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Stand Up for Jamaica opposes minimum mandatory sentence for minors

Stand Up for Jamaica (SUFJ) is expressing concerns at the proposals to amend the Child Care and Protection Act in the bill recently tabled in Parliament.

The amendment would ensure that a minor found guilty of murder serves a sentence of not less than 20 years before becoming eligible for parole.

“This is a way of killing hope for these children, many of whom come from unstable, fractured and often abusive family backgrounds and who fall under the harmful influence of adults, who often exploit them,” said SUFJ Executive Director Maria Carla Gullotta in a press release.

“Minors are children, and these are the most vulnerable of our children, who have been born with little chance. Many will not have a full understanding of the consequences of their actions.

“In such cases, the judiciary should be allowed discretion in matters related to our children and to have the last word on what would be an appropriate sentence. The judge should be allowed the opportunity to weigh whether the child can be rehabilitated and have the chance for a better, more fulfilling life beyond prison bars,” she continued.

SUFJ believes that the current political administration’s stance of being “tough on crime” by legislating mandatory minimum sentences reduces the opportunity for the rehabilitation of inmates and for their reintegration into society on their release.

“These proposed measures contradict other valuable government initiatives currently underway – including the island-wide Restorative Justice programme, which the Ministry of Justice has been promoting widely,” Gullota said.

“The Child Diversion Programme is another commendable effort to find solutions and to guide children at risk along the right path. This is flying in the face of such worthy endeavours.”

“As the Government approaches Constitutional reform, including the active participation of the Jamaican people and consideration of the people’s rights, how can this be the current mindset among our lawmakers?”

According to SUFJ, the approval of the legislation in Parliament will result in more children being placed behind bars for longer periods, during which they will develop a “prison mindset”, with no hope when they are released.

(article from The Gleaner, April 29 - 2023)


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