Editorial for 15 March: High hopes for youth facility

The first shovels of dirt will be turned this afternoon on
what has the promise to be a new juvenile offenders remand facility that does
more than just house troubled youths.

According to our Constitution, separate facilities to serve
youth offenders must be complete by November 2013.

As plans stand now, this facility will be much more than a
prison to house young people who have wandered off the right path.

Lawmakers, educators and prison officials have spent
countless hours reviewing a programme in the United States that has
successfully seen young offenders become completely rehabilitated to the point
that graduates are now functioning contributors to a safe and secure society.

Under the Missouri juvenile offender programme, young people
must attend the facility as part of their sentence and should not be locked up
in solitary confinement unless it’s absolutely necessary for the safety and
that of others. Sessions are held in groups of 10 and will include education.
The students in the Missouri programme are kept busy from the time they wake up
until the time they go to bed.

One of the unique things about the programme is that the
students within each group are responsible, to a degree, for each other; they
hold to account those who demonstrate bad behaviour. Our lawmakers have
realised we don’t need another prison in the Cayman Islands to house young
offenders. Instead, we need to redirect their path to help make the productive,
law abiding adults. Today’s groundbreaking comes with some unfortunate news;
the current budget for the $3 million facility has been reduced by $1.3 million
in the current year. But Minister Mike Adam says its enough to get the
foundations laid and that the facility will be implemented on time.

Once it is built and opened, we sincerely hope that the
Missouri model is successful here. It will mean that experts will have to be
brought in initially to get the programme up, running and successful. And yes,
Caymanians can eventually be trained to take up the charge. This is a positive
step for Cayman’s future and our troubled youth.