Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, is again encouraging suitably qualified persons to volunteer to become mentors under the National Child Diversion Programme.
“It is not too late for persons to volunteer to become mentors. The application form may be downloaded from the website of the Ministry of Justice,” Mr. Chuck advised, in a statement in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (July 14).
He noted that, to date, more than 400 mentors have been approved and trained across the island to give support to the National Child Diversion Programme.
“We want to double that number because the more mentors you have the better for the children to get some assistance and support,” he said.
Mr. Chuck pointed out that all mentors who have been selected so far were properly vetted, including the completion of background checks, “so as to ensure that those to be given access to our children were confirmed as respectable law-abiding citizens”.
Applicants with volunteering experience, who believe they have the requisite training, credentials, qualifications, professional licences or affiliations and skills that would make them especially suited to be a Child Diversion Mentor, are encouraged to apply.
It is also desirable if applicants have specific experience in mediation, conflict resolution, counselling, or any other Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) method.
Persons may complete and submit the form in hard copy to the Ministry of Justice Child Diversion Head Office, 61 Constant Spring Road, Kingston 10; or electronically to: email@example.com.
Mr. Chuck informed that “Child Diversion” is the process of implementing measures for dealing with children alleged as, accused of, or recognised as having infringed the penal law without resorting to formal judicial proceedings.
He noted that the Ministry of Justice has been implementing the National Child Diversion Programme in furtherance of the Child Diversion Act, which was enacted in 2018 and came into effect in 2019.
“The Ministry of Justice considers this to be a very important programme to rescue and save our children from going into wayward activities. This Child Diversion Programme is intended to capture our children before they get into gangs, and before they get into further delinquency,” he said.
Mr. Chuck noted that the broad goals of the National Child Diversion Programme are to reduce the number of children who are charged with offences and, are, consequently, exposed to the formal criminal justice system; to increase the use of diversionary programmes that are expected to rehabilitate children as a response to crime and wrongdoing; to protect the rights of the child in keeping with international instruments and protocols to which Jamaica is a party; and to reduce the number of children who are institutionalised in lockups and correctional centres due to minor criminal offences.
As part of undertakings necessary for the implementation of the Programme, the Child Diversion Office (CDO) has already been established and public officers appointed.
“The CDO, ably led by Child Diversion Consultant, Ruth Carey, is operational and has been doing a commendable job in laying the groundwork for the National Child Diversion Programme,” Mr. Chuck said.
In addition, 13 Child Diversion Committees have been put in place for each parish, with a single committee for the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew, and a National Oversight Committee has also been established.
“Additional activities implemented, which are necessary to support operationalisation, include a National Education Campaign on the Child Diversion Act, and discussions with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community-based organisations (CBOs) to introduce Child Diversion Programmes for children in conflict with the law,” Mr. Chuck informed.
He noted that, to date, a total of 22 youngsters have been referred to the programme, which began its rollout just before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic started in March.
Mr. Chuck said referrals have been received from the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Courts for offences such as malicious destruction of property, sexual intercourse with persons under 16 years and simple larceny.
In the meantime, Mr. Chuck informed that the Child Diversion Programme will also cater to children deemed uncontrollable.
“Although being ‘uncontrollable’ is not a child diversion offence, a Police Officer through the Clerk of Court (the Prosecutor) may recommend to the Judge that a child so classified be allowed the opportunity for rehabilitation by way of a Child Diversion Referral Order,” he said.