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Justice system failing juvenile offenders
The placing of an 11-year-old girl in the Women’s Prison at Golden Grove, Arouca, for breaching the rules of the St Dominic’s Children Home is a reminder of how dangerously inadequate this country’s justice system is when it comes to dealing with juvenile offenders.
Particularly alarming is the fact that the Children Act, which should protect the most vulnerable citizens, actually allows for children from orphanages to be sent to adult prison if there is no space at the St Jude’s School for Girls in Belmont, or St Michael’s Home for Boys in Diego Martin. They can be placed there, not for committing crimes, but simply for being difficult to control.
The great potential for physical, mental and emotional harm to children placed in conditions that are barely fit for adult habitation cannot be underestimated. It is a fact that the prisons are overcrowded and unhealthy. Putting a troubled child there will have devastating consequences. Exposing youngsters to the nightmare of an adult prison where they can be harmed by convicted offenders significantly increases the potential for a juvenile delinquent to become a hardened criminal.
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