Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, is calling on more Justices of the Peace (JPs) to become mentors for youth under the Child Diversion Programme.
During a Child Diversion sensitisation session at the Ministry of Justice, in St. Andrew, on Thursday (August 22), Mr. Chuck noted that when the programme is rolled out, assistance will be needed from JPs across the island.
“We need persons like you to be mentors, because if we don’t…what is going to happen is, instead of the 200 or 300 gangs that we have now, they will proliferate into 500 gangs,” Mr. Chuck said.
Child diversion is the process of implementing measures dealing with children who are alleged, accused or recognised to have infringed the law, without resorting to formal judicial proceedings.
The national programme aims to reduce the number of children who are charged with offences, and exposed to the formal criminal justice system as a result; and increase the use of diversionary programmes that rehabilitate children as a response to crime and wrongdoing.
It also seeks to mandate State agencies and encourage non-governmental and community-based organisations to become active participants in providing services and programmes to children, protect the rights of the child in keeping with international instruments and protocols, and empower communities to take a more active role in dealing with child offenders with antisocial behaviours.
The Child Diversion Programme will be fully rolled out by November.
Mr. Chuck said the new Child Diversion Programme will allow children to be dealt with outside of the court system and reduce the pressure on the system.
“Once you send the child to that institution [prison], it’s almost a life sentence, because from they go to that institution, the likelihood is that they will be labelled for the rest of their lives,” he said.
“Many of these young people who get to these institutions from an early age, end up in prison at a later age and remain there for the rest of their lives. They just can’t normalise their behaviour in society. They have been labelled criminal, and from they have been labelled criminal, they act out the role,” he added.
Child Diversion Consultant, Mrs. Ruth Carey Lewis, also called on professionals to become mentors.
“We need mentors to support the monitoring of the child that’s going to participate in a treatment plan; [we need persons] with special skill sets, such as counselling, psychology or medical practitioners to help to provide support in the treatment process for that child,” Mrs. Carey Lewis said.
Persons interested in becoming mentors can contact the Child Diversion Office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.