Heart­ened by the Ar­madale rul­ing

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

EV­ERY TIME your con­fi­dence is shaken in Ja­maica’s ca­pac­ity to sur­vive and grow as a ra­tio­nal, com­pe­tent and so­phis­ti­cated state – such as with the re­cent rash of ir­ra­tional and brazen blood­let­ting – some­thing drags you from the brink, or forces a re­think of per­cep­tions. On Mon­day, it was the rul­ing by Supreme Court judge Kirk An­der­son in favour of six for­mer wards of the Ar­madale Ju­ve­nile Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre.

The Ar­madale Cen­tre in St Ann, on Ja­maica’s north shore, gained no­to­ri­ety seven years ago for the death of seven girls in a fire, which was started when a po­lice­man lobbed a grenade into a room with protest­ing in­mates, set­ting alight a mat­tress that was be­ing used as a bar­ri­cade. The ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity or in­sen­si­tiv­ity of that ac­tion was one thing. But Jus­tice Paul Har­ri­son, who con­ducted a pub­lic in­quiry into the af­fair, un­earthed sys­temic and sys­tem­atic abuse at the home.

For in­stance, the makeshift block where the fire took place – which was re­ally a con­verted of­fice area, mea­sur­ing 12 feet by 20 feet, was ear­marked for five girls. It housed 23 – a de­ci­sion by the then head of the fa­cil­ity that Jus­tice Har­ri­son de­scribed as “un­car­ing and in­hu­mane”. Fur­ther, the ed­u­ca­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment of the girls at Ar­madale, if not to­tally ne­glected, was severely un­der-served.

Jus­tice Har­ri­son’s in­quiry of Ar­madale, though, was not the first time that the poor and squalid state of ei­ther ju­ve­nile cor­rec­tion cen­tres, places of safety or chil­dren’s homes was brought to the at­ten­tion of Ja­maica. Five years ear­lier Sadie Keat­ing, a re­tired civil ser­vant who chaired a four-mem­ber re­view into these fa­cil­i­ties, ar­rived at sim­i­lar con­clu­sions, in­clud­ing cases of sex­ual abuse and preda­tory be­hav­iour against chil­dren. The Keat­ing re­view came be­cause of the per­sis­tence of one would-be adopter who ob­served the be­hav­iour of a tod­dler, who she hoped to adopt, sim­u­lat­ing sex with other chil­dren.

POS­I­TIVE OUT­COME

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