Friday, 25 May 2012
Juvenile Delinquency in Sierra Leone
By John Mans - Extern at Defence for Children
The issue of juvenile delinquency is a major problem faced by young teens between the age of 14 and 17 years in Sierra Leone. The issue of juvenile delinquency has worsened after the brutal civil war. A large number of children were displaced, orphaned and traumatized and these factors increased the crime committed by young children. Due to the widespread of poverty found in Sierra Leone, the crime rates among younger children have increased. Most of them are involved in crimes such as stealing and burglary and the reasons are to only make ends meet. Many young people are also involved in drugs and this leads to their entering the criminal justice system. The issue of juvenile delinquency has also been triggered by the acts of the law enforcing body in the country, the police.
Sadly, when these young offenders are caught committing crimes, they are often locked up together with adults. They are not detained on their own but share with adults which can often encourage them into a further life of crime as they mix with adults who are involved in more serious criminal activities.
Another issue affecting the increase in juvenile delinquency is the role of the police. Many police officers force young people who have been arrested to answer to crimes forcibly which they have been accused of and have not committed. Due to fear and interrogation, these young people will often admit to such crimes committed. They forcibly do as they are told by the police and they are taken to court, and then sentenced. The reason why these police officers do not appropriately handle cases involving juveniles is due to lack of training and lack of information on juvenile justice standards.
In order to deal with these issues I think there needs to be:
1. More efforts to combat poverty, youth unemployment and drug use amongst young people
2. More training and support for children at home
3. More training for the police
4. Separate detention facilities for juveniles