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Published:Monday | March 1, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Recommendations of Armadale enquiry

The Gleaner

has obtained a copy of the report of a commission of enquiry into the fire at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre that led to the deaths of seven female wards. The report contained 16 observations and recommendations, the first six were published on Wednesday.

(7) A trained medical orderly or a trained nurse in attendance could have satisfied the problem of prescribed medications not given to the girls at Armadale. Such a person would, in addition, be an immense assistance in identifying early mental and psychological problems in between visits, for the attention of the medical personnel.

(a) A medical orderly or trained nurse is required to be assigned and reside full-time at such institutions;

(b) Increased visits by medical and psychiatric personnel, as recommended, should be implemented. Children in such institutions need them; they are at a vulnerable stage of their existence.

(8) Members of staff and security personnel reacted in a confrontational mood from the outset to the unruly, expletive-filled conduct of the girls instead of acting with balance, restraint and understanding, despite that conduct. Despite the views of the male police officer, force was the least of the options. A calm but firm approach may have been preferable. Both Mrs Shaw-Slack and Miss Gilbert (both correctional officers) testified that they received basic training, which did not include the treatment of juveniles. They did, however, attend a one-day seminar at Rio Cobre in 2008 which was concerned with juveniles. That was inadequate. Dr Royer-Powe pointed out, in reference to the syllabus outline for the training of correctional officers, tendered as Exhibit 9, in the evidence of Mr Hesson, that "...nothing in Exhibit 9 suggests that training in psychology is to be involved in training correctional officers in dealing with young children."

(a) Training in psychology, anger management, stress control and counselling in dealing with young children, should be included in the syllabus or course of training for correctional officers at Juvenile institutions and probation officers. The Bellevue Hospital, which is a major psychiatric hospital in Jamaica with its generous complement of psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health professionals, ought to be relied on for an input in such training.

(b) Correctional officers should also be psychologically re-evaluated periodically, in order to ensure their continuing suitability for such posts.

(d) The alleged misconduct in the loan of his cellular phone to one of the girls by the correctional officer Mr Wint, should also be investigated by the department and appropriately dealt with.

(9) The absence of any established procedure in handling emergencies and the absence of any standard evacuation procedure in the event of a fire, or other disaster, was starkly evident at Armadale. That accounted for the chaos, wrong options and confusion that existed at Armadale on the night of 22nd May 2009.

(a) Regular fire drills, involving both staff and juveniles, ought to be conducted by the Fire Department, commencing immediately, and thereafter at regular intervals, at all the juvenile detention centres.

(b) Fire extinguishers, in sufficient numbers, should be regularly checked and serviced on the stipulated dates.

(10) The medical personnel who treated the girls at Armadale should be commended for their work and, in particular, Dr Campbell who displayed compassion, dedication and a sincere understanding of the needs of the girls. Expert medical advice given by doctors in respect of the health and welfare of the girls should be accepted by administrative officials, seeing that the latter are not so trained. Mrs Spence-Jarrett as commissioner, was at fault to have rejected outright, in breach of the statutory provisions, the request of Dr Royer-Powe, to remove and isolate the two troubled girls, one of whom had a 'severe psychiatric problem'.

(a) Regulations are needed to give to the Director of Medical Services, the sole authority to determine, where, due to medical reasons, particular girls may or may not be housed.

(b) An isolation area, as requested, for disruptive juveniles, is urgently required, and must be provided immediately. This will facilitate proper treatment.