Missouri youth plan can work here

Whether or not you like the revamped constitution for the Cayman Islands, everyone has to admit that it does contain some important mandates. 

One of those is that juvenile offenders have to be separated from adult offenders. 

That means the entire system of how juveniles are now treated in the justice system is going to have to change. 

And the Government has found a radical way to do just that. 

They turned their attention to the north – specifically Missouri. 

That state in the US saw a need 40 years ago to ensure that wayward youths got back on the right track. 

Since then, Missouri has one of the lowest rates of juvenile recidivism in the United States. That means they are being 90 per cent successful in keeping juveniles out of prison while they’re still younger and as they age. 

We already have troubled youngsters housed at Eagle House, Bonaventure and Frances Bodden, but the staff there doesn’t interact with the youths like is done in the Missouri system. 

So training has been taking place. 

The Missouri method is special because it encourages interaction to help staff recognise and respond to the physical, mental and emotional needs of the facilitie’s residents. 

It also has the young offenders taking responsibility for their actions on a group level. If someone messes up or a conflict arises the members of the group that the young person is in resolves the problem immediately. More training of staff will take place so that when the Cayman Islands Youth Centre is built and staffed, the new method of dealing with young offenders can begin immediately. It is a shame that the Cayman Islands has waited until a mandate from our revamped constitution to begin working diligently to keeping young offenders out of the penal system. If we had begun something like the Missouri model years ago we may not be facing the recent rash of crimes in our society.  

The Observer on Sunday hopes that all those involved in this initiative keep it on track and see it through. 

We owe our children and the future of the Cayman Islands to start now to identify at-risk children and get them the proper training and attention to grow responsible citizens. 

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