Fostering capacity-building of correctional services’ staff in their work with convicted children and sharing best practices in Europe are the goals of a new transnational European initiative partnered by IPS_Innovative Prison Systems.
Despite its support to governments and civil society in promoting alternatives to detention, UNICEF has highlighted that many children around the world are handed down custodial sentences as a result of being tried for their criminal acts. In Europe, the latest data by the Council of Europe shows a total of 5,610 inmates below the age of 18, while the number of minors on probation amounts to 25,175, across its Member-States.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child establishes, among others, that States must recognise the right of every child who has infringed the penal law to be treated in a manner “consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth”.
Furthermore, the treaty states that countries should make a variety of measures available to ensure the successful social reintegration of minors in conflict with the penal law. Hence States are expected to provide care, guidance, counselling, foster care, education, and vocational training.
Globally, the ‘United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice’ recommends the implementation of several custodial and non-custodial measures. In the latter, children should receive care, protection, social assistance, educational, vocation, psychological, medical, and physical measures tailored to their development. For the former, the document highlights lodging, educational or vocational training, employment or other measures that address the goal of facilitating the rehabilitative process.
For UNICEF, it is essential that there are measures in place to “allow children to recover and reintegrate with their families and local communities through specialised reintegration plans, tailored to the needs of each child”.
However, for the millions of children interacting with justice systems around the world, the reality is that justice institutions are not always equipped to fulfil their fundamental rights and needs.
Staff training as a crucial foundation to ensure the rights of convicted children
The European Judicial Training Strategy 2021-2024 specifically highlights
the training of correctional (prison and probation) staff as a cornerstone for
the respect for fundamental rights during detention and ensuring successful
rehabilitation. Furthermore, it underlines the rights of children as one of the
areas that require both specialised training and coverage.
At the European Union and international levels, several documents, such as the Council of Europe Guidelines on child-friendly justice and the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, also pinpoint the need for increased awareness regarding child-friendly training of prison and probation staff. And such training should encompass the before, during, and after of judicial proceedings, and prison and probation events.
Unfortunately, the number and diversity of training courses, e-learning modules, and resources directed at front-line personnel working in prison and probation settings dealing with juvenile offenders remain low. Accordingly, dedicated training platforms lack courses tailored to this group of professionals and add to an overall reduced number of training materials on child-friendly justice and children’s rights. Ultimately, this creates a worrying gap between declaration of intent, policy, and practice.
ARISA Child: A new initiative dedicated to improving child-friendly justice across Europe
Finally, and building on the first two steps, ARISA Child will provide prison and probation staff working with convicted children with a state-of-art online training course. The programme will focus on enhancing the capacity of front-line personnel to work with the children in their care and contribute to their successful reintegration into society.
Know more about this project
Assessing the Risk of Isolation of Sentenced and Accused: Enhancing the Capacity of Correctional Services to Work with Convicted Children
The consortium developing this initiative is led by the Center for the Study of Democracy (Bulgaria), and partnered by IPS_Innovative Prison Systems (Portugal), the Centre for European Constitutional Law (Greece), Antigone (Italy), the Centre for the Study and Prevention of Crime (Spain), and the General Directorate Execution of Sentences (associated partner, from Bulgaria).
To know more about ARISA Child, please visit the project’s page.
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