By Lesroy W. Williams Observer Reporter
” (Harris” Village, St. Kitts)”Work is soon to begin on a new juvenile rehabilitation centre to replace the Harris” Home for Boys, which was burnt down in May 1998, amid allegations of abuse and rebellion. The Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis and Minister of National Security was the first to dig into the soil at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new rehab centre” in Harris” Village on August 25. The centre will be constructed on the same plot of land where the old one stood. In attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony was Rong.C. Wu, Taiwanese Ambassador to the Federation of St .Kitts and Nevis, Mr. Starett Greene, O.A.S. Representative to St. Kitts and Nevis, Cuban Ambassador, the Hon. Nigel Carty, the Hon. Cedric Liburd, the Hon. Earl Assim Martin, other dignitaries, constituents and invited guests.”” Mr. Raphael Archibald, Project Coordinator for the centre, likened the project to an elephant by saying that it was conceived sometime ago, the gestation period has been long but that it was a project full of hope for St. Kitts and Nevis and expected to address juvenile crime in our country. In giving an overview of the project, Mr. Archibald said that there is need for a comprehensive manner to deal with juvenile criminals, taking into consideration counseling and quality education with emphasis on technical and vocational training. He highlighted that the emphasis at the juvenile correction centre should not predominantly focus on the punitive aspects of youth formation but on rehabilitation and prevention. He outlined that all the staff that will work at the Rehab Centre will be professionally trained so as to deliver quality care to the young people who will live there. Mr. Archibald also spoke about the need to review the foster care system so that those who are not able to go to the Rehab Centre can be mentored and cared for by foster parents. A part of the project will be the training of parents in parenting skills and the training of child probation officers. The Hon. Rupert Herbert, Minister of Health, Social Development and Gender Affairs, underscored the need to discover the root causes of crime in order to address crime. Since 1998, juvenile offenders of the law were housed with hardened criminals at Her Majesty’s Prison. “Many young persons who went to the prison for juvenile crimes were given the seeds to become hardened criminals”, Mr. Herbert said. “The modern approach differs from the traditional approach. It stresses prevention, it stresses rehabilitation, it also stresses the co-ed concept, and of course it stresses re-integration,” Mr. Herbert stated. “One of the failures of the old system was the lack of the proper expertise on the part of those within the home to assist in the personal development of the young people because they did not have the proper training”. Mr. Herbert called for a holistic approach to youth development which takes into consideration the negative impacts of the globalized society in which we live. Prime Minister Douglas, Parliamentary Representative for Constituency #6, in his keynote address said that the construction of a juvenile rehabilitation centre is very timely. “As the Minister of National Security and as the Prime Minister of this country, this facility comes at a very critical time in our overall national development. I believe that it is true to say that one of the important issues that confront our people on a daily basis is incidents of crime, not only just incidents of crime but to a large extent what appears to be the lack and loss of confidence of our citizens in the system not only to prevent crime but to detect crime in an efficient, speedily way and to apprehend those who are responsible and bring them to justice in a most speedy way so that justice can be seen to be done,” Dr. Douglas said. Dr. Douglas made it unequivocally clear that the juvenile centre will operate according to the highest international standards where the rights of the child are respected. “We want to make sure that in the management of the centre, children are not treated as though they are animals and that they are not made to do things which are not accepted and which are not the standard practice that will operate in juvenile centres in the international setting,” Dr. Douglas stated. According to Raphael Archibald, the juvenile home will accommodate 20 boys and 10 girls. It is being funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis. Stephens and Associates are the contractors for the construction of the Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre.””