Barbados’ juvenile correctional facility is being restructured as part of a wider reform of the justice system for minors.
In making the disclosure this morning at a national conference on juvenile justice at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite said the system at the Government Industrial Schools (GIS), otherwise known as Dodds, would have to overhauled to separate criminal offenders from those who have not committed any crime.
Brathwaite also said that there were young people currently incarcerated at that centre who should not be there in the first place.
“There are going to be some costs involved, because the Government Industrial Schools as presently structured physically would be unable to cope in terms of maintaining separation between . . . youngsters who are 13 and 14 years old and a young man who is 17 or 18,” he said.
“We are going to have some structural changes to the Government Industrial Schools as presently configured. We are going to have to do some different training. We are going to have to hire some different staff, some additional staff.”
Brathwaite said that coming out of the conference, Government would have a clear idea of how to transform the juvenile justice system.
The Attorney General said the various stakeholders would be invited to be part of the transformation process including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Parent Teacher Associations.
He also insisted that individual parents would have to be involved in the process as well.
In fact, Brathwaite has put parents on notice that proposed new legislation to reform the juvenile justice system would mandate their involvement.
“One of the things I will never ever forget many Saturday afternoons at the Government Industrial School was the number of young men, no one came to look for. We are going to use this opportunity also to educate parents . . . and families of how important it is for them to play a role, a continuous role, in the lives of these young people,” he emphasized.
“When our legislation is amended, for example, we will mandate that a parent is involved in the process because we cannot do it alone. The biggest challenge that we have is how do we keep parents involved in the lives of these young people before they come into the criminal justice system and after they are in the system.”
Brathwaite is also intent on the establishment of a youth court, instead of maintaining the existing fragmented arrangement where youngsters have to appear before various magistrates across the island.
“My ultimate vision is that we would have a youth court or a court specifically for juveniles so that you can have one sensitive institution, whether it be a new court or within the present court framework, as opposed to what happens now where you might have a youngster go to District “F” and meet one magistrate and go to Oistins and meet another magistrate,” he said.
The Attorney General said the draft bill for reform of the juvenile justice system should be on his desk in a few weeks.
He also expressed concern about the large number of people under the age of 18 who were sent to HMP Dodds and promised an analysis of each case to see whether or not those individuals should be in an adult facility, noting that Barbados had signed on to a number of international conventions that require it to treat juveniles differently to adults.
Principal of the Government Industrial Schools Erwin Leacock said the conference would critique and comment on any proposals for the reform of the juvenile justice system, based on the results of a 2014 study commissioned by UNICEF, and would ultimately come up with an action plan.