Government Senator Kay McConney has said if we use the current systems we have in place to deal with deviant behavior among school children more effectively, we should see a difference in the levels of criminal activity on the island.
She made this point during her contribution to the debate on the Offences Against the Person Bill Amendment, which seeks to do away with the mandatory death penalty in murder cases.
She mentioned the success of the Royal Barbados Police Force’s Juvenile Liaison Scheme, which caters to children up to the age of 16.
“That scheme not only deals with the child but also their parents. Police officers charged with looking after it do not only deal with children who end up in trouble, but they also speak to principals about any potential ‘problem children’ in their midst. The last statistics I got from them date back to 2010, and showed that only about 20 per cent of the children they were tracking found themselves back in the penal system after coming under the programme, which meant that 80 per cent of them stayed on the straight and narrow path.”
Another programme she mentioned was the Princes Trust, which she said has reaped considerable success in its two years in existence here. “We have had four cohorts with 12-15 young people between the ages of 16 and 25 and there are residential and community projects associated with it. So far, some 70 per cent of the students who have passed through it have either gone back to school, vocational training, or found jobs.”
Senator McConney said, “This level of primary intervention is important, and we should also consider studies determining the levels of peer contagion among our youth, that is, the people our children associate with influence their behaviour for better or worse, as this might be helpful in the long run.”
Senator Lindell Nurse agreed with her suggestions, adding that “Every child should be involved in some sort of extra-curricular activity, whether it is Cadets, Scouts, Brownies, Guides, music, dance or sports, as these will keep them busy and bring about a level of discipline that will help them to resolve conflicts.”
He also said a bigger issue was at hand. “We are fixing the legislative part of it, but you cannot legislate behavior and there are a lot of psychological issues behind criminal activity. Unfortunately Barbadians still stigmatize mental health conditions, but seeing specialists in that field may be helpful to people who find themselves in these situations.”