The profile of young offenders being sent to the Government Industrial School (GIS) is changing to reflect a greater tendency among juveniles towards criminal activity, says GIS principal Erwin Leacock.
He explained that more and more offenders were entering the correctional facility via the court system “more criminally oriented”, as opposed to the traditional non-criminal delinquent.
He also revealed that the age of some offenders was of great concern.
Leacock was speaking to members of the media this morning following the opening of a symposium on high-risk students in the secondary school system, at Hilton Barbados. He said the risk factors associated with some of the students’ behaviours were sensitive, but included substance abuse, traumatic and horrific experiences which usually originated in their homes.
Unfortunately some of the poor decisions they make lead them to the justice system, he added.
However, according to the principal, some of the schools were handicapped by the lack of support systems and were not tailored to handle some of the offenders.
On that note, he said that during the symposium, the juvenile justice system and other support agencies sought to develop a collective approach and common philosophy for dealing with high risk students.
“We can appreciate some of the challenges that the schools would be experiencing within the school system and we appreciate that what is happening is reflective what’s going on in Barbadian society.
“We unfortunately do not have a common belief on how this matter should be addressed. You usually find that schools will usually reflect the views of the principal who will set the tone. But I think generally, that we have to look at a more comprehensive approach of how we work with high-risk students,” he said.
The principal also indicated that while the juvenile delinquent system and schools sought holistic measures to deal with the emerging issues, families and communities must also come on board and play their part since every family had a troubled child in the household.
“Presently, Barbadians are very good at marching, holding vigils and as far as I am concerned as symbolic as they may be, I think we have to engage these children from a real and qualitative perspective. Right now, we are just skimming the surface and we have to really take a serious look at engaging these children.”
Meanwhile, in delivering the feature address at the event, Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite said he would like to see a reduction in the number of boys and girls being sent to the correctional institution. He said it had been brought to his attention that some students were engaging in negative activities when they were expelled.
In this vein, he called for a protocol to allow schools to track expelled students.
“One of the challenges that we have had at the Government Industrial School is that a child would come in from x school and the school distanced itself from that young person. We have found [that] we have had no type of cooperation from principals across Barbados as if principals are happy to be rid of these young people,” Brathwaite said.