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Children's Services Institutions

The Children's Services Division is a central government agency which operates under the Juveniles Act of 1951. The agency is responsible for children who are in need of care and protection, who have committed an offense, or who are deemed uncontrollable but who have not been abandoned.

The agency's program activities involve admitting children, court proceedings, institutions, foster care, and home supervision. Parents or guardians seeking assistance can meet with a Children's Officer; there is one Children's Officer per parish. For children in need of care and protection, the social worker prepares a report on the child's living situation and presents it to the court. The child may then be given a home supervision order or a "fit-person" order.151 A home supervision order allows the child to go home under the supervision of a probation officer. A fit-person order places the child in a temporary institution pending the court's decision on more permanent placement.

The Children's Services Division operates institutions that house children temporarily, or, more permanently, on a fit-person order. In law, if not in practice, children are to be temporarily housed in places of safety pending an investigation of their case, or placement in a more permanent facility, foster care, adoption, or home on a trial basis. "It is a fact," however, "that children stay in places of safety for longer periods than envisioned in the law, because of placement problems," said Claudette Hemmings, Deputy Director of Institutions for the Children's Services Division.152 Children with disabilities and chronic illnesses are most difficult to place.

All the institutions run by the Children's Services Division (children's homes and places of safety) provide education to varying degrees. Children who are housed in places of safety are educated within the facility, which have specially trained teachers. Besides academics, children receive training in one or more crafts and skills: woodwork, agriculture, basketry, craft, home economics, and sewing lessons are offered by various institutions. Children who are housed in the morepermanent children's homes may go to school in the community, and also participate in the aforementioned skills training.

The government provides the money for maintenance of the institutions, and officers in the Children's Services Division carry out regular inspections to ensure that institutions comply with government requirements. There is no medical facility at any of the institutions, and none have resident physicians. However, public health personnel visit regularly to provide immunizations, and physicians in the community sometimes also offer voluntary services. Ordinarily, a sick child must be taken outside the institution for medical care.153

Human Rights Watch had the opportunity to visit two places of safety and a children's home. In general these institutions were old, and clearly in need of simple refurbishment. They were reasonably clean, however, and the children appeared well cared for by the staff.

One major problem we noted was the reception or "intake" procedure in all of the institutions we visited. For the most part, facility staff made no effort to determine what had happened to the children in the weeks and months before they arrived at the facilities, and there was no standard screening procedure to ascertain any physical or psychological conditions requiring immediate attention. At all of the facilities we visited, staff told us that they thought very few of the facility's children had spent time in police lockups before their arrival, and seemed surprised to discover, after our interviews with children, how many children had been held by police.

Children in government institutions have often been abandoned, neglected, and sexually, physically, and emotionally abused. These children should be thoroughly interviewed upon their arrival at government institutions. Because of the abusive situations from which most of the children have come, it is essential that these children have an initial medical and psychological screening and promptly receive any needed services.

In 1997, places of safety operated by the Children's Services Division were operating only slightly over capacity.154 The most common reason the police gave Human Rights Watch for the detention of children in lockups was a lack of space in places of safety, but Children's Services officials rejected this explanation. Although there may be a lack of space in individual facilities especially for girls and babies, redistribution to other institutions, however remote, can alleviate the problem. "[The police] have never called us and not gotten a place for a child," saidMrs. Hemmings of Children's Services. All three facilities we visited were under capacity, and Mrs. Hemmings assured Human Rights Watch that from Children's Services' point of view, it would always be "preferable for a child to sleep on the floor if the facility is full rather than to sleep in a lockup."155

Musgrave Children's Home

Musgrave Children's Home, situated in St. Andrew, is a home for girls ages eight to eighteen. The facility has a maximum capacity of fifty and had thirty occupants when Human Rights Watch visited.

The building is a former private residence built in the 1950s and currently owned by the government. The main building is single level with slatted windows, and there is an open yard in front of the building. The building contains a multi-purpose area for dining, classroom activities and counseling, and there is also a small room for sewing. The bedrooms, behind the main building, may be occupied by up to five children. The furniture was very worn, but the bedrooms were clean, with well-made beds.

At the time of our visit, the girls in residence were between the ages of ten and eighteen, with the majority between thirteen and fifteen. All had been deemed "in need of care and protection." The typical day begins with chores at 5 a.m. at the Musgrave Children's Home, followed by breakfast, then school. In the afternoon, the girls complete their chores, have lunch and spend the remainder of the day on crafts and extracurricular activities such as dancing and drama. The children have summer programs when school is on vacation. Many of the children have relatives who visit on Sundays and whom they are allowed to visit during the holidays. The children are disciplined by withdrawal of visiting privileges, deprivation of field trips, exclusion from treats, and additional chores. There are two housemothers who work in shifts, so that a housemother is present twenty-four hours per day.

The cost of maintaining one child in this institution is JA$30,000 per month (approximately US$800). There are plans to improve the institution by refurbishment, and provide an area for skills training.156 "Since the U.N. Convention [on the Rights of the Child] was ratified, there has been a difference in the government's attention to children," said Mrs. Hemmings.157 According to facility staff, there has been strong community involvement in the Musgrave home,through church groups, social clubs, the Lay Magistrate's Association, and sports organizations. There are also a Big Sister program and volunteer teachers who assist with remedial work.

Some girls go through a transition program for a year after they leave, through a hostel operated by Women Inc., a program primarily for battered women. "There are more success stories than people could ever imagine," says Mrs. Davidson. She acknowledged, however, that there is no standard policy of tracking what happens to girls after they leave.158

The girls we interviewed at the Musgrave Children's Home seemed reasonably happy with the environment and services provided by the home and reported no problems with the staff. For the most part, the relations we observed between children and staff seemed cheerful and informal.

Glenhope Place of Safety

The Glenhope Place of Safety for girls houses girls ages eight to eighteen. At the time Human Rights Watch visited this institution, most of the girls were between fourteen and sixteen. The facility has a maximum capacity of ninety, and the occupancy at the time we visited was seventy-one.

Glenhope houses girls who are either "on remand," awaiting an appearance in family court, or are wards of the state, awaiting long-term placement in a children's home. Most often the girls are victims of abuse or runaways who are in need of care and protection. Very few have been charged with offenses, and those are usually crimes of petty larceny. Staff at Glenhope told us that the children housed there are more frequently brought in directly by police officers rather than by children's services. If the facility has occupancy levels above capacity, staff take the child and then transfer her to another facility.159 The Head Office of the Children's Services Division is responsible for the transfer of children from places of safety to children's homes.160

Medical care at Glenhope is provided through a clinic in the community, and a public health nurse visits every two months to administer immunizations. Almost all the children at Glenhope attend school on the premises. The small school focuses on remedial learning, since most of the girls have had their education seriously disrupted before coming to Glenhope. The girls are also taughthome economics and sewing. Staff told us that problems with discipline are infrequent. Infractions are addressed by withdrawing privileges such as outings and by requiring girls who pose discipline problems to kneel in the staff office for a set time in isolation from the other girls.161

There were seven to twelve cots in each of Glenhope's bedrooms, and staff told us that the girls were segregated in bedrooms based on the court order which led to their placement at Glenhope: that is, girls who were awaiting placement with a court-appointed "fit-person" (which might mean, in practice, long-term placement in a children's home) were separated at night from girls on remand.

The residential facilities at the Glenhope Place of Safety were dark, with dilapidated furniture and dingy shower areas. Many of the sinks seemed broken. Most of the windows were cemented over-according to staff, this was necessary to prevent harassment of the girls by neighbourhood boys. Each girl had a locker for personal possessions, but most of the lockers were broken; staff told us they had been vandalized by the girls themselves. On the whole, the girls we spoke to seemed demoralized-more so than at the other Children's Services facilities we visited-but we heard no reports of serious problems.

Glenhope Nursery

The Glenhope Nursery, a bright and cheerful building like a day-care center, houses children up to eight years old, the vast majority of whom are in need of care and protection. The facility has a capacity of forty-five, but it had fifty-four occupants when Human Rights Watch visited. For education and recreation, books and audiovisual aids are available. A playground is also situated on the premises. According to staff, ninety percent of the children at the Glenhope nursery are eventually placed in foster homes, and ten percent return home to their parents.

Homestead Place of Safety

Human Rights Watch visited the Homestead Place of Safety for Boys on September 1, 1998. This is a Children's Services facility for boys ages eight to eighteen, many of whom are in need of care and protection. The maximum capacity is approximately fifty. At the time we visited, forty-five boys were housed there. Well-behaved boys from the juvenile remand center-which is run by the Correctional Services department-are sometimes sent to Homestead to when overcrowding threatens the Remand Center.

Most of the boys at Homestead had been charged with petty offenses or no offense at all. Although there seem to be some exceptions, children who have been charged with serious crimes or who are associated with serious adult offenders are sent to the Remand Center rather than to Homestead. In theory, no child should stay at Homestead for more than ninety days, but staff told us that longer stays are not unusual, given the slowness of the legal and placement processes. Children have court appearances every thirty days, but the frequency of court appearances does not, by most accounts, correspond to rapid case disposition.

Homestead staff told us that they have an informal intake procedure during which the children may relate their past experiences. The parents, if available, also provide information. Only recently, staff told us, have they begun to keep files on all the boys. Staff complained that although each child should, in theory, arrive with a complete file from the police, court system, and Children's Services, the record-keeping processes are so poor and slow that often a particular boy is no longer in residence by the time his file arrives.

There are twenty-three people on the Homestead staff, including teachers, skill trainers, and a housemother. Most of the children attend school on the premises. They participate in academic classes (often remedial in nature), woodwork, agriculture, and physical education. There were many citrus trees, banana trees, and vegetable gardens around the grounds, which are used to provide additional food for the children. The boys build furniture such as bunk beds in the woodwork area, and they are required to do chores such as cleaning and farming duties. During our visit, we saw some children who staff told us were mentally or physically challenged, but staff said that there are no special facilities at Homestead for these children with special needs.162

There is no basic medical screening done during the Homestead intake procedure, and the facility insists on a medical certificate during intake only if a child has a visible ailment. There are practical nurses at the facility, however. In cases of medical emergency, the children are taken to a hospital.163

A handwritten sign on the bulletin board in the main entrance hall at Homestead told staff to "[d]esist from beating students with improper implement . . . . " When we inquired about this, Superintendent Albert Stamp told us while corporal punishment is permitted at Homestead, he had encountered some problems with staff members who failed to mete out such punishments in the approved fashion. When possible, he said, disciplinary problems are addressed bycounseling, withdrawal of rewards, or specific additional chores, with corporal punishment as a last resort.164 "Basically I'm against corporal punishment," Stamp told us, "but there are youngsters who will push a certain behavior . . . . Because you are trying to find out which punishment will work, you say, let me try corporal punishment."165

C Devon, a fifteen-year-old boy, complained that the staff was abusive and told us that he had been beaten with a wrench.

C Michael, another fifteen-year-old, reported being hit with a belt in the palms of his hand, but said that he did not blame the staff member for doing this since he had done something wrong.

For the most part, the children we met at Homestead appeared well cared for and reasonably satisfied with the staff and physical conditions. Homestead is a nonsecure facility, and children are not kept behind fences or locked doors but can walk around more or less as they please.

In general, all of the facilities managed by the Children's Services Division seemed to be adequate. While many of the children seemed unhappy and we heard some reports of rough treatment from staff, we heard no reports of serious abuse. In the physical facilities, while bare-bones, were clean and not overcrowded.

Correctional Institutions

"We need to come to a rude awakening that some of these juveniles are hardened."

-June Jarrett, Director of Juvenile Institutions

The Department of Correctional Services is the government agency that is responsible for juvenile correctional centers. It is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice and National Security. Correctional Services runs several facilities housing children ages twelve to seventeen who have been found guilty of more serious offenses and repeat offenders who have been issued a correction order by the court. "Correction orders are a last resort after other avenues have beenexplored," June Jarrett, an official of the Department of Correctional Services, told us.166 Although "remands" are not technically the responsibility of Correctional Services, Jarrett said, the department has assumed control of the St. Andrew Juvenile Remand Center.

Correctional Services operates three juvenile correctional facilities (two for boys and one for girls), in addition to the Remand Center, but we were unable to visit those facilities, which operate essentially as long-term reform schools for juvenile offenders. Human Rights Watch was told that the St. Andrew Remand Center, which is for boys only, has a maximum capacity of forty-eight, and staff told us that it always operates at maximum capacity.167 (There is no remand center for girls, but girls accused of serious offenses are sometimes detained under correction orders at the Maxfield Park Girls' Home, which also functions as a place of safety and a children's home.) In 1997, there were 183 children in all four facilities, 178 of whom were males and 113 of whom were children held under new correction orders.168

The remand center and correctional facilities have perennial problems in attracting and retaining qualified staff, according to the Jamaican Union of Correctional Officers. In part, the problem is poor wages; Neville Webb, Vice President of the Union of Correctional Officers, told us that Jamaican correctional officers are the lowest paid in the Caribbean.169 In 1997, the Department of Correctional Services contracted with private security firms to provide some guard services, in order to allow correctional officers to focus more on rehabilitation.170 However, the facilities that exist for rehabilitation are inadequate, Webb says, and are not geared toward more serious offenders:

Youths are exposed to bad models and negative politics predominates. The conditions and treatment in the institutions need to be upgraded, but lack of implementation is a majorobstacle. The government believes that what exists for juveniles is sufficient.171

St. Andrew Remand Center

The Remand Center takes boys who are being detained pending trial for more serious crimes and those awaiting placement in an approved school. However, Human Rights Watch spoke with several boys at the Remand Center who had been remanded in that facility for minor crimes such as petty larceny.

C Mark, a thirteen-year-old boy, was remanded into custody for stealing money from his mother. He was given a correction order and at the time of our interview was awaiting placement at one of the correctional facilities.

C Paul, a thirteen-year-old boy, had been remanded for three months-for throwing a stone at a woman-when we interviewed him. Paul had initially entered the juvenile justice system after he ran away from home. He was staying at the Copse Place of Safety but ran away. He was eventually returned there for a second stay, only to run away again. When Human Rights Watch interviewed Paul, he told us that he was afraid of someone at home, so he ran away. Nevertheless, he did not like being away from his mother, so he "hustled" on the street close to home.172

C Andrew, a fourteen-year-old boy who has received awards at the remand center for good behavior and all-round excellence, had been remanded in custody for three months when we met him, after biting his sister.

C Philip, a thirteen-year-old, was sent to the Remand Center by the family court "because he gives his mother trouble," according to a remand center staff member. When we met him, he had been at St. Andrews for five months. He had a severely swollen eye and told us that a bigger boy had beaten him.

On entry into the facility, boys go through an intake procedure, which includes documentation of the offense and the child's past living situation. Thestaff psychiatrist evaluates children, if the court requests it. The superintendent, a social worker, and a teacher also assess each child, and may refer him for further psychiatric evaluation. The facility maintains case files for each child.173 There are three medical orderlies on the staff at the remand center, and children are also taken to nurses and doctors in the community as needed and to the University Hospital of the West Indies on an emergency basis.

Children at the remand center take basic and remedial classes. Although the Remand Center is hardly a substitute for the standard elementary school or high school education, many of the children interviewed by Human Rights Watch told us they were pleased with the educational offerings at St. Andrews, limited though they are, and especially pleased at the opportunity for outdoor games such as soccer. The children receive awards on the basis of academic performance, performance in particular skills, and behavior.

In cases of major discipline problems, punitive measures include isolation, withdrawal of privileges, and the assignment of additional chores. Corporal punishment used to be practiced but was prohibited a year ago.174 The decision to prohibit corporal punishment was made by the administrative authorities within the Department of Correctional Services: "These are children, and the way you deal with adults, is different than the way you deal with children . . . .We are their parents in many cases," said June Jarrett.175 The prohibition on corporal punishment has been a source of frustration for some correctional officers, who feel that corporal punishment is a critical deterrent.176

Within the Remand Center, children are not separated on the basis of their age or the severity of their offense, and several of the children we spoke with complained of physical and sexual abuse from other boys.

151 For an explanation of "fit person" orders, see Section III(2)(B) supra.

152 Human Rights Watch interview with Winston Bowen, Director of Children's Services Division, and Claudette Hemmings, Deputy Director of Institutions, Children's Services Division, Kingston, Jamaica, August 31, 1998.

153 Ibid.

154 See Planning Institute of Jamaica, Economic and Social Survey Jamaica 1997, Ch. 24, "Social Development and Welfare", fig. 24.3.

155 Human Rights Watch Interview with Claudette Hemmings, August 31, 1998.

156 Human Rights Watch interview with Superintendent Davidson, Musgrave Children's Home, Jamaica, August 31, 1998.

157 Human Rights Watch interview with Claudette Hemmings, August 31, 1998.

158 Human Rights Watch interview with Superintendent Davidson, August 31, 1998.

159 Human Rights Watch interview with Mrs. McHugh, Superintendent, Glenhope Place of Safety, Jamaica, August 31, 1998.

160 Human Rights Watch Interview with Claudette Hemmings, August 31, 1998.

161 Human Rights Watch Interview with Superintendent McHugh, August 31, 1998.

162 Human Rights Watch Interview with Albert Stamp, Superintendent, Homestead Place of Safety, Jamaica, September 1, 1998.

163 Ibid.

164 Article 17.3 of the Beijing Rules provides that "[j]uveniles shall not be subject to corporal punishment."

165 Human Rights Watch interview with Superintendent Stamp, September 1, 1998.

166 Human Rights Watch Interview with June Jarrett, Director of Juvenile Institutions in the Department of Correctional Services, September 3, 1998.

167 Human Rights Watch Interview with Colonel John Prescott, Commissioner of Corrections, Ian Miller, and June Jarrett, September 2, 1998.

168 Human Rights Watch received conflicting accounts of the facilities' maximum capacity from various sources.

169 Human Rights Watch Interview with Neville Webb, August 28, 1998.

170 See Planning Institute of Jamaica, Economic and Social Survey Jamaica 1997, Chapter 23, "National Security and Justice", section 23.9.

171 Human Rights Watch interview with Neville Webb, August 28, 1998.

172 Hustling refers to selling goods or services, most often, for example, cleaning windshields of automobiles stopped at traffic lights.

173 Human Rights Watch interview with June Jarrett, September 3, 1998.

174 Human Rights Watch interview with June Jarrett, Ian Miller, and Colonel Prescott, September 2, 1998.

175 Human Rights Watch interview with June Jarrett, September 2, 1998.

176 Human Rights Watch interview with Neville Webb, August 31, 1998.

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