Criticism grew stronger following the suicide of Vanessa Wint in November, a teenager who was being housed at the New Horizon Remand Centre.
In December, Minister Hanna - who is the 1993 Miss World - announced that Cabinet was considering a review of the role of the CDA to give it jurisdiction over children in adult correctional facilities. The CDA currently has no authority over children in lockups, except to administer to their care and protection, operating through Protection Orders from the Court.
She said Cabinet would also consider amendments to the Child Care and Protection Act and the National Plan of Action for Child Justice (2010-2014). The recommendation was one of several made by the Inter-Ministerial Working Group, chaired by the minister, which is to be submitted to Cabinet this month.
The group has also recommended increasing the number of family court judges and increasing the options available to courts dealing with child offenders. It also wants child diversion committees to be established in each parish to reduce the number of children being incarcerated.