One of the drafters of Barbados’ new youth policy has urged authorities to get rid of the antiquated system that is currently used to deal with young people who run afoul of the law.
Professor of Management and Organisational Behaviour at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Dwayne Devonish, who prepared the National Youth Policy 2022-2027 along with Dr Lawrence Nurse, made the call as he insisted there must be a shift from a culture of punishing delinquent youths to one of rehabilitation.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY on the sidelines` of the National Youth Consultation at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Friday, he acknowledged the plan to replace the Juvenile Offenders Act with a Youth Justice Bill, but said in addition to legislative reform there is a need for systemic structural reform.
“All the various organs in the criminal justice system related to the youth, from the police right up to the correctional facilities, there is a need for training. There is a need for structural changes in terms of the policy, in terms of the culture and the mindset, the way the judiciary even treats to the young people in conflict with the law in the court system. All of those things need to change,” he said.
Professor Devonish insisted that persons who interact with young people in the judicial system must be trained to understand how to communicate and interact with children.
He said there are internationally-recognised, child-friendly standards that need to be adopted within the justice system.
“It comes with training, it comes with education, it comes with a kind of a commitment and a will from the political directorate to understand that we cannot tolerate the antiquated ways in which we treat young people in the system.
“And it has to deal with the root problem and not again putting a band-aid on a wound. It has to begin from families, from communities, it is a whole of country approach when it comes to changing the juvenile justice system and promoting youth restoration,” Professor Devonish said.
Friday’s consultation was an exercise in which youth stakeholders and youth-based agencies collaborated to review the 2022-2027 policy which Professor Devonish said was created with the input of hundreds of young people, including wards of the Government Industrial School.
The policy, which he said was a significant update on the one from 2011, identifies priority areas such as employment and work, education and training, entrepreneurship, housing and land ownership, and youth advocacy and empowerment.
“The policy is currently in draft form. We are getting input from stakeholders so we can bring it to a close by the middle of this year,” Professor Devonish said.
In his presentation, Dr Nurse said the National Youth Policy has been designed to acknowledge the importance of the youth and expresses Government’s commitment to addressing the needs and challenges of young people, and creating a space for them to participate and engage in society.
“Monitoring and evaluation will be required. We need to re-evaluate the policy, its vision, its goal and priority objectives, strategies, supporting programmes, and activities over the next few years. It is also important that we review and revise roles and responsibilities and accompanying resources with the various participating committees, structures and action teams, actively involved in the implementation effort,” he said.
Dr Nurse said the role of the Ministry of Youth is critical to ensuring the successful rollout of the programmes and meaningful collaboration with and among stakeholders.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment Charles Griffith noted that the consultation was an opportunity for the youth to have a say on policies that will have an impact on their lives.
“In order for us to impact, in a significant way, our young people in this country, there must be a bottoms-up approach to how we treat to the issues concerning our young people in Barbados. This particular event is one such avenue that is afforded to us in the Ministry to allow you to help chart your course to identify things that you believe Government should be doing on your behalf to ensure that your journey is one that is fulfilling,” Griffith told the young people assembled for the consultation. [email protected]