Kingston, Jamaica — Advocacy groups Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) and Help JA Children have expressed confusion at the Ministry of Youth’s response to the issue of children in police lock-ups.
According to the groups they are unclear about what actions will be taken by the Ministry.
They have therefore called on Minister of Youth, Lisa Hanna, to issue an instruction to the Child Development Agency (CDA) to remove all children from police lock-ups.
The groups say that a statement by the Ministry that a submission is being prepared for Cabinet with recommendations for child offenders remanded by the court or awaiting court appearance to be held in separate facilities from those housing adults has left them concerned.
Questions have arisen, they contend, about why the minister would need Cabinet approval to stop a practice that is against the law.
“I’m not too sure why the Minister needs to get Cabinet approval to stop something that everyone has acknowledged is illegal. We already have legislation that dictates specifically how this situation is to be handled,” said Brandon Allwood, lead advocate for Help JA Chidren.
Executive Director of JFJ, Carolyn Gomes, argued that there have been policy discussions and decisions about children in police lock-ups dating back to the 1970s.
“This is something we have been discussing for a long time, policies upon policies dating back to the 1970s. What we are short of is action, and that is what we are calling on Minister Hanna to provide. We have already decided as a nation that this is illegal through the Child Care and Protection Act,” said Gomes.
“The Minister needs to issue an instruction to the CDA to have these children removed immediately. There is no legal barrier stopping her and some of these police lock-ups are not even fit to host adults. The situation is irresponsible and cannot be tolerated any longer,” Gomes remarked.
Allwood added that the groups have been trying to meet with Hanna, but seems able to engage her only through the media.
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