The overcrowding in our correctional facilities is a worldwide concern and this has caused Correctional Managers to focus more on alternatives to incarceration. The Probation Aftercare Services unit through its community corrections thrust has been trying to find creative ways of delivering the services that it has been mandated to deliver. Treatment, prevention, and diversion consequently have become critical components of the service delivery.
The implementation of the first Challengers’ Camp in August 2003 in Region 2 was set against this background. The initiative was viewed as one which had scope in that it provided an opportunity for the Probation Aftercare Services to package and deliver an intervention strategy that would seek to address the specialized needs of the participants who were selected. It also provided an opportunity for the courts to refer children whose awareness needed to be heightened in specific areas.
The initiative was the brainchild of former Senior Probation Aftercare Officer, Mr. Victor Allen and was conceptualized as a residential camp. The camp was initially for male probationers between the ages of fourteen and sixteen and addressed issues of:
- Self-esteem and Self-worth
- Substance use and misuse
- Anger Management and Conflict resolution
- Healthy interpersonal relationships
- Human sexuality
- Career development and skills training
- Money management and entrepreneurial training
- Spiritual management and motivation
- Social Graces
- Creative craft
- Entertainment and recreation
It became an annual event for Region 2 between 2003 and 2007 and was coordinated during the period by Ms. Janet Davey, Senior Probation Officer. Over those years there was a gradual increase in number of participants as more and more probationers got excited about the camp initiative.
In 2006 Challengers’ Camp was replicated in Region 1, with a Five (5) Day, Day Camp under the leadership of Miss Janet Davey. For the first time, female campers participated in Challengers’ Camp and all the units in Region1 were represented.
Challengers Camp took on a National focus when all Three (3) Regions participated in the first national residential Challengers’ Camp at the then Montpellier facility in August 2007. One hundred and Five (105) campers were in attendance, Six (6) of whom were females. Noteworthy is the fact that six campers who attended the 2007 Challengers’ Camp were referred from Courts.
Challengers’ Camp got its name because of the number of challenges that the team of Senior Probation Officers and the Regional Director, Mr. Melbert Witter had in implementing the first residential camp. The probationers too saw it as a challenge as many of the participants found themselves in a setting where for the first time they were required to conform to strict rules and regulations.
Since 2010 the Probation Aftercare Services Unit has been hosting Challengers’ Day Camps and this has now given us the opportunity to expand our horizons in that more campers can benefit at less cost. This opportunity has also given more units the chance to participate and present a camp programme that focuses on harnessing community resources through our collaboration with the other social service agencies. The aim is to strengthen our efforts as it relates to the work that is done with our child offenders.
Challengers’ Camp also helps us to focus on the relevance of the community-based sentencing options which are alternatives to incarceration. Examples of the relevance to which we speak is hereby highlighted: in 2007, Children jointly charged with adults were referred from the Clarendon Resident Magistrate Court to the Camp. In 2010 children were referred to camp by both the court and schools in Portland, embracing both the diversion and prevention aspects of our work.
Reaching today’s deviant youths is deemed very challenging and there are no easy remedies when we are confronted daily with heightened levels of oppression, deprivation, guilt, anger and a sense of hopelessness. This mammoth task, therefore, requires intervention strategies that possess some level of creativity, vibrancy and allows for an intuitive use of self. It is with this recognition that Challengers’ Camp was established and continues to receive overwhelming support.
The staff of the Probation Aftercare Services Arm of the Department of Correctional Services and other stakeholders continue to demonstrate dedication and commitment to the rehabilitation and empowerment of disenfranchised youths and we are delighted to coordinate the activities of this camp each year.
The primary aim of the camp is to stimulate the mind of each camper so that he/she will see the need to make the changes that are necessary to become the best that he/she can be.