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Alpha Boys' Home ending housing service

BY KARYL WALKER Editor — Crime/Court Desk walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, April 09, 2014    

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ANTISOCIAL and psychotic behaviour by boys housed at the 135-year-old Alpha Boys' Home have resulted in the institution announcing that it will no longer be able to house vulnerable and needy young males.

Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna made the announcement during a press conference at her ministry at Trafalgar Road in Kingston yesterday.

According to Hanna, the Sisters of Mercy — a Catholic order of nuns who are responsible for the operations of Alpha Boys' Home in Kingston and St John Bosco Boys' Home in Mandeville, Manchester — met with her and representatives of the Child Development Agency in February and cited several reasons they will no longer house male minors at the South Camp Road site as of June this year.

Among the reasons were rising cases of sexual predation by older boys against younger male wards, criminal acts being perpetrated by the wards, severely traumatised youngsters and the astronomical financial burden straddling the convent.

"The Sisters of Mercy cited the grave antisocial behaviour of children in the care system, the sexual predatory nature of the boys on one another, children who are witnesses of serious crimes or are victims of heinous acts, and who are non-responsive to traditional interventions for which their institutions have been equipped to provide," Hanna said.

"The Sisters of Mercy have also indicated the incapability of human capital to respond to the many changing faces of the issues being manifested. The challenge is further compounded by the high cost of care for each child, as a result of the more extensive interventions required which is beyond the capacity of their resources, thus limiting the ability to meet basic operating demand," she added.

Hanna said the Government was reviewing the status of the 120 boys currently housed at the school to determine their fate.

"We will see if some are fit to go back to their parents and the others will be housed at the St John Bosco Home," Hanna said.

Director of the Alpha Boys' School, Joshua Chamberlain, confirmed Hanna's statement but said the music and education programmes at the school would not be discontinued.

"Alpha Boys' School is in the process of transitioning from a residential programme to a day programme. Right now, we have a little over 70 students. Come September, we should be up to twice that amount. This means we will be able to serve them better -- better training and better security. The school is not closing in June," Chamberlain insisted.

"The students won't be sleeping here. Depending on their various situations, some students will return home, but still continue to receive training here, others are ageing out (reached 18 years) and the others will be separated based on their different interests, all in conjunction with the CDA (Child Development Agency)," he added.

Yesterday, a Jamaica Observer source indicated that the home was being granted less than a quarter of funds that was being given to Government-run orphanages despite repeated pleas by the nuns to be brought on par.

Horror stories of rape and sexual predation have long haunted children's homes and one former student of the institution told the Observer that he had been raped by older boys many times during his stay there.

"The big boys rape the smaller boys, and when the smaller boys grow up they rape those who are weaker than them. It never stop," the former ward said.

Alpha Boys' Home has made a significant contribution to Jamaican culture for many years, and under the tutelage of Sister Mary Ignatius Davis, Lennie Hibbert and Eric Deans have been credited with significantly contributing to the growth of ska and reggae music genres.

Famous names such as Don Drummond, Rico Rodriguez, Tommy McCook, Johnny 'Dizzy' Moore, Cedric Brooks, David Madden, Israel Vibrations, Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace, Theophilus Beckford, 'Deadly' Headley Bennett, Leroy Smart, and Yellowman all spent time at Alpha Boys' Home.

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