Rethinking juvenile detention punishment in Tanzania
Many children face a lot of problems while growing up because parents, guardians, society and the Government at large have failed to nurture the upbringing and counseling of children. Some of these children find themselves committing petty offences and other criminal offences where they end up incarcerated in Juvenile Detention Centres around the country. Our criminal justice system is modeled so that Juvenile Detention is the solution in disciplining a child, while the actual fact is that we are aiding in destroying our children.
The number of street children is growing in Tanzania due to poverty, lack of basic needs including psychological support, economical and parental care. Speaking of Children's rights no efforts have been made to cushion children in conflict with the law against human rights violation.
Poor living condition as well as being oppressed in the society and lack of moral and social support has forced children to be left on themselves trying to make a way of living thus ending up seeking early employment and living in streets. Such situation has initiated attempt or being involved in unlawful acts such as drug abuse, hooliganism, theft, suicide, prostitution, school dropout, homosexuality, etc. Due to frustrations and misunderstanding of criminal acts they end up behind bars. Who is to blame?
Majority of these children behind bars face uncongenial conditions resulting into physical, psychological, and social disturbance. They totally lose their wellbeing.
Juvenile Detention continues to remain an extraordinary mode of punishment for the youth in general. Worse enough, it removes youths and young offenders out of the education system for months or years.
This, thus, puts these young offenders away from primary and secondary school education which directly impact their economic and employment opportunities.
The psychological, physical and social effects of Juvenile Detention can also be life long, especially in cases where the Juvenile Detention centers fail to achieve the aims they are set up for.
Recent studies have shown that sexual and drug abuse continue to harm Juvenile youths in Detention centers, which remain widely unreported.
Detainees learn from older counterparts, more advanced techniques and skills of committing more serious offences. It is common that youth exposed to Juvenile detention happen to commit more serious offences later upon release as adults because they reverse and release their anger and frustration on the society.
Rationally, Detention homes are meant to be useful character for modifying and nurturing in transforming delinquents to more social required and expected behavior in our societies.
This begs the question, is the Government really playing its role in reducing incidents of sexual abuse and barbarity treatment? Is it providing children's rights while serving time? Speaking of youth empowerment and tomorrow's generation and leaders, are the development partners and other development initiatives setting a stage to curb the possible consequences that may occur from this vulnerable group in our societies? The slogan that it takes a village to raise children is not a political way of preserving our society. Are we really facilitating them or are we guiding them to further destructive path?
Cynthia Zocca is A community Development worker Iringa.