Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of National Security, Senator Matthew Samuda says the Government is on target to end the practice, this year, of sending children deemed uncontrollable by the courts, to correctional facilities.
Samuda gave a progress report on the issue during his State of the Nation address in the Senate yesterday.
“ I spoke with Minister Fayval Williams this morning and we have given the commitment previously and we are nearing the actualization station that this government will amend the child care and protection act to end the practice of uncontrollable children being sent to our prisons. This will happen this calendar year,” Samuel said.
His statement follows a recent statement by the Executive Director of human rights group, Stand Up for Jamaica, Carla Gullotta who raised concern about the mental and emotional state of incarcerated children deemed uncontrollable, who have not seen their families since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She lamented the lack of urgency in relocating the children. -
Meanwhile, Samuda says facilities for the housing of juvenile wards and infirm inmates are being upgraded to bring them in line with recommendations from reports of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).
In a special report on the Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional Centre, released earlier this year, INDECOM said improvements were urgently needed regarding sanitation, ventilation, lighting and education facilities.
Mr Samuda says a new block is almost complete.
“At the Rio Cobre juvenile facility we are in process of completing the renovation of a housing block that will give the institution enough space to house all boys who have been convicted. This renovation is a significant change as to how these juveniles are being held. I am proud of the progress and I look forward to opening new sections of the facility, including new classrooms etc.”
He added that Inmates who are physically or mentally weak for a prolonged period of time due to age or illness will be kept at a renovated section of the Tamarind Farm Correctional Centre.
“At the Tamarind Farm adult correctional centre, we have recently repurposed a space specifically for the infirmed inmates who cannot be housed with the general population. This facility is being designed properly with sidebars and ramps. We are also investing in the staffing that is required,” Samuda noted.
He made reference to the case of 81 year old Noel Chambers who was an inmate at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre where he spent 40 years without a trial.
INDECOM reported that Chambers languished in inhumane conditions before his death.