The conference is being organized by the local group, Operation Future, which admits that there is a great deal of work being done to prevent youth from falling into an Abyss, where, once entered, it is virtually impossible to find your way out.
Operation Future focuses time and resources on early intervention because it believes it is easier to prevent a child from entering the Abyss, than rescuing the child once they have fallen in.
The group holds the view that the country is losing a generation to this Abyss and failure to find a way to rescue the youth, will have devastating effects on the economy and the very future of St. Kitts and Nevis. A country without youth is a country destined to die, says Operation Future.
According to the conference organizers, the purpose of this meeting is to introduce a new anti-gang program known as, the Regina Anti-Gang Services (RAGS), to St Kitts & Nevis. It is a program currently being used in a Canada district, known as Regina.
The RAGS initiative in Canada is said to be recording long term success, with the youth abstaining from returning to the streets, for in excess of 150 weeks. Regina Police Services have also reported that in the three years since the inception of RAGS, they have seen a reduction of up to 60% in active street membership, in at least one of Regina’s most notorious street gangs. The program utilizes audio and visual arts to attract youth into the program, to gain their confidence. The program also assists the youth to develop skills, enabling them to live a positive life.
Delegates at the conference will examine ways in which the program can be adapted to fit the unique culture of the Caribbean community and to encourage addressing this situation by thinking outside the box.
The conference will educate those who attend, in unique aspects of the gang culture, which distinguishes it from simple criminality. There will also be discussions on restorative justice and why a judicial program which includes the broader community is more effective than the “tradition” system, in reducing recidivism and addressing issues of youth crime without inhibiting the potential of youth to achieve, after coming into conflict with the criminal justice system, said a release from the organizers.
On August 23rd and 24th Operation Future with the assistance of their supporters will be hosting the conference at the University of Medicine and Health Sciences (St Kitts). The facilitators of this conference will include representatives of the Regina Anti-Gang services program, including their founder and director.
In addition to the RAGS representatives, Canadian Court Judge, Linton Smith, will talk about restorative justice and how the justice system needs to include the community, including programs such as RAGS, if genuine rehabilitation is going to take place and youth are going to be turned into positive members of the community as opposed to recycling them through, or simply keeping them in prison.
Chief of Regina Police Services, Troy Hagen, will also participate and will discuss the importance of community- based policing, including how Regina Police Services Anti-gang Unit work directly with organizations such as RAGS, to address the gang problem.