Editorial for April 8: A welcome decision

Sometimes it doesn’t matter why things happen; it only matters that they do.

There are those who would look at the planned Cayman Islands juvenile justice centre, a facility for young criminal offenders, and say the only reason the government is finally building it is because they are forced to by the Bill of Rights section of the 2009 Cayman Islands Constitution.

That is probably true enough. Especially with its current budget woes and several other needed projects either slowed, stopped in progress or shelved before beginning, the Cayman Islands will be stretched spending $6.3 million on this facility.

That doesn’t change the fact that this kind of facility has been needed here for a long, long time and not only because it is against basic human rights conventions to house child offenders with adult offenders. More importantly, as a society we need to be trying to rehabilitate youth offenders so that they will become productive members of society rather than lost souls.

It is on this point where the government is taking a step – at more cost initially – it doesn’t have to, but which should be praised. Rather than just building what would amount to a jail for young criminals, the government is building a facility and setting up a system that will attempt to rehabilitate and teach children who have simply gone astray for one reason or another.

Based on a successful model in Missouri, this system won’t treat the youthful offenders as hardened criminals, but as children who need to be counselled, engaged and taught, with the idea that when they are reintegrated into society, they’ll have the mind-set and skill set to live productive, law-abiding lives.
It’s a shame that there are many young Caymanians who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law because of a lack of proper parenting and proper education, and we simply can’t afford to give up on these children.

The government might have been forced to construct this facility by the Constitution, but it could have just done the bare minimum. Instead, it did the right thing, and for that we should all be grateful.