Programme to transform juvenile offenders launched

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

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WITH hopes of transforming the lives of juveniles who are in its care, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) yesterday launched a programme to empower and equip children with the skills to become law-abiding citizens.

The programme is also aimed at reducing the number of youth offenders and those who re-offend.

Dubbed the 'We Transform Programme', it is being implemented under the theme 'Save a Child, Change a Nation' to rehabilitate and reintegrate 242 children — ages 12 to 17 — who have been remanded or are serving sentences in the four juvenile centres operated by the DCS.

The programme will be implemented through five pillars: Application of the learning by doing technique; mentorship and internship or job placement; annual competition and exposition, which involves showcasing talent and vocational skills; promotion of a healthy lifestyle; and parent engagement and transformation as well as staff capacity-building.

Some of the objectives include: Engaging each child in behavioural modification interventions such as life skills training in the area of psycho-social intervention; exposure to positive and caring role models under the mentorship component of the programme; promoting healthy lifestyle practices geared at increasing confidence and a sense of self-worth; and changing the public's perception of and stigmatisation of the target group, particularly on their re-entry into society, through public education campaigns.

National Security Minister Robert Montague, in lauding the programme at the launch at the Police Officers' Club in St Andrew, yesterday, said: “My ministry believes that each of these youth deserves a second chance. And we are committed to helping young offenders to get back on the right side of the law and remain [there].”

The minister said it makes no sense to dehumanise children who are in State detention centres for three years before releasing them back into society.

He said, instead, “we have to show those in conflict with the law that there are alternatives to a life of criminality”.

Reiterating the mammoth task of fighting crime and violence, Montague emphasised the need to address the root causes.

“The truth is, we can punish criminals all we like... we can punish young offenders all we like... but if we don't tackle the causes of crime, we'll never have a safer society,” he said, while appealing to citizens to join in the fight as Government alone cannot fix the problem.

The minister noted that one of the biggest factors fuelling crime in the country is the existence of gangs which are luring juveniles into crime.

“If we don't intervene now there is no future for Jamaica,” he said.

An equally elated State Minister in the Ministry of National Security, Pearnel Charles Jr, described the programme as a “dream coming true”.

“The reality is we must focus on transforming children who are in our correctional services. We must believe that the children can be transformed,” he said. “We have given up on too many children and that is the reality we must change.”

He, however, emphasised the need for partnership to make the programme a success.

Meanwhile, State Minister in the Ministry of Education Floyd Green said he was happy his ministry is partnering with DCS and pledged to ensure that all the youths in juvenile facilities received adequate education.

He, however, shared the sentiment that society has given up on too many youth.

“We have given up on too many of our children, that is a problem in our society... even before they get into our correctional centres. Sometimes the reason they are there is because so many of us have given up on them, that is the reality we must change and this project will change that from inside the centres,” he said.

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