Submitted by Women in Action –
21st September, 2022
In acknowledging the presentation of the findings coming out of the departmental enquiry at the Government Industrial School (GIS), Women in Action Network (WiAN) is calling on the Minster to slow down and get it right or resign.
The report shared with the public was slathered with recommendations covering up the issues for which the Minister needs to hold persons accountable. The recommendations represent the standard operations for which we have been advocating so no applause is needed for the announcement of their intention to come up to the expected standard. It is overdue and expected. The Minister needs to get to the finer points of what has been the impact of having unqualified, untrained, uncaring square pegs in round holes supervising troubled girls over a number of years. He must be ready to take responsibility for the damages cause by the actions of the staff he promised to back and start talking compensation packages. Girls who have been psychologically tortured to the point of suicide and girls who were physically assaulted are now scarred!
If we take out the segment on the recommendations from the report we have been told very little about the findings. We are told the findings cannot be discussed because of a likelihood of matters going before the courts. So, should we expect charges to be laid? In one iteration we heard of “one or two cases of physical abuse”; is it one case or two cases? And then in another iteration mention was made of “a few cases”; how many cases of physical abuse were found? There were no cases of sexual misconduct? Have any staff members been implicated in these cases? Of the allegations investigated, how many were made by wards and how many by staff members? When will we know from the Commissioner of Police if any charges will be laid out of the evidence presented in the report? These are the questions the Minister needs to answer. Running to a new building, with new staff and an operations manual does not make these questions go away.
Having admitted that the Ministry failed to ensure that rehabilitative care was delivered by qualified and trained personnel, compensation is due to the wards whom the government imprisoned and neglected. The damage caused can add to the instability of society over the lifetimes of traumatised girls-turned-women, and the resources the government would have to put out in the future to stabilize such a person could be better paid now at this point of the girls receiving the rehabilitative care that they need. The allegations of abuse need to be taken in the context of how unqualified and untrained staff would deal with teenage girls who
have been already living with a range of issues.
There are still critical areas to be addressed: is it the advice of the experts to house the girls in the facility at Dodds that currently houses the boys? Housing girls and boys with raging adolescent hormones in the same facility is a recipe for disaster. Whether it is girls in need of care or girls with a criminal leaning, these girls need not be living in the same space as teenage boys at a time when they are already easily distracted. Decisions like these leave us to wonder if the Minister understands and cares about how these young people function.
What are the implications of dealing with vulnerable children who are found astray from their homes ‘wandering’? Removing the wandering law does not address the problem of children not being guided, supervised and cared for in the home; it prevents them from being incarcerated because of their parents’ shortcomings. When such children are found on the streets where will these children be taken? Who will deliver the care needed to them? Such children need
to be directed to a facility where they can be cared for and uplifted. WiAN is unwavering in its call for the removal of the entire Advisory Board who so ably conducted an internal investigation last year that found there was no
wrong doing at the institution. Who is correct? The Board findings or the Minister’s findings? The Chairman and her Board are guilty of neglect, incompetence and failing to give advice for the protection of the wards of GIS. To even suggest that a care institution for girls be renamed “Secure Residential Facility” indicates a lack of focus on what matters.
Minister Wilfred Abrahams, the Board, the entire staff of GIS and the Permanent Secretary need to resign to bring this era of the Government Industrial School to an end.