By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Parliamentarian Christopher Jones has expressed fears that the Youth and Culture Ministry may be constructing a Juvenile Prison at the New Opportunity Corps, Onderneeming location.
A leaked copy of the plan for the construction of a confinement building shows that there will be eight, 9’ X 12’ holding cells constructed.
According to Jones, this flies in the face of all the Ministry has been speaking about in terms of rehabilitation and reforming the students.
He made reference to recent statements made by Youth Minister Dr Frank Anthony that the children at the institution were not inmates even as he [Jones] questioned the relevance of the eight holding cells.
“If you place those children there, I don’t see it doing any justice for their rehabilitation or future,” Jones warned.
He recalled that it was the National Assembly that approved funding for the construction of the confinement building during the recently concluded consideration of the 2014 Budget estimates.
The administration recently awarded a tender for the second phase of construction for the building which is a replacement for the dormitory that was burnt during the 2012 unrest.
“It is clear that they are constructing a youth prison,” the Parliamentarian said.
He explained that he would be happier if there were more counseling rooms being constructed. Jones recalled allegations that there is a detention room at the facility where children are made to defecate and urine in buckets. This has been refuted by the Minister and staff, who claimed that it was a “quiet room” where students are placed whenever they misbehave.
Jones, who was recently denied permission to visit the NOC, claimed that yesterday (Tuesday, June 10) 14 students absconded from the facility.
He said he is currently trying to confirm how many would have returned, whether voluntary or involuntary. When contacted, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Youth, Alfred King refused to comment on the issue and asked that the matter be addressed by Minister Anthony.
However, several efforts by iNews to contact the Minister proved futile.