SUFJ renews call for rethink of 20-year sentence for children
HUMAN rights group Stand Up For Jamaica (SUFJ) has renewed its call for parliamentarians to reconsider the proposed legislation mandating a 20-year sentence for children convicted of capital murder.
According to SUFJ, it is calling on Jamaica’s legislators to carefully reconsider the implications of such a mandatory sentencing policy.
“While acknowledging the need for justice and accountability, SUFJ believes that the current proposal fails to address the complexities surrounding juvenile offenders,” the group said in a release on Sunday.
The proposed legislation, if enacted, would require a 20-year sentence for children found guilty of committing capital murder â€” without considering individual circumstances, rehabilitation prospects, or the potential for juvenile offenders to reintegrate into society as responsible and contributing citizens.
“While we share the commitment to ensuring public safety and holding individuals accountable for their actions, a one-size-fits-all approach does not consider the unique circumstances and developmental factors associated with juvenile offenders. Research consistently shows that adolescents have the capacity for change and rehabilitation,” Carla Gullotta, executive director of SUFJ, said.
She said SUFJ is emphasising the importance of a more nuanced and rehabilitative approach to juvenile justice.
“A system that takes into account factors such as age, mental health, and the potential for rehabilitation can better serve the dual purpose of protecting society and facilitating the development of young individuals who have made regrettable mistakes.
“Additionally, SUFJ encourages legislators to explore alternative methods such as restorative justice practices, educational programmes, and comprehensive rehabilitation services that can address the root causes of juvenile delinquency. By investing in the rehabilitation and education of young offenders we can create opportunities for them to become productive members of society,” added Gullotta.
She said SUFJ is urging Jamaican legislators to engage in a thorough and thoughtful debate on this matter, considering the long-term consequences of a rigid and mandatory sentencing policy for children who commit capital murder.
“SUFJ stands ready to collaborate with lawmakers, legal experts, and advocacy groups to develop a more balanced and compassionate approach to juvenile justice,” said Gullotta.
The matter of minimum sentencing for children falls under the Child Care and Protection (Amendment) Act, which is being reviewed by a joint select committee of Parliament.
The majority of the committee has agreed that children aged 14 to 17 who are charged with capital murder will face life imprisonment or a minimum determinate sentence of 50 years; and in both cases, no parole before 20 years.
The majority of the committee further proposed that for non-capital murder the sentence would either be life imprisonment or a 30-year determinate sentence. The minimum mandatory sentence before parole is 15 years.