Children in the care of the state and in detention facilities around the world are at a higher risk of violence than other children. PRI is working on a multi-faceted programme of work to reduce and end violence against children in the criminal justice system in eight a number of countries around the world.
Throughout the criminal justice process – during arrest, at the police station and in detention – children are at risk of violence from police, prison staff, adult detainees and their peers.
Violence against children in the criminal justice system takes many forms, including torture, beatings, isolation, use of restraints, rape, harassment, and humiliation. In some countries, children are handed disproportionate and inhumane sentences, including corporal punishment and even the death penalty.
They may also experience unreasonable disciplinary measures in prison, such as corporal punishment or solitary confinement, which are prohibited by international standards.
The impact of violence on children in the general population can have irreversible and life-long consequences. The World Health Organisation has stated that violence against children ‘is associated with risk factors and risk-taking behaviours later in life. These include violent victimization and the perpetration of violence, depression, smoking, obesity, high-risk sexual behaviours, unintended pregnancy, and alcohol and drug use.’
What we do
Despite increased international attention, including a UN Study on Violence in 2006, which established that children in care and justice institutions may be at higher risk than nearly all other children, violence against children in these settings remains largely invisible and under-researched.
PRI aims to reduce and eliminate violence against children in detention by promoting reform of law, policy and practice through international and national advocacy, training and research.
In 2012, we published – in partnership with UNICEF – baseline studies on legislation and policy in eight countries: Bangladesh, Georgia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tanzania and Uganda. These reviews aimed to increase understanding of the specific legal and policy measures that can work to prevent and remedy violence against children in police and pre-trial detention.
This research highlighted the need for:
- improved data collection on the number of children in police and pre-trial detention, as well as on a number of other indicators that can help address violence (eg. numbers of child deaths in detention, children not separated from adults, children who have experience solitary confinement, children who are diverted from formal justice system)
- time limits for detaining a child in police stations and pre-trial detention (maximum of 24 hours and six months respectively) to be set in legislation and strictly enforced
- specialised law enforcement personnel, properly trained in child protection and child rights
- legislation to explicitly require the separation of children and adults and girls from boys at all points of detention including during transportation
- legislation, policy and regulations to ensure the mandatory presence of a parent/legal representative/appropriate adult during the interrogation of a child at a police station
- clear regulations to ensure that disciplinary measures for children must expressly prohibit corporal punishment, solitary confinement and restriction or denial of contact with family members
- legislation that clearly defines torture and ill-treatment in line with the definition in the Convention against Torture, and that prescribes measures to be taken by courts should evidence appear to have been obtained through torture or ill-treatment
- a firm message of ‘zero tolerance’ towards ill-treatment, making clear that perpetrators of ill-treatment and those condoning such acts will be subject to severe sanctions.
Since then, PRI’s regional offices have been advocating for the adoption of and supporting implementation of measures to improve protection of children from violence in justice institutions at a national level. Measures include, for example,