Mr Palm's remarks during the Annual Review Meeting of the General Directory of Prisons held on 20 January 2014
Thank you for the invitation. I take it as a demonstration of the importance that you assign to the treatment of juveniles in the penitentiary. I have already earlier noted this strong commitment.
UNICEF’s position is that children should not be imprisoned if at all avoidable. The highest priority is to give them the opportunity to orient themselves and reintegrate into society. Detention should be the last resort and applied for the shortest possible period of time.
I have visited Kavaja many times. The juveniles I manage to meet have had no serious complains. In contrast, many seem to appreciate the opportunities for education, vocational training, and other activities. But many of them are waiting several months for their trial to happen, and some see the prosecutor and lawyer only one or twice during the time, in the best case. Imagine what uncertainty means for youngsters, no visible progress in the case, perhaps forgotten by the machinery.
As said often before, too many juveniles await trial in detention. Court sentences for two thirds of juveniles happen to be equal to the time in pre-trial detention. This is no coincidence – this a major human rights issue. This has nothing to do with the prison itself, but the speed and fairness of the judicial process, and long investigation time and court proceedings. The files of the juveniles belong on the top of the pile.
The revision of the code of criminal procedure is an opportunity to correct this. We helped to draft a chapter for treatment of juveniles. I hope these changes will be instituted.
Coming back to the prisons, I like to commend the progress in humanising the system. Kavaja is a demonstration of a modern standard in the treatment of juveniles. But a model is not a complete system. We still need to ensure that all juveniles – especially those in pre-trial detention, in places other than Kavaja – are treated with the dignity and given education and integration opportunities.
We appreciate the new law on treatment of detainees in Albania and the upgrading of the Memorandum of Understanding between Justice and Education Ministries on education in the penitentiary. The principle of the ‘best interest of the child’ is part of the new draft law, including the recommendations of the concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child published in 2012. The law introduces the concept of a 'detention plan’, and ‘individual treatment programme”. Both were piloted in Kavaja.
Involvement of the family, people who have influence in the life of juveniles, and NGOs are essential for any reintegration. Juveniles must have these contacts. I heard that sometimes nobody shows up when a child is being released from prison. Social services, local government, probation, education department, labour office, and NGOs must be involved from day one. The systems inside needs to work with the rest of the world, if reintegration is to be successful.
I am sure these are issues that are on all our mind. A long term strategy would be an opportunity to get it right. We will be there to help.