The program which is a collaborative effort between the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the United States Agency International Development (USAID) has been dubbed the Juvenile Justice Reform project.
On Tuesday evening, officials from the OECS Secretariat, USAID, government ministers, resident judge Birnie Stephenson-Brooks and magistrates among others, gathered at the Fort Young Hotel to witness the official commencement of the program.
The Juvenile Justice Reform program will be conducted in partnership with six independent OECS countries; Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and St. Vincent.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ruth Allport noted that the program will seek to rehabilitate young people as well as encourage them to make a positive contribution to society.“It is expected to assist us in moving away from a punitive model to a restorative model of justice for young persons, to remind us that children, young persons in difficult positions are sometimes as much victims as offenders”.
Allport also noted that often times the “social background” of these offenders are “often tragic”, hence the pertinence of preventative action.
“This points at the immense importance of early detection and prevention measures; support to families at risk, decisive reaction on signs of domestic violence, social workers with outreach capacity and neighborhood networks and a school which not only teaches but also cares for each individual child; these are components of a preventive strategy,” she said.
The Director of Social and Sustainable Development Division of the OECS Secretariat, Bentley Browne, who pledged the support of the OECS Secretariat for the program, also noted that the program will also assist in the “modernization of the juvenile system”.
“I wish to reiterate that the OECS Secretariat is fully committed to the implementation of this project. However, success of this project will depend to a large extent on the commitment and participation of member states to provide information, feedback and to make critical decisions on a timely basis. I’m asking for full cooperation of all members states participating in this project so that we’ll be able to execute the project in an efficient and effective manner with maximum benefits accrued to the targeted beneficiaries.
Meanwhile, Information Technology Minister, Ambrose George, represented Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit at Tuesday’s launching, announced Dominica’s commitment to the project.“As we move forward to this end, Dominica will certainly participate wholly and constructively in this effort. Although we have different responsibilities and bring a variety of perspectives to our public service work, we are all OECS citizens. We are all stewards of our democracy, we are all examples and advocates for our young people and we are all responsible for ensuring that even in these challenging times, the values of justice, dignity and equality are applied wholeheartedly to all our young people”.
The program will focus on five areas; Legal and regulatory frameworks, Building capacity within the juvenile justice system, Modernization of juvenile justice processes focusing on diversion and rehabilitation measures supported by limited infrastructural support and the development of educational and public awareness measures to support juvenile justice reforms.
The USAID has contributed US$5.8 million towards the project which will be headed by USAID’s Senior Technical Specialist for Economic Growth, Mansfield Blackwood.
Dominica Vibes News