We’re pleased to announce that UNICEF have just released a report specific to our work on juvenile justice in Uganda!
As we’ve seen over and over again in our programme in Patongo, young people are being mistreated within the justice system.
In 2011, 88% of adolescents were living in developing countries. UNICEF estimated that over 1 million children were detained by law enforcement officials every given moment and in the 44 countries where data was available, around 59% of these children had not been sentenced.
At our youth centre, we meet many young people who have been involved with the law, either as a victim of a crime or a perpetrator. All of them can tell of the rampant bribery, illegal detentions and excessive court delays.
Focussing on the seven districts of the Acholi region in Northern Uganda, UNICEF’s recent research aimed to reveal and devise much-needed solutions to the problems that the current juvenile justice system in Uganda is facing.
Although the number of crimes committed by juveniles in Uganda is very low, accounting for around 2% of all reported crime in Uganda and usually minor, the rights of the youths held in custody are often overlooked and the emphasis tends to be on punishment rather than rehabilitation.
The research was conducted through interviews and observation, interviewing a variety of staff from the formal justice sector, making inspections on the police stations and visiting the youths being held in cells.
Currently there is a lack of any alternatives to prison, with Kampiringisa being the only rehabilitation centre in Uganda and is consequently overused and understaffed. At times it can be as low as 3 staff overseeing 300 juveniles.
UNICEF indicates the need for restorative justice by developing and expanding diversion programmes to educate and reintroduce offenders into the community. By introducing youth activities and training workshops the new focus will be on education not criminalisation.
Allowing traditional forms of Uganda’s justice system within the community, known as Mato Oput will also help towards progress, as it involves cleansing and rituals of reconciliation rather than imprisonment.
UNICEF also hopes to raise public awareness and encourage the community to engage more with the regulation of their people. The global organisation have put forward many proposals in the report, revealing what needs to be done to improve the current situation in juvenile justice in Uganda.
Help us to support vital work required to seek justice for children locked in prisons, facing years before a trial, which is often not a fair one.
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The full report will become available on our website soon.