TANZANIA: Behind the walls of juvenile detention centres

Summary: Special report from the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance following inspections of children in detention facilities.

It is internationally agreed that the rationale behind trying children in juvenile courts and committing them to children detention facilities or prison is not punitive, but to convert and enable them to reintegrate in society upon their release.

But findings of a report on inspection of children in detention facilities conducted by the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRGG) in Tanzania paints a different picture and raises serious questions over Tanzania’s commitment in protecting  the rights of  children.

According to the report, despite the fact that Tanzania is currently experiencing an increased number of children detainees, many of these children lose their human rights when they are held in detention.

Of serious concern about this phenomenon is that, even after months or years of staying behind bars and in inhuman conditions, the treatment and care these children receive while in detention has only served to make them worst enemies of their respective communities.
The report says the condition in detention and treatment of children fall far short of international human rights standards and that children were not receiving reintegration and rehabilitation services - a primary purpose of  the juvenile justice system.

As  figures emerging from visits to detention facilities from 2008 to 2010 indicate a significant increase in the number of children being held in detention facilities, authorities say  urgent measures must be taken to ensure respect for dignity of children. “These children are often held in adult prisons and  the conditions in detention and the treatment they received fell far short of international human rights standards. Children were not receiving adequate access to reintegration and rehabilitation activities and services,” reads part of the report released last year.
The findings corroborate earlier findings by the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) 2010 Tanzania Human Rights Report which indicated that the country’s  juvenile justice system was highly unfavourable to children.

LHRC concluded that prison conditions for both adults and children were inhuman and degrading.
In its report, the CHRGG assessed the situation in 65 children detention facilities.
The assessment gave a clear picture regarding the conditions for and treatment of children in police stations, in Detention Homes (facility for under-18s on remand), in the Approved School (facility for convicted under-18s) and in adult prisons.

Social workers, lawyers, teachers and members of the Department of Social Welfare went around the country during the assessment and finally came out with, among other recommendations, ways of improving the situation in the children detention centres.

Conditions and treatment of children in detention
One of the key revelations of  the report was that children in detention do not have access to meaningful activities and programmes to help their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
According to the report, children were found to have limited access to education, vocational training, psychosocial support and recreation to help their rehabilitation in the Retention Homes, Approved Schools and in the prisons.

 “They are not given individual plans for rehabilitation and there are very limited mechanisms or programmes to help children to reintegrate into society on their release,” it says.
A detention personnel interviewed during the assessment conceded that it is extremely difficult for a child to be rehabilitate in such circumstances.
International standards provide that the primary objective of a juvenile justice system must be rehabilitation and reintegration of the child into the community, rather than deterrent and punishment.
And international covenants on protection of children rights have always stressed that detention should only be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate time.
In recognition of the inherent vulnerability of children, additional rights for children detainees are enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC).

The UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty (‘Havana Rules’) in particular, provide a detailed set of standards for their protection and treatment.
During the inspection visits, a total of 591 children were found in the 65 detention centres. Out of them, 441 were detained in adult prisons;  407 were boys and 34 were girls.

Researchers have also established that a good number of children in detention are child-workers. Most frequently boys in detention were involved in selling scrap metal and plastic bottles, or they wash cars or act as porters for passers-by. Girls in detention are often domestic workers who have been accused of theft by their employers.
“…these convictions are frequently based upon false witness evidence from their employers,” says the report.
Another finding of the assessment was that children were being held in police stations for many hours, and even days before being taken to court and that age determination was inaccurate during arrest and detention.

Another notable finding of the report was the improper ways police used to determine the age of suspects.
Findings of CHRGG showed that police officers determined the age of suspects by relying on information supplied by victims and on their own observation, which according to CHRGG, may not be an accurate process.

Under Tanzanian laws, a child  under the age of 10  is not criminally liable. A child between 10 and 12 years old may be held criminally liable if the prosecution can demonstrate that the child was able to understand that what he was doing was wrong.

A total of 27 out of 179 children who were interviewed during the inspection visits said they were under 10 years of age. “Some children complained that the police officers ‘added’ years to their age so that they appeared to have reached the age threshold for criminal responsibility or so that they could be treated as adults.

Boys interviewed in Arusha central prison complained that police officers sought bribes to record that they are younger so that they can be sent to the Retention Homes rather than to adult prisons.
Another key finding of the report was that children were not always held separately from adults at police stations and conditions are generally poor. Section 102 of the Law of Child Act, 2009, stipulates that children should be held separately from adults while in police custody.
However, out of 30 police stations visited during this assessment, only four had a separate cell where children could be detained. Children are either held in cells with adults or are kept in offices or corridors, the report says.

The mixing of children with adults in cells in prisons and police stations has exposed children to risk of sexual abuse.  
Tanzania is committed to ensuring these international standards are upheld and this is evidenced by ratification of the CRC and ACRWC.   
Under the ongoing Legal Sector Reform Programme (LSRP ), the government  has made efforts to improve prison  conditions by increasing the number of judges and magistrates to speed up cases and thereby reducing the congestion in prisons, establishing parole boards, renovating prisons infrastructure, and enhancing basic services.

The report recommends that the vast majority of children in conflict with the law should be diverted from the formal criminal justice system at as early a stage as possible.
“… where the child’s case does come to trial, alternative sanctions which promote rehabilitation and reintegration into society, rather than punishment, should be used,” recommends the report.  
Detention should be an exceptional measure, to be used only for a small minority of children who have committed serious and violent crimes and where no other measure would meet the needs of that child.

CHRGG recommends that where children are given a custodial sentence, those institutions must have rehabilitation and reintegration as the main objective of all policies and processes and early release should be used as often as possible.

Separation from adults in pre-trial detention
The United Nations has always insisted children placed in pre-trial detention should always be held separately from adults.
A UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) committee had noted that “there is abundant evidence that the placement of children in adult prisons or jails compromises their basic safety, well-being, and their future ability to remain free of crime and to reintegrate”.

The CRC Committee recommends that States should establish separate facilities for children deprived of their liberty.
But the CHRGG states clearly that in practice, this separation does not happen in Tanzania. The inspection visits revealed that 441 children were being accommodated in the 29 adult prisons visited and that the vast majority of these children were boys.

The research revealed that there is no consistency in approach by magistrates in making decisions as to whether to remand children to pre-trial detention in adult prisons or in Retention Homes.
Children are remanded in adult prisons even in areas where Retention Homes are in operation and even though these facilities are under utilised.
Prison officials have always distanced themselves from the blame, arguing that their role  is to receive detainees referred from the court.  They, instead, shift blame  to magistrates, who are often unaware of the law governing children’s cases.CHRGG findings have  established that children in both pre and post trial detention are not separated from adults when they are held in prison and un-convicted under-18s are not separated from convicted prisoners. In the worst cases, children mix during the day and night with adults (e.g. Kilosa prison).

Rehabilitation and reintegration
International standards promote a holistic approach to rehabilitation and reintegration which addresses both the practical and emotional needs of the child.  
Article 37(c) CRC provides  that “Every child deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humality and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person”.
Rule 26 (2) of the Beijing Rules states: “Juveniles detained in facilities should be guaranteed the benefit of meaningful activities and programmes which would serve to promote and sustain their health and self respect, to foster their sense of responsibility and encourage those attitudes and skills that will assist them in developing their potential as members of society”.

In the prisons, children have no access to rehabilitative activities or services. Provision in all facilities of education, vocational training and recreation was found by the inspectors to be wholly inadequate. For instance, a 16-year-old boy in Luanda Prison stated that, “Our situation is not good; there is no adequate space, education and vocational training in the prison.”
“There are no mechanisms or programmes to help children be re-integrated with their families and communities on their release. Children are only supported with transport fares home, and only provided with this support if their addresses are known,” says the report.

Separation from adults post-trial
Of the 441 children held in various prisons across the country, only 64 had been convicted.  These convicted children are not separated from adults whilst in detention - as is the case with pre-trial juvenile detainees. Their imprisonment is in direct contravention of the Law of the Child Act (2009). The only post trial detention permitted is in the Approved School and only for a maximum of three years. However, children are placed in adult prisons even though the Approved School is under utilised.  At the time of the inspectors’ visit to the Approved School, there were 56 children being held there whilst it has a capacity to hold 300 children.  

Violence against children in detention
Children in detention are extremely vulnerable to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation at the hands of fellow detainees, staff or even from self-harm (including suicide). Girls can be especially vulnerable to sexual abuse.   

Article 19 CRC places duty on States to take all appropriate legislative, administrative and educational measures to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of any person who has care of the child.
It must be noted that penal laws in Tanzania protect children from violence and sexual abuse both in detention and outside. Prisons rules and regulations also enshrine the right of children to be protected from abuse.  

CHRGG came across some serious allegations of violence, abuse and sexual assault in prisons made by children interviewed during the inspection visits.  
Abusers were mainly identified as adult prisoners, with children also identifying prison officers as abusers.  
Children’s reports showed that they were most vulnerable to sexual abuse at night, especially in prisons in which children are not separated from adults.

Special treatment of girls in detention
Girls in detention facilities are at particular risk of physical and sexual abuse, particularly when detained in mixed-sex facilities, or where a general lack of facilities for girls results in placement in adult facilities. Interviews with staff at the Retention Homes and prisons revealed that girls who are pregnant or who are detained with their children pose a serious challenge to the management of the facilities as they struggle to meet the needs of both mother and child.

It was also found that insufficient attention was paid to the needs of girls to have sanitary napkins, brassieres and underpants.
The situation of girls is usually much worse than for boys. In many facilities, the outside space is reserved for boys meaning for example that girls in one Retention Home were locked up for the whole day in their rooms with no access to outside space for exercise.

Further Information:

Owner: Bernard Jamespdf: http://thecitizen.co.tz/sunday-citizen/-/19343-special-reportbehind-the-...

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