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Students experience a mock criminal proceeding at the JGHS’s Crime Awareness and Prevention Day with real Northward Prison Inmate Oral Roper and Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn.

Published 27th June 2013, 10:14am

It is not by chance, it is by the choices we make, that our future unfolds. This was the message that came through at the Youth Anti-Crime Trust’s (Youth ACT) day-long Youth Crime Awareness & Prevention Day pilots held at JGHS on 31 May 2013, and CHHS on 21 June 2013. Over 300 year eight students from three high schools, JGHS, CHHS and LSHS of Cayman Brac, learned about the importance of taking personal responsibility for choices and the consequences of poor choices at the launch of a youth crime reduction programme.

The pilot launch was far from a conventional education programme. Youth ACT Members, presenters and the Education Ministry have collaborated to develop a range of 30- minute interactive workshops on such hard-hitting topics as gangs, drugs and alcohol and misuse of firearms.

The students heard from experts in criminal justice and rehabilitation, including: prisoners, judges, prosecutors, prison officers, police officers, drug counsellors, psychologists and testimonials about the causes and effects of crime.

School counsellors were also in attendance to offer assistance when and if needed and Social Workers were on call.

Through role play, students also experienced the loss of freedom that comes with convictions for breaking the law. They were on “lock down” throughout the day, escorted to and from workshops by volunteers from the Prison Services and RCIPS, with the restrictions that would be applied to prisoners.

At the end of the day, students and adults celebrated the lifting of these restrictions with a debriefing and celebration session.

Students are lined up and escorted by Prison Officers to each of their sessions at CHHS.

CHHS students Sharon Laidlaw and Jordan Ebanks, both describe their experience at the crime awareness day as fun and interesting. Asked which session had the greatest impact, Mr. Ebanks says, “I was really surprised by the effects drugs and alcohol can have on your life.” Ms. Laidlaw adds, “I learned a lot from the sessions today, but mostly that I’m the one who has the voice and all the power of choice.”

The Youth ACT is a newly formed non-profit association created to implement effective prevention programmes to address anti-social behaviour and prevent youth crime.

The key objective of Youth ACT is to empower children with the required knowledge to prepare them to deal with the social, emotional, at-risk behavioral and academic demands placed on them by society. In addition, Youth Act intends to advocate for a change in public policy and in the way penalties and punishment are administered to our youth in support of restorative justice.

Youth ACT Chairperson Bonnie Anglin, explained the programme’s focus on education as a means of prevention and commented: "Too often, adults expect children to have the knowledge and experience to make good decisions without having provided the needed information.”

Members of the Youth ACT Board who led the Crime Awareness and Prevention Days. L-R: Board Members Dr. Tasha Ebanks-Garcia, Ms. Paula Jackson, Ms. Julie Parolisi, Ms. Bonnie Anglin (Chairperson) and Chief Officer of Education Mrs. Mary Rodrigues. Missing from the picture are: Mr. Sidney Williams, Mr. Michael Myles and Mrs. Joy Basdeo.

There are three main influences on children and young people; family, school and community. The Youth ACT pilot project was developed by involving all stakeholders in the process of creating a variety of programmes through the school and the community to address youth crime prevention through education. Michael Myles, Ministry of Education’s At-Risk Programme Coordinator and board member of Youth ACT stated, “The challenges we are encountering in our country do not rest on the shoulders of one person, one agency and/or one community stakeholder. In order to ensure that we are successful with improving the lives of our people and our youth, we must all carry the burden, for it is only then we will experience long-lasting progress in the lives of our people.”

Dr. Tasha Ebanks Garcia, board member of Youth ACT, commented on the importance of the education process, “As a representative of higher education these initiatives are critical to ensuring that our young people are positioned to benefit from higher education. When we equip them with the skills necessary to successfully navigate life through good choices, we increase the likelihood that they will access higher education and therefore have greater opportunity to succeed.”

Minister for Education, the Hon. Tara Rivers, attended the launch of the John Gray pilot, and offered her thanks and congratulations to Youth ACT and the many different individuals and agencies who worked with the Education Ministry to develop and implement the Youth Crime Awareness and Prevention Days. “It is important that we as a country recognize that there is crime among our youth and that we must be proactive in educating our young people and showing them that crime is not the answer. I very much support the need for crime prevention in the schools’ curriculum and look forward to continuing to work with Youth ACT to help our youth to make positive choices in their lives,” Ms. Rivers commented.