The United States Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Linda Taglialatela, praised ongoing juvenile justice reform efforts in Antigua and Barbuda during a close-out ceremony for the Antigua segment of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean State’s (OECS) Juvenile Justice Reform Project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Ambassador Taglialatela stated that the $5.8 million initiative had “set juvenile justice reform on an upward trajectory in the region.” She commended Antigua and Barbuda for being one of three OECS member states to pass a model Child Justice Bill into law, signaling a true commitment to juvenile justice reform.
“We congratulate you on these developments and remain hopeful that the necessary amendment will be made in the near term to change the age of criminal responsibility from 8 years to 12 years, as is recognized internationally,” said Ambassador Taglialatela. “We are also mindful of the steps that juvenile justice authorities here are taking to ensure that youth in conflict with the law are eventually housed in separate facilities from adults.”
The Juvenile Justice Reform Project (JJRP) on Antigua was designed to strengthen the island’s primary juvenile justice agencies and provide modern tools and approaches to help juvenile justice practitioners better identify, assess, and treat youth with special mental health needs and other risk factors. Describing the JJRP’s achievements in Antigua as “significant and far-reaching,” the Ambassador expressed gratitude for support from stakeholders in generating national and regional interest in changing the lives of young people.
“In Antigua, approximately $700,000 has been expended to support reform work in the juvenile justice sector through regional and local approaches,” Ambassador Taglialatela said. “Under the JJRP, significant steps have been taken to modernize Antigua and Barbuda’s juvenile justice system. In strengthening its human resource capacity, over 100 juvenile justice practitioners (including members of the judiciary), have undergone extensive and specialized training to enhance their knowledge of modern approaches, resulting in the improved treatment of youth within the system.”
The Ambassador pledged continued U.S. government support toward strengthening diversion approaches and helping at-risk youth successfully reintegrate into their communities following periods of detention. She also expressed confidence that, given the requisite support, such youth could and would meaningfully contribute to Antigua and Barbuda’s development.