The Government has removed 148 children from police lockups for care and protection between January last year and May this year.
Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, says this is one of the steps that has been taken towards achieving compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, as well as “our own Child Care and Protection Act, on children coming in contact with adults at police stations, in correctional centres and children being held at police stations for more than 48 hours.”
Addressing the House of Representatives during the 2013/14 Sectoral Debate on June 18, the Minister pledged to bring Jamaica in compliance by “the end of 2014.”
The Minister informed that over the past 17 months she has, on a weekly basis, received a report from the police on children in lockups.
“We have been able to track the police stations that hold children for more than 48 hours and based on the legal authority of the Child Development Agency (CDA) and my legal authority as Minister with responsibility for Children, remove those children that are in need of care and protection,” she said.
She also informed that all the various agencies and ministries that work with children “are now talking with each other, and working with each other,” through an Inter-Ministerial Working Group, to co-ordinate Government actions on behalf of children who come in contact with the justice system.
The Minister noted that the work of the group has resulted in action emanating from recent decisions of Cabinet.
“Some of these decisions include: the Government’s commitment to removing the so-called ‘uncontrollable behaviour’ label from children; putting systems and facilities in place for therapeutic treatment of the underlying causes, and removing the option for judges to commit children displaying anti-social behavior to correctional centres,” she said.
Miss Hanna further informed that legislative amendments, including those to “decriminalise uncontrollable behaviour,” are expected be completed by year end as priority is being given to drafting.
The Working Group comprise representatives from the Ministries of Youth and Culture, Justice, National Security, Health, Education, and Finance and Planning; Department of Correctional Services; Office of the Children’s Advocate; the Office of the Children’s Registry; the CDA; Jamaica Constabulary Force; the Attorney General’s Chambers; and the Commissioner of Lands.
Contact: Andrea Braham