Justice for children in Georgia – the achievements of the reform reviewed by other countries - 23 March 2012
TBILISI. 23 March. 2012 – Juvenile justice specialists from Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Tajikistan are visiting the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance to learn about the progress achieved within the reform of the juvenile justice system.
The juvenile justice specialists from the above countries are visiting Georgia to participate into the regional (CEECIS/Eastern Europe) training of trainers on juvenile justice that is supported by the European Union.
The main goal of the juvenile justice reform in Georgia is to establish a juvenile justice system that is focused on rehabilitation and reintegration of children in conflict with the law into society. The reform has been carried out by the Government of Georgia with the support of UNICEF, Dutch Government and the European Union.
The Government of Georgia adopted a Juvenile Justice Strategy and Action plan for 2009-2013 that guides reform in the sector. The process has seen a new approach in the country’s juvenile penitentiary system, including individualized plans for convicted juveniles that support their rehabilitation and reintegration into mainstream society. Living and learning rooms for juveniles have been rehabilitated and refurbished. A new Code on Imprisonment was adopted, incorporating the right to education, recreation and meaningful activities for young people. The probation agency has employed and trained one juvenile-focused probation officer in each office around the country.
Recognizing the need to use legal measures as a last resort, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance have piloted national schemes in nine major cities, aimed at diverting children who commit minor offences away from the judicial system. It is anticipated that the number of children indicted and/or prosecuted will be reduced by up to 33 per cent through the use of such diversion schemes.
The number of convicted children reached a high of 1,166 in 2008, but has declined significantly since then. During the past few years there have been between 500-600 children on probation. Individual approaches to children in conflict with the law are functional in the penitentiary system, and growing in probation. Twenty trained social workers and five psychologists are now in place both in penitentiary and probation offices across the country. These successes have helped focus attention on diverting children away from the justice system and on 'prevention' - reaching young people with services and support before they come into contact with the law.
As a result of new diversion schemes, more than 100 children have successfully avoided criminal sentences. Social workers in probation offices help children to devise agreed conditions of diversion. Once the child has fulfilled these, his or her case is dropped completely. Given that the vast majority of convicted children in Georgia have committed property crimes, this programme is an important step towards ensuring that children who make a mistake are not given a sentence that stays on their record for a lifetime.
Approximately 500 legal professionals – judges, prosecutors and lawyers – have been trained in juvenile justice issues.