St Michael’s Home has instituted an anti-bullying policy in which boys who bully their peers are charged and taken to the court. This was revealed by Mary De Here, manager of St Michael’s Interim Rehabilitation Centre for Young Male Offenders.
De Here was responding to a question from Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Glenda Jennings-Smith at yesterday’s meeting of the Joint Select Committee on Human Rights, Equality and Diversity.
Jennings referred to statements made by Independent Senator Sophia Chote who had stated boys from the St Michael’s Home were being brought back to the court with injuries and in tears after having been attacked at the home. Chote noted parents were being told by the court to take their out-of-control children back to their private home, rather than subject them to mistreatment at St Michael’s.
De Here stated: “We have decided with the help of the Ministry of Social Development to bring a programme on board in order for boys to recognise that bullying is against the law. Recently we decided to charge boys who have bullied other boys. [We decided] to take them before the court for bullying other residents.”
There were two categories of residents at St Michael—boys who are sent to the St Michael for “their care” and other boys who are because of truancy.
De Here said the school was engaged in interviews of a resident psychologist.
Children’s Authority director Safiya Noel said the authority over the past year had received just over 300 reports/complaints about mistreatment of children at children’s homes and community residences.
Noel said the Children’s Authority investigated all complaints received about mistreatment of children, including complaints about mistreatment at a foster home or a community residence which includes children’s homes as well as rehabilitation centres which involved children in conflict with the law and complaints from the domestic home.
Noel said overall the authority received just under 8,000 reports of children in need of care and protection—which includes children outside of community homes or rehabilitation centres.
Noel said when the authority receives any complaint, it logs it into its computer system and, depending on the severity of the report, the investigation team would go out.
“If the report involves a child in imminent danger or perceived to be in imminent danger, the emergency team would go out,” she said, adding if the complaint involves a criminal element the matter is reported to the police.
Culture Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and Opposition Senator Rodger Samuel both asked about recidivism at the Youth Training Centre and whether boys who leave YTC and find themselves in prison can be tracked by the organisation.
“We are now heading into a culture of data gathering and working on our data-gathering tools,” Asst Supt of Prisons Elvin Scanterbury stated. He said at this time there was no reliable data on what happens to youths after they leave YTC.
Samuel said he couldn’t understand why if the prison had records of both YTC inmates and of prison inmates, they couldn’t flag those inmates who were first at YTC and who later found themselves in prison. “You still have no data on recidivism, you still don’t know how many started out in YTC and found themselves in Golden Grove or any other prison. And if you have no data on that, then you cannot begin to plan and prepare to deal with the magnitude of the problem of recidivism, if indeed it is a serious issue,” Samuel said.
Scanterbury said over the last year, the prison had a research unit to develop such data.
To Gadsby-Dolly’s questions on whether St Jude and St Michael’s had records to determine whether there was recidivism, De Here said it was rare for boys to return to the institution because many of the boys are committed until they are 18—the maximum age at which they can stay.
Scanterbury said there was no corporal punishment at YTC. In response to questions, he said however the YTC can award nine strokes, but this was no longer done. He said there were no facilities for solitary confinement at the institution. He said instead separation “from the well-behaved inmates” was used to deal with indiscipline.
Scanterbury said a large number of the YTC inmates were school drop-outs whose attention span was low. Therefore getting them to sit in a classroom was the first challenge of several challenges. He noted, however, because of the programmes at YTC many inmates leave YTC with employable skills. He said some of them, on re-entry into society, fell back and the gains were lost. He said those who had a good support system tend to do well on leaving YTC.
Dealing with the preparation of the boys at YTC for re-entering the wider society, Scanterbury said the YTC offered an academic programme. He said it was also aggressively focusing on self-employment, such as barbering, agriculture, partnering with YTEPP.
He said when the youths left YTC there was a limitation because many private businesses required a certificate of good character, which the boys would not be able to receive. He added that unless an application to have their record expunged after a certain period passed, their criminal record would show up on the certificate of character.