Panel of inquiry recommends GIS overhaul

A panel investigating the Government Industrial School (GIS) said on Monday it had recommended a major overhaul of the institution for recalcitrant children.

Chairman of the panel of inquiry, Oral Williams, a former deputy commissioner of police, listed a series of findings from the investigation, including unqualified staff and a dysfunctional environment.

Williams said the panel proposed a shake-up of the staffing and management structure, closure of the girls’ facility, and new laws that include removal of the offence of wandering.

“The internecine warfare among the staff and the breakdown of the discipline among the residents rendered the house mistress at Barrows impotent to effectively manage that institution,” Williams said during a news conference to disclose the findings and recommendations.

“The panel recommended that an audit of the staff should be carried out to determine which members were suitable to work in a reform institution. Employees deemed unsuitable should be replaced by personnel with the appropriate skills and the expertise to cater to ‘at-risk’ youth.”

At the same time, Minister of Home Affairs and Information, Wilfred Abrahams said the outcomes of the probe will be far reaching and could have legal implications.

“They investigated everything, and they made some recommendations and identified some issues that I cannot speak to (in this forum) because there are proceedings currently in play in the courts, so I can’t say anything that would prejudice or compromise those proceedings.

“Some concerns have been raised by the panel, definite recommendations have been raised that have serious consequences attached to them and it is a very sensitive thing.”

The other members of the inquiry panel were educator and expert on HIV-AIDS and substance abuse Tessa Chadderton-Shaw, and educator and former principal, Coreen Kennedy-Taitt.

The investigation was conduccted after there was turmoil at GIS, with residents at the Barrows, St Lucy, female section absconding and reports of others being under suicide watch at the Psychiatric Hospital.

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