UNICEF assistance for children in correctional facilities

UNICEF assistance for children in correctional facilities

Friday, January 22, 2021

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The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has received technological support from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), valued at just over $1.9 million, to be distributed across the island's four juvenile correctional centres.

The donation came in response to an application from the Ministry of National Security to partner with the multinational agency to mitigate against the negative psychological and psychosocial impact of COVID-19 on the children within the correctional facilities.

Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of National Security (MNS), Senator Matthew Samuda, in addressing the official handing over of the items on Wednesday, stated that the donation was received at the right time, as the ministry, through the DCS, will build out its institutional capacity for virtual engagement, in light of the pandemic.

“I thank you on behalf of the DCS for your prompt response to our request and look forward to future cooperation between UNICEF and MNS,” said Samuda.

“We would have had to move in this direction eventually but COVID has hastened the implementation to include virtual classrooms, court hearings and virtual family days,” added Samuda.

UNICEF's donation comprised desktop computers, laptops, tablets, headsets, webcams and Wi-Fi devices to be used in interventions across juvenile institutions.

The equipment will be distributed to the centres with monitoring, technical support and initiative implementation residing within the ministry's youth empowerment programme – 'We Transform'.

UNICEF Representative to Jamaica Mariko Kagoshima expressed pleasure with the continued partnership and said that the partnership with the Juvenile Services Unit of the DCS is to help protect children in these facilities and correctional workers from COVID –19.

In March 2020, the DCS suspended non-essential visits to all correctional and remand centres under its COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Programme.

But Commissioner of Corrections Lt Col (Ret'd) Gary Rowe explained that, “Although the restriction on visits was necessary to preserve the physical health of our wards and inmates, it has demanded an expansion of the technological resources and platforms accessible within the department. As we pivot to sustain rehabilitation and the required academic services to the wards in particular.

“We extend thank you to UNICEF for helping us satisfy this demand,” said Rowe.

The DCS has four juvenile centres — South Camp Juvenile Remand and Correctional Centre, Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional Centre, Hill Top Juvenile Correctional Centre and the Metcalfe Street Secure Juvenile Remand Centre — under its purview with a population of just under 200 wards who are required to engage in academics, life and employability skills programmes.

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