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PRESS RELEASE – The United States Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has reiterated its commitment to supporting juvenile justice reform across the Eastern and Southern Caribbean (ESC).
The pledge came amidst kudos from regional and international partners attending last week’s Juvenile Justice Conference held in Barbados under the theme, “Redefining Juvenile Justice…Towards a Better Future.”
In his contribution to the final panel entitled, “Bringing the Juvenile Justice System of Barbados into the 21st Century with the Support of Development Partners,” USAID General Development Office Director, Ted Lawrence said the Mission was pleased about Barbados’ initiative and was open to further collaboration. “We are eager to explore partnerships with the government of Barbados and other institutions that are involved because we think that this is a really critical problem in the region,” Lawrence said.
USAID/ESC currently manages a four-year Juvenile Justice Reform Program that supports the reform of juvenile justice systems in St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
It seeks to strengthen juvenile justice systems in all six countries through reform measures that include: improved legal and regulatory frameworks; capacity building for effective administration; modernization of diversion, detention, and rehabilitative processes; and improved linkages with civil society and other supporting structures to strengthen the system.
Lawrence informed the forum that USAID would seek to focus its partnership in specific communities where crime and violence were perceived to be very high. “Our experience in other regions of the world indicates that a disproportionate level of youth crime and violence occurs in a few specific areas,” he said, noting that solutions were needed to address underlying issues within each community.
He also suggested that low levels of basic education among youth contributed to their unemployment and high drop-out rates. In this regard, Mr. Lawrence said that it was vital that governments and donors alike promote the expansion of literacy and numeracy programs to improve youth’s ability to both stay in school and to gain these basic skills outside of school.
USAID facilitated the participation of partners from its Juvenile Justice programs in St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as a U.S. expert from the National Center for State Courts in the April 21-23 conference.