Youth Act steers kids away from crime

| 27/06/2013

Prisoner & Judge.JPG(CNS): At the launch of a new youth crime reduction programme over 300 Year 8 students from John Gray, Clifton Hunter and Cayman Brac’s Layman Scott high schools learned about the importance of taking personal responsibility for choices and the consequences of poor choices. According to the organisers, 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 and CHHS on 21 June, was that it is not by chance but by the choices we make that our future unfolds. 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.

A far cry from a conventional education programme, according to a release from the ministry, 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. 

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, Ebanks said, “I was really surprised by the effects drugs and alcohol can have on your life.”

Laidlaw added, “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 demandsplaced 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."

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, said, “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.”

Education Minister 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,” Rivers commented.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Great idea, and do hope that initiatives like these are conducted in private schools, not only to avoid stereotyping of public school students, but simply being fair and facing reality that all kids should receive constructive awareness, because many may be subject to temptations, and may never have anything to do with which school they've attended.



    • Anonymous says:

      Just wondering what the graduate crime rates are like when you compare Cayman's public and private schools.  My guess is that these types of resources are MUCH more efficiently targeted at the public system.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Sorry to burst the feel-good touchy-feely bubble, but the science does not really back up this "choices" model, and the fact is that more and more experiments are indicating that genetic brain hard wiring is the most important determinant of criminality and recidivism.  Although it sounds like "Minority Report" we really are already at a stage that an MRI scan is a more accurate predictor of the chances of a convict re-offending that their pscychiatrist or parole officer.  Far far more of what we all do is governed by the sub-conscious not the conscious processes.  If you don't know much about this and want a good introduction try "Incognito" by David Eagleman.

    • Anonymous says:

      I prefer not to blind myself by restricting my world view to positivism.

      • Anonymous says:

        That is like saying you prefer not to restrict your world view to the earth not being flat. The science is all beginning to point in one direction.

        • Anonymous says:

          No, its saying I don't believe things are discredited solely because they aren't proven, like free will.  The original poster is proposing criminality is deterministic solely on the persons genes because of "Incognito" and "Science!", therefore don't bother appealing to their free will.  This flies in the face of common sense.

          It only starts to get 'Minority Report', when you have overconfidense in this outlook, and a national DNA database like the one in the UK.  The point of the film was not that the technology existed.  It was not about predicting numbers for a lotto.

          By the way, the true myth about the flat earth is not what you think.  The true myth is people thinking the general concensus during the middle ages was of the earth being flat.  I understand why you would have never questioned this.  Science is the new religion.