Government is looking to establish a new Juvenile Justice Bill, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite has announced in the wake of a 15-year-old girl being sentenced to prison.
Addressing the annual Prison Fellowship angel tree launching ceremony yesterday, Brathwaite pointed out that Barbados does not have a history of incarcerating juveniles. He also said Government was looking at ways to move young people out of the criminal justice system.
“Now in our criminal justice system, incarceration is usually the very last step, especially if it’s juveniles . . . incarceration is when the court feels there is no alternative. We don’t have a history of incarcerating our young people, especially a 15 year old. That’s not how Barbados operates. There is much more to this. Our criminal justice system does not operate like that,” he said.
He said however that he was concerned about the growing number of aggressive young women in the country.
“We have reached a stage where it concerns me where our young women seem more aggressive that young men. That is something that needs to be urgently looked at. I don’t know what has changed in our country that young women are now attracted to the roughest of males,” he added.
Brathwaite also urged the young people to think about what they were doing before engaging in activities that put them on the wrong side of the law.
“One of the things that we need to do is to ask our young people before they take whatever actions they are going to take, think of the pain and suffering that they cause to their families, their mothers in particular. They really need to stop, think and reflect and ask themselves, ‘Do I really want to cause this pain to my mother and grandmother? Do I want my son or daughter to have to come up here and visit me?’” he said.
He thanked the Prison Fellowship group for their work and urged them to continue doing what they were doing.
“I really pray that we do save more of the young people. I want you [Prison Fellowship] to continue the work that you do for the people of Barbados. I am sure you don’t often have the opportunity for people to walk up and say thanks for saving me, you don’t know the amount of people you save, but you do it because it is the right thing to do.
“As Christians, part of your mission is to spread love and cheer and to help uplift your fellow man. I want to ask you to continue doing your work. I pledge to continue doing all I can to assist,” he said.
Braithwaite also urged Barbadians on a whole to do all they could to assist the island’s youth.
“One of the challenges that we have is the fact that our value system seems to have broken down. The basic things that we do that have made me who I am. The singing of hymns on morning’s first thing. Now we have a situation where children are telling you they are not going to worship and parents are supporting that.
“We need to find a way to teach them right from wrong. Find whatever option to teach them values. We need to do more to save our young people.”
He also urged continued support for inmates, saying they are at risk of re-offending unless they are offered second chances.