Charting a better Future for Wayward Youth


The rehabilitation of the troubled boys and girls entrusted to its care, is not a responsibility the Department of Correctional Services takes lightly. From tending to the educational well being of its young charges through the school-based curriculum it offers, to the provision of vocational training to improve their employability opportunities, the Department is intent on charting better futures for the wayward youth it cares for.
Deputy Commissioner of Custodial Services, June Jarrett speaking recently to JIS News says that, “essentially we deal with the rehabilitation of these offenders in our care, and that means we take a holistic approach to these offenders. We afford them numeracy and literacy skills, we offer vocational training, and also tend to the spiritual, emotional, recreational aspects of the individual.”
A total of 279 wards, aged 12 to 18, are now housed at the four facilities for wayward youth operated by the Department. These are: the Hill Top Juvenile Correctional Centre and the St. Andrew Remand Centre, which are maximum-security facilities for boys; Rio Cobre, an open institution for boys situated in St. Catherine, and Armadale, a maximum-security institution for girls, also located in St. Ann. The youngsters typically end up at the centres, when they have committed an offence such as an act of vandalism, or other antisocial behaviour and where there is the absence of a stable home environment, where they can be offered proper guidance.
“If they have no controlled environment where the probation officer can visit them at home and offer the necessary counselling and guidance, then they are sent to us and being in a controlled environment, then we offer all the care that is given,” Mrs. Jarrett explains, noting that they can remain in the institution for a maximum of three years, depending on the age at which they enter the facility.
She notes that while the correctional centres serve only as the temporary homes of the juveniles, much effort is made to offer all the necessities that their actual home would provide for the length of their stay. “Mark you, it can’t be the same as home as there’s no place like home but at least we try to do our best with them. We have housemothers who offer the care, we have instructors, counsellors, teachers, and superintendents as well as assistant superintendents, some of whom are trained and have degrees. They are well experienced to offer care to these juveniles,” she points out.
Oftentimes, she says, the boys and girls, on entering the centres, are unable to read and write, and are therefore taught literacy skills. It is also compulsory that they learn a vocational skill during their time spent at the centre.
“We offer to teach them how to read and write. We have remedial programmes, we offer all the programmes that exist in the normal school setting, and we prepare them for the Secondary School Certificate (SSC), General School Certificate (GSC), and Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) examinations.
What we presently offer in terms of vocational training is electrical installation, woodwork, metal craft, clothing and textiles, auto mechanics, craft, catering services, and we have drapery making and cosmetology for the girls,” Mrs. Jarrett notes.
She proudly informs that the academic programme at the correctional centres has been successful, with 22 girls at Armadale receiving creditable grades in the recent SSC examinations, ranging from passes to a distinction.
She discloses that the programme has been extended to include the Rio Cobre and Hill Top Correctional centres, and the boys housed at these institutions are receptive and are performing reasonably well.
To complement the work taught in the classroom, she says, mentoring programmes are offered to all the wards, as well as specialised counselling sessions. A psychologist also pays frequent visits and conducts clinics with the wards, after which, they are assessed and the appropriate therapy is offered based on findings.
The programmes implemented by the Department have been successful with only one per cent of the population at the juvenile centres being repeat offenders. “They don’t come back to the juvenile setting but some of them do end up in the adult institutions but that is in the minority. The programmes [at the juvenile centres] are successful because all juveniles that come into our care must come into a vocational area, they must learn a skill,” Mrs. Jarrett notes.
Even with the successes, the Department is always seeking to improve its offerings and has plans to introduce an incentive programme within the next three months, Mrs. Jarrett reveals.
“We are looking at the whole business of discipline as well as sanctions,” she indicates, noting that, “we are going to be looking at rewards so if persons behave then they move up to a different level, they are afforded different opportunities and also the report that would go out would allow them to benefit from other programmes,” she explains.
Conflict resolution and anger management are two other areas that will be receiving attention, Mrs. Jarrett says, as the Department seeks to help the youngsters deal with anger issues. “There is conflict at home, conflict with their own peers, so we are now looking at anger management and conflict resolution programmes to implement in the institutions,” she says.
She also tells JIS News that, “we are presently looking at a proposal to send to the Ministry of National Security in terms of the business of job placement”. She recalls that the Department had tested a plan four years earlier, where the girls from Armadale went into a hotel setting in St. Ann for job experience. In terms of post-care given to juveniles after they have left the centres, the Deputy Commissioner tells JIS News that the Department, in some instances, assists in finding the young men and women jobs through the probation after-care officers, while some are placed in tertiary institutions. “Right now, we have a number of them who are going to be attending HEART/NTA or have actually started already,” she says.
The probation after-care officers also play an important part in reintegrating the juveniles into normal life once they are ready to leave the centres, Mrs. Jarrett says, noting that the officers act as a liaison between the school and home as “the whole business of re-entry has to be monitored carefully. You don’t want to send the boy or girl into the same setting they are coming from so the probation officer prepares the home to receive them after they have left the institution.”
The after-care officer, she adds, also offers supervision, counselling and helps in the resettlement process of the juveniles.
Mrs. Jarrett is calling on society to support the work of the centre and give the youngsters a second chance when they re-enter the society. She notes that they are frequently stigmatised by persons, who hesitate in hiring them or accepting them in normal school settings. She encourages such persons to resist being judgemental and “give them a chance as everybody deserves a chance in life and they are good boys and girls, just misguided”. “What we try to do is turn uselessness into usefulness and this is our policy and we have trying to do that, so we just want persons to help us help them,” she urges.

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