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Juvenile justice

Reintegration should be the ultimate purpose of a juvenile justice system. However, most countries in the region do not have a fully specialized, supportive juvenile justice system.

Children continue to be deprived of their liberty unnecessarily - the vast majority of children in conflict with the law are accused of petty or non-violent offences. A significant number are detained for ‘status offences’ (acts classified as offenses only when committed as children), such as truancy, alcohol use or ‘being beyond parental control.’ Many children who are already on the edge of society engage in petty theft, vagrancy or prostitution simply to survive.

Social support, including to prevent offending and promote reintegration into the community, is very much lacking. Young children who have committed petty offenses are often placed in ‘protective custody’ by administrative bodies that operate outside the justice system and therefore the legal guarantees that go with it.

Children under arrest or in detention often suffer severe violations of their rights. In many countries, they are subjected to violence, sometimes amounting to torture, with very limited opportunities to complain. Living behind closed doors, away from their families and often without external oversight, they are fully dependent on the goodwill of those in charge and are among the most isolated, invisible citizens in society. They are also considered to be less deserving than other children, as the circumstances leading to conflict with the law are generally not taken into account or forgotten. The chances for reintegration after such experiences are slim, pushing children ever deeper into poverty and exclusion. Country and multi-country assessments provide further information on children in this region who are in conflict with the law.

Read more about what UNICEF does to help children in conflict with the law. 

Last updated November 2013



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