Young delinquents from a delinquent society
Children, like adults, can be involved in conflicts with the law. When juveniles commit criminal offenses, they are placed in Juvenile Development Centers (JDCs) rather than prisons, where constructive counseling is supposed to be provided so that they realize their mistakes and come out of these centers better. humans. The reality of these JDCs, as one might expect, is quite different.
The recent gruesome murder of three young boys at the Jashore Juvenile Development Center has highlighted the country’s difficulties in ensuring the protection of child offenders in so-called juvenile correction centers. Naeem Hossain, Parvez Hasan Rabbi and Rasel alias Sujon — three juvenile inmates from JDC Jashore, along with other detainees — were tortured by officials and other JDC inmates so brutally that they succumbed to their injuries the same. day. Their mouths were stuffed with towels and their hands were pulled off the iron bars, while they were beaten with cricket stumps, rods and sticks. The pain was so brutal that these boys would have passed out. And when they regained consciousness, they were subjected to another round of beatings. And why? According to media reports, one of the boys, Hridoy, who is also a barber, apparently did not comply with the order of the head of the security of the correctional center, Nur Islam, to cut his hair, resulting in resulted in two scuffles. on the death of the three juvenile detainees, triggering public anger.
However, this is not the first incident of such atrocity committed in a penal institution. Earlier, in 2011, an inmate was brutally murdered in a correctional center. And cases of suicide are not uncommon. In 2013, Monira Begum chose suicide over living in the Gazipur Correctional Center. As recently as 2019, a 15-year-old boy, Noor Islam, committed suicide in one of the centers. One can only imagine what circumstances lead to such desperate actions by these young people.
The images of the three JDCs of the country which now surface in the course of media inquiries tell us a lot about what is happening behind the iron gates of these “correction” centers.
These centers are no less prisons than prisons for adults. These overcrowded places – according to the media, these centers operate in overcapacity, sometimes accommodating more than 900 detainees in 300 establishments with a reception capacity – are not able to provide children with adequate food and basic necessities, nor able to provide satisfactory psychological support to children. meet their emotional needs. Worse yet, these centers appear to be run by people who treat these minors like criminals and are inclined to impose severe penalties, as happened on August 13 at Jashore JDC.
An investigation report published by a local English daily suggests that these correctional centers lack appropriate counseling teams or even appropriate doctors. For a long time, these centers even lacked monitors for children with physical or mental disabilities. Due to lack of care, planning and supervision, neither proper counseling nor physiological training is provided to these children. And who is to blame for this? The local “gatekeepers” or the system that allows sadistic, short-sighted and neglectful officials to be appointed for the important task of caring for stray children?
Given the realities, one could be pardoned for having called into question the will of the authorities concerned to tackle the fate of child offenders. Why did it take the murder of three boys for the Ministry of Social Protection to form an investigative body to identify the criminals or even acknowledge the crime? When was the last time the concerned authorities visited these JDCs to see for themselves how the lost children of this nation are “corrected” in the development centers? Perhaps the murder of one of them, or the occasional suicide of unaccompanied minors, could not attract enough public attention to engage them.
Children, especially those in their teens, can derail for a variety of reasons. Last year I wrote a column that took a closer look at the causes of the growing problem of juvenile delinquency. While eliminating the reasons that lead children to come into conflict with the law remains a priority for all; for those who are already on the wrong side, these correctional facilities can play an important role in giving them a second chance at life.
Child psychologist Tarana Anis says juvenile development centers aren’t just meant to help derailed children and youth understand the mistakes they’ve made, the crimes they’ve committed, and enable them to correct their own. mistakes through psychological counseling. These centers are also supposed to explore the triggers that led them to commit crimes and address those factors. She said: “Adolescents can engage in criminal activity for many reasons, it is the responsibility of penitentiaries to understand on a case-by-case basis what drove them down this path, to help them overcome these triggers. “
“In fact, if possible, child offenders should be allowed to remain in the comfort of their own homes, surrounded by the love and care of their families. Clinical social workers can be hired to provide psychological counseling and emotional support to help them rise above Regular psychological monitoring coupled with healthy physiological training can play an important role in helping these children move forward in life, while living with their family. The idea is to allow these children to put their past behind them and move on in life, not the other way around. “
Regarding those appointed to various roles in JDCs, Tarana said, “Dealing with troubled children can be an overwhelming task, even for child psychologists. Those who are appointed to these important roles must have a thorough understanding of the situation of children. psychology; or at least, these people should receive regular training and counseling in dealing with traumatized children. “
Responsibility for disturbed minors should not be left in the hands of sadistic individuals who take pleasure in inflicting pain on helpless children. These development centers were created to correct the ways and worldviews of delinquent children by providing them with psychological training, and to integrate them into mainstream social and economic activities by providing them with skills development training, rather than raising violence-hardened criminals, as the three JDCs in the country are currently doing.
As concerned authorities investigate the specific case of Jashore JDC, higher authorities must now seriously consider how these incidents of mismanagement and cruelty may have continued for so long. Bangladesh, as one of the first signatories to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), should be a role model for many other countries to follow.
The country and its administration must do everything possible to defend the rights of its children. Offender or not, every child has the right to protection and care and this must not be compromised. The culprits, not only in Jashore JDC, but in the form of a system that looks the other way, should be brought to justice for the gruesome murder of the three boys – for subjecting their wards to pain, trauma and to cruelty.
Let’s not forget that by allowing a situation where a child has to be placed in a JDC, we have already failed it as a company. The inability to provide basic security in these JDCs is orders of magnitude worse.
For these young delinquents, we have JDCs. What do we have for a delinquent society?
Tasneem Tayeb is a columnist for The Daily Star.
His Twitter handle is: @TayebTasneem