Jamaica Trying a Psychological Programme in Crime Prevention

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Kingston, Jamaica–The Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) III, through its Psychological Services Unit, has been using a collaborative approach to treat a range of psychological and other mental challenges which often display as violent or destructive behaviours.

Psychological Services Coordinator Dr Melva Spence says the unit partners with the Ministry of Health, the hospitals and the mental health clinic for psychiatric evaluations and care of individuals who come through the unit, as well as with the National Council on Drug Abuse for substance misuse patients.

They also partner with the Restorative Justice Unit to allow specialists to help parties mediate conflicts that may arise as a result of psychological or emotional disorders. The Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF), and particularly the organisation’s School Suspension Programme, is also used to help youngsters learn how to resolve negative encounters amicably.

“Many times students who are referred to us from schools, having had conflicts, we direct them to the DRF so that they can get the kind of support they need,” Dr Spence says.

The CSJP III, meanwhile, through its case management programme, administers a series of assessments to individuals, particularly youth, looking at a number of domains, including substance abuse, relationship issues, conflict with the law, and psychological challenges.

“Out of that assessment, if they are flagged as having deficit in those areas, they are referred to the unit for assistance, which will do further assessments with them as it relates to the area of need and treat with them accordingly,” Dr Spence notes. Various instruments are also utilised to identify specific psychological problems such as suicidal tendencies or anger issues.

“Locally there is a stigma relating to mental illness, so it is difficult to have persons return for scheduled sessions. However, we do what is called ‘Psycho Ed’ with them, meaning that we educate them and help them to understand [the cause of their problems],” she says.

“A lot of psycho-educational counselling has to be done in order to get them to understand why they are experiencing these things, and that they can be helped,” Dr Spence adds.
She further noted that the unit also seeks to include family and community members in the treatment programme as a holistic approach to the intervention.

The CSJP III is a multifaceted crime- and violence-prevention initiative of the Ministry of National Security which focuses on building community safety and security. The programme provides crime- and violence-prevention services to 50 vulnerable and volatile communities spanning eight parishes.

The programme is funded by the Government of Jamaica; the Inter-American Development Bank; the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development of Canada; and the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

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