- Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security, Senator the Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr., has lauded Probation Officers islandwide for their commitment to youth empowerment.
- Between August 8 and 12, the Probation Aftercare Services hosted some 350 child offenders from 14 to 17 years of age in their annual outreach programme – the Challengers’ Day Camp.
- One 18-year-old camper, who was sent to the camp by the court for an offence committed while in high school, tells JIS News that he has been exposed to so much through the camp that he now knows how to conduct himself and stay out of trouble.
Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security, Senator the Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr., has lauded Probation Officers islandwide for their commitment to youth empowerment.
Between August 8 and 12, the Probation Aftercare Services hosted some 350 child offenders from 14 to 17 years of age in their annual outreach programme – the Challengers’ Day Camp.
This year’s camp addressed issues such as self-esteem and self-worth; substance use and misuse; anger management and conflict resolution; healthy interpersonal relationships; human sexuality; career development and skills training; spiritual management and motivation; and anger management.
“I applaud the probation officers. They have been able to expose these youngsters to a lot of the practical areas that will assist them to chart a positive course in life. I was able to interact with them and share my own life story and motivate them, so they can do anything in life, despite the very serious obstacles they may confront,” Senator Charles tells JIS News in an interview.
The State Minister, who visited the Portmore Probation Office and interacted with 20 campers, said the experience was very productive.
“I found it to be a very successful camp,” he says.
“One of the activities we specifically did was to ask them to respond to the ‘I am’, and we posed it as being two of the more important words that they need to understand in their life, because whatever comes after it is dependent on them,” Senator Charles adds.
The State Minister notes that the children who attend Challengers’ Camp have not been charged, so the Ministry tries to implement intervention programmes.
“This is more a preventative programme to give them the tools necessary to build them up in a positive way,” he explains.
A significant feature of this year’s staging of the camp were visits to the Tower Street and St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centres by participants of nine of the 14 camps.
Senator Charles says this level of exposure can have a positive impact on them, as they can see the realities and practical aspects of what they can face if they continue down a particular path.
“I am fully committed to everything that has to do with youth development. We are investing, as a priority, in preventative and intervention mechanisms,” he says.
Minister of National Security, Hon. Robert Montague, also visited the Portmore camp.
He told the campers that they should consider themselves fortunate to be interacting with probation officers who are committed to their development and to their quest to be positive in life.
Reducing reoffending is one of the five pillars to fight crime, as outlined by the Ministry of National Security.
Director of Probation Aftercare Services at the Department of Correctional Services, Janet Davey, tells JIS News that the primary aim of the camp is to stimulate the mind of each camper, so that he or she will see the need to make the changes that are necessary to become the best that he or she can be.
“I am so happy that we were able to execute the camp this year. I spoke to the campers in Santa Cruz (St. Elizabeth) and they are so excited about it, because it is their first time and based on the feedback, they wish to do it again. They even want an extension, but we do not have the resources to extend it,” she says.
Ms. Davey notes that all the campers were referred by the courts, with the exception of two campers who were sent by their schools to participate in the behaviour mediation programme.
The youngsters involved in the camp were males and females who committed minor offences, such as simple larceny and assault.
The Director tells JIS News that the camp provides an opportunity for the Probation Aftercare Services to package and deliver an intervention strategy that seeks to address the specialised needs of the participants.
It also provides the courts with an alternative – to refer children whose awareness needs to be heightened in specific areas.
One 18-year-old camper, who was sent to the camp by the court for an offence committed while in high school, tells JIS News that he has been exposed to so much through the camp that he now knows how to conduct himself and stay out of trouble.
“I know that I am to make better decisions. I will stay on the right path now, because first of all I was locked up and that was not nice and now I have a second chance for which I am grateful,” he shares.
The participant says he met a prisoner who has been sentenced to more than 16 years, and having heard his experiences he will not do anything to end up in prison.
“Out here nicer than in prison. I enjoyed the experience at the camp and I got to socialise with other persons,” he tells JIS News.
Similarly, Probation Officer and Camp Facilitator from St Elizabeth, Tracey Myrie, enjoyed the camp experience and was delighted to have shared in the empowerment of the young people.
“The students were very receptive to the presentations; the questions they asked show that it got them thinking and their mindset has shifted a bit. They keep asking me to remind them of something a presenter said and to ask for advice on what they can do. The experience is just awesome,” she says.
Ms. Myrie explains that following the day camp, the child offenders meet with their probation officer once monthly for counselling to ensure they are engaged in school, other positive activities and that they are staying away from the negative influences that brought them into the system.
Home visits are also conducted to assess what happens there, as well as community visits.
Ms. Myrie notes that at her probation office in St. Elizabeth a parent session has been initiated, where the officer meets with the parents and the probationers to see how they are coping in the home.
In addition, the Officer assists the parent to continue the rehabilitation process so there is no lapse.
Probation Aftercare Services hosted their first Camp in August 2003. The recent camp was held under the theme ‘The Change Begins with Me’.