Columnists Features

Let’s not leave juvenile offenders in rehab process


Percy Chato
‘REHABILITATION of the next generation through entrepreneurship’ was the theme of the training programme that targeted 60 juveniles at the reformatory school that began on November 27 and ended on November 30, 2017.

This theme was a clarion call not to leave juvenile offenders in the rehabilitation process. It is a call to us to individually and collectively realise the objectives of institutional treatment of juvenile offenders as prescribed by the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, also known as the Beijing Rules.

Rule 26 of the Beijing Rules states that the objectives of institutional treatment of juveniles placed in institutions is to provide care, protection, education and vocational skills, with a view to assisting juveniles to assume socially constructive and itproductive roles in society.
The theme is a call for us to take appropriate steps in accordance with the UN Beijing Rules in the interest of juveniles’ wholesome development to:
• Ensure that no juvenile in detention is deprived of access to and provision of health-care services, hygiene and environmental sanitation, education and basic instruction, and:
• Safeguard juveniles’ rights and seek their reintegration into society.
The entrepreneurship course had drawn 59 participants, all juveniles from Katombora Reformatory School, against a background of having 294 juveniles ordered and 248 juvenile remands in our correctional centres in the country.
We , therefore, need to take practical steps to realise the importance of the objectives of institutional treatment of all juvenile offenders as prescribed by the UN Beijing Rules and the Juveniles Act, Chapter 53 of the Laws of Zambia, which states in Section 72 (3), “A court shall not order a child to be sent to a reformatory unless the court is satisfied that having regard to his character and previous conduct, and to the circumstances of the offence, it is expedient for his reformation and the prevention of crime that he should undergo a period of training in a reformatory.”
To my staff, with the aforementioned, you must always remember that exposing juveniles to further violations of their rights when they are under institutional treatment is always both wrong and counter-productive.
When we violate their rights, we deprive them of the minimum conditions for a dignified life and prevent them from the full and harmonious development of their personality. When we violate their rights, we violate their physical, mental and moral integrity.
As we embrace the culture of human rights in the institutional treatment of juveniles, we must observe the four (4) core guiding principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC), which are non-discrimination; faithfulness to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and the respect for the views of the child.
We must always remember that young offenders can be molded into productive citizens as there is hope for them to change their ways. That is why the school motto is ‘I shall rise again’. These are the leaders of tomorrow and their time here at Katombora Reformatory School is intended for them to reflect on their lives.
To my dear juveniles, the school motto is a clarion call for you to change your character and previous conduct, to reflect on the circumstances of the offences you committed, and to be committed to the reformation and training programmes you are undergoing. It is also a clarion call for you to rise from the ashes of being a juvenile delinquent to an entrepreneur.
I further appeal to the university research club and Volunteer Service Organisation (VSO) for:
• More collaboration in undertaking and utilising scientific research as a basis for formulating an informed juvenile justice policy, which is widely acknowledged.
• More collaboration in undertaking and utilising scientific research as an important mechanism for keeping juvenile institutional treatment practices abreast of advances in knowledge, and;
• More collaboration in undertaking and utilising scientific research as a tool for the continuing development and improvement of the juvenile justice system.
My utmost gratitude to the Mulungushi University Academic Research Club and the Zambia Correctional Service (ZCS) Directorate of Corrections and Extension Services for collaborating effectively and leading the crusade to offer sustainable life skills programming through the Correctional Entrepreneurship Programme (CEP) that empowers individuals who are in conflict with the law.
I applaud Mulungushi University and VSO for the timely gesture of partnering with ZCS’s CEP to offer entrepreneurship training to juvenile offenders, who are institutionalised at Katombora Reformatory School.
The training was testimony that ZCS shall foster stakeholder engagements and collaboration to provide adequate academic and appropriate vocational training to juveniles with a view to ensuring that they do not leave the institution at an educational disadvantage.
The author is Commissioner General of the Zambia Correctional Service and also ‘I feel great’ chief inspector of reformatories.


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