By Robertson S. Henry
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent -- Speaking last Thursday, St Vincent and the Grenadines minister for youth affairs, national mobilisation and social development, Frederick Stephenson, said, “Our youth will prosper and have second chance opportunities in life.”
Minister of Youth, Frederick Stephenson
This, according to the minister, as St Vincent and the Grenadines forges ahead with juvenile justice reform, was made possible “through the juvenile justice reform project funded by the USAID funding agency, coordinated by the OECS and implemented by the ministry of national mobilisation and social development in collaboration with the national stakeholders’ project steering committee.”
Juvenile justice reform has been explored and implemented internationally, with St Vincent and the Grenadines embracing the need for reform in June 2012.
The pillars of the juvenile justice reform project are legislative reform, capacity building, modernization of programmes and civil society strengthening.
Since its inception in 2012, St Vincent and the Grenadines has received a total of US$100,000 worth of equipment under the first phase of the small grant facility to increase the capacity of state and non-state organizations associated with the juvenile justice sector.
The first national consultation on juvenile reform was successfully executed on January 10, 2013. During that consultation, participants developed a national coordinating strategy, communication strategy, and juvenile justice information system and court diversion programme.
“I am also very proud to state that, next Tuesday and Wednesday, my ministry will host a risk assessment for juveniles workshop. This workshop will be for social workers, caseworkers and counselors and will be facilitated by an Associate Professor from the University of Massachusetts,” Stephenson said.
Participants will be trained to identify risks in juveniles and to determine the level and types of programmes by developing an assessment tool.
Meanwhile, on Thursday and Friday, the first ever national juvenile justice training conference will take place.
This will be for policymakers and practitioners in the sector, exposing them to a lecture series on available models and approaches of reform. The participants of this conference will also include representatives from the other OECS member states, the OECS Secretariat, USAID, UNICEF, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States.
Additionally, a number of community training camps have been proposed for the rest of 2013 through September 2014, targeting parents and youth in these communities to develop tool kits for parents to improve their roles and responsibilities in identifying and treating deviant behaviour. Training for practitioners to be certified in the fields of therapy, risk assessments, care and protection of victims and youth in conflict with the law becomes top priority.
However, Stephenson sounded a note of caution.
“All these achievements will be short-lived if we fail to install the appropriate systems to complement these programme interventions, hence the need to establish technical cooperation through consultants with the relevant expertise to assist us in the development of a comprehensive and cohesive systemic model to sustain the reform process,” he said.
He added, “Once this reform process is implemented our sector can be able to see improvements in victims support, youth rehabilitation, family reintegration and behaviour modification.”