Chief Welfare Officer, Leroy Morvan believes a facility for the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders could lower the number of juvenile court cases.
According to him, a significant number of cases involve repeat offenders and require rehabilitation, not imprisonment.
The Chief Welfare Officer, stated that, “We try not to send juveniles to prison, but to some detention centre where they can be contained to a certain extent. That we do not have in Dominica but the law makes provisions for that. If you go through the law you will see that there is provision for a detention centre, but we do not have a detention centre.”
Morvan believes that even magistrates are often averse to sending juveniles to remand at the State Prison.
He said that at times, juveniles are sent to the Operation Youth Quake and while staff should be qualified to work with juveniles, there are instances when the institution is unable to adequately cater for particular needs or rehabilitation.
Morvan says inadequate staffing as well as the absence of a facility for juvenile offenders contribute to the number of repeat offenders.
While there is no detention centre on the island, there is a “Juvenile Justice Reform Programme” in the OECS which strongly recommends juvenile centers.
Morvan views detention centres as vital to dealing with antisocial behaviour.
He says, “The children go before the magistrate, and the magistrate’s hands are tied. They do not know where to send that child. The child shouldn’t go back to the home because there is no structure in the home where the child can be maintained or contained. Now that child would be sent to Operation Youth Quake. Again, because of that child’s behavioral problem, the staff may not be able to handle the child effectively. If that child is placed in a detention centre, where there would be the required staffing, the trained personnel, then you could see that child being brought back on the right track and be back in society as the normal working person.”
He adds that better family structure would also help to reduce juvenile appearances in court.
Morvan asserts, “If we have proper family structure, the number of juvenile offenders on the street would be on the decrease as well. If you go to court, 9 times out of 10, because the juvenile must be accompanied by a parent, it’s only the mother who is in court; no father figure. That is one of our problems in Dominica. We have a lot of single parent families, especially with female headed households. You find that those are the children who mainly find themselves in difficulty with the law, because they do not get any assistance from the fathers.”