Thu | Oct 1, 2020

JFJ woos lawyers to defend ‘uncontrollable’ kids

Published:Friday | December 13, 2019 | 12:12 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Monique Long, policy advocacy manager of JFJ, addresses a press briefing at Spanish Court Hotel on Monday. To the right is Rodje Malcolm, executive director of JFJ.
Monique Long, policy advocacy manager of JFJ, addresses a press briefing at Spanish Court Hotel on Monday. To the right is Rodje Malcolm, executive director of JFJ.

Attorneys are being encouraged to contact Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) if they have special interest in protecting the rights of children who have been wrongfully incarcerated, especially those locked away in juvenile prisons on account of being deemed uncontrollable.

The invitation came on Monday from JFJ’s Policy and Advocacy Manager Monique Long, who was addressing a press briefing at Spanish Court Hotel, Valencia in St Andrew.

She said that the organisation is broadening its mandate to include issues around children, specifically the imprisoned, and is now offering p ro bono legal services to them and their families.

“We are constantly in dialogue with entities such as the Department of Correctional Services to let them know that this is part of our mandate. We welcome all attorneys who have an interest in human rights and childcare and protection to join us.”

Long lamented that a number of incarcerated children, particularly girls, have no legal representation and are not allowed to participate in their own trials. She added that they also are not allotted sufficient dates for their cases to be heard in court.

She was adamant that will have to step up its work on the ground to ensure that “these girls are free and that all children incarcerated are free and that the practice stops here”.

Long criticised the Jamaican Government for appearing to not respect its international obligations to the United Nations and other global organisations.

“We have signed on to international treaties that aid us in governing how our human rights framework works and we have a responsibility to children to ensure their rights are protected,” she said.

Twenty-six-year-old Moya Blackwood underlined the gravity of the conditions that some juveniles face in prison.

Blackwood, who at age 15 was sent off to the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre after being caught by the police in a fight, said that the targeting of so-called uncontrollable children was inhumane.

“While there, it was a disaster,” Blackwood said.

“It was an experience I didn’t think I would be going through. Upon entry, I had to be eating with my hands. I was locked down for several days and didn’t even get a chance to have a proper bath,” she said.

“I was given food through a grille, and when I asked where the fork was, they said they don’t give forks on the dorms because people use it as a weapon.”

There are four juvenile correctional and remand centres in Jamaica. The South Camp Juvenile Remand and Correctional Centre is the only female facility, while for boys, there are the Rio Cobre, Hill Top, and Metcalfe Street facilities.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com