The JSC grilled members of bodies coming under the Ministry of National Security including Prison Service top-brass who oversee the Youth Training Centre (YTC), plus heads of the Gender and Child Affairs Unit of the Office of Prime Minister (OPM), and heads of children’s homes and Children’s Authority which fall under the OPM.
The Minister was concerned about the conditions under which youngsters live in children’s homes, and whether they were being adequately trained to survive in the outside world upon leaving their home. A major disconnect may exist between the law courts’ committal of youngsters to YTC and the meeting of their needs as determined by a psychological assessment.
Asked about training schemes at children’s homes and the YTC, St Michael’s Home manager, Mary De Here, said trades such as masonry, plumbing, carpentry, barbering and baking are among courses offered. These courses help keep youngsters away from the lure of gangs, added De Here.
Prison’s Commissioner, Elvin Scantlebury, said such courses can be a springboard to get onto more advanced courses such as YTEPP.
Opposition Senator Rodger Samuel, asked about the capacity of St Michael’s, to be told it was built for 12 youngsters but now has 22 persons.
Replying to queries by Gadsby- Dolly, Scantlebury said the YTC does not use corporal punishment nor solitary confinement but does separate miscreants from well-behaved youths.
She said the old Act governing such homes actually mentions corporal punishment, and must be repealed. While experts in psychology and psychiatry are attached to St Michael’s no psychiatrist lives on site.
In conclusion the Minister said tracer studies will be used to help prevent recidivism by youngsters becoming adult offenders. While admitting to a shortage of resources such as staff, the Minister said new legislation will improve the assessment and placement of youngsters.