The Juvenile Liaison Scheme of the Royal Barbados Force (RBPF) is reporting some success in its programme to keep at-risk youth from getting in trouble with the law
Officer in charge of the programme Sergeant Hallam Jemmott has revealed that of the approximately 250 cases seen every year, only about 20 per cent return to deviant behaviour.
Jemmott, who was part of the monthly series of Man Talk panel discussions organized by the Men’s Ministry of the Cave Hill Wesleyan Holiness Church, said this was way below the 33 per cent which Britain’s home officer predicts would go back into crime.
“We did a simple tracer study in 1992 where we took a sample of the names from our database to the Criminal Records Office because we wanted to see the children who passed through the scheme, whether they were going back into crime or whether they were not going back into crime or deviant behaviour,” he told the panel which was discussing the topic, Should Parents Be Held Accountable for their Children’s Deviant Behaviour?
Jemmott said the analysis found only about 20 per cent recidivism after four years, adding that a similar study in 2010 produced an identical result.
“At the time there was circular from the British home office because the Juvenile Liaison Scheme is a model of the Juvenile Liaison Scheme in England. So at the time, the home office had a document that said for a programme like that, some 33 per cent would go back into crime. So we were doing really better than our peers, to put it mildly,” the police officer stressed.
He also did not accept that parents should take all the responsibility for their children’s deviant behaviour, suggesting instead that each case should be treated on its own merit.
“There has to be some form of detailed investigation into how the child would have gotten to that stage, what they would have perpetrated and again the influences,” he said, making reference to the Education Act, which he said punishes parents for students’ truancy.
The senior police officer cited an example of a parent who made all the necessary preparations for her daughter to go to school, and thought the child was attending classes, but it later turned out this was not the case.
“She was doing that for quite a number of years [and] the mother had no clue what she was doing. And this is the young lady who was coming first and second in class. What was happening is that she was being bullied and taunted at school, but she said nothing to her mother,” he pointed out, while asking whether it would be fair for the mother to be punished.
He said there were several other such cases where parents did all they possibly could to take care of the children, only to be tricked.
Jemmott said while parents ought to be held accountable in cases where children commit crimes, children also needed to take a great measure of responsibility for their own actions.
Meantime, Sheila Stuart, the director of Parent Education for Development of Barbados (PAREDOS) also agreed that parents should be held accountable only in some instances, as in the case where a parent had encouraged children to commit rape.
She also called for greater support for parents, including anger management classes “because I think that when parents sometimes beat their children or lash out in anger, I think it is because they cannot manage their own anger”.
President of the National Council of Parent Teacher Associations Shone Gibbs suggested a mandatory counselling programme for parents and children, while Magistrate Graveney Bannister called for more action and less talk.