Advocating for better conditions in child detention facilities

raport unicef avocatul poporului 2On the 3rd of July 2014, at the Parliament Palace took place the annual meeting between the Ombudsman, UNICEF, and the representatives of the civil society, due to the project of collaboration (2007-2013) of supervising the compliance of human rights for the underage youth that is convicted or in detention. The association, “We draw your future”, was present at this unique event like the upholder of Romanian youths’ proper development.

The launched report provides information about the situation of rights’ compliance for the children deprived of liberty in Romania. It identifies problems that lead to the violation of rights and the report suggests solutions which will help to improve the situation and the future development of these children. After the detention, the life does not have to be a continue retribution, it must be full of joy for living. In most of the cases the children that are deprived of liberty, cannot integrate again in the society, because of this they will behave violently, will commit illegal acts therefore they will end up again in prison. In this circumstance, there will not be brought any loss to the social and economic system and not even, to the persons concerned.   It must be mentioned that, from 1989 until now, Romania registered big achievements, but the reforms in the juvenile justice ought not to be stopped here because there are still a lot of issues waiting to be solved. We must always have in mind that the stipulations (of the international treaties of which Romania is part) must be respected. Among the most important ones are: the European book of fundamental human rights and liberties, the European social charter, the convention of ONU’s child rights etc.

Sandie Blanchet is the UNICEF’s representative and said at this meeting” I would like to use this occasion to bring in your attention a simple fact but very important for today’s society: all the people-including our children- are in an inherent way the keepers of the rights and they must enjoy the universal human rights. The children deprived of liberty or in detention still have the rights of: non-discrimination; of protection against violence and abuse; of developing and keeping the relationship with their family; the right to access the services of health and education and many others” added the UNICEF’s representative.

The actual situation of respecting children rights is the following one:
57% of the interviewed children said that nobody told them the rights that they have when they were detained.

In 2% of the cases they had a caregiver with them at the first investigation and in only 6% of the cases a lawyer was present;

Only 42% of children declared that they received a lawyer right after they had been brought to the police station and 27% had no lawyer representing them during the investigation.

Approximately 22% of the kids confessed that they were the victims of physical abuse when they were in the police custody. Most of the times, these abuses were done by the police officers, prosecutors or guards.

Near 70% of children discussed with their lawyer before facing the court for the first time; half of them had only one conversation with the lawyer, in the courtroom, right before the trial; 30% of them did not talk with the lawyer even though this is in contradiction with the article 171, line 2, from the old code of criminal procedure.

Three quarters of them said that when they were ill during the detention, they received appropriate medical attendance when was the need for it.

90% of the children can attend daily to sport, however 54% of them claim that they have no opportunity to learn a craft.

Among the proposals we made in this report, we mention:

  1. The allocation of liquidity for ensuring the optimum human resource, in particular in the social reinstatement field; also the proper education and the increasing professionalization of the persons who have any direct activity with the minors.
  2. Checking the way that children that are taken into custody (from detention centers and rehabilitation centers) are informed about the rights and obligations they have.
  3. Implementation of a policy that has no restraint to prevent the violence against the teenagers during arrest, detention and criminal procedure.
  4. Controlling the procedure of providing the caregiver’s presence at the child’s audience and taking the appropriate action to implement this essential praxis in the system.
  5.  Checking the way that legal assistance is ensured for the child during the investigation and taking action so all the children will receive legal assistance.
  6. The multiplication of vocational training programs for children deprived of liberty.
  7. The required specialists for detainees’ reinstatement through the approval of National Strategy to reinstate persons deprived of liberty.
  8. The planning and allocation of material and financial resources to multiply and diversify the opportunities of social tuition for children that are deprived of liberty.

We are content that this type of dialogue exists, supporting the reform of the Romanian judicial system and going after a better control of the taken circumstance concerning the control and treatment of these teens. This year we were in Bacau at the prison for minors. We talked with the employees and with the teenagers, advising them, bringing positive thoughts and giving them the hope that everything will be sorted out in the end.