Press conference on the Government Industrial School – March 20, 2021. (PMO)

As early as next week, the Minister of Home Affairs will meet with the newly-appointed Government Industrial School (GIS) Board to investigate all outstanding complaints, and to review all case files of those currently at the school.

Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams, during a press conference today reported that the new Board at the GIS has ‘carte blanche’ to review and investigate all outstanding complaints at the institution.

Minister Abrahams noted that the review would not be an overnight process.  “The difficulty here is that we need to consider each circumstance separately. There are some people who are calling for the shutdown of the Government Industrial School, that’s not practical, that’s not practical, but we can review each child’s circumstance.  

“If the professional advice having regard to what they were sent there for in the first place, what the court ordered, what the Child Care Board ordered [and] what the Probation Department saw as necessary; if the reason for them being there has been satisfied, that they have reached or obtained the maximum benefit that they can obtain from there, and it’s in my discretion, then I will take the action that I need to take,” Minister Abrahams explained.

However, he noted that in cases where a ward of the GIS is there on remand, the circumstance would be different. 

“For the persons who are on remand that’s a bit more difficult because they’re not serving a sentence.  My discretion to do things where somebody is serving a sentence doesn’t necessarily extend to when somebody is there on remand from the court. The court has placed them with us for a period and asked us please to return them on a certain date.”

The Home Affairs Minister suggested that the public might perceive the reviewing of cases as being done in response to a recent incident, but pointed out that the institution was already “systematically going through a process” of reviewing case files. 

He reported that two weeks ago, the case files of a number of boys were reviewed and those who were determined to have “paid their debt to society” were released, and the “exact same exercise for the girls” would take place. 

In fact, he stressed that the process would be accelerated. “I plan to have the consultation with the Board and to fast track so that anybody who does not have to be there is not there. But for those who the professional advice advises me that they need to be in a secure facility and I’ll be harming them rather than helping them by tampering with the situation, then I’m going to heed that professional advice because I am not a psychologist, I’m not a psychiatrist, I am not trained in this, I am a lawyer and I’m trying to help the kids and do what is right,” Mr. Abrahams stated.

The Minister gave the assurance that “every single case” would be reviewed. 

sheena.forde-craigg@barbados.gov.bb

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