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“Youths involved with law should be treated differently”- CFYR rep

first_imgA call for youths who are placed before the courts and moreover involved with the law to be treated differently was recently resonated at the opening of the Caribbean Youth Summit on Violence Prevention.The importance of this was stressed by the Chief of Party for the Community, Family and Youth Resilience (CFYR) Program, Debra Wahlberg.Youths in Guyana who are taken before the court for petty offences such as wandering have been dragged before the court in shackles.“We need to acknowledge that youth who are involved with the law are youths, and not adults, and the justice system should treat them with differentChief of Party for the CFYR Program, Debra Wahlbergapproaches,” Wahlberg stated.In the same breath, the representative urged individuals at the conference to aid in the successful reintegration of youths into communities, after they would have found themselves before the Courts.“We also need to do a better job of supporting their successful reintegration into their communities. The goal is to empower youths to become productive citizens and make positive contributions to society,” she explained.The CFYR program, which falls under the umbrella ‘Yes Project’, is geared towards strengthening youths, families and community support systems; improving youth skills to decline involvement in crime; expanding access to education and employment opportunities, and providing specialized services to youths who are at the highest risk of being engaged in violence.The program is currently working in Guyana on Juvenile Justice Reforms to ensure that youths already in contact with the law can be successfully rehabilitated and reintegrated into their communities.In addition to Guyana, the CFYR program has been implemented in Saint Lucia as well as Saint Kitts and Nevis. It targets youths between the ages of 10 and 29.According to Wahlberg, “Despite our best collective efforts, unemployment, access to drugs, limited opportunities, and weakened families and community support systems continue to affect Caribbean youth, making them more vulnerable to victimization”.She was keen to note that hope still exists for youths across the Region. She noted that they are innovative and most times can provide advice or even have the solutions to their own issues.The Juvenile Justice Bill which was passed in April 2018 would repeal the ancient 1931 Juvenile Offenders Act and the Training Schools Act, abolishing offences like truancy and wandering. The draft bill was conceived in 2004 under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic Administration, with the support and input from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).According to the criminal capacity aspect of the Act, “no child shall be capable of, or guilty of, committing an offence unless the presumption is rebutted pursuant to an evaluation done in accordance with subsection.”In addition to other factors, it was also stated that “where a child is charged, the Director of Public Prosecutions or the prosecutor or the attorney representing the child shall request of the court, and the court shall order, an evaluation of the child by a suitably qualified person to be conducted at the expense of the State.” If a teenager has been found guilty of a crime, it was plainly stated that the Juvenile Justice System will be separate from that for adults, and place emphasis on the rehabilitation, education and reintegration of youths.As such, it seeks to ensure that a juvenile is subject to meaningful consequences proportionate to the offence and circumstances, recognising his or her greater dependency and reduced level of maturity, while providing procedural protection to ensure that adolescents are treated fairly and humanely and their rights are protected.last_img read more