National Juvenile Justice Conference Next Month

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Outdated laws, children being placed at an unfair disadvantage, and the real problems not being addressed, are some of the challenges being experienced with Barbados??? Juvenile Justice system.

However, with a new Juvenile Justice Bill being drafted, Barbados is about to embark on a National Conference on Juvenile Justice.

It will be held under the theme: Redefining Juvenile Justice ??? Towards a Better Future, from Tuesday, April 21, to Thursday, April 23, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

This disclosure came this morning from Principal of the Government Industrial School (GIS), Erwin Leacock, during the launch of the conference.

Mr. Leacock told members of the media that Barbados??? existing system of juvenile justice was outdated, and had proven to be inadequate in meeting the needs of the current generation of troubled youth.

???Continued use of this system will undoubtedly result in unnecessary hurt and trauma, not only to the youth and their families, but to the community in general. Our present system is inefficient in the use of financial and human resources,??? he pointed out.

This view was supported by Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite, who noted that the existing Juvenile Offenders Act and Reformatory Industrial Schools??? Act were almost 100 years old, and spoke of whipping young boys and placing them on board ships as a form of punishment.

The Minister also expressed concern over the number of males and females sent to the GIS for offences that were not of a criminal nature. ???We as a country need to find a way to support these individuals, and not support them in a way by incarcerating them,??? he stated.

He explained that there was a need to separate children who were in need of support and those whose criminal behaviour led them into contact with the criminal justice system.

The Minister said he hoped that a clearer vision on transforming the island???s juvenile justice system would emerge from the conference. ???This is not an issue that can be addressed by those people in the criminal justice system. ???We need to get parents involved, we need to get the church involved, we need to get the NGOs [non-governmental organisations] involved,??? Mr. Brathwaite said.

The conference is expected to sensitise participants to the current status of the juvenile justice system in Barbados; develop a plan of action for the reform of the juvenile justice system; and highlight proposals for that reform.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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