The Government of Jamaica (GoJ) has created a four year National Plan of Action for Child Justice (2010 to 2014). The National Plan of Action was prompted by the concerns of the State regarding the protection and care of children as articulated by the various advocacy groups, social workers and caregivers. Concomitantly, the increase in violence by children and against them caused significant concerns among the public and State officials who noted the shocking nature of the randomness and unpredictability of criminal conduct involving children throughout the country.
The number of children in need of care and protection has overwhelmed the social services and the judicial system. The effectiveness of the treatment of children entering the justice system whether they seek the protection of the law or are in conflict with the law called for urgent scrutiny, evaluation and a plan to effect meaningful changes. The goal of the Plan of Action is to develop and sustain a justice system in which the best interest of the child is paramount in the administration of the programmes to secure their protection and in the maintenance of the rule of law. It is anticipated that the National Action Plan will result in a system that seeks to balance the child’s accountability for delinquent behavior with the best and most appropriate services to help that child to become a contributing member of the society.
In support of the National Plan of Action, the Ministry of Justice has been appointed as the lead Ministry to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate a Child Diversion Pilot Project. Diversion as a tool of restorative justice is used primarily to put the child offender on a path away from the criminal justice system and its attendant negative features. Plans are currently underway to create Child Diversion Committees in four parishes across Jamaica – these Committees will be designed to keep (or “divert”) children who are accused of minor offences away from the criminal justice system.
The suggested composition of a Diversion Committee is as follows:
The purpose of this Policy is to establish a formal framework for dealing with children in conflict with the law throughout the criminal justice process ensuring that detention or institutionalization is a measure of last resort in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Also, it must recognize the best interest of the child.
Definition of Child Diversion:
“Child Diversion” is the exercise of implementing measures for dealing with children, alleged as, accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law without resorting to formal judicial proceedings. It is considered to be in the interest of individuals, and not contrary to the “public interest” to use some form of ‘alternative measures’ to deal with these categories of offenders. Diversion of children provides greater benefit, in most cases, to the offender, victim and the society than would the formal criminal process.
The Goals of the National Child Diversion programme are:
GOAL I: To reduce the number of children who are charged with offences and exposed to the formal criminal justice system, as a result.
GOAL II: To increase the use of diversionary programmes that re-habilitate children as a response to crime and wrongdoing.
GOAL III: To mandate State agencies and encourage non-governmental and community based organizations to become active participants in providing services and programmes to children.
GOAL IV: To protect the rights of the child in keeping with international instruments and protocols.
GOAL V: To empower communities to take a more active role in dealing with child offenders with anti-social behaviour.
Budget and Duration:
Funding support will be sourced through the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Government of Jamaica.