Editorial

Big day for juvenile care centres, Jamaica

Friday, June 28, 2019

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It may go unnoticed, but today is a day in which all Jamaica should rejoice.

A Jamaica Observer report in yesterday's edition is that word from the representative of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jeanelle Van Glaanenweygel, is that “by Friday, June 28, 2019” an electronic case management system will be “operational in all [juvenile correctional] facilities and users should be able to continue using and testing it”.

The need that this system fills is one that has been a millstone around the neck of our developing civilisation for decades.

That the system will be fully tested and real-time in all juvenile facilities by September is reason enough to pull out our pot covers as we do for sports successes.

There have been too many horrific stories about the poor management of the affairs of juveniles who run afoul of the law, as there has been little structure in place for their rehabilitation.

As a result, their exit from the correctional system and re-entry into society have not followed a programme to place them in better stead, despite having acquired the tools to become productive citizens.

There is no programmatic, composite monitoring of children in juvenile facilities so that antisocial behaviours can be identified and managed before they become adults. And the link between adolescent involvement in criminal activities and continuity in adulthood is well known.

The new case management system will assign a team of support workers to each child based on their individual needs, and the result will be more positive outcomes in curbing waywardness.

After an initial assessment an individual developmental plan to address the vulnerabilities will be created and pursued.

We are told that, since March 2018, the Department of Correctional Services has been using a paper-based version of the system developed through several consultations with stakeholders and partners, and this is yet another step in the roll-out of better childcare.

A report from the Ministry of National Security indicates that: “The developmental plan is facilitated by the electronic system through its user-friendly tools that provide calendar updates on court cases [and plan] classes, among other rehabilitation activities.”

Even without the benefit of scientific support, we know that the child whose early years involve a custodial sentence will require a targeted approach to ensure that his or her development trajectory does not lead to incarceration in later years. This system intends to change the life plan of many a troubled teen and, if successful, will impact the Jamaica so many have worked hard to build.

It is intended to provide key stakeholders with comprehensive information about remandees at juvenile facilities and will also ensure more effective management of facilities and supervision of the work of staff, and provide standardised data for reports.

This is yet another partnership with the multilateral OAS that will redound to the nation's benefit, and appreciation must not be sparing as the social challenges of our nation continue to impact economic progress.

Plans to eventually extend such a system to adult correctional centres and courts cannot come too soon.

All this did not happen overnight, and so the change will not be instantaneous. What we hope, however, is that the administrators will utilise this tool to its greatest capability so that the country's future — our children — can gain the full benefit of this investment.

At the same time, parents must come to the realisation that there is no greater socialising agent than the space we create for our children. This new system does not in any way diminish the role parents and guardians must play in the lives of youngsters.

And so, the efforts of the system must be supported by visitation, example-setting, and the inculcating of a moral compass that will undergird the development of citizens who “play their part in advancing the welfare” of a better Jamaica.


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