Mr Palm's opening remarks during the opening ceremony of an institute for reintegration of juveniles in Kavaja prison in support of Juvenile Justice System reform on 1 July 2010
An Institute for Reintegration of Juveniles opened in Kavaja
The new institution is a milestone in achieving a better juvenile justice system in Albania; a system that is in conformity with European and international standards. I had earlier opportunities to talk to management, and I am convinced that everybody here believes that the standards related to juvenile justice do not only have to be met in order to join the community, but because it is the right thing to do. Thanks to the funding of the EU, and the efforts of the uniformed and civil staff and NGOs, the conditions are there to help young offenders to live in a reasonable environment, continue their education, develop their potential, begin to have a positive outlook, and prepare for their reintegration into society, for another chance in their life.
As modern and human the new institution is, we all agree that a prison sentence should be the last solution for juveniles who had come in conflict with the law. Good legislation is in place, particularly in relation to probation and alternative measures to detention. With less than half of the juvenile cases now referred to alternative measures, practice has been improving but progress has stalled as budgets still need to be reserved for mediation programmes or community service orders.
This leads me to encourage national authorities to develop an overall strategy to justice for children, so that all the various aspects of the system – options for diversion, mediation, alternatives to detention, post treatment - get fully recognized, used and also budgeted for. Something that so far has received too little attention has been support to child offenders below the age of criminal responsibility.
One improvement that requires little extra money, but remains an issue of grave concern is the length of time that juveniles spend in detention – also in Kavaja – while awaiting trial. 70% of juveniles spend their sentence in pre-trial detention. This needs to change. Young age is a mitigating factor. Security measures need to be applied differently, and time for investigation and the judiciary process need to shorten. The principle of presumption of innocence and use of detention as a last resort should prevail, especially for children. UNICEF is ready to continue to support government, to ensure that children are treated in recognition of their vulnerability and potential.