Deputy Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake has revealed that there are no child-friendly holding areas in any police station across the island.
He made the revelation while speaking at an Office of the Children’s Advocate training seminar for cops and justices of the peace at the Grand Palladium Jamaica Resort in Hanover on Saturday.
Blake said that despite efforts being made to upgrade a number of police facilities, none of the 19 divisional commands of the Jamaica Constabulary Force have facilities fit to hold minors suspected to have run afoul of the law.
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In May 2014, then Youth Minister Lisa Hanna announced that Jamaica’s first child-friendly police station, in Bridgeport, Portmore, had been completed. Bridgeport was among four stations selected as part of a pilot project to retrofit police stations to make them more accommodating for children who come in conflict with the law. The three other stations were Barrett Town in St James, Moneague in St Ann, and Nain in St Elizabeth.
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Hanna said then that the goal was to have one child-friendly police station in each parish, which would cost $75 million.
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However, Blake said that despite this, the police are still operating without truly child-friendly holding areas.
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“They were designed like regular cells with concrete beds, poor ventilation, so they were never prepared for children, and quite a bit of money was spent [on] special designs,” he said on the weekend.
“As a matter of fact, when the proposal was rolled out, I heard [of] equipment like air-condition units and special beds, and I don’t know where the contractor went wrong, but the last thing I did yesterday (Friday), before I entered this room, was to call the divisional commanders and ask what’s the update on the situation with these [child-friendly] rooms. I was told that all three (Nain, Barrett Town, and Moneague) are still non-functional or dysfunctional because they were never designed [for children],” he said.
” … We must be serious because each child that we can prevent from becoming involved in crime means it’s less work for us. As a matter a fact, I don’t mind if we can prevent every child from coming there (police station), and in 15 or 20 years, we would not have anything to do, but that’s not the reality,” Blake said.
“So we must, as a matter of urgency, as a country, not as a police force or the Office of the Children’s Advocate, really take our child-intervention policy and how we treat our children seriously,” he said.Periodista de Globovisión Rocío Higuera