It takes a village to raise a child, and that is the approach the Judiciary of Guam is taking as judiciary officers and lawyers were given training on the Judiciary’s juvenile reform initiative.
It was last year that concerns were raised in the previous administration about crimes committed by our island’s youth. A 2017 Citizen-Centric Report details 361 juveniles being admitted to the custody of the Department of Youth Affairs. Of those, 212 were Chuukese; 111 were Chamorro; 15 Pohnpeian and 8 Palauan.
DYA stated in the report: “As the Chamorro and Chuukese youth continue to make up the largest segment, the Pohnpeian group was also over-represented, but has fallen out of the top three population groups. DYA continues to hold weekly discussions with clinical staff, social workers and correctional staff about the current incarcerated clients, as the over-representation of the above-named groups is discussed and explored. Assessments and diagnosis determination are ongoing while some contributing factors for the crime trends include poor parent/child relationship, gang/peer group influences, lack of positive role models, school academic failures, etc. DYA will continue to work diligently to address the Chuukese population during weekly Case Reviews, including outreach events and providing additional resources for the community.”
With this in mind, Supreme Court Justice Philip Carbullido says the judiciary is taking a proactive approach.
“When Chief Justice Torres took the lead and took juvenile reform to the judiciary, we wanted to educate that we wanted to be pre-emptive. In other words, we don’t want to be reactive. We don’t want to wait until a violation has occurred and a juvenile gets to be put through the legal system. We wanted to be proactive,” Carbullido said.
He added that the judiciary wants to raise awareness before a violation is committed in terms of rights of parents and youth.
“The laws delineate the boundaries that you can cross and cannot cross and maybe there’s more awareness and the responsibility for parents in educating and being responsible. It’s just not the court system that you look to solve all your problems because we will never get anywhere as a society if we wait until a violation has been committed before we try to be preventive. And so I think prevention education awareness is key rather than waiting for violations to happen,” Carbullido said.
A year ago the questioned was raised: Could cultural differences in regards to discipline play a role? Justice Carbullido says this shouldn’t be a factor.
“But I think education is the key. We can’t just say because they come from a different island they are not aware of their duties and responsibilities. Well, let’s take it upon ourselves to help educate them. We can’t just be reactive and I think that is part of the government’s responsibility to be proactive in providing the information so that they can know what is right and what is wrong,” Carbullido said.
As part of this initiative, the JOG has partnered with GDOE to provide school resource officers with training to help provide security within the island’s public schools.
“But I think, more importantly, we have gotten involved in projects like the ‘Play by the Rules’ booklet that is being prepared which we can provide for the public’s education and can hopefully be used as a tool to educate the students,” Carbullido said.