Through Jamaicans for Justice’s (JFJ) work over the past decade, it has become clear that there is a significant deficit in the human and administrative resources available to children who come into contact with the law, specifically in their ability to procure and access legal services. Since 2003, JFJ has worked closely with justice reform for Jamaica’s children through extended research projects, advocacy campaigns, and the direct provision of legal services to children and their families who reach out to the organization. To date, JFJ’s work on children has included: pioneering new research on children in state care; delivering high-impact advocacy to reform laws regarding children who are detained; and overall legislative and policy work to reform the legal framework for child protection in Jamaica—including both those in need of care and protection and those in conflict with the law.
More recently, JFJ organizers and attorneys who frequent Children and Family Courts have come in direct contact with cases involving children, and seen firsthand the urgent need for legal services to safeguard the rights and welfare of children. We have found significant evidence that children who come before legal systems, without representation, are at a greater risk for adversity—physical, mental, and in many cases irreconcilably affecting their futures. The need for the proper representation of children in conflict with the law has become very apparent and necessary.
To this end, the organization is deepening and expanding its interventions as it relates to children. Given the direct needs of children who appear before the courts and the formal justice system, JFJ recognizes the importance in expanding its work in relation to such children. This includes a direct mandate to provide legal services to children in need, which both supports and augments existing state systems that provide legal services.
As it stands, there are limited avenues for children to seek legal services. JFJ hopes to address this by:
1. Providing Direct Legal Services, Pro Bono
The Legal Department of Jamaicans for Justice will now provide pro bono legal advice and— if necessary— direct representation to children and families who are in need with regards to children who come into conflict with the law. Through this directive, we aim to widen the impact of our legal department in offering representation to those who might not otherwise encounter JFJ.
We ask that other organizations and partners may refer any pertinent cases to JFJ, so that we can further augment and support the important work currently conducted on these matters. Interested parties or persons may reach out to the organization by visiting our office at 2 Fagan Avenue, Grants Pen, Kingston 8 or calling us at 876-615-5023/4.
We also seek to partner with practicing lawyers who would like to partner with JFJ in providing pro bono legal advice and services to children and families.
2. Working Closely with Partners
The organization will now directly engage with partners in the formal justice system, including: The Department of Correctional Services, the Jamaica Constabulary Force, The Children and Family Courts, The Office of the Children’s Advocate, and the Child Protection and Family Services Agency.
It is through this collaboration that JFJ hopes to aid and further support these organizations in safeguarding the rights and welfare of children through the delivery of legal services.
Over the course of the year, the organization will be operationalizing this new directive in the way most appropriate for the rights and needs of children.