Minister of Home Affairs and Information, Wilfred Abrahams. (FP)

Efforts are under way to transform and streamline the Government Industrial School (GIS) in accordance with guidelines set out by UNICEF’s Procedural Manual.

And, Minister of Home Affairs and Information, Wilfred Abrahams, said the management of the juvenile penal institution was working closely with members of the new Board to implement a number of recommended changes.

He gave this update as he addressed a press conference at the Ministry’s office yesterday, accompanied by Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Curtis Gilkes; acting Principal at the GIS, Ronald Brathwaite; Chairman of the Board, Reverend Dr. Lucille Baird; and Board member and Clinical Psychologist, Christa Soleyn.

Making reference to recent attempts by some girls to leave the institution, Mr. Abrahams revealed that investigations revealed a different scenario, which resulted in a number of changes being made at the institution.

However, he said, what was clear was the need to introduce specific programmes to deal with the issues some of the girls were facing.

 “The Board has been advising me as to what they want to see, and we have made certain decisions as to immediate steps going forward and then long term steps,” the Minister stated.

He also made reference to plans to relocate the girls from the present Barrows, St. Lucy, facility to Dodds, St. Philip, “as soon as possible”.

That move, he said, would allow them to be in a more conducive environment for rehabilitation, attend classes, and allow them more time outside to socialise better.

Reverend Dr. Baird explained that the board at the GIS were guided by UNICEF’s Procedural Manual under which the organisation now operated.

“That manual sets out the protocols for the treatment and rights of all residents in keeping with the stipulations as set out in the international standards established for Juvenile Justice United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989. It is also the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty 1990…

“We are being governed by rules and regulations by UNICEF’s Procedural Manual. It is being implemented in phases. There is no way the residents at GIS could be treated badly with the present rules that are utilised to govern the GIS institution,” the Chairman maintained.

During the press conference, acting Principal of the GIS, Ronald Brathwaite, also sought to explain some of the procedures governing how the wards were handled in keeping with the new guidelines. There are presently seven girls and 11 boys at the Government Industrial School, representing a decrease over past years.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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