UNICEF has also implemented cost-effective interventions to ensure that families, communities and social organizations in priority areas promote good treatment, reject violence, and report all forms of violence against children and adolescents. For example, 629 indigenous leaders and authorities were trained on child protection issues, and 190 new community promoters were appointed. They are responsible for preventing and reducing violence in their communities and coordinating their work with the Offices for the Defence of Children and Adolescents.
UNICEF continued to further build the capacity of public institutions within the framework of protection, ensuring an improved legal framework, with a rights-based and equity-based approach.
“This programme saved my son’s life”
Juan, father of an adolescent in conflict with the law
Rubén is attending the Advice Centre for Adolescents in Conflict with the Law, run by the Departmental Social Policy Service (SEDEPOS by Spanish acronyms) in Santa Cruz. He was reported by the head of his school for drug use and selling drugs to his school friends.
“I’m also a pastor with a Christian congregation,” says Juan. “It hit me very hard to find out that my son was involved in those activities. I thought that our Christian faith would keep him away from any negative influence, but I now know that it’s not enough.”
“When I think about what I was involved in until recently, I can’t explain it,” says Rubén. “I don’t know why I was doing it. All I know is that I want to leave that life behind and go back to the way I was before, be a better person, follow my life plan.”
Elsi Morales, Coordinator of the Crime Prevention Programme for Adolescents, says that what Rubén did is classified by law as drug trafficking – a criminal offence under Law 1008 – and if the programme did not exist he would certainly have been sent to prison. However, the Children and Adolescents’ Court ruled that he should receive social and educational support at the Advice Centre for Adolescents in Conflict with the Law as an alternative to detention.
“Rubén is complying with the social and educational measures – he’s receiving psychosocial support together with his family and he’s also being given vocational training. So far he’s taken courses on repairing mobile phones and gastronomy,” says Elsi.
Juan declares that the programme saved his son’s life and his entire family: “If this programme didn’t exist, my son – even at this young age – would now be in prison alongside much older criminals. He’d never have been able to recover from that. I can’t express how grateful I am. I now give testimony in my congregation about the programme.”
The re-education of adolescents as an alternative to detention has proved its effectiveness, not just in the very low rates of re-offending but also by teaching society that adolescents who commit crimes are surrounded by various risk factors, may be left unprotected by their family and the community, and therefore are victims themselves. This is why it is so important to invest in Advice Centres that not only support adolescents but also help their families and the community.
The SEDEPOS Programme for Adolescents in Conflict with the Law in Santa Cruz is the only one of its kind in Bolivia that includes a crime prevention component. It has now gained six years of experience in providing social and educational support to adolescents in conflict with the law as an alternative to detention. Its success rate is higher than 98%, which means that fewer than 2% of the adolescents supported by the programme have gone on to reoffend.
(*) Names have been changed