NOC cannot fully adhere to judge’s order
By Melanie Allicock
Kaieteur News

June 15, 2004

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Officials of the New Opportunity Corps (NOC) at Onderneeming, Essequibo Coast, say that the structure of the institution does not allow for absolute preferential treatment of anyone placed there.

This comment came in the wake of media reports that officials at the institution were not obeying the instructions of Justice B.S Roy. The judge said that the 13-year-old girl, at the core of the controversial relationship with city businessman Reeaz Khan, should not to be treated as a prisoner.

A senior official of the NOC informed that the institution is a penal place for juveniles and functions in accordance with their mandate.

He, however, reiterated that as much as is possible, the officials are bending the rules to comply with the Judge’s order.

He dispelled rumours that the teen was being treated in the same way as the inmates.

He explained that the girl was with clothing by the institution but explained that it is not the regular type worn by the inmates.

The official explained that the structure of the institution does not allow for special accommodation and as such the girl is housed in the lodging for female inmates.

“The structure of the institution only provides for juveniles who are sent here after they would have passed through the court system, so we do not have any special accommodation for such persons.”

He, however, opined that isolating the teen might not have been the best solution, especially for security reasons.

“To have her socialise with persons her own age may prove to be beneficial to her at this stage, given her particular situation,” the official opined.

He insisted that the teen is not part of the regular daily work routine of the NOC but related that she seemed to have settled in nicely and is socialising with the staff and inmates alike.

“She has been given books to read, and today she told one of the staff members that she knows how to knit, so she was given some knitting to do.”

The official said that up to yesterday, the only visitor the teen had was a young woman who claimed to be her cousin.

He said that the visitor was, however, refused visiting privilege in accordance with instructions he received.

He said that contrary to reports, the girl’s lawyer never paid her a visit.

“The instructions that I have received are that no one should be allowed to visit the girl, especially her mother. In any case, the girl has made it clear that she does not want to see her mother.”

The official admitted that the girl had to line up for food. “She has to line up for food. How else is she going to get it? This is a penal institution not a day care centre. That is how the residents of this institution get their food, by queuing up for it.”

He confirmed that a large number of strange vehicles have been lurking around the NOC compound since the teen’s arrival but disclosed that an official has been assigned to her around the clock for security reasons.

Last Friday, Justice Roy ordered that the teen be kept at the NOC for two weeks pending reports from a number of stakeholders.

He also ordered that the teen receive counseling and undergo a period of evaluation.

However, up to yesterday, the appointed counselor did not visit the teen.

The decision to place the child at the NOC was taken after visits were made to a number of foster homes by the Judge.

These facilities were all deemed unsuitable to house the teen since they did not offer the appropriate security structure.

The judge’s decision has since drawn criticism from a number of persons, including members of the legal profession.

Jurists are contending that Justice Roy’s order is unconstitutional since he has in effect assigned a child to a correctional institution although the child has not been found guilty of any crime.

Yesterday, a number of persons also questioned the normal security arrangements in place at the NOC given the fact that only last week eleven inmates escaped.

They were, however, recaptured.