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Statement by the Government of Jamaica Setting the Record Straight on the Provision of Care and Protection for Children by the Government 1. The Government is concerned at the most recent attempt within the past few days by a civil society group – Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) – to tarnish the country’s image and human rights reputation internationally through an online video and written information posting that is: -

Factually incorrect Intellectually dishonest Over-sensationalised; And which does not take into account the actions already taken by the Government over the past 18 months and those currently being pursued by the Government to address the multi-dimensional issues facing children in Jamaica, particularly those who come in contact with the justice system.

2. We have no problem with petitions and welcome them as part of the vibrant democracy which the Government supports and encourages. 3. However, we do not condone the public promotion of information that is incorrect, malicious and designed to unfairly hurt Jamaica’s human rights record locally and internationally. 4. Incidents which are alleged to have happened to children in State care in 2009 and 2010, and which were not the subject of any international online petition at that time, have, now, within the past four days, been presented as being the current actions of the Government of Jamaica. 5. The many positive actions taken by this Administration to improve the care and protection of children, especially those in State care, have been ignored and the Government characterized as “abusing children in Jamaica”. 6. In this petition, the problem of parental neglect, which is the number one form of child abuse, is not addressed, but rather presented as the failing of the Government. 7. This tactic by JFJ is disingenuous, dishonest, dangerous and clearly designed to damage the reputation of the country. 8. Jamaicans for Justice, which was invited by the Government to participate constructively within a broad-based Children Support Taskforce of Volunteers, has opted not to help children by participating in real action to assist them, but has chosen instead, to remain in an oppositional mode focused only on criticizing and tearing down the efforts of everybody else, instead of joining hands to build up and truly lift up Jamaica’s children. 9. JFJ Petition: Remove children from Fort Augusta and Police Lockups


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Government Action: All juveniles have already been removed from the Horizon Remand Centre All juvenile girls remanded by the Court are to be removed from Fort Augusta Correctional Centre by December 2013 and accommodated in their own facilities separate from adults, in keeping with Jamaican law and international protocols. This has been stated since May this year. Work has progressed and a September 2013 removal date is now likely. The number of females in juvenile correctional centres has been reduced by about 50% since this Government came to office. All children who were being held in Correctional Centres on Orders from the Court, and who meet the classification as being “In need of care and protection” according to the Child Care and Protection Act have been removed by the Child Development Agency (CDA) to be cared for in children’s homes. All children who come into police custody and are assessed to be in need of care and protection are immediately removed to be cared for in children’s homes. Between January last year and May this year we have removed 148 children from lockups for care and protection. Children remanded to juvenile correctional centres or other remand centres by Judges of the Court can only be removed by new Orders of the Court or the expiration of existing Orders. On the instructions of the Minister of Youth and Culture the Child Development Agency has assigned case workers to review and track the cases of children in juvenile correctional centres and where necessary to have their cases reviewed by the Court. The Government is developing a child diversion programme to provide the justice system with options for rehabilitation other than incarceration for children who break the law. Children break the law from time to and so must come in contact with the police and the Courts according to the laws of Jamaica. The government is working to ensure that in these unfortunate circumstances the children are accommodated for processing to appear before a judge within 48 hours as stipulated by Jamaican law and international protocols, in child friendly environments that protect their rights. The commitment has been given since June this year by the Government through the Minister of Youth and Culture, that by the end of next year, systems and facilities will be in place to ensure that children who come in contact with the police spend no more than 48 hours at police stations and instead spend as little time there as possible. Work will start in August 2013 to provide suitable child-friendly areas at select police stations across Jamaica where children who must be brought there will not come in contact with adult detainees. Jamaica is being brought by this Government into compliance with local law and international protocols after some 22 years of noncompliance in these specific areas.

10. JFJ Petition: Remove the designation of “Uncontrollable Child” from the legislation as a reason to incarcerate a child.


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Government Action: The Government is amending the law to remove designation of “uncontrollable children” and to remove the option of Judges remanding juveniles with behavioural problems to correctional facilities. This was stated in May this year. A Cabinet Submission on the matter has been made and it is now being considered by Cabinet.

11. JFJ Petition: Revise the Child Care and Protection Act. Government Action: This is being done. 12. JFJ Petition: Provide quality legal counsel for children who appear before the court.

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Government Action: This is now done by the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA). The OCA was created during a previous term of this Government. The resources of the OCA are being increased to improve on its efficiency.

13. JFJ Petition: Create rehabilitative centres not juvenile jails.

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Government Action: The Ministry of Youth and Culture is spearheading an art therapy programme to called “Art for Life”, where children in state care will be provided with therapeutic and expressive outlets through art, music, dance and other creative arts. Funding has so far been secured for one year and the programme will commence in September 2013. Educational instruction for children in State care including those in juvenile correctional centres, is being expanded and improved by the Ministry of Education. An Advisory Council of Psychiatrists has been constituted and includes several distinguished professionals who have made their services available to address the mental health issues of children, particularly those in State care. A location is being identified by the Government to establish a model therapeutic treatment and rehabilitation centre for children with behavioural, mental and psychosocial issues.

14. JFJ Petition: Invest in proper training of staff in children’s homes Government Action: This is being done. 15. JFJ Petition: Fully implement the recommendations of the 2013 Keating Report. Government Action: The main author of the Keating Committee Report has been engaged by the Ministry of Youth and Culture since January 2013 and has been leading the implementation of the outstanding Keating Report Recommendations, which are now almost fully implemented.


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16. JFJ Petition: Establish protocols and guidelines for lockdowns that protect the human rights of wards. 17. Government Action: The Correctional Service is ending the practice of “lockdowns” for children in juvenile correctional centres. OTHER GOVERNMENT ACTIONS 18. This Government, which assumed office in January 2012, is the Administration that has taken the first set of actions to address the issues emanating from the report into the Armadale fire in 2009. 19. The Ministry of Youth and Culture and other Government and non-Government partners are planning more parenting workshops to promote proper parenting which must be one of the foundations for a sustainable national response to the issues affecting children. Many such sessions have been held before and the campaign for better parenting will be continued. 20. An Inter-Ministerial Working Group has been assembled since September last year and it continues to spearhead actions to improve the lives of children in Jamaica especially those in State care. 21. A broad-based Children Support Task Force of volunteers from all sectors in the society is supporting the work of the Government to improve the situation of children. 22. The Ministry of Youth and Culture has started work to produce an updated National Children Policy. These positive actions by the Government represent the actions of a Government that takes seriously its responsibility for the care and protection of the nation’s children. These initiatives are only a few of the actions being taken by the Jamaican Government to protect our children and assist in their development. The task requires the full support of parents, schools, communities, NGOs and church and others. The care and protection of our children is everybody’s business. The time has come in Jamaica for us to join hands and build up rather than pursue a tear down philosophy that is usually guided by self interest. We welcome all groups that wish to assist us in lifting up our children by raising the necessary funds, providing the necessary counseling and support, or providing training opportunity for our children in State care. It is always easier to criticize the problem than being part of the solution. July 17, 2013

Hon. Lisa Hanna MP, Minister of Youth and Culture Hon. Peter Bunting MP, Minister of National Security Senator Hon. Mark Golding, Minister of Justice

Statement by the Govt of Jamaica Setting the Record Straight on the Provision of Care and Protion  

The Government is concerned at the most recent attempt within the past few days by a civil society group – Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) – to...