Mr Palm's remarks during the reintegration of juveniles programme on 8 June 2011
We are here to discuss the best practice for treatment of juveniles in the penitentiary. We want to increase chances for juveniles to fully reintegrate into society.
Significant change has already taken place in Albania. Generally, treatment of convicts in the penitentiary has become more humane. Authorities are now perfecting their interventions, in particular in relation to the treatment of juveniles, in line with internationally accepted standards of care and development.
We heard that the Kavaja institute for reintegration is making a difference. This difference is brought about not only by a new building. Of course, the physical conditions are important. They provide for a better climate between convicts and staff, for group work, and activities. But it is the reintegration programme and the people who make a difference. Half of the staff members are trained social workers, educators - also in the area of vocational training, or psychologists. This is very progressive. This is how it should be.
Let's just remind ourselves that the path to improved reintegration practice started in 2007. Together with the General Directorate of Prisons and CRCA, UNICEF supported the “The Sky is for all” programme in Vaqarr. At that time, the Vaqarr facility provided very limited programmes. But the change in the behaviour of juveniles was evident.
The programme was transferred to Kavaja with good success and is expected to be fully incorporated into the institute’s curricula. Both civil and security staff went through extensive training. The Kavaja institute was recently assessed to have the capacity to manage reintegration programmes and help juveniles in difficult situation. This is a commendable achievement. Today we move a further step in the same direction.
We recognize that for all children in detention, conditions should enable full reintegration. When almost 70% of juveniles spend their sentence awaiting trial, the conditions in pre-trial detention are of utmost importance. UNICEF now supports free legal and psychosocial assistance to juveniles in pre-trial detention in 7 districts. We also support the implementation of community service orders and mediation programmes in those districts. It remains a challenge to make these services available in the remaining pre-trial detention sites.
Other measures are needed to make sure that fewer children are imprisoned, especially while awaiting trial. All options need to be explored to divert children from the justice system, where they are likely to get a criminal record that will burden them for the rest of their life. The principle of using detention as a measure of last resort needs to be rigorously applied. The criteria for the use of security measures, and lead times for investigation and court proceedings need to be reviewed and enforced. (Story from Kavaja?)
Presently, almost 40 percent of juveniles accused of petit crimes, often theft, wait in detention for 5-7 months for their trial. Services such as those we are promoting today are important, and will help those kids. But the decision for detention must be proportional to the crime. That often means that children should await trial while at home and going to school.
Let me conclude by mentioning that we presently work with the Ministry of Justice to develop a strategy on child friendly justice. The strategy will address juveniles in conflict with the law, children as victims and witnesses of crime, and support to children under the age of criminal prosecution. This Friday, the strategy will be presented in the Juvenile Justice Committee of the International Consortium. I like to invite all of you to help us with comments and recommendations. A comprehensive strategy that focuses on prevention, alternatives to detention, diversion, and on procedural guarantees for children in contact with the law will be an important step in creating justice for children.