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Rehabilitating and reintegrating youth in conflict with the law

Minister Delma Thomas - males dominate the youth population in conflict with the law

A programme aimed at the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of youth in conflict with the law, by providing mentors to at-risk youth was approved by the Grenada Cabinet on Monday.

Minister for Social Development, Delma Thomas, who announced the approval of the ‘National HYPE Mentorship Programme,’ at the weekly Post-Cabinet media brief in St. George’s on Tuesday, expressed concern with the crimes being committed by young people, particularly, young men, which she said, includes “violence in schools and within the community, stealing, the use of drugs and in some instances the selling of (illegal) drugs.”

She said that “a number of mentors and professionals across our tri-island state have (already) committed to being a part and (to) receive training so that they can assist in mentoring some of our at-risk young people.”

According to the minister, government is also looking to solicit the assistance of “social and corporate Grenada” to providing additional mentorship for those who are vulnerable and at risk.

“They (the vulnerable and at-risk youth) are in our schools, in our churches and in our communities and therefore we owe them, we have that social responsibility to provide some means of mentorship for them…,” she said.

“…I applauded those mentors who are on board but I look forward (with hope) that social and corporate Grenada would join us in providing additional mentorship for those vulnerable and at risk young people who are searching for attention,” she added.

The female minister pointed out that “there are a number of social issues across our tri-island state,” pointing to “an increase in sexual offenses (and) gender-based violence.

“..We want to be at a place where we do not have those issues to tackle…we want prevention and so, we call on the churches, we call on the schools, the communities, we all have our part to play in terms of eradicating these ills in our society,” she told reporters.

According to Minister Thomas, there is still room for persons willing to come on board to be a part of the programme as “there are so many young people crying out for help doing things that are illegal because they are looking for love and attention.”

Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Housing & Community Empowerment, Chrissie Worme-Charles announced that a study was done in Grenada and it indicated that “poor parenting, no family and poor quality community support are among the top contributing factors that predispose juveniles who come in conflict with the law.”

Worme-Charles said that based on interaction with a number of communities, it was discovered that poor parenting is one of the issues that lead to what was described as “maladaptive behaviour among children.

As part of the process, a series of community forums was conducted under the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) project JJRP/USAID, which indicated that poor parenting was one of the most common response given by community members as the main contributor to behavioral issues amongst juveniles.

PS Worme-Charles said that the programme which was formulated in keeping with the Juvenile Justice Policy, would also “incorporate a parenting programme” to provide holistic social and psychosocial intervention.

“So, in essence, we will be working too with families, we would also be working with the children and community members…,” she remarked.

“I think that is very critical and important as children navigate their experiences in this world and they too would be the leaders of tomorrow,” she said.

The Permanent Secretary went on: “So, we have to ensure that they transition well and strong into adulthood and in doing so we would encourage avoidance of the justice system involvement (because) too much of our young persons are at court…we have an obligation for our young persons.”

On May 28, 2019, the Keith Mitchell Government entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the OECS and USAID for the purpose of achieving the outcomes of the Juvenile Justice Reform Project Phase II.

One of the key objectives, according to PS Worme-Charles was to “establish an effective system of diversion which serves the needs of children in conflict with the law.”

She said the mentorship programme “is intended to create a strong and meaningful connection that can positively influence youth development and facilitate their transition to adulthood (and) will assist youth to harness confidence, innate abilities and to support the drive to fulfill their potential”.

She added that the programme will primarily target “children with behavioral issues, children at risk and children in conflict with the law” and the second limb is geared at “volunteer children, families, schools and communities.”

The senior civil servant said it is hoped that “through the mentor/mentee relationship, mentors would foster positive behaviours which will facilitate the mentees to transition to fulfilling their true potential.”

She identified the expected benefits to include among other things enhanced personal skills, social confidence and self-advocacy, problem solving, positive functioning, pro-social behaviour such as community service and academics grades, attendance and test scores and to reduce adaptive difficulties, substance abuse and misuse.

“So we want to see improvement in children’s abilities not just only on a personal level but scholastically as well,” added PS Worme-Charles, who also pointed to “risk factor avoidance, personal attitudes of values predisposing to problem, behaviours of criminal activities and also socio-environmental stigma associated with juvenile system involvement.”

She also expressed the view that as Grenadians, “we have to be a forgiving nation in some ways too (because) sometimes our youth get in conflict with the law and sometimes they have to carry that stigma for the rest of their lives and we are saying that a programme such as this would assist them to recover well and get back on their normal pathway of functioning.”

The HYPE Programme is expected to complement the efforts of the Juvenile Justice Centre in Grand Bacolet, as well as other programmes that are in existence and is considered as another alternative for persons to access support.

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