Juveniles within State correctional facilities will benefit from mentorship, skills training and job placement under a new youth empowerment and reintegration programme being undertaken by the Government.
Dubbed the ‘WE TRANSFORM’ programme, the initiative will target 272 children, aged 12 to 17 years, who are on remand or serving a sentence within the four juvenile centres operated by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS).
These are the South Camp Juvenile Remand and Correctional Centre, Kingston; Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional Centre, St. Catherine; Hill Top Juvenile Correctional Centre, St. Ann; and the Metcalfe Street Secure Juvenile Remand Centre, Kingston.
Launched during a ceremony at the Police Officers’ Club in Kingston, yesterday (June 20), the programme aims to equip the children in these facilities with the requisite skill sets, character, attitude and support to become productive law-abiding citizens.
In his address, Minister of National Security, Hon. Robert Montague, explained that the programme is one of the “out-of-the-box strategies which we know will contribute to the reduction in the youth offending and reoffending, and, by extension, crime in Jamaica”.
“My Ministry believes that each of these young persons deserves a second chance in life. We are committed to helping our young offenders to get back on the right side of the law and remain there,” he said.
For his part, State Minister for National Security, Senator the Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr., noted that the programme “is the dream coming true for us to be able to establish programmes which allow us to continue the restoration of our youth to transform our country”.
“We hope it will become a flagship programme in the Ministry, one of the more strategic (inputs) for us to advance our youth rehabilitation initiatives,” he said.
He stressed that crucial to the success of the programme is support from all stakeholders, including the private sector, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), international partners, churches, parents and other interest groups.
In the meantime, State Minister for Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Floyd Green, welcomed the programme, noting the importance of restoration and reintegration when treating with young offenders.
“We must be focused on transforming our children who come into contact with our correctional service, and, despite the circumstances, we must all believe that our children can be transformed,” he said.
The programme, which begins immediately, will be implemented in two phases.
Phase one will include youth engagement in innovative training in academics, vocational education, employability and life skills; and a mentorship and internship/job placement programme.
This phase will also involve a segment on healthy lifestyle, where young offenders will be engaged in life skills training in substance abuse, reproductive health and other health-related matters.
A major activity under this phase is an annual competition and exposition to be held July 26, where the youth will be allowed to showcase their talents. Another highlight is mentorship days for boys and girls on November 4 and 25, respectively. Activities on those days will include a football tournament and a pageant.
Phase two will involve parent engagement and training, including parenting workshops; and staff capacity building through training exercises.
Among the major sponsors are the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund, Jamaica Public Service (JPS), Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB), Tastee, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
So far, $12.5 million has been provided in cash and kind by sponsors and contributors towards implementation of the project.
Article by: Alecia Smith
Photo from: www.jis.gov.jm