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-insists Guyana must rehabilitate youths, not become a ‘jailhouse nation’ By Jarryl BryanPublic consultations on the draft Juvenile Justice Bill 2015 kicked off yesterday, with Minister of PublicMinister of Public Security, Khemraj RamjattanSecurity, Khemraj Ramjattan, describing it as a chance to ensure that Guyana, rather than become a ‘jailhouse nation’, can rehabilitate its youths and create a more youth friendly legal system.It is expected that the draft Bill will seek to make sweeping changes to existing legislation,2014 Olympic Team USA #44 Brooks Orpik White Stitched NHL Jersey, including removing status offences such as wandering. There are even proposals to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 years.According to Ramjattan, offences such as wandering, vagrancy, truancy and runaways are classified as status offences. They criminalize behavioral problems of children. The Minister pointed out that these acts are often the result of psychological or socio-economic problems.“These acts are not considered criminal when committed by adults,” he noted. “There is an inherent injustice there, and discrimination on grounds of age. And on this score I must mention that there are a number of children who were sentenced to the New Opportunity Corps (NOC) for the offence of wandering …30 of them as of August 2015! These offences must be abolished!”Noting the ill effects of imposing custodial sentences, he said that this must only be a last resort, when nothing else is left to protect the public. Ramjattan made it clear that the Act must reflect a modern philosophy of juvenile justice, which strengthens the justice system for juveniles, and makes it responsive to them and their situation.“Moreover, we want to see an Act which provides a framework where professionals are in the forefront supporting juveniles rather than police and prison wardens.””We want to minimize the harsh punishment meted out to our young offenders which then stigmatize them for life.  We want to maximize their education, their rehabilitation and their reintegration into society.”A participant at the symposium, which was held at Pegasus Hotel.In addition, he recognized the need for alternatives to what amounts to prison settings. According to Ramjattan, jails and secure confinement are not the place where most young people who have committed offences should be.Criminal responsibilityAnother aspect of the Bill will be criminal responsibility. According to Ramjattan, while the present age at which a juvenile can be held criminally responsible is 10, the Bill will explore a ceiling as high as 16 years. He noted that the consultations will provide feedback on how the populace will view this.United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) representative to Guyana and Suriname Marianne Flach reiterated her organization’s support for the move, which she said puts Guyana in a favourable position with other Caribbean countries including the eastern Caribbean.Touching on Guyana’s current age of criminal responsibility, Flach observed that it does not augur well. She recommended an increase.DPPMeanwhile, Ramjattan spoke of the importance of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in alternative measures for young offenders. According to the Minister, a humane alternative to incarceration for the young law-breakers must be provided.“This certainly will assist in helping them avoid falling deeper into a life of crime, and help our country from becoming a jailhouse nation,” he said. “This Draft Bill makes provision for this alternative.  It is referred to as ‘Diversion’ in Part 2,Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale, Clauses 6 to 12 particularly, among others.”It means diverting the juvenile away from formal Court procedures to informal procedures and includes restorative measures to deal with a juvenile alleged to have committed an offence.Pointing to clause nine, he stated that diversions could range from an apology to compulsory attendance of a specified vocational or education centre. It also extends to community service or compensation to the victim in an amount which the juvenile’s family can afford.“Even at the stage before commencement of proceedings the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) or Police Officer,Nike Roshe Run Online Shop, can consider warnings and referrals, (as stated in) Clause Four.”Director of YouthOther alternative sanctions, he said, can come from the Office of Director of Youth, who is Christopher Jones.  Ramjattan stated that it would be up to the creativity and imaginativeness of this office to come up with more innovative diversions.“Of course, (they) must ensure the young offender is dealt with in a manner appropriate to his or her wellbeing and proportionate to the circumstances and the offence.”“Also,Cheap China Jerseys, resources must be found to establish the placement facilities which will support this new juvenile justice regime.   Resources to staff these facilities, resources for the Director of Youth and his staff,Cheap Nike Air Max 97 Shoes, and the Juvenile Justice Committee, will cause Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan,Arturo Vidal Jersey, some concern.”
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