Youth of­fend­ers unit to get new fa­cil­i­ties, bet­ter re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grammes

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

There are cur­rently 17 per­sons re­sid­ing at the Young Of­fend­ers Unit Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Ser­vices fa­cil­ity, the youngest be­ing 16 and the old­est 20. 10 are Mal­tese na­tion­als while the oth­ers are for­eign­ers. Their crimes vary from ag­gra­vated theft to pos­ses­sion and im­por­ta­tion of drugs to caus­ing griev­ous bod­ily harm. A num­ber of res­i­dents have be­havioural or psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems or have a drug or gam­bling habit.

Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Carmelo Abela out­lined the progress made so far in the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to re­form the youth cor­rec­tional sys­tem, which does not only in­clude in­vest­ment in new fa­cil­i­ties but also a change of men­tal­ity and new re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grammes.

Mr Abela was speak­ing dur­ing a visit to the Young Of­fend­ers Unit Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Ser­vices fa­cil­ity in Mtahleb.

The fa­cil­ity is be­ing en­larged and a new block will cre­ate much needed space for ther­a­peu­tic care, work­shops, classes, vis­i­tor rooms, new show­ers, a li­brary, a gym and games rooms. The project, which is co-funded by Nor­we­gian funds, costs €1.5 mil­lion. The fa­cil­ity will shortly start re­ceiv­ing fe­male in­mates.

“All youths should be given the chance to suc­ceed in life, in­clud­ing those who brush with the law at a young age. We have been com­mit­ted from the start of this leg­is­la­ture to give them dignity and at­ten­tion needed af­ter the rough ex­pe­ri­ence they went through.

“Un­for­tu­nately many are early school leavers and find it dif­fi­cult to find a job af­ter they get out. Oth­ers come from dam­aged fam­i­lies and un­sta­ble en­vi­ron­ments. Some come from crim­ino­genic fam­i­lies, and this makes is more dif­fi­cult for them to be aware of their crim­i­nal ac­tions,” Mr Abela said.

“We started by ac­knowl­edg­ing that keep­ing per­sons un­der the age of 21 at the prison in Cor­radino or Mount Carmel was un­ac­cept­able. Un­der-21s are now be­ing sent to the bet­ted adapted cor­rec­tional fa­cil­ity in Mtaħleb.

“At the same time we started giv­ing more at­ten­tion to their skill de­vel­op­ment and started new re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grammes.

“One finds that these youths do not re­alise what the con­se­quences of their ac­tions are and blame the sys­tem. The sense of anger and dis­ap­point­ment they har­bour against every­thing and ev­ery­one leaves them trapped in this un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion. As such we re­alised that we needed to top our game. “

Mr Abela said re­cruit­ment calls for pro­fes­sion­als and cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers were is­sued ear­lier this year.

The sit­u­a­tion of the in­mates is now be­ing an­a­lysed by a care-plan co­or­di­na­tor and a team of pro­fes­sion­als and a care and ac­tion plan is drawn up.

“We are fo­cus­ing on the in­di­vid­u­al­ity of each per­son.”

In­mates are also be­ing of­fered the ser­vices of a psy­chol­ogy as­sis­tant and, where nec­es­sary, they are made to fol­low Car­i­tas and Sedqa res­i­den­tial pro­grammes. The So­cial Ser­vices De­part­ment and Jobs Plus are also be­ing roped in to help the in­mates find ac­com­mo­da­tion and a job once their sen­tence is up.

The next project will be to re­form the youth pris­oner cor­rec­tional sec­tor. Men and women un­der the age of 21 will be serv­ing their sen­tences at the Cen­tre of Res­i­den­tial Restora­tive Ser­vices, away from the main prison.

The re­form will be based on Ed­u­ca­tion and Ther­apy, train­ing for cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers and the ex­pan­sion of the youth cor­rec­tional fa­cil­ity, with sep­a­rate branches for men, women and per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties.

“While we be­lieve that the phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment is im­por­tant, our em­pha­sis re­mains on the be­havioural progress of these youths – that they leave here de­ter­mined to never again set foot in the po­lice HQ, the courts or the prison.

“Our mes­sage is that we be­lieve in you and want to give you the chance to get back on your feet,” Mr Abela said.

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