JIS News

Since its inception 5 years ago, the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP), has made significant strides in transforming the social and economic well-being of residents in a number of inner-city communities.
Manager of the CSJP, Simeon Robinson, tells JIS News that the programme was established in 2001 as a response to the rising trend in crime and violence during the late 1990s. “The idea surfaced from as early as 1998. a number of persons looked at the crime statistics and were uncomfortable as to where this scourge was going, and they thought that the Government needed to develop a comprehensive response to address this rising problem, and so the CSJP was formed,” he explains. The programme is funded by the Government and the Inter-American Development Bank at a cost of $20 million, with the implementing agency being the Ministry of Justice. This programme has five components, the main one involving six non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in 15 inner-city communities to provide a range of services, with the hope that these services will deter young persons at risk from becoming involved in criminal activities.
The communities are Rockfort, Mountain View, Allman Town, Parade Gardens, Fletchers Land, Kencot, Denham Town, Hannah Town, Trench Town, Drewsland, Waterhouse, Towerhill, Cassia Park, August Town and Grants Pen in the Corporate Area.
Mr. Robinson informs JIS News that the CSJP enter these communities after careful dialogue and discussions with the residents about the objectives of the programme, and the type of NGOs that are available to work with them.
“We do not go into these communities blindly; we would go in there after having made contact with a number of influential persons in the communities. We would then work with existing institutions. We would have dialogue with the community, explaining the objectives of the programme and we would then present them with a menu of services and they would then choose which services they want in their communities, based on their priorities,” he says.
Among the NGOs operating in the areas are: RISE Life Management Services, Peace and Love in Society (PALS), Sistren Theatre Collective, the Dispute Resolution Foundation, Kingston Restoration Company (KRC) and Youth Opportunities Unlimited.
RISE Life Management Services provide life management skills and substance abuse counselling and education for young persons and parents. PALS works in schools to provide training in conflict resolution for staff and students.
Theatre is being used as a medium of passing on information and to build citizens’ awareness about issues, such as domestic violence, young people and violence and organized crime. This is done through the Sistren Theatre Collective. The Dispute Resolution Foundation is another NGO that provides mediation and mediation training for community members.
The KRC works with students from these communities to provide remedial education and classes in Mathematics and English Language. The KRC also provides homework assistance to these students. Youth Opportunities Unlimited provides mentoring services and hosts summer camps for young persons living in these communities. Michelle Parker, Community Action Officer working in the Drewsland community, tells JIS News that Drewsland is one of the many communities that have seen positive improvements in the attitude and behaviour of many students and parents alike, because of their participation in the programme.
“At present, RISE Life is the only NGO working in the community to provide adolescents with education and life support skills to improve their lives. RISE has homework/remedial classes at the Balcombe Drive Primary and Junior High School that provide life and educational skills to students between the ages of 11 and 14 years. So after school, students from the community would go this centre and get the necessary help with their homework and at the same time they have life skill classes, where they are taught about self-esteem building, dealing with conflict as well as behaviour modification,” she informs. In addition, young people in the community who have an interest in teaching are trained as teaching assistants to work in the remedial classes. These teaching assistants, Miss Parker notes, are carefully groomed and trained and special assistance is also given to their educational development.
While the educational initiatives are targeted at adolescents, there is also a parenting component to the programme, because it has been recognised that it is not only important to provide opportunities for the young people but for their parents as well. There are at present two parenting associations located in the communities, the Sams Avenue Parenting Association and the Drews Avenue Parenting Group.
“I must say they are doing a fantastic work. Those parents from the Sams Avenue group came together and started a breakfast programme. So at one point you had 60 students coming out dressed for school and they were provided with a warm meal and then they are sent off to school; it is really admirable,” she says.
Miss Parker tells JIS News that while there has been a significant improvement in the community, it is still a challenge to change the mindset of many residents. “We are really trying to empower people, so that they don’t feel the need to resort to violence and crime.we are fighting a mindset, which can be very hard at times, but remarkably, there has been a lot of behavioural changes,” she points out.
Another community that has been receptive to the programme is the Greater Allman Town area, which is comprised of four districts – Allman Town Proper, Campbell Town, Woodford Park and Kingston Gardens. Monique Harper, Community Action Officer in the Greater Allman Town area informs that there are two NGOs working in that community – the RISE Life Management Services and Sistren Theatre Collective.
“RISE Life Management Services have introduced a project called the Adult Continuing Education (ACE) programme and it provides educational classes for adults 16 years and over to improve their Math and English skills. They also provide literacy classes for adults. At the end of ACE, you find that these persons are proficient to take a HEART test and pass, and many persons are able to sit CXC Math and English and pass,” she tells JIS News.
Miss Harper further adds that RISE Life has hosted a series of workshops, where parents are taught how to improve their parenting skills. “At the workshops, facilitators work with the parents to identify topics that they think are most important to them, from the rights of the child to parenting on a budget, and stress factors in parenting. So all in all, it helps to improve the parent-child relationship,” she says. Sistren Theatre Collective is another NGO working for the CSJP in the Greater Allman Town area. They deliver performing arts education in drama and dance to children between the ages of 6 and 18 years.
“Sistren also provides funding for 20 young men in the Greater Allman Town area to do a course in photography at the Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC). So far, 19 have graduated and funding has already been identified for them to improve the level of their certification, and I must say this is really good, because this has given them an opportunity to find suitable employment,” she says.
Meanwhile, Mr. Robinson informs JIS News that the programme is slated to end in 2008 and as such the NGOs in these 15 communities are moving to ensure that the residents are able to sustain the programme.
“As we come to the end of the programme, people are saying the government needs to continue this programme or something similar and we have seen success with this programme. I am not saying that the CSJP is responsible for every good thing that has happened in these 15 communities, but we have done our best,” he says.