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

A closure of the Government Industrial School (GIS) is not practical, but Government has undertaken to examine the case files of each child warded at the boys and girls’ unit of the juvenile penal institution.

Speaking during a press conference to address matters relating to the GIS this afternoon, Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams, dismissed calls for the closure of GIS, but gave the assurance that all protocols governing the care of children at the institution would be reviewed.

“A lot of them we are scrapping; some we are improving. We are getting the assistance of Mrs. Faith Marshall-Harris and legal advice from [attorney] Dr. Adrian Cummins,” he said.

In addition, he also noted that Government was in the process of reviewing and modernising the structure of the institution, which was still governed by “very old laws”, and called on the public to give it an opportunity to do so.

He was addressing concerns raised following an incident at the Barrows, St. Lucy girls’ unit of the institution last week that sparked wide public debate.

Meanwhile, Mr. Abrahams disclosed that he had reviewed the case files of boys at the Dodds, St. Philip unit of the GIS about two weeks ago, and ordered the release of “a number of young men”, who, in his opinion, had paid their debt to society.

“The intention was to do the exact same exercise for the girls…. From as early next week, I plan to have the consultation with the board to fast track so that anybody who does not have to be there is not there,” he said.

However, he made it clear that such decisions would be done based on professional advice from those directly responsible for the children’s care.

The Minister explained that in cases where the professionals believed a child’s release would do more harm than good, he would heed that advice.

In addition, he made it clear that he could not exercise similar discretion for those on remand from the court, as their circumstance would be different from those serving a sentence.

“I assure the public of Barbados, that along with the board, I am going to look at every single case that is at the Government Industrial School for girls and we will make a decision. I do not want a child to be in any facility for a day longer than he or she needs to be,” Mr. Abrahams stated.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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