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Staffing Issues at BTC to be Dealt With – Henry

Social Justice Minister, Joachim Henry
Social Justice Minister, Joachim Henry

Staffing issues at the Boys Training Centre (BTC) will be dealt with following the escape of four wards last week, Social Justice Minister Joachim Henry indicated Monday.

Henry made the announcement at a press briefing.

Whilst some BTC employees have been at the facility for years, Henry said it is important for staff to receive training; wards should also receive proper care, he said.

“They are human beings,” Henry said, adding “if you have a ward who may have been accused of sexually (abusing) a child, do you have what it takes to be able to work with that ward? If you can’t, it’s not that you are a bad person, it’s just that you do not have what it takes to work in an environment like this.”

According to him, ultimately, some employees will have to pursue other options as they “may find it difficult if they have spent some time (at the BTC)… they need to find another job or move on somewhere else within the service or get the debriefing and come again, but we should not subject the staff to just working and they’re not getting (debriefed). We have to find a balance but of course we do that in consultation with the union representative (and) staff themselves.”

Henry disclosed that he got a “firsthand look as to some of the things I believe in my opinion… is not being done at our home to our children and it ought not to happen with the wards in our care.”

The minister visited the facility recently.

Whilst some wards are tougher to deal with, Henry said most of them are positive young men who need to be guided. The Ministry will offer as much support as possible to BTC youth to assist with their development.

“Some of them may be extreme in behaviour but the Boys Training Centre, as persons sometimes refer to it, and how it has been made to be seen is really not accurate. I would like … to send a message to the wider community that all is not lost as it relates to the boys who are there,” Henry said.

“I cannot give up on our young men. We campaigned as a government saying we’re going to put our people first and no one will be left behind. The boys cannot be left behind,” he added.

Whilst government is working on transforming the George Charles Secondary School into a juvenile centre for both sexes, Henry said a completion date has not yet been set.

Said the minister: “This year we are hoping that all of the preliminaries… completion of designs, preparing bills … seeing what amount it would take… we probably would be able to utilize the funds from CDB even better and provide architecturally as well as functionally the best juvenile centre in the region. This is what I’m working towards… so within three years max we can realize a major transformation.”

“Under the JJRP (Juvenile Justice Reform Project) there was a committee for consultation… we can reactivate that committee, expand it, because we want the wider community to have a say as to what it (facility) should be like; the wards as well have ideas,” he added.

The minister explained that “we are continuing to work with our plans hopefully to sign a contract within the next few days of this week with the architect for the repurposing of the George Charles Secondary School … but we need to consolidate.”

Henry also discussed various challenges plaguing the childcare system.

“You would understand that the Transit Home sometimes with just four girls taxpayers are paying… a manager, an assistant manager, counsellors… these are fixed costs whether you have two girls or five and then you have the Boys Training Centre with a large staff complement,” he said.

“We need to have one juvenile centre for young boys (and) girls… to bring all of the services (together) whether it is Uptown Girls, the Transit Home as well as the Boys Training Centre, so that we can serve our people at best. All of that is being considered at this time so we maximize the resources to bring the best for our young people,” Henry added.

According to him, the Ministry is working with everyone involved and will also give the wards a platform to pursue their interests. Wards will also benefit from the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP).

“Last week was very productive. We have some funds under the YEP Programme (it’s a CDB programme). They’ve given us the support to repurpose… to support the BTC… so we’ll improve our security system cameras (etc.), but also invest in the young wards as well because they are young people who have dreams and aspirations and we should facilitate and give them more than a second chance,” the minister said.

Henry also discussed why the project is important to him saying, “I was told by someone that the discussion (on) remodeling the Boys Training Centre started way back when Heraldine Rock was responsible… almost 40 years have passed and nothing has happened. There (were) numerous memos before Cabinet to do something about Boys Training Centre; nothing happened. I asked myself why and the only way I can answer this is by not becoming part of the statistics of nothing happening. We will do something because they (wards) are important.”

Speaking on the recent escape (two of the wards are now back at the BTC), Henry said that wards are not pleased with how they’re being viewed generally. He also told reporters that there is no need for members of the public to “sound an alarm.”

“I spoke with eleven of them, they are sad (about) what happened, but also how they’re being viewed.  I think we need to concern ourselves with it— what has happened, but there should not be panic. We should not sound an alarm that the Boys Training Centre needs to be encircled with guns because we have a den of monsters.

That’s not the case and that is why I went there in person and I sat with them. We watched a few games (and) we had a conversation… eleven of them are there for care and protection. I also visited the young men who have issues with the law,” Henry said.


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