For the second time in his life, 17-year-old Ahmed* is spending a rehabilitation period at the Juvenile Rehabilitation Center for convicted juveniles in Irbid, after he was convicted of stealing a car and money in early 2019 in the city of Salt.
On the two occasions in which Ahmad was convicted, he did not engage in any of the vocational training programs available in the juvenile center, and during which he did not receive any behavioral or psychological modification programs. He spent his first term of enrolled in the literacy program implemented by the Ministry of Education within the juvenile center. He was 15 when he was convicted theft. Upon his exit, he was not subjected to any help assisting in bypassing his circumstances that led him to crime again. Ahmed is currently spending his time in the Juvenile center watching TV, enjoying electronic games and playing ball when allowed doing so, according to Ahmed's mother.
Ahmed is one of the seven juvenile cases the report monitored who did not receive the necessary reform during their stay in the center. Also, they were not subjected to specialized programs to correct their behaviors and not to do such crimes again. This issue in juvenile reform violates the Juvenile Law No. (32) of 2014, which stipulates in paragraph (a) of Article IV thereof, that “the best interests of the juvenile are taken into account, protected, reformed, rehabilitated and cared for when applying the provisions of this law.”
The beneficiaries of the services of these centers are divided into juveniles convicted in the rehabilitation centers, who have committed crimes punishable by law, and juveniles who are arrested in the education centers pending trial. The two categories are subject to the same programs.
Lack of Educational Rehabilitation Programs
Upon arrival at the juvenile center, the juvenile is subjected to a comprehensive evaluation within what is called the "case management methodology", under the supervision of a team identified by the social worker, who is responsible for supervising the case and the director of the center. The data related to the juvenile and his family is documented in a file, then the specialist decides the needs of the juvenile. Saqr Al-Maayta, Director of the Juvenile Education Center in Rusaifa among the age group 16-18 years, and Imad Sahiba, Director of the Juvenile Education Center in Amman, for arrested among the 12-15 years old, also added that the juvenile is integrated in his choice of the available programs.
Education programs in cooperation with the Ministry of Education are available to the beneficiaries within juvenile education and rehabilitation centers, and include non-formal (home) education, the illiteracy program for illiterate juveniles, in addition to the drop-out program for children who are able to read and write to complete their education after leaving the center. The Ministry of Education is allocating them teachers who teach them in the center. The number of juveniles benefiting from education programs in 2018 reached 976, and increased to 1095 in 2019, according to the Directorate of Juveniles and Community Security in the Ministry of Social Development.
Within the juvenile center, activities are carried out aimed at psychological relief, such as the friend program, which has been implemented since 2000 in cooperation with the Quest Scope Foundation for Social Development in the Middle East.
This program includes matching activity that links the juvenile to a volunteer for a period of 4 months, during which the latter visits the juvenile 3 times a week, and performs recreational activities with him, with the aim of filling his time to face the void, according to the project coordinator at Quest Scope Manar Amr, which indicates that these volunteers are university students undergoing training for 3 days, to acquire the skills of dealing with the juvenile and building a space of friendship with him by exchanging stories, to help him face matters indirectly. In addition, if the juvenile has a specific problem or pressure, the volunteer conveys it to the social worker in the center.
Despite the importance of filling the times of juvenile within the juvenile centers, especially those who are serving their sentences, these activities are merely spaces for entertainment and are not directed to improving the juvenile’s perception of self. These programs must be undertaken by qualified specialists, according to the Dean of the College of Social Sciences at Yarmouk University and the specialist Sociology and Crime Hussein Mahadin.
As documented by the report's author, this program is being activated for a specified period and then its activities cease, as its implementation is linked to the availability of funding. For example, it was activated for a period of 4 months in 2019, and ended in September of the same year, and it is stopped since that time.
Focus on Vocational Training
Experiences of recurrent juveniles documented in the report demonstrate that the case management methodology is nothing but a routine organizational procedure, in light of the lack of specialists who follow different cases according to the circumstances and needs of each case.
In each center, social workers organize the time of juvenile. In Rusaifa center, 3 social workers alternate in dealing with them, and they organize with the center manager the activities for juveniles, says Al-Maayta.
The six juvenile centers, distributed over several governorates, have 16 employees working in social work, and 26 in sociology.
In light of the limited available programs, the percentage of focus on vocational training increases, as the education and rehabilitation centers for groups from 16-18 years applies vocational training programs with the aim of teaching juveniles various professions as an alternative to graft. These programs include maintenance of cellular devices, carpentry and blacksmithing, hairdressers and barbers, the confectionery industry, the manufacture of beads and mosaics, sewing for females, the antiques industry and the flower arrangement for females, according to data from the Directorate of Juveniles and Community Security.
Juveniles join those programs according to their desires. The time the juvenile is to spend in the center plays a role in determining the appropriate program. Short-term programs are mainly applied with suspended juveniles, such as repairing cellular devices. As for juveniles convicted for a longer period, they join long-term programs such as carpentry and upholstery, which qualify them to enter the labor market, explains the director of the Juvenile and Community Security Directorate at the Ministry of Social Development, Mahmoud Al-Hrout.
Juveniles under 15 years are not subject to vocational training, and this increases the free time they spend within the center. Continuation of vocational training programs is associated with the existence of a supportive civil society institution that provides centers with supplies and trainers, and otherwise training programs cease. Juvenile centers with large capacity such as the Rusaifa and Irbid centers have workshops and carpentry attached to it.
Social researcher Abdullah Al-Nasser, the executive director of the Society for Aftercare of Prisoners and Their Families, considers that the effectiveness of vocational training is manifested in following up on the juvenile's involvement by practicing what he learned when he left the center, and relying on livelihood from his profession. This happens by activating the after-care, aimed at measuring the outputs.
Psychological Support Absence
Laila * (17 years old) was in a difficult psychological state when she entered the girls ’education center in Rusaifa last October, after going through a severe experience in her early life, as a result of a marriage followed by an early divorce, which resulted in the emergence of harsh reactions in the shadow of her family blaming her for her divorce. Laila resorted to Family Protection Center in Irbid, she says, and during her stay there she repeatedly attacked the office employees who complained against her, so the public prosecutor referred her to the girls’ center in Rusaifa, where she stayed for a week. She did not receive any psychological support that suits her situation, except for one counseling session from the center manager, and she helped her to attend a beauty course at the vocational training center in Irbid after her departure, as per what she told the report.
In light of juvenile centers’ lack of necessary psychological care, nothing profitable results from staying their due to a lack of specialists who must communicate with them on a daily basis to provide the necessary psychological rehabilitation and support, according to Adiba Badran, who sees through her experience in dealing with juveniles, and at the Naya Center for Training and Development in the city of Zarqa, which receives juveniles who apply community service, the need for a psychological counseling department in all juvenile centers, supervised by specialists in the field. Among the children who commit the crime are those who have certain psychological motives or perhaps mental illness, and the specialist has to understand and deal with it in a way best suits the juvenile’s interest in order to amend the abnormal behavior.
Al-Nasser agrees with her, saying that a delinquent juvenile suffers from psychological instability, the inability to organize the way to satisfy needs and desires as normal children do, has a negative perception of the surrounding world, his educational level is often low, tends to be hostile to parents, and that his responses to family and social pressures are violent, considering that failure to deal with these behaviors by specialists leads to their continuation and repetition.
What the report documented is consistent with what was stated in the report of the human rights situation issued by the National Center for Human Rights in 2018, regarding the poor availability of psychological care service and most of the centers are free of psychological specialists. The total of specialists in psychology (psychological counseling, psychology, and mental health) (Until March 2020) is (8) people distributed among all juvenile centers in the Kingdom, according to data from the Community Security Directorate. As a result of this shortage, juvenile centers often use civil society organizations to implement programs that address the psychological aspect, despite the need of the juvenile for continuous support as it appears from the accounts of the juveniles and their families the report documented their stories. Muhammad * (17 years) reveals that him dealing with public prosecutor, judges and police officers, generated fear and tension, without finding someone to understand and treat these feelings, especially since he spent the past year 10 months arrested in the Rusaifa Education Center before the verdict.
The Ministry of Social Development focuses on providing its residential services. The mental health is the responsibility of the Ministry of Health, and civil society institutions contribute to it, as Al Hrout clarifies, considering that the origin is that the Ministry of Health provide each center with a psychiatrist, revealing the problem of filling vacancies faced by the Ministry of Social Development in 2019, as the Civil Service Bureau provided it with only 45 specialists, while the number of vacancies reached 175 vacancies distributed among juveniles centers, social service offices in courts, juvenile police offices and family protection offices.
When Osama * (12 years) was released after his arrest for the first time in 2018, he returned to his aunt’s house in Zarqa city where his mother sent him after separating from his father and marrying another. He did not find adequate care to contain him and was not subject to any follow-up or aftercare from the Ministry of Development after leaving the juvenile center. As a result, he returned drugs.
On the social side that leads to delinquency, the impact of the environment surrounding the juvenile on his personality becomes evident. This imposes the need for the Ministry of Social Development to follow up on the party that will receive the juvenile after leaving the center through effective communication channels, to ensure he does not return to crime, according to Al-Nasser.
Mahadin asserts that the care of juveniles must be based on two dimensions, the first is preventive to prevent the occurrence of crime, and the second is aftercare, to provide a social and governmental support for these juveniles, and this corresponds to the comprehensive national strategy for the juvenile justice system that focuses on the preventive and curative aspects.
Despite the issuance of the juvenile aftercare system in 2016, the Ministry of Social Development has not activated it up to the present time, on the pretext of the lack of an executive methodology for the system, as stated by the head of the Ministry's behavior control department, Omar Fadel. Article 41 of the Juvenile Law requires that "juvenile aftercare is to be provided after the end of his time in the juvenile education center, the juvenile rehabilitation center or the juvenile care center, to ensure his integration into society and protect him from delinquency, provided that the foundations of the aftercare and its procedures are determined according to a system issued for this purpose”.
The objectives of aftercare as mentioned in the third article of the system are to complete the implementation of the programs provided for the juvenile inside the center, to support his integration into society and follow-up on his educational and professional status, in addition to protecting him from returning to delinquency by strengthening his positive behavior towards its family and social environment.
Al-Nasser believes that the juvenile family may be the biggest problem he faces after his release, as the absence of a financially, psychologically and socially stable family may return him to crime again, indicating that the families of juveniles who are in conflict with the law lack any awareness of how to deal with them, and reintegrate them in a way that rectifies their behavior, in light of the lack of an effective implementation of the rehabilitation programs for the parents of the juvenile in need of protection or care, despite the issuance of instructions in 2015. Al-Hrout says that the ministry started to implement this through lectures held for the families of repetitive juveniles in Irbid, and did not expand the matter yet due to obstacles related to these families.
The effect of the missing aftercare link of the juvenile care methodology is reflected in juveniles repeating their crimes, according to Al-Maayta, who believes that everything that the juvenile benefits from inside the house goes to waste when he leaves and returns to his environment, which is often the first reason that encourages him to delinquency, Sahiba agrees with that the rehabilitation process is integrated, part of it takes place inside the education or rehabilitation center, and the other part is completed in his home and environment, stressing the need to focus more on aftercare.
Al-Hrout attributes not activating the aftercare to the lack of adequate grounds for its application at the collective level. The majority of the recurring juveniles come from broken families with a weak response to reform, he said, explaining that the implementation of aftercare requires activating the role of other supportive bodies, such as the legal jurisdiction assigned to follow-up on the repetitive juvenile in particular.
What Does a Delinquent Juvenile Need?
Mahadin attributes the high rate of crime recurrence among juveniles to the lack of implementation of rehabilitation programs based on scientific standards within the juvenile centers, considering that these applied programs are not rehabilitation programs for juvenile delinquents, and their effectiveness has not been proven in the absence of dimensions that cover the developmental and psychological aspects of the juvenile, stressing the need Criminology to interfere in developing a rehabilitation program based on observing the individual differences for behavioral modification, and specialists must study the patterns of raising in the juvenile environment when it occurs in a different behavior, as they need support in order to stop their wrong behavior.
It is not sufficient to confine juveniles inside mixed dormitories, as new comrades in the centers of education and rehabilitation provide them with new behavioral patterns that are not straight, so the outputs come in negative in contrast to what is hoped for, the crime of recidivism occurs, so it is necessary to classify the events after studying the personal, psychological and social situation of each of them, and determining the mechanism of rehabilitation of each individual according to his needs, clarifies Mahadin.
Although the Juvenile Law provides for separation between them, as stated in Paragraph (b) of Article Five that "necessary measures to be taken to separate juveniles according to the classification of their cases or the degree of severity," but there is virtually no separation between juveniles, as all detainees in the educational centers are mixed with each other in all facilities, as well as the case for those convicted in rehabilitation centers, as documented by the author of the report through the cases she met, and according to assurances of Maayta and Hrout, the largest proportion of crimes committed by juveniles are related to drugs, and these, as Maayta sees in the light of his job, must be separated because their mixing with others makes juvenile centers fertile ground for the exchange of criminal experiences.
* Aliases for juveniles, in order to protect them and preserve their privacy.
** This report was prepared with the support of Journalists for Human Rights (JHR).