Trained, not detained

Highlights from the experience of teenagers in conflict with the law

Dalia Younis
Highlights from the experience of teenagers in conflict with the law
UNICEF/Egypt 2020/Mohamed Ragaa
22 March 2021

Many children come in conflict with the law because of petty crimes. They’re deprived of their liberty either through detention or social care institutions. In either cases, they may experience terrible situations that children should not have to face and which can change their lives forever. 

Despite the existence of alternative measures to deprivation of liberty in the Egyptian law (such as training and rehabilitation programs and community service), these alternatives are still not widely implemented.

With the generous fund of the Embassy of the Netherlands, UNICEF Justice for Children program seeks to support the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the activation of the provisions of the law and mechanisms for the application of alternative measures to detention and to placement in social care institutions. UNICEF cooperates with governmental and non-governmental entities in providing support to children in conflict with the law in a way that takes into account their maturity, circumstances and the gravity of the offence committed. Eventually, the child will take responsibility for his/her act and gets reintegrated into society.

This photo essay gives us the opportunity to listen to the voices of some teenagers from Alexandria, Egypt who came in conflict with the law. It captures the impact of detention and institutionalization on children's lives and the effectiveness of alternative measure to detention such as training and rehabilitation programs. 

Highlights from the experience of teenagers in conflict with the law
UNICEF/Egypt 2021/Mohamed Ragaa
According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, depriving children in conflict with the law of their liberty should be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest period of time.
Highlights from the experience of teenagers in conflict with the law
UNICEF/Egypt 2021/Mohamed Ragaa
“In detention, it’s all about survival. Some imprisoned children sleep standing in the cells. I remember a short thin boy called Ashraf, he was 12 and convicted of robbery. When he entered the cell, I kept him away from those who might have hurt him. I found him a separate place to sleep. It’s unfair for children to be detained as they won’t find someone to care for them.” Maged – 15 years
Highlights from the experience of teenagers in conflict with the law
UNICEF/Egypt 2021/Mohamed Ragaa
“The detention room was small and crowded. I stayed with adult offenders and I am thankful I didn’t learn bad things from them as others did. I want to be a good man and make lawful earnings in the future.” Salem - 16 years
Highlights from the experience of teenagers in conflict with the law
UNICEF/Egypt 2021/Mohamed Ragaa
“Cigarettes, cursing or bad treatment are not allowed here in the training. They prepare us to become good men.” Mohammed - 14 years Social workers follow up on the children who undergo training and rehabilitation programs as an alternative measures to detention. They submit progress reports to the court.
Highlights from the experience of teenagers in conflict with the law
UNICEF/Egypt 2021/Mohamed Ragaa
“Children draw stuff that represent what they feel on the walls. Drawing swords is very common. They represent their feeling of betrayal.” A caregiver at an institution Because of children’s particular vulnerabilities, detention may cause additional problems for children’s developmental and physical health.
Highlights from the experience of teenagers in conflict with the law
UNICEF/Egypt 2021/Mohamed Ragaa
“I chose painting and, together with my colleagues, we painted a bedroom. When I work with furniture, I remember how life used to be before I got into trouble.” Salem - 16 years Children can apply training and rehabilitation programs as an alternative measure to detention and placement in social care institutions.  Alternatives to deprivation of liberty should be applied as a measure of first resort.
Highlights from the experience of teenagers in conflict with the law
UNICEF/Egypt 2021/Mohamed Ragaa
“I learned carpentry here. What I like most about it is that I can make something for myself.” Mohammed - 14 years In some training workshops, children can choose from a range of vocational trainings (such as carpentry, blacksmithing and painting) according to their age, physical and mental capabilities. They are trained under supervision to ensure their safety while mastering practical skills.
Highlights from the experience of teenagers in conflict with the law
UNICEF/Egypt 2021/Mohamed Ragaa
Ahmed (unreal name) was placed in the social care institution at the age of 16. Based on the progress report submitted by the social worker, the court decided to apply an alternative measure to deprivation of liberty  and to enroll him in a training and rehabilitation program. Accordingly, he was handed over to his family and obliged to come for training three times a week. He feels thankful because, according to him, “now I can stay home with my mother and help her around as she’s too old.” Social workers should submit progress reports every two months to court . Based on this report, the court decides whether to terminate or amend the measure.