The Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) has launched a three-month study to assess the profile and backgrounds of children in conflict with the law.
Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke said the study is to gather information on child offenders in order to ascertain the causes behind the phenomenon and make the necessary recommendations to the relevant institutions, so that effective preventive and intervention strategies can be implemented.
Speaking at a press briefing at the agency’s head office on Harbour Street, downtown Kingston, on July 12, Mrs. Clarke said the study is being conducted with the assistance of overseas consultants from Texas and North Carolina in the United States, at a cost of about $1 million.
Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke announces the commissioning of a study on the profile of children in conflict with the law, during a press conference at the Office of the Children’s Advocate on Harbour Street, downtown Kingston, on July 12.
“We have gotten persons who are able to get sponsorship otherwise, so the cost to the Office will be very minimal for a study of this kind,” Mrs. Clarke informed.
She said the two main consultants have had their first meeting, and will be meeting with the Commissioner of Corrections later this week.
“We have contracted some consultants with a lot of experience in working in the areas of juvenile justice and we’re hoping at the end of three months, to be able to call you back to share our findings with you,” she told journalists.
At the end of the research, the OCA will be able to tell the backgrounds of such children, their educational achievements, the problems that they have faced and their parental support.
“We do not know enough about how our institutions have treated these children, and our systems that we may have in place for the good of children, we do not know how these have positively or negatively impacted them,” she said.
Mrs. Clarke further told journalists that the study will target children in places of safety, remand facilities and correctional institutions.
She said the OCA will also conduct comparisons between delinquent children and those who have never been in conflict with the law, to help determine the causes and ways in which these children may be assisted.
“We want to compare the differences and so we will be looking at indicators to do with socio-economic status, educational status and background, as well as experiences in the school and family background,” she informed.
“We are hoping from this to be able to determine what we can do to prevent children from coming into conflict with the law, because it is one thing to be doing advocacy to take children out of lock up, but we don’t want them there at all,” she added.
Mrs. Clarke said the OCA has already made contact with the authorities, including the Ministry of National Security’s Department of Correctional Services and has received its co-operation.
With over 800 juveniles arrested for major crimes, including murder, rape and robbery between 2008 and 2009, Mrs. Clarke said the study was extremely relevant.
The OCA, a commission of Parliament, was established under the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA) 2004, for the purpose of protecting and enforcing the rights of children in Jamaica. The first Children’s Advocate was appointed in January 2006 and assumed her position in February 2006. The mandate of the OCA is the protection and enforcement of the rights of children.