Expect to see changes in the way young people are dealt with by the juvenile justice system by the end of next year.
If all goes according to plan, Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite, should have a clear indication of the outcome of Barbados??? first National Juvenile Justice Conference, now under way at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, in his hands by next month.
Speaking during the opening ceremony of the conference, Mr. Brathwaite gave his personal commitment that some, if not all of the structural and legislative changes recommended during the conference, would be completed by the end of 2016.
He pledged that the three-day conference, which concludes tomorrow, Thursday, April 23, will not be the ???proverbial talk shop???, and indicated that he expected to have a ???clear and precise road map to reform??? by the end of May.
However, he told policymakers, practitioners, youth workers, community advocates and stakeholders, that the road ahead towards reform in dealing with youth would not be an easy one.
The first challenge, Mr. Brathwaite outlined, was that of overcoming hundreds of years of socialisation. ???We have inherited in the area of youth justice a colonial justice system steeply rooted in harsh and punitive sanctions for the most part,??? he noted.
He gave as an example the Reformatory and Industrial Schools??? Act, which allowed a boy to be punished for escaping by receiving 12 or 24 strikes with a birch.
Stating that Barbados had already started looking at its systems governing juvenile justice, the Minister further pointed out that research also showed that harsh and inhumane treatment was not a deterrent to offending behaviour.
That, he said, was why the conference was designed to take on a community approach to allow everyone to understand the role they played in the process.
Deputy Representative with the United Nations Children???s Fund, Muriel Mafico, commended Barbados for the strides it had made since signing the Convention on the Rights of the Child 25 years ago.
However, she indicated that the country still needed to revisit the issue regarding the age of criminal responsibility, as well as old legislation which continued to treat children in a way that did not protect their rights.
Noting that there were a number of challenges ahead, she made a call for partnerships, and for stakeholders to be innovative in developing new strategies going forward.
Presenters from St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America are also expected to share their experiences during the conference.