Action Taken to Ease Tension at Chestervale Camp

A Committee of Participants has been established in response to the standoff that took place on (April 16), at the National Youth Service (NYS) Chestervale camp in St. Andrew.
Executive Director of the NYS, Reverend Adinhair Jones said the committee would interface with the leadership of the camp, and would help to ensure smooth dialogue between the participants and the directors, in keeping with the culture of dialogue at the camp. This committee, he said, would be very vital, as part of the strategy for the way forward and would facilitate the airing of issues and concerns brought to the fore by participants.
“If you can understand the dynamics of the inner-city, you can see how that (the committee) can be a valuable asset in the camp,” Rev. Jones said.
He was speaking at a special JIS ‘Think Tank’ yesterday, held at 58A Half- Way-Tree Road in Kingston.
The camp was thrown into disarray on April 16 by participants who were in support of four of their peers who were being separated from the camp and its activities as a result of their disruptive behaviour.
It is alleged that some 15 to 20 participants were involved in the protest and began to hurl stones at the auditorium, the administrative building, the sick bay, the dormitories, and the tuck shop causing damage to windows and doors.
“The protest escalated to the point where the civilian and military staff had to retreat for their own safety.and destruction has been done to the property [as seen with the] broken windows and broken doors,” Rev. Jones informed.
Following the incident, Rev. Jones, who was early on the scene, said that external intervention, including the police, more military personnel from the Jamaica Defence Force, and NYS support staff, was brought in to bring stability to the situation.
The participants who have been held responsible for the disruption are being removed from the camp.
“Those persons are being identified with a view to removing them from the camp for future engagement with the NYS,” he stated.
The Executive Director also informed that while the camp would continue, operations at the facility is currently being re-assessed, and the appropriate strategies engaged to ensure the smooth continuation of the six-week camp, which is in its third week.
Another Guidance Counsellor has been deployed to assist with counselling sessions, while personnel from Rise Life Management and the Dispute Resolution Foundation are assisting with mediation. In addition, he noted that the police would undertake surveillance for the remainder of the camp.
“We are looking at the prospects of some changes in relation to the staff structure because of the trauma, and also because we need some ‘new blood’ to be put in at this time as we are measuring the situation,” he said.
“We are providing support for the staff and participants.and this morning the camp resumed with routine classes with a view to maintaining a structured environment, so as to ensure that whatever needs to be done is done for the most productive experience for the rest of the training,” he added.
So far, Rev. Jones said only one participant sustained injury to his hand, which was allegedly inflicted by military personnel. He noted that this matter is being investigated.
In the meanwhile, the Executive Director said the organization was currently in discussion with the owner of the property regarding an assessment of the damage to the infrastructure, noting that no legal action would be taken in the matter.
The camp, which is a collaborative effort involving the Citizens Security and Justice Programme, the National Centre for Youth Development and the National Youth Service, targets inner-city young people between 17 and 24 years of age.
It aims to re-socialize and improve the lives of young persons who have either been involved in violent incidents or are prone to incidents of violence in their communities.
“We have some good capital on which the camp can continue.and we are going to work it. Part of that is the enormous interest of almost all the participants, even those who will have to be taken off, and part of what we are grappling with now, in terms of trying to understand the psyche of the participants, is why they could behave in that particular way two hours earlier and then two hours later express that this is where they want to be, because it holds for them a very important promise for their future,” he reasoned.
Some 217 participants are in camp at Chestervale. They are supervised by a staff complement of 20, including civilian and military staff, which may be expanded based on the restructuring that is now taking place at the camp.

JIS Social