$75-m waste

Juvenile lock-ups completed in 2015 unoccupied because of defects

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, October 11, 2017



The Government is now facing a $17-million bill to fix four lock-ups built to house juveniles but which have never been occupied because of defects.

A total of $75 million was allocated from the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) in 2013 to build the facilities at the height of public discourse about juveniles being housed with hardened criminals in police lock-ups.

An inter-ministerial working group was set up in 2012 by the then Ministry of Youth and Culture to examine the issues. As a result, 13 units were to be established in specific locations across all parishes. JEEP was identified as the source of funding and the National Woks Agency (NWA) was mandated to carry out construction.

Four units were to be completed in the first phase in Bridgeport, St Catherine; Barrett Town, St James; Moneague in St Ann; and Nain, in St Elizabeth.

But in 2015 when the lock-ups were handed over to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), a walk-through found that they were “not as safe and secure as they appeared”, acting chief technical director in the Ministry of National Security Misty Beaumont-Daley told the Internal and External Affairs Committee of Parliament yesterday.

She said that among the structural defects observed were “roofs leaking profusely”, ventilation openings that are too small; doors covered by steel plates; some top bunk beds without rails; flaking paint; fire hose incorrectly placed; and sharp edges throughout the buildings.

Beaumont-Daley said there were discussions with the NWA and assurance was given that the defects would be repaired, but up to last month only the Bridgeport station had been given any attention, and the new structures had been “left to deteriorate”.

State minister with responsibility for youth, Floyd Green, said he was very concerned. “It sounds to me that the prototype itself was defective in design, because you have the same defects across all four,” he said. “What was the approval process of the building and monitoring in relation to the construction? I am bewildered as to why the JCF ever accepted responsibility (for the buildings), before all of these things were done to ensure that it was of a standard to house our children.”

But Police Commissioner George Quallo, who also addressed the committee, said that the JCF had not accepted responsibility for the facilities in their current state. “To my knowledge we did not, because we actually asked for the completion certificate, which we didn't get, and because of what we found we didn't accept it because we weren't satisfied with it,” he said.

Commissioner Quallo said the facilities were still urgently needed: “One of the things we try not to do is put children in adult facilities,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are times when we have to do so, although we put them in separate cells [so] the need for these facilities to be properly retrofitted and be in a state of readiness to be used is still very urgent.”

The ministry said the repairs are being treated as a matter of urgency and are to be completed in four to six weeks.

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