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Juvenile facility back on agenda

Published:Tuesday | February 23, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

CABINET HAS approved plans for the completion of a correctional facility for juveniles in Montpelier, St James.

National Security Minister Dwight Nelson yesterday told
The Gleaner
that $174 million has been earmarked in the 2010-2011 budget to bring the project to its completion.

"We have identified this as one of our major priority objectives for 2010," Nelson said.

Government officials announced plans in 2006 for the construction of the correctional centre to hold 250 male juveniles. However, the project has been the victim of reduced government expenditure.

Yesterday, Nelson said the Government was determined to see the project through to completion this fiscal year as it was important to reducing overcrowding in these institutions.

"Once Montpelier come on stream, then all the male juveniles in police lock-up will be taken out. The boys being held at Rio Cobre will be taken out and taken to Montpelier and this will create space for us to accommodate girls at that facility," Nelson said.

Public discourse on the accommodation for juveniles in the care of the state has risen several decibels since seven girls perished in a fire at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in Alexandria, St Ann, last May.

Excerpts from the report

The report of a commission of enquiry held into the Armadale fire was submitted to the Government last month. However, it has not been released by the state and its contents were only first made public after Nationwide News Network aired excerpts from a leaked document.

In that report, prepared by retired justice Paul Harrison, who chaired the commission of enquiry, overcrowding in juvenile facilities was identified as "a major problem".

Harrison recommended that the Montpelier facility be repaired immediately and outfitted to make it into a comfortable facility for children.

Yesterday, Nelson told
The Gleaner
that Harrison's report did not influence his decision to take the matter to Cabinet. He said he did so more than a month ago.

The completion of the Montpelier facility was just one recommendation from Harrison as to how the Government should approach the business of errant juveniles.

The retired justice said Parliament should enact legislation to control the flow of juveniles into institutions.

"Serious consideration should be given to restrict the population to the permitted minimum," Harrison said. He further recommended that "the Children's Court should be so advised and no further corrections orders should be made to receive a child into the institution until a vacancy exists".

Meanwhile, Peter Bunting, the opposition spokesman on national security, has called for the Government to release the report of the Armadale commission of enquiry and to explain the delay in making the findings public.

Nelson has said the report is to be discussed by Cabinet next Monday.