NATION

Boot Camps, Custody ‘Won’t Work’ For Child Offenders

She said where children were in conflict with the law there was a need to understand the methods that ensured that children who engaged in criminal activities did not reoffend.
25 Jun 2019 16:07
Boot Camps, Custody ‘Won’t Work’ For Child Offenders
Shelley Casey (third from left) with the Standing Committee on Justice, Law. and Human Rights. Photo: DEPTFO News

Child offenders are more likely to reoffend if they are put through military-style boot camps and given custodial sentences, says UNICEF’s Pacific Child Protection Expert Shelley Casey.

She said where children were in conflict with the law there was a need to understand the methods that ensured that children who engaged in criminal activities did not reoffend.

She made the comments during the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions annual conference at the Pearl Resort, Pacific Harbour, on Saturday.

“Responses to youth offending that are focused solely on deterrence, supervision and punishment are often ineffective,” Ms Casey said.

“Harsh punishments do not deter adolescents. Interventions that target only the child and not underlying problems in his/her family, school and community are less effective.

“Fining or punishing parents do not enhance parenting. Community-based rehabilitation and vocational training are generally more effective than custodial-based programmes.”

Ms Casey said there was global evidence showing that spending time in an approved school, boys’ home and other forms of detention were the most significant predictor of reoffending.

She said authorities dealing with children who were in conflict with the law should always look at minimising detention.

“Detention isolates children from their family and community at a crucial time in their development,” Ms Casey said.

“These detention centres become “schools of criminality” through deviant peer contagion because it concentrates children with problem behaviours together, reinforces negative peer influences and isolates children from positive peers.

“This slows the natural process of ageing out of delinquency. Young inmates are at risk of violence and bullying by older youth. And this does not address the underlying factors contributing to the child’s behaviour.”

Ms Casey said while custodial sentences were sometimes necessary, it should be used with caution, bearing in mind that it was likely to increase reoffending and therefore had a long-term impact on public safety.

She said a custodial sentence in any case should be the last resort and for children who commit serious crimes involving violence or persist in other serious offences.

She said holding the child accountable, but looking at rehabilitation and reintegration allowed for graduated response.

Ms Casey said at best children should be kept away from court situations.

Edited by Epineri Vula

Feedbackshalveen.chand@fijisun.com.fj

Fiji Sun Instagram
Subscribe-to-Newspaper
error: