Dominican youth benefit from juvenile justice reforms
At-risk youth in Dominica who have suffered abuse, neglect, or been in conflict with the law have benefitted from juvenile justice reforms including alternative sentencing, rehabilitation, and reintegration. These reforms took place under the $5.8 million Juvenile Justice Reform Project (JJRP) in the Eastern Caribbean funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
United States Ambassador to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and the Organization for Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Linda Taglialatela praised the JJRP during a close-out ceremony for the Dominica segment of the program on Friday, June 10. The project was implemented by the OECS with local coordination by Dominica's Ministry of Social Services.
Ambassador Taglialatela told stakeholders at the Roseau-based Social Centre that approximately $700,000 had been expended in Dominica to support reform in the juvenile justice sector through regional and local approaches. She explained that in order to improve the level of service available to at-risk youth, valuable training, supplies, and technical support were provided to key agency partners, including the Social Centre, the Probation Department, the Magistrate Court, Chances (the island's first children's home) and Operation Youth Quake, another youth residential facility.
"I am extremely pleased that by working together and remaining committed to this important task that we all contributed positively to juvenile justice reform in Dominica," Ambassador Taglialatela said. "Our efforts will benefit one of society's most valuable assets: its youth." The Ambassador also commended Magistrate Gloria Augustus for being a leader, change-agent and "a champion for juvenile justice at home and across the region."
Describing the JJRP's achievements as significant and far-reaching, Ambassador Taglialatela explained that to ensure that Dominica's juvenile justice system met international standards, the project supported the development of a National Juvenile Justice Strategy and trained over 100 practitioners and media personnel in modern approaches to parenting, mentoring, and dealing with at-risk youth. "As a result, there was a vast improvement in the treatment of youth in conflict with the law, and greater advocacy for children's rights and holistic juvenile justice reform. In addition, the use of modern case management software and tools provided by the projects will foster greater inter-agency collaboration and improve case efficiency to assess and treat youth with risk factors and mental health issues," Ambassador Taglialatela stated.
Noting that at the regional level three OECS member states had already passed a modern Child Justice Bill into law, Ambassador Taglialatela said, "We understand that this process is underway here with the review of the draft bill in progress. We urge you to ensure that this bill continues on a positive path leading to its full adoption."
In closing, the Ambassador lauded the dedication and foresight of the government and people of Dominica, and the extensive support from local stakeholders. She also pledged the U.S. Government's continued commitment to supporting sustainable juvenile justice reform across the region.
Ambassador Taglialatela also spoke directly to youth who have benefitted from the ongoing reform efforts, saying, "My challenge to you as you go forward is to ensure that the benefits you receive translate into something positive with at least one other young person with who can benefit as you did."