Juvenile justice denied
The Remand Home at Kingtom, where children charged with juvenile delinquency are kept on probation for correctional purposes, has come under sharp criticism by human rights groups, especially child protection organizations.
The condemnation is centered on the failure to provide vehicles to convey the delinquents to court. On many occasions, because of lack of transportation, the correctional officers fail to take the juveniles to court, which is a breach of their rights.
“Whenever a vehicle is made available, it will not come on time”, said a child right campaigner, adding that the court would have been adjourned before they arrived with the children.
Magistrates sitting on juvenile delinquencies have complained about such lapses particularly for those brought in for cautioning.
Others who are supposed to get short sentences are equally affected because they spend more time on remand than the period the sentence should last for.
Officials of the Ministry of Social Welfare say their business is to send probation officers to remand home to correct the children and to ensure that they are treated humanely.
“But taking them to court is the business of the Correctional Service”, one of them said.
A correctional officer on his part said that there is conflict of responsibilities between the Correctional Service and the Ministry of Social Welfare, which started when the Correctional Service previously known as the Prison Department was under the Ministry of Social Welfare. The department was removed from the Ministry by the Kabbah Administration and put under the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Under that arrangement, the remand home, as a place of probation, remained under the Ministry of Social Welfare with additional responsibilities of Gender and Children’s Affairs.
Under the subsequent Koroma Administration, the Prison Department was transformed into the Sierra Leone Correctional Service. The problem is further compounded under the current dispensation with the creation of a Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs without any clear indications whether the Ministry should provide probation for juvenile delinquents.
Until it becomes clear that the Remand Home is under the Correctional Service, the Ministry of Social Welfare or the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs, the children at the home would remain victims of injustice.
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