JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The JFJ vbideo disregards the actions taken by the Government over the past 18 months
  • All juveniles have already been removed from the Horizon Remand Centre

Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, has expressed strong concern over recent actions taken by civil society group, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), including the posting of a video online, which criticized the treatment of juveniles in detention.

Miss Hanna stated that the information is “factually incorrect, intellectually dishonest and over-sensationalised”.

She pointed out that it does not take into account the actions taken by the Government over the past 18 months, and those currently being implemented, to address the multiplicity of issues facing children in the country, particularly those who come in contact with the justice system.

The Minister who was speaking on July 17 at the weekly Jamaica House press briefing held at the Office of the Prime Minister, said the Government takes seriously, its responsibility for the care and protection of children, who come in contact with the law.

As such, she said, the administration has been implementing a slew of programmes and policies to safeguard the interests of these and other children.

“We have no problem with petitions and welcome them as part of the vibrant democracy the Government supports and encourages…we do not condone the public promotion of information that is incorrect, malicious, and designed to unfairly hurt Jamaica’s human rights record locally and internationally,” she stated.

The Youth Minister noted that incidents, which are alleged to have happened to children in state care in 2009 and 2010, which were not subject to an international online petition at that time, had now, over the past few days, been presented as the current actions of the Government.

She asserted that the positive actions taken to improve the care and protection of children had been ignored, with the Government characterised as abusing children.

Speaking to the call for the removal of children from Fort Augusta and police lockups, she noted that all juveniles have already been removed from the Horizon Remand Centre, and that the Government is already implementing the removal of all juvenile girls remanded by the court, from Fort Augusta, by December, 2013.

Additionally, Minister Hanna outlined, all children, who were being held at correctional centres on orders from the court, and who meet the classification as being in need of care and protection, have been removed by the Child Development Agency (CDA) to children’s homes.

She pointed out that since January 2012 and May 2013, some 148 children have been taken from police lock ups, for care and protection.

However, Minister Hanna explained that children remanded to juvenile correctional centres or other remand centres by a judge, can only be removed by orders of the court.

She said that as children do break the law from time to time and must come in contact with the police, the Government is developing a child diversion programme to provide the justice system with options for rehabilitation other than incarceration.

“The Government is working to ensure that in these unfortunate circumstances, the children are accommodated for processing for appearance before a judge within 48 hours as stipulated by Jamaican law and international protocols, in child friendly environment that protect their rights,” Ms. Hanna said.

She emphasised also, that the Government had committed that by year-end, facilities and systems will be in place to ensure that children, who come in contact with the law do not spend more than 48 hours at police stations.

“Jamaica is being brought, by this Government, into compliance with local law and international protocols after some 22 years of noncompliance,” she stated.