Government is looking at reducing the offences for which teenagers may be confined to the Government Industrial School (GIS).
According to Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson, outdated legislation that forces magistrates to send young adults who run into trouble with the law to the Industrial School for a minimum of three years, and a maximum of five years, is currently being reviewed.
“We know that these children invariably come from the lower social economic class of our society. We know that the law that informs this aspect of our society are two pieces of legislation, one in 1926 and one in 1930.
“In other words, both of them almost 100 years old now. We are actively looking to modernize this legislation, to reduce the offences for which our young people, not yet adults, will be confined to these schools because of infractions with the law,” Hinkson said.
“We are in the process of reviewing a draft bill to bring to Cabinet and hopefully thereafter to bring to Parliament within the first half of this year because we owe it to our children,” he added.
The minister, who spoke about the need to re-evaluate the pieces of legislation, as he delivered remarks at the handing over ceremony of technological devices from the Chinese Embassy to Government, said there was also a need to provide opportunities for children who have passed through the Industrial School, to have a chance at succeeding at life.
“We know that a lot of Barbadians are sometimes uncharitable, and stigmatize young people because they might have been confined at an early age. The stigma travels with them, in a lot of cases for a large part, or for the rest of their lives. We have as a society to get rid of that thought and that psychological position, and to realize that everyone deserves a second chance,” he said.
“It may not have been their fault, for instance, as a girl you are wandering in the night time. It may be that someone, and we know this for a fact, may be interfering with them at home, sexually, a stepfather, an uncle, and therefore they are on the road.
“Why therefore should they be picked up and confined for a minimum of three years, which is what the law says right now, even though some magistrates sensibly vary that.
“Or a maximum of five years in an institution because of that, rather than society looking at the reasons for wandering, and trying to deal with the core element of it. Why should children who may have psychological issues, or psychiatric issues, be so confined, rather than let’s look at the reasons that may have caused them to be the way they are?”
The minister also said that the strengthening of the Probation Department was also being looked at, in addition to the island’s education policy as it relates to ensuring it caters to the residents of the GIS.
“I have spoken with the Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw, in terms of seeing what our two ministries can do to enhance the educational opportunities of the girls and boys of the Government Industrial School,” Hinkson said.