There needs to be a full, and comprehensive investigation into the management and protocols being used at the Government Industrial School (GIS), but according to President of the Barbados Association Professional Social Workers, Sharon Rose-Gittens, any immediate closure of the institution would be impulsive.
Rose-Gittens was responding to calls from the general public for GIS to be permanently closed, in response to a controversial incident that involved a female at the facility who was under GIS’ care.
Rose-Gittens acknowledged the incident was a worrying one, but insisted that GIS currently serves a critical role in our society, that could not be ignored.
“The Government Industrial School, is a key safety net for reform in Barbados, and it has provided for us a level of stability for all. If we are honest with ourselves, all such youth and adult incidences make us more aware that our families and communities are broken and in crisis,” she said.
The proposed Juvenile Justice Bill is seen by the association as a step in the right direction, with Rose-Gittens stating that the inclusion of more social workers within schools and on programs designed to assist at risk youth, was now critical if the country was to ever curb the numbers associated with juvenile delinquency.
“We are mindful that further institutional strengthening will be needed and can only be achieved when the National Parenting and Co-Parenting programmes are adopted; the engagement of social workers in all primary schools, the membership on all children and juvenile boards, to include at least one professional social worker, and where there are social work vacancies, such as HMP Dodds, let them be filled by a social worker,” she stressed.
Though GIS is clearly an institution in need of restructuring with modern ideas around juvenile correction, the work many of the social workers housed within the facility do every day with young offenders is priceless, according to Rose-Gittens, and needs support.
“It continues to be [monitored] by an excellent team of social workers, whose knowledge and skills serve to craft the new Juvenile Justice Bill, because the old laws needed to be buried. In our society, social workers are on the frontlines advocating for a holistic approach to youth deviance, youth crime, youth disengagement, [and] youth unemployment.” (SB)