…says system for Juvenile Justice Bill still a work in progressPublic Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan is of the view that too many juveniles are beginning delinquent careers at a young age, before continuing to offend as they grow older. And their activities may start from the time that some adults enable them to consume alcohol.A section of the gathering on Monday at the Marriott Hotel, GeorgetownRamjattan was a keynote speaker at a sensitisation workshop for the Juvenile Justice Bill at the Marriott Hotel on Monday. He then related the observation he made when visiting the prison that many of the inmates started out as juvenile offenders.“When we go into the prisons, we see that a lot of the prisoners were people who committed crimes early,” Ramjattan noted. “And they continued into adulthood. So if we start nipping it in the bud, prevention is obviously going to be a cure for adulthood. That’s why we want to start it, too many continue offending into their adult lives.“Because of that, they damage their own lives. They cause destruction, harm, and distress. So, we want to see this Act reflecting that modern philosophy of juvenile justice and strengthening the justice system to ensure they do not go to jail. I don’t want our young people to constitute a jailhouse nation,” he said, noting the need to reduce crime through smart measures.But when it comes to implementing the Juvenile Justice Bill, the Minister revealed that the Government was yet to appoint a director of the Juvenile Justice Committee or acquire facilities for remanded juveniles. In addition, he confirmed that the commencement order has not been issued for the Bill.“We still have not appointed a director of the Juvenile Justice Committee board. We haven’t as yet gotten temporary facilities for the children who have been remanded, where they will go, rather than the state of things now. We would prefer them in better facilities, more accommodating.“As you know, this is an extraordinarily important Act that has come into being earlier this year. I had promised that we would have the commencement order done. It still hasn’t been done. It’s before the chambers of the Attorney General and they’re working on it. We have to put things in place before we can have the completion.”The Juvenile Justice Bill was passed in the National Assembly earlier this year. It would repeal the 1931 Juvenile Offenders Act and the Training Schools Act, abolishing offences like truancy and wandering.The draft bill was conceived in 2004 under the former Administration, with the support and input of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In fact, UNICEF representative Sylvie Fouet was one of several stakeholders present at the workshop.She noted the important role that the media plays in disseminating information and sensitising the public on juvenile justice. In her address to the gathering, Guyana Press Association President Nazima Raghubir also called on the media to be responsible when reporting on matters involving juveniles.RehabilitationIt has been touted that the Bill will provide timely intervention that reinforce the link between the offending behaviour and its consequences; inform and involve parents of juveniles in measures or proceedings, and ensure that victims are provided with information about the proceedings and are given an opportunity to participate and be heard and, wherever possible, contribute to the rehabilitation and reintegration of the juveniles.Moreover, in accordance with the Act, the application of measures taken against juveniles who commit offences will reinforce respect for societal values; ensure fair and proportionate accountability; encourage the repair of harm done to victims and the community; and where appropriate, involve the parents, the extended family, the community and social or other agencies in the juvenile’s rehabilitation, education and reintegration.Depending on the nature of the offence, the Juvenile Justice Bill 2018 provides “Diversions”, which are considered to “often [be] the most appropriate and effective way to address juvenile crime allowing “for effective and timely interventions focused on correcting offending behaviour.Diversion measures, according to the Bill, shall not be exploitative, harmful or hazardous to the physical or mental health of the juvenile, shall be appropriate to the age and maturity of the juvenile, and shall not interfere with the education of the juvenile.Some of the examples of “diversion measures” provided by the Bill include “an oral or written apology to a specified person or institution”, “placement by the court under the supervision and guidance of the Chief Probation Officer” or “referral by the court to counselling or therapy for a specified period”.