Crime prevention and reintegration

A contribution to the UN Global Study on children deprived of liberty

Santiago de Chile, 28 and 29 November 2016-As implementation of the 2030 Agenda starts, countless children are being left behind, including those deprived of their liberty. Children in vulnerable situations, including those who have run away from domestic violence, those who live on the street and those who are victims of trafficking, prostitution, organized crime or conflict situations, are at special risk. Still others may end up in detention because of mental health problems and drug abuse or because of their status as migrants or asylum seekers.

Held in closed institutions, psychiatric centres or adult prisons or awaiting trial for long periods of time, these children often lack genuine opportunities to gain access to justice and to challenge the legality of their detention or to benefit from education and vocational training and long-lasting social reintegration. While deprived of liberty, children are at heightened risk of violence, including harassment, sexual abuse and torture. They may also be subjected to violence as a form of discipline, punishment or sentencing.

Responding to these serious concerns, the General Assembly, in its resolution 69/157, invited the Secretary-General to commission an in-depth global study on children deprived of liberty including good practices and recommendations for action and to submit the conclusions of the study to the Assembly at its seventy- second session. The study will help to consolidate data and sound evidence to inform policy and law, develop capacity- building initiatives for professionals and promote a change to stigmatizing attitudes and behaviour towards children in detention, as well as promoting alternatives to it.

Considering the need to support the elaboration of the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, the Government of Chile (through their ministries of Interior and Public Security, Justice and Human Rights and the National Council for Childhood), UNICEF and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on violence against children agreed on organising an international conference in order to discuss laws, policies and programs for crime prevention and resocialization of children in contact with criminal justice systems. The organizers expect that the academic and professional debates this conference, will be a concrete contribution to the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty and to the design and implementation of crime prevention and reintegration policies in Latin America. 



Marta Santos Pais

Marta Santos Pais was appointed as Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (SRSG) on May 1st, 2009, and took up her position on September 1st, 2009. As a high level global independent advocate, Marta Santos Pais promotes the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against children in the justice setting, in the home, in institutional care, in schools, in the workplace and in the community. She acts as a bridge builder in all regions, and across sectors and settings where violence against children may occur. Statement


Esther de la Rosa

Esther de la Rosa is a journalist with over 12 years of experience in the non-profit sector in the U.S., Spain and Latin America. As a women's rights advocate and as a journalist, she is a member of the International Network of Journalists with a Gender Perspective and one of the founders of the Spanish Network of Journalists with a Gender Perspective in Madrid (Spain). Statement


 Cedric Foussar

Mr. Cédric Foussard has been Director of the International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO) since 2005. Previously, he has held positions with the French diplomatic corps in the United States and in Uruguay, in the field of media and communication. He has also worked within the European Research Institute of Birmingham (United Kingdom). Statement




Anna Giudice

Anna Giudice is a Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer at the Justice Section, Division of Operations, UNODC Headquarters in Vienna. As a career UN staff she has worked with UNODC since 2000, in various functions relating to the implementation of the international drug and crime conventions and UN standards and norms on crime prevention and criminal justice. Statement




Barry Goldson

Professor Goldson currently holds the Charles Booth Chair of Social Science having previously been Professor of Criminology and Social Policy (University of Liverpool). He is extensively published and he has presented papers at over 200 national and international conferences. He has extensively networked across the international research community and he also has long-standing relations with a range of national and international governmental and non-governmental, human rights and progressive penal reform organizations. Statement


Kevin Haines

Kevin Haines is Professor of Criminology and Youth Justice, Director of the Centre for Criminal Justice and Criminology at Swansea University, Deputy Director of the Research Institute for Applied Social Sciences at Swansea, Co-ordinator of the Youth Crime and Social Justice network of the Welsh Centre for Crime and Social Justice. He is also a member of the European Council for Juvenile Justice, the Welsh Youth Justice Advisory Panel, YJB Cymru's Practice Development Panel the YJB's Classification Panel and the Howard League's Research Advisory Group. Statement


Ton Liefaard

Prof. Dr. Ton Liefaard holds the UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights at Leiden University, Leiden Law School. He teaches children’s rights, child law and juvenile justice from an international and comparative perspective and has published widely on the meaning of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and related international and regional instruments for the position of children at the national level. He is the programme director of the Master Programme (LL.M) Advanced Studies in International Children's Rights. Statement



Susan McVie

Susan is Professor of Quantitative Criminology within the School of Law. She has three major research roles within the School. She is Director of the Applied Quantitative Methods Network (AQMeN) in Scotland, a research centre developing dynamic and pioneering projects to improve our understanding of current social issues in the UK and provide policy makers and practitioners with robust, independent, research-based evidence to build a better future. Susan is Co-Director of the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, a prospective longitudinal study of youth offending based at the University of Edinburgh since 1998. Statement


Robert Muggah

Robert Muggah is a specialist in security and development. He co-founded the Igarapé Institute where he oversees research and technology development. He also oversees research at the SecDev Foundation, a cyber analytics group. Robert is affiliated with the University of Oxford, University of San Diego, as well as the Center for Conflict, Development and Peace at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, in Switzerland. Statement




a) Academic conferences

• International and regional frameworks on the prevention of violence against children in the field of crime prevention and the criminal justice system (UN and EC).
• Deprivation of liberty and its impact on resocialization of children in contact with criminal justice systems.
• Risk management and early intervention programs
• Diversion and crime trajectories in young offenders
• Restorative justice and alternatives to custody
• Desistance from crime and resocialization programs.
• Girl´s awareness and participation in crime prevention and resocialization policies



b) National experiences

• National laws, policies and institutional frameworks in the field of prevention of violence in the field of crime prevention and the criminal justice system: state of the arts.
• National and local programs on crime prevention for children and adolescents: theoretical foundations and key components
• National and local programs on resocialization of children and adolescents in contact with criminal justice systems: theoretical foundations and key components
• Available evidence on the impact of crime prevention and resocialization programs on reduction of violence and desistance from crime.
• Instruments and institutions for measuring and monitoring the effectiveness of crime prevention and resocialization programs.
• Coordination between crime prevention and resocialization programs with child protection systems and national policies to eradicate violence against children.



















Concept note


Conclusions and recommendations

Conclusions and recommendations

 Crime prevention

1. Crime prevention policies and laws need to be firmly grounded on a children rights-based approach, including the paramount consideration of the best interests of the child

2. Crime prevention policies and laws needs to reduce violence against children (when they are offenders and when they are victims or witnesses of crime), with specific strategies for them.

3. Crime prevention policies and programs need to be designed with a focus on the needs, rights and characteristics of children. That implies that these interventions should consider young offenders as children first and offenders second.

4. A comprehensive approach to crime prevention looks at the different levels of intervention: primary: universal rights, secondary: focus on children and families at risk; tertiary: programs and interventions that guarantee effective reintegration.

5. A comprehensive approach implies avoiding a merely “police-based” model of social crime prevention, which results insufficient and ineffective without a wider framework of action. Police detention should be always considered as measure of last resort and for the shortest period of time.

6. Policies and laws in crime prevention need to be data and evidence-based and constantly subject to objective monitoring and evaluation.

7. It is fundamental to operate with an inter-sectoral vision (education, health, labour training, police, justice), including a responsible organ or authority with the legal competence to require cooperation from other agencies.

8. Successful policies of crime prevention operate along children´s families and communities, including schools and cities.

9. Positive crime prevention policies and program include children´s participation (and their communities) through strategies and mechanisms where children, their families and communities can shape a culture of self-care and dignity.

10. Early assessment and intervention may be playing a positive role within crime prevention programs and policies. Nonetheless, it is important to pay attention to the eventual negative impacts of risk-based approaches (such as social stigmatization and labelling by social services).

11. While specific crime prevention policies and program are essential, these need to be firmly grounded within comprehensive child protection systems, allowing a permanent interaction between primary and secondary prevention. 

Reintegration of children in contact with criminal justice systems  

1. Available validated research suggests that hard-hitting criminal policies against children are ineffective in securing their reintegration. In particular, lowering of the age of criminal responsibility and widespread use of sanctions which imply deprivation of liberty.

2. Available research also indicates that early contact with formal juvenile justice systems –particularly those implying deprivation of liberty- have a negative impact on crime-trajectories in children. In the clear majority of cases, diversion seems to me more effective than formal prosecution in consolidating desistance from crime.

3. To be effective, nonetheless, diversion requires the existence of basic institutional and programmatic components, such as: a) strong child-protection systems in the community and; b) legal alternatives to allow the police, prosecutors and judges to make use of alternatives to formal criminal proceedings (such as restorative justice models).

4. If sentenced, young offenders need to have access to comprehensive and effective reintegration programs, designed, administered and evaluated by both judges and specialized government agencies.

5. The effectiveness of reintegration programs is strongly associated with both, the physical context where they take place and the quality of intervention. On the one hand, deprivation of liberty has a negative impact on both children´s development and recidivism. On the other hand, reintegration programs require focusing on strengthening the key factors that have a positive impact on desistance: strong family ties, sense of belonging, school retention, positive parenting and peer´s interaction, life projects, among others.

6. Children need to be considered as key agents within the design and implementation of reintegration programs and not as merely beneficiaries of social intervention. Such approach requires the development of innovative methodologies oriented towards the strengthening of children´s sense of dignity and respect.

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