Barbados wants changes in region’s juvenile justice system

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, May 29, 2009 – Barbados’ Attorney General Freundel Stuart says the Caribbean needs to focus its efforts on the rehabilitation and reintegration of juvenile offenders back into society, rather than on vengeance.

He was addressing a consultation here on juvenile justice systems in the Caribbean, held by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

“We have to move away from the retributive system of justice. We have to move away from the desire for revenge and we have to work towards a view of justice that focuses on rehabilitating the offender… and the victim. We have concentrated more on trying to avenge those who have been wronged [rather] than trying to reform the wrongdoer,” he said.

“The restoration of the victim, the perpetrator and the families of both the victims and the perpetrators must be the focus of our efforts.”

Stuart further suggested that alternative methods should be used in place of institutionalisation.

“We should try to avoid institutionalising our young people in these small and highly personalised societies. The stain left by institutionalisation bedevils and haunts that young person for the remainder of his or her life,” he said.

“Therefore, I think we have to find other means of dealing with juvenile deviance so that we can perform that task of restoration in a more authentic kind of way that achieves results that have durable value in society. Probation orders, in some cases, community service orders and other forms of non-custodial punishment, seem to me eminently more appropriate for the deviant juvenile than this penchant for ready incarceration.”

Stuart added that in many cases, it is the young people who are “the real victims”.

He noted while it is often said that the youth are in crisis, the reality is that the adults are the ones in charge and who have to set better examples for the next generation.