The Need for Protection

Why is there such a need for reform of juvenile justice systems internationally?


In many countries children’s and adolescents’ rights, as set out in the UNCRC and other international human rights standards, are being violated on a daily basis in juvenile justice systems. Key problems include:
  • Violence, sexual abuse, economic and sexual exploitation, humiliation, spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV;
  • Detention with adults, unacceptable periods of time spent in pre-trial detention, lack of regard for due process, processing through the adult criminal justice system, lack of alternatives to harsh and damaging sentencing practices, continued use of the death penalty and life imprisonment and use of retributive rather than restorative justice approaches;
  • Over-use and misuse of detention;
  • The overwhelming majority of children in the criminal justice system do not belong there; children in need of care and protection are being processed through the criminal justice system; children in conflict with the law are not having their care and protection needs addressed;
  • Negative media portrayal and lack of political will for reform.
As a result, huge numbers of children and adolescents are suffering in extreme ways on a daily basis in the context of juvenile justice systems that are in need of urgent reform around the world.

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A child-centred system recognizes the child as subject to fundamental rights and freedoms and ensures that all actions concerning the child are to be guided by his/her best interests.


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