“A safer, more humane system will be realised”– Min Ramjattan

―MOU on pretrial options signed

DPI, Guyana, Thursday February 20, 2020

Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) aimed at rehabilitating, re-educating and reintegrating errant youths into society.

The MOU was signed today at the Ministry of Public Security’s boardroom.

Crafted with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the MOU calls for partnerships between the State and Non-State actors on measures, including pre-trial options, for these youths.

This will see professionals, rather than prison warders, at the forefront supporting juveniles who have fallen foul of the law.

These measures, Minister Ramjattan believes, will help to remove the stigma that has followed many children.  “Jails are not the place for children,” he said.

The Minister of Public Security thanked UNICEF for plans to introduce early childcare services to incarcerated females, and males where necessary. He also revealed that plans are in train to establish a “remote court participation pilot project” at New Amsterdam, Lusignan and the New Opportunity Corps.

This will see the establishment of a safe place for the delivery of justice, saving money and time, lessening the need for transportation, to and from magisterial districts in 2020.

An attorney-at-law, Minister Ramjattan said the issue of compassionate juvenile justice was a passion of his since 2014 when former Minister Dr. Frank Anthony drafted the Juvenile Justice Bill. This Bill was passed by the Coalition government in 2018.

He noted that the original Act’s provisions dated back to 1930s.

Also present was Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan, who commended magistrates, in collaboration with UNICEF and NGOs, for treating youths who break the law differently from adults,

“Today, therefore the judiciary and the magistracy, are pleased that we have reached this stage where we are going to concretise these programmes.”

UNICEF’s Resident Representative Sylvie Fouet added that the move is aimed at offering children a second chance.

“Support and leadership from you, the ministry and the partners is really key to changing the narrative of the reality for young people in particular when they are doing minor offences.”

Regional Health Officer for Region Four Dr. Quincy Jones referenced his impoverished upbringing and noted that “imprisonment to a child often does more harm than good.” He viewed the initiative as a tangible effort in the right direction.

The initiative was also welcomed by United Bridge Builder’s CEO Bonita Montague.

“We can’t prepare the future for youths but we can prepare youths for the future…We have to educate the public so they understand that this does not alleviate or avert justice but it is justice.”

The MOU is part of the Coalition Government’s effort to reduce the prison populace while giving young offenders a chance to become meaning members of society.

More than 12 NGOs participated in the MOU’s signing.