Support for Children at the Kabul Open Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre

4 July 2011 - As of May 2011, there were almost 800 children (including approximately 100 girls), range in ages from twelve to eighteen years old, who are held in 31 Juvenile Rehabilitation Centres (JRC) across Afghanistan. Twenty nine of these JRC facilities are located in rented properties which were not designed to house juveniles and do not have the physical or programmatic accommodations for them to engage in rehabilitation and recreational activities typically associated with children and youth.

An official from the Juvenile Justice Administration Department (JJAD) noted that 'a majority of these youth should not be in detention'. Despite this observation, these youth continue to be sentenced to detention at rates that is causing an overcrowding crisis. For example, Kabul Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre which was designed for a capacity of 64 currently houses 200 youth. One of the reasons may be attributed to a limited use of the non-custodial provisions in the Juvenile Code. A lack of programming and transportation to move the children between their homes and the centre, is often a reason for judges not to use the 'open' JRC as a sentencing option.

The Kabul open JRC, constructed in August 2006 by UNICEF (with funding from the Government of Italy), is located in the same compound as the traditional juvenile detention facility and has a capacity to accommodate up to 50 children. However, this facility lacked the necessary services and programmes to effectively engage children who are placed there.

UNODC, with modest funding from the U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics Law Enforcement Affairs, will support for three months beginning in July 2011, a variety of services and activities.  These will include: Identification and referrals of eligible children and youth for diversion from detention; Transportation for children to attend the open JRC ; Collaboration with the Ministry of Education to provide educational services and mobile phone repairs;  Psycho-social counselling; and Social work mentoring/coaching of JRC staff.

The project will collaborate with the Children In Crisis Inc./UNICEF Social Work Coaching Project ASCHIANA and CiC staff who will coordinate with each other and with the government to identify those children and adolescents who are eligible to be diverted to the Open Centre.

Over the last four months, judges and prosecutors in Kabul province have been encouraged - through the efforts of the Juvenile Justice Administration Department of MoJ - to increase the use of non-custodial dispositions.  As a result, there has been a marked shift by judges to use the "open" JRC as a sentencing option.

This new programme in the open JRC may further encourage judges to use non-custodial options and allow children to attend the "open" centre by day and return home in the evening. In partnership with the relevant government agencies and international partners, UNODC will seek to sustain the programme beyond the current funding.