A recent briefing has revealed that crimes in Vanuatu are sometimes committed by young individuals under the age of 18.

However, the Vanuatu Daily Post has learned from the Director of Vanuatu Correctional Services (VCS), Johnny Marango, that there are currently very few minors in detention, presently only one juvenile is being held, and he is housed at the newly established juvenile facility in Santo.

“In Port Vila, we keep teenage inmates with adult inmates. In Santo, we have a facility ready, but the juvenile bill that should be passed by the parliament is not yet approved,” he said.

“We are still working on it with the Office of the Attorney General, and it may be passed by the end of this year in November.

“We only have one juvenile detainee in our custody, he is currently in the juvenile facility in Santo.

“We are managing him according to the Correctional Services Act, which also provides for separating minors from adults. He is 14 years old and has been remanded for unlawful entry and theft, we have one juvenile in Vila, who is 17 years old, but he is now out on bail.”

Local psychiatrist, Dr Jimmy Obed, expressed concerns about the impact of detention on young offenders.

“Anyone who goes through a facility here will go through something; we don’t know how he’s taken care of, and it will definitely have an impact on him,” he said.

“There’s a whole change of environment for a young person; it’s a bit much. I’m not too sure about the services they (Corrections) provide for him in the prison, the prison experience for anyone is not a good experience.”

Dr Obed highlighted the need for comprehensive mental health services within the correctional system, noting, “the whole system needs mental health assistance, but unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to provide the full experience.”

“A prison facility as an infrastructure will not solve the problem; it’s the services in there that will,” he said.

“Placing them apart from the adults will not help; it’s just a time-out, what rehabilitation services they (Corrections) have to help the inmates will help.’

The importance of rehabilitation was echoed in a 2021 article titled “Juvenile Centre to Provide Educational Training.”

It stated that the new juvenile correctional facility opened in Santo aims to provide education, training, and skills development opportunities for young offenders aged 12 to 18.

This initiative underscores the need for a more supportive and rehabilitative approach to juvenile detention, focusing on helping young offenders reintegrate into society.

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SOURCE: VANUATU DAILY POST