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  Issue 38  Cover Story

Preparedness of the Macedonian society to deal with the problem of juvenile delinquency

Education and re-education, not punishment 

The research of the Children’s Rights Protection Association and the Center for children’s justice “Small Big Man” tackles a delicate question: “What happens to the juvenile delinquents in Macedonia?”

Vesna Stojkovska: “Our first complain was a result of the fact that juvenile delinquents are together with the adult convicts in the prison in Shutka. Even though they are physically separated, --- prison is not a natural environment where a juvenile, who is to be re-educated and resocialized, is to be.”

Ana Pancheva: “The program itself cannot make a miracle and the child to become 100% reeducated and resocialized. The basic problem is that there is not a strategy for implementing post-penal protection. These children are not protected by the state after they go out of the juvenile detention centre“.

The contents of the correctional measure “sending to a detention centre“ and the punishment “juvenile prison” is consisted of losing freedom of movement of the juvenile person, that is, his/her isolation from the outer world in a special institution determined for execution of that measure/punishment, in time determined in the court verdict, in order to prevent the juvenile person from redoing criminal act, his/her re-educating, enabling him/her for a socially useful life in accordance with the generally accepted system of legal and moral values and its successful reintegration in society (Article 73, paragraph 1 of Criminal Code of the Republic of Macedonia).

This is stated in the Criminal Code of the Republic of Macedonia, but as always, the law written on paper and in practice is not the same. Juveniles are sent to detention centres and juvenile prisons in order to be supervised, to be educated and to impel their personal responsibility, to enable their education, re-education and proper development. Therefore, not punishing, but re-educating, forming personalities who are at the age when the process of socialization has not finished yet, persons who have although made a mistake because of their age, have time to adopt the generally accepted norms of behavior and the system of moral values.

But how much does the correctional measure, that is, the punishment, realize its function?

Taking into consideration the increased number of juvenile delinquents-repeaters in the last decade, there is a question if the punishment, that is the correctional measure, realizes its objective and if the society can deal with the problem of juvenile delinquency. For the time being, juveniles who are sent to a detention centre do not have their own building. Namely, instead of being sent to the detention centre in Tetovo, they are together with the adult convicts in the prison of Shutka.

“Is there a life during and after the imprisonment?” is the title of the publication of the Children’s Rights Protection Association and the Center for children’s justice “Small Big Man” tackles a delicate question: “What happens to the juvenile delinquents in Macedonia?” The project that has the same name as the publication has been realized to see if the correctional measures, that is, punishments, of the juveniles who have come into conflict with the law, realize their objective. The research has been conducted in the detention centre that is currently in the prison in Shutka and the juvenile prison in Ohrid.

According to Vesna Stojkovska from the nongovernmental organization “Children’s Rights Protection Association”, at the reception in the institution there is an obligatory examination of the juvenile’s personality to prepare an individual program for her/him. All juveniles have guaranteed rights while in the detention centre or the juvenile prison. They have a right to education, vocational training, a right to work, a right to free time and involvement in cultural-educational and sports activities, as well as a right to contacts with the outer world. “Our first complaint was a result of the fact that juvenile delinquents are together with the adult convicts in the Prison in Shutka. Even though they are physically separated, the prison is not a natural environment where a juvenile, who is to be re-educated and resocialized, is to be”, explains Stojkovska. She emphasizes that there is a difference between the pronounced sentence - correctional measure and imprisonment for a juvenile. “In the Ohrid juvenile prison that has been existing since 1999, there are juveniles who have committed serious crimes according to the law, and these crimes are punished with prison over five years. Juveniles over the age of 16 are sent to Ohrid. Among them there are some that have committed a murder or have been accomplices in serious thefts. The juvenile prison in Ohrid is in the center of the town, and that is not the best solution. The prison should be near an inhabited place, but not in the very center.”

The research in May last year has shown that one of the juvenile’s basic rights while serving the sentence, the right of education is not respected. None of the eighteen questioned juveniles in the Ohrid prison has gone to school while being in the institution, although there have been such requests by the ---- and the vocational training courses were ---- long ago. This is one of the reasons that these juvenile convicts do not know how to continue their life after being released, since they have no qualifications. Therefore, after going out, they continue the old way that again brings them in conflict with the law.

“They do not get education, but still work something, and a team of experts works on their re-socialization and through conversation they try to teach them what is called a real hierarchy of values. Re-socialization depends on the juvenile and how he/she has lived before and how much is the environment he/she comes from ready to accept him/her. Their families are not really interested in them, and a part of the juvenile delinquents come from dysfunctional families that do not offer material security. Most often, they pass from one to another correctional institution, and end up in a juvenile prison. In our country we do not pay attention to the post-penal period, there is not an institution, neither people who would look after the juveniles after they get out of the detention centre or the juvenile prison”, says Vesna Stojkovska.

When we talk about juvenile delinquents, most often no one is interested to help them, because these children come from the margins of the society, from poor and disharmonic families. Some think that their destiny has been sealed since they were born, not asking themselves if these children have their own future vision, what they would like to be, what bothers them while they are in a correctional institution, how much they know about their own rights and how they think that the life in detention centres should be organized.

“What bothers the most of the juveniles in the Detention centre “Tetovo”is that they are in the prison (Shutka) and that they are under commander’s control (using a bat). Their wishes are various – to be released, to see Britney Spears, to have a girlfriend, to drive a car, and most of them want to go to school”, says Ana Pancheva from the non-governmental organization Children’s Rights Protection Association, and she has conducted her research in the Detention centre “Tetovo”. “While they were in Tetovo, the juveniles worked and were paid for their labour, had much better living conditions, and now, in the prison in Shutka, they consider to be in the most unnatural environment for them and they experience their correctional measure as a punishment”.

Juvenile delinquents’ wish is to be far from the prison’s walls and to have a better future.

“They see themselves as people who will be integrated in the society. They want to continue studying, to be soldiers, to make a family. They need help because they come from the social bottom and there are some, for whom, unbelievably, the detention centre is the only possibility to have some kind of a normal life. One of the wards, a Roma boy at the age of 16, before coming into the detention centre used to live in the depth of misery with a father alcoholic and he says that he is happier in the detention centre because he has something to eat, where to sleep and there are teachers to teach him. But we should not expect that the program implemented in these institutions is enough. The program itself cannot make a miracle and the child to become 100% re-educated and resocialized. The basic problem is that there is not a strategy for implementing post-penal protection. These children are not protected by the state after they go out of the detention centre, and as long as it is like this, we will have recidivists who will repeat their mistakes over and over again”, emphasizes Pancheva.

Milka Bizevska, a juvenile judge, Court of appeal – Bitola
State institutions have to look after juveniles

“Centers for social work have to be more active, to involve the juvenile’s family and more actively implement the social help program. While serving the sentence or the prison measure, in addition to everything else, juveniles should obligatorily learn how to read and write, and be given a certificate for completed education or a certificate for vocational training. Nowadays they do not have opportunities for an expected normal life. It is necessary for the convicts who have served the sentence to be taken by the state institutions that will get involved more actively in terms of regular monitoring their life and the families they return to and to provide a job according to the gained knowledge. Children are the future of this country and therefore the whole country should take maximum measures for their protection, proper development, normal life and existence”.

Nevenka Krusharoska, Deputy of the Ombudsman
A higher level of social justice is necessary

“In order to reduce the number of children who are in conflict with the law and to disable children from the crisis groups to violate the law, it is necessary to take some preventive measures. A policy should be carried out to decrease inequality among children and to provide a higher level of social justice through which social problems should not be solved. It is necessary to implement primary prevention in the field of education, health and family.”

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