Pre Charge Diversion Policy For Youthful Offenders Being Looked At

Attorney General, the Hon. Steadroy Cutie Benjamin on Friday, met with Principal Court Research Consultant, Fred Cheesman and Regional Consultant Jacqueline Sealy-Burke, to discuss a proposed Pre Charge Diversion Policy regarding youthful offenders for Antigua and Barbuda.

Jacqueline Sealy-Burke said that the policy acts as an intervention and remedial measure to prevent persons from being charged and subsequently enter the prison system. She added that the proposed policy is being drafted and Antigua and Barbuda should consider adopting the policy.

Burke further mentioned that rehabilitation programs are necessary for prisoners if they are expected to be incorporated back into society.

Cheesman added that a Cognitive Behavior Therapy Program should also be explored.

“This program which runs for 16 weeks and has a syllabus for that period, encourages persons to think change. Participants work in group on assignments which are designed to change the way they think about crime”, Cheesman noted.

The Attorney General fully supports the implementation of the proposed Pre-Charge Diversion Policy for Antigua and Barbuda. Benjamin added that once the relevant document is received and reviewed the necessary work will be done to have it implemented.

He said that it is his vison for the Intervention Unit of the Royal Police Force of Antigua to be fully equipped and for the officers to be trained to deal with the proposed policy and programs to be implemented.

The Minister noted that the unit which he expects to be headed by a senior police officer, will be charged with the responsibility to work along with churches in the various parishes to interact with young person or persons who they feel might be at risk.

On the issue of the Prison, Benjamin explained that noting the fact the prison system is not adequate, plans are being put in place to have container cells placed at Diamonds estate to house juveniles. This the Minister noted will be a temporary measure until the new prison is constructed.

The National Security Minister said that long term effective programs will be looked at and invited both consultants to give their assistance and guidance in formulating rehabilitation programs.

The Pre Charge Diversion Policy has been adopted by Jamaica and Barbados and it is the hoped that the entire OECS will adopt this policy.