A total of 305 children, aged 12 to 17 years, have been referred to the Child Diversion Programme since it was implemented in April last year.
Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, who made the disclosure, said these referrals under the Child Diversion Programme, means “305 at-risk children have been given a second chance”.
“This means… 305 children, who might have otherwise ended up in the penal system, are being rehabilitated into their families and communities; 305 children, who might otherwise have become more deeply immersed into a life of delinquency and violence, are being nurtured towards becoming productive, well-adjusted citizens,” he said.
The Minister was making his contribution to the 2021/22 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (May 4).
Mr. Chuck also expressed his appreciation to members of the community and other stakeholders, such as police officers, guidance counsellors, probation aftercare officers, Child Protection and Family Services staff, who have partnered with the Ministry of Justice to deliver the programme.
Child diversion is the process of implementing measures for dealing with children who are alleged, accused of, or recognised as having infringed the penal law, without resorting to formal judicial proceedings.
The Justice Ministry established this method of intervention to rehabilitate children who have committed a diversion offence, reduce the number of children exposed to the criminal justice system, and empower communities to re-socialise child offenders.
“In the current fiscal year, we will continue our training and sensitisation sessions, as our objective is to increase our capacity to reach even more Jamaican youth before they transition into a life of crime,” Mr. Chuck said.
Turning to the Ministry’s Victim Services Division, Mr. Chuck informed that 200,000 victims have been counselled by the Division since 1998.
The Division provides assistance and support to victims of crime through counselling sessions, crisis intervention initiatives and court orientation programmes.
“Last year, we assisted over 5,590 new clients and 7,867 follow-up clients and gave support to 2,407 child victims with trauma and grief therapy support,” he said.
Minister Chuck said the Division has expanded its offerings to include e-counselling, where video conferences and virtual meetings are provided to offer real-time therapy and consultations.
“We hope to improve and expand on that service because there are so many victims of crime who have been traumatised and need further assistance,” he said.