Lawyers representing female wards confined to the state-run Government Industrial School (GIS) have filed an appeal against a High Court ruling that would keep the girls there.
The legal action, which was lodged on Tuesday by the child advocacy organisation, Operation Safe Space (OSS), seeks to have the Court of Appeal order the relocation of two girls who had been sent to the juvenile reform facility by a magistrate last year, for wandering.
“The matter is with the Chief Justice and we are awaiting a date for hearing,” co-director of OSS Marsha Hinds disclosed to Barbados TODAY on Tuesday afternoon, adding that the organisation was particularly concerned about one of the girls who was bouncing between solitary confinement at the GIS and the Psychiatric Hospital.
“We remain concerned that without some kind of intervention by the judiciary or the executive…, this child will soon be returned to solitary confinement, and so it’s a revolving door. You take her to solitary confinement which has an impact on her mental health and then you put her back in the Psychiatric Hospital where she gets better and then you put her back on solitary confinement where her mental health again fails,” Hinds lamented.
She is contending that the facility located at Barrows, St Lucy is not a safe space for the girls who had escaped, claiming abuse, and were on the run for about a week before turning themselves in.
Two weeks ago, one of the same girls, who was being treated at the Psychiatric Hospital and was reportedly on suicide watch, escaped the Black Rock, St Michael institution and up to Tuesday night was still at large.
“What remains unchanged is that the system continues to fail,” Hinds said. “Whether they [the two girls] are in or out, none of the two is safer than the other. I think that is what Barbadians need to reflect on. Whether they are on the run or whether they are in the system, neither of the two is safe. That is the takeaway.”
“And I think it is unfair to ask a mother or any other relative…anybody who has their interest at heart, to simply just turn her in at the gate,” Hinds contended.
Last month, in ruling on the constitutional motion filed by OSS on behalf of the teens, Justice Barbara Cooke-Alleyne said she had no jurisdiction to overturn the magistrate’s order that had referred the girls to the GIS in the first place.
A departmental investigation is currently underway at the juvenile reform facility, as ordered by Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams to get to the bottom of a history of claims of abuse at the institution.
Present and former wards as well as staff and members of the public are being allowed to give input if they have any evidence to support the allegations.
Minister Abrahams has promised to share the findings of the probe with the Barbadian public and to take action against any wrongdoers.