THE government of Saint Lucia is tackling the issue of crime by not just investing in justice and security but getting to the root of the problem and providing opportunities and support to youth at risk.
Minister for Equity, Social Justice and Empowerment, Lenard Montoute, explained at Tuesday’s House Sitting that the pilot programme, Youth Empowerment for Life, is part of government’s overall strategy to tackle crime and set our youth on the path to success.
The funds for the programme will be secured from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), as explained by Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Economic Growth, Job Creation, External Affairs and the Public Service, Allen Chastanet, when he moved a Motion for government to borrow US$2,860,000 from CDB’s Special Funds Resources (SFR) and accept a grant for US$800,000 for the project.
Chastanet detailed that the Youth Empowerment for Life project is focused on mitigating risk factors that trigger criminal and anti-social behaviours at the individual, family, community and societal levels, with special emphasis on young men and vulnerable groups, especially children, at-risk youth and women.
This objective will be achieved through:
• Integrated Youth Court Diversion Programmes;
• Integrated Community-based Transformation Programmes;
• Community-based Policing Initiatives;
• Design options for George V Park in Castries;
• Implementation support.
The Prime Minister also explained the main components of the project, which will include a Youth Court Diversion Programme, which comprises two elements: youth recidivism reduction and an Out-of-School Suspension Programme.
“Youth Recidivism Reduction will cater to young persons aged 12-19 (years old) and will include pre- and post-court diversion youth who have been recommended to the programme or receive non-custodial sentencing. It will also cater to high school drop-outs. This element will be implemented by the Probation and Parole Services Unit,” explained the Prime Minister.
The Out-of-School Suspension Programme will be implemented by the Department of Education and will engage meaningfully focus on secondary school students who have been suspended for more than five days.
Other components of the programme include Community-based Policing and an Integrated Community-based Transformation Programme run by the Department of Equity and include community after-school programmes, community summer programmes; workshops and training related to sports and development, creative and expressive arts and business mentoring, and life coaching.
An exciting component of the project is the design and upgrade of George V Park, which will be implemented by the Castries Constituency Council (CCC).
Parliamentary representative for Castries, Sarah Flood-Beaubrun, told the House on Tuesday that she was honoured that such a programme was being piloted in her constituency and looked forward to its success and to see it eventually being done across the island.
A unit to provide implementation support to this project will be established at the Department of Equity, Social Justice, Empowerment and Human Services.