The Boys of Metcalfe Street Centre

Partners exchange handshakes while signing Metcalfe agreement. From the left: Ms. Denise Herbol, Mission Director, USAID in Jamaica; Dr. Arun Kashyap,United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Jamaica; Ms. Dianne McIntosh, Acting Permanent Secretary, Ministry of National Security. Photo Credits: Carol Narcisse/UNDP Jamaica

The Metcalfe Street Centre is the only rehabilitation centre for young men in Kingston. Juvenile offenders ranging from 13-17 years of age often find themselves here after being taken into custody while they await their court dates. While some have committed offences – some violent, some not - others have been deemed uncontrollable by their parents or guardians and voluntarily abandoned at the centre. As such, the Metcalfe Street Centre is seen as a last hope for many young boys who have been excluded from society.

The Metcalfe boys are products of a violent, unstable upbringing with little mentorship, security or guidance rather than inherently dangerous criminals. Researchers Stacie Brodie-Walker and Kai Morgan surveyed inner-city Jamaican youth found that many believed they would be stabbed or killed before they reached 20 years of age, breeding a culture of aggression and defensiveness as a survival mechanism.

With the aim of attempting to rehabilitate rather than punish, the UNDP and USAID agreed to fund an multimillion dollar intervention program at the facility. Already, Metcalfe was well-disposed to rehabilitation of the boys; it meets international standards, with classrooms, accommodation, a medical complex, and canteen and recreational area.

The Support to Metcalfe project aims to provide the boys with emotional and educational support, offering guidance on conflict resolution, psychological support, education up to CSEC level and training in basic skills to help find work once they re-enter society.

The organizations state, “The project supports the Department of Correctional Services in the acquisition of inputs in the form of tools, equipment, materials and limited technical support to facilitate initiatives aimed at giving juvenile remandees access to a healthy, safe, secure and caring environment. UNDP and USAID hope to assist the DCS in counteracting the likelihood of remandees being drawn into a vicious cycle of poverty, violence and exclusion.”

Speaking to wardens about progress made at the centre since the programmes were initiated, they note the boys have made good progress. Incidents of violence among the boys have decreased and that the boys were benefiting from the skills training at the centre, learning to farm, learning about conflict resolution and benefiting from basic education.

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