Mr Palm's remarks during the workshop on "Education and reintegration of minors in conflict with the law" organized in Kavaja on 22 November 2013
Exactly one year ago you had the first workshop of all education staff working with juveniles, teachers and responsible of education districts, including NGOs. The goal was to make clear recommendations to both Ministry of Justice and Education on what should be done to ensure education in all detention sites. The broader discussion was about the goal of reintegration.
I think some progress was achieved –education not only in Kavaja but also in many other juvenile institutions; more clarity about the standards of care; and more equity among those caught in the system.
Clearly, it is not enough that Albanian has a model institution here in Kavaja.
Today we continue the dialogue. I noticed and commend the General Directorate of Prisons for the revision of the law on treatment of detainees in Albania (Law 8328 of 1998), and for upgrading the Memorandum of Understanding between Justice and Education Ministries on education in the penitentiary.
The principle of ‘best interest of the child’ is stipulated in the new draft law, including the specific recommendations of the concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, published in 2012 following the review of the Albania State progress report. The law introduces the concept of a 'detention plan’, and ‘individual treatment programme”. Both were piloted here in Kavaja, as part of our cooperation and also some Dutch expertise. The law speaks of special measures for young offenders related to psychosocial support. There are many other positive aspects. But, I will stop here. We all know the key word is the implementation of law in ALL detention sites.
I want to mention some other issues:
Disciplinary procedures for juveniles must be consistent with upholding the dignity of children and respecting the rights not to be exposed to cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment including corporal punishment, placement in a dark cell, closed or solitary confinement, reduction of diet and the restriction of family contact. Vigilance is needed so this doesn’t happen, for example regarding solitary confinement. There should be clear guidelines and inspection to avoid that. For example, the exclusion from activities as disciplinary measure must NOT be transformed into solitary confinement. Children must be able to make requests and complaints without censorship and they also must be reformed of the outcome or response without delay.
You all heard this from me before, but I am going to repeat this until it changes: Too many juveniles awaiting trial are in detention. Court sentences for two thirds “coincide” with the time in pre-trial detention. This is a grave violation of human rights. Pre-trial must only be used when there are good reasons to do so. The system suffers from long investigation time and long judiciary process. Because pre-trial is supposed to be short, very few services are offered. Reintegration and education must start on day one, even in pre-trial.
Involvement of the family, people who have influence in the life of juveniles, community and NGOs are essential to the success of any reintegration effort. Juveniles must have these contacts. Social services, local government, probation, education department, labour office, and NGOs must be involved from day one. Many juveniles I met here in Kavaja seem happy with the programs here, but there are always some who do not know where to go when they get out. Sometimes, nobody shows up for them. The systems inside here need to work with the rest of the world, and the other social sectors and local government – and there should be a way to get them involved.
I am sure these are issue that are also on your mind, and I trust that progress can and will be made on some of them. I had the opportunity to share our UNICEF position on these issues already with the new leadership of the GDP. I like to express my appreciation so far to the director and staff for swiftly initiating the legal initiatives. To you who work every day with juveniles – we know that this is not an easy job – rest assured that we deeply recognize what you do. At the end of the day, what you do for the juveniles is so important to them, to us, to their communities and Albania.