CASTRIES, St Lucia -- OECS member states are to meet in Saint Lucia from Tuesday to Friday of this week on how to use credible data from social development programmes to further inform policies for reducing or eliminating juvenile delinquency.
The OECS Secretariat’s juvenile justice reform project, which is being funded by the USAID in the amount of US5.8 million, is collaborating with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and UNICEF in hosting the four-day workshop, which aims to provide participants with the methodology and tools for measuring the effect of juvenile justice programmes.
Project coordinator, Dwight Calixte, believes an effective juvenile justice information system can ultimately influence better resource allocation and management, and with greater fiscal responsibility member states can create a better enabling environment that may contribute to economic development.
“If one is going to be developing policy and looking at how effective interventions can be, one must have information to guide on this. It cannot be done randomly or based on anecdotal data. It must be done empirically when we are dealing with the lives of our children. Empirical data will help in measuring how member states are in keeping with the principles of the universal conventions such as the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child. It will help in making those who deliver services in juvenile justice reform accountable to those who provide funding support for such services.
“It is also needed for information sharing to help compare regional statistics across countries, states, ministries and agencies. Through a coordinated approach data from the juvenile justice information system will bring all such agencies together and allow us to look at where we have invested, what will be the ultimate outcome of the project that we are undertaking and how far we are in reaching those targets to help ensure that all juveniles are diverted away from the court system,” Calixte said.
The juvenile justice information system will generally focus on children who are in conflict with the law and the methods used to reduce it. Data collection will include: the number of children arrested, their ages, gender, the number in detention centres, level of equity in the services provided, level of connection between the delinquent child and the community and the type of programmes carried out to reduce the level of juvenile delinquency.
The court systems, social services, penal systems, national policy makers and youth are anticipated key beneficiaries of the Information System. In addition, the reports from the Juvenile Justice Information System will be available for public use.
“The juveniles engaged in the system will ultimately benefit as they will gain from the reformed programmes that will be put in place. If we are developing any system and it’s not working it must be corrected. The information we receive can help tell whether the juvenile justice system is working and if it is working, the primary beneficiary here would be our children because they will be diverted away from a life of deviance and criminality and into a more fruitful and integrated way of life in our community,” Calixte explained.
He said the creation of a services map is among the expected results of the four-day workshop. He described the planned discussions as a move towards integrated services to help document where the juvenile services are, who are involved and what information is collected at each of those points so that the resultant service can be better able to provide more targeted support towards the rehabilitation of and re-integration of juveniles for the betterment of communities.