THE Rotary Club of Kingston on Saturday launched a $28-million project aimed at preventing juveniles from becoming repeat offenders.
Dubbed BACK2LIFE, the programme will equip juvenile offenders with life skills, while affording them increased family support and positive mentorship.
"BACK2LIFE will focus on 93 young male wards aged 12 to 17 housed at the Rio Cobre Correctional Centre in St Catherine... with the intention of engaging them in programmes designed to reorient their thinking and behaviours away from antisocial and destructive patterns," said newly installed Rotary Club President Manley Nicholson in his address at the launch at the Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston.
"Psychologists tell us that we should tell our biological children when they misbehave that we love them but dislike their behaviour... Somehow we need our locked-up youth to hear the same message: that we love them but we dislike their behaviour," said Nicholson, while calling for more Jamaicans to support the project through involvement.
The project will work with partners such as Children's First Agency in addition to 100 mentors from the Rotary movement and the wider society, psychologists and other groups.
The programme, he said, will include:
* Life skills education focusing on conflict resolution, peace building, sexuality, self-esteem, and anger management;
* Mentoring by 100 males spending no less than four hours monthly with the wards;
* Life planning led by professional coaches helping the boys to craft life goals and plans to achieve their goals;
* Rebuilding family or other support to counter the background of rejection and abandonment that many of the at-risk boys have come from; and
* Public education, which will include a public forum later in the year, and a film and a song, already developed, to raise awareness of the issues that make young men vulnerable to a life of crime.
"The key to the success of this project is engagement; engagement of Rotarians, and the wider Jamaican society," he said. "This project provides ordinary men and women an opportunity to show these children they belong to us and we care about them."
Research shows that issues of connectedness to family, school and society are central to behaviour that results in boys being incarcerated in correctional centres. There are also indications that the strongest predictor of children coming into conflict with the law is poor parental monitoring and supervision.
Guest speaker at the launch, businessman James Moss Solomon, spoke to the need for Jamaicans to be more active in building nurturing homes to raise well-adjusted children especially boys.
"Just as an infant formula may simulate but not equal breast milk, so parental love cannot be replaced in all its aspects by state care," he said. "At best, the care and physical protection can be duplicated and even improved but what about the intangibles of role models and simple love that constitute a real part of the home-grown experience?"
He challenged middle- and upper-class Jamaicans to look more closely at the roles they could play in crime prevention.