Experts, spokespersons of foundations that work with young offenders and relatives of 676 children imprisoned in 11 prisons, believe that the State should apply comprehensive plans to reinsert them into society.
Authorities say that the disappearance of the Ministry of Justice will not reduce services in adolescent centers. In the country, 676 young offenders, including 52 women, serve sentences in 11 rehabilitation centers.
According to figures from the Ministry of Justice, of that total, 38% are involved in sexual crimes (rapes), 19% in homicides, 28% in robberies and assaults and the remaining 15% in other crimes and infractions. According to experts consulted agree, the future of these guys behind bars is very worrying, due to the lack of comprehensive rehabilitation policies.
They assured that the State does not invest as it should in this type of prison population, so it is common to see that rehabilitation centers for young people do not have specialists to help them. They argue that it is wrong to believe that rehabilitation is limited to installing workshops in prisons to teach some trade. Criticism also points to the lack of adequate infrastructure.
The concern over this issue increased in recent days after announced from the Government that the Ministry of Justice will disappear or merge with the Secretariat of the Policy, so it is unknown until now where they will pass the competences of rehabilitation.
However, Paúl Granda, Minister of Justice in charge and Secretary of Politics, in an interview with EL TELÉGRAFO published last Thursday, indicated that in terms of rehabilitation competencies, two scenarios are analyzed: whether they pass to the Secretariat of the Policy or create an entity specialized in administering prison centers. When asked if facilities such as shelters or centers for adolescent offenders will be abolished, he said: “There will be no reduction in shelter services and rehabilitation centers. The objective is to give it more strength and attention and improve the attention capacity of human rights.”
Without studies or real statistics Alex Castro, a psychologist and professor at the Central University of Ecuador, said that it remains a pending issue to talk about a true rehabilitation of adolescent offenders. “There are no rehabilitation policies and there is no coordination between the ministries. We have a gap in the normative part and in regard to the obligation to rehabilitate and rescue young people who have committed a crime and therefore purge a conviction, “he said.
He said that the most worrying thing is that there are no studies in the country on the subject of adolescent offenders. That’s why you do not have real statistics about the problems that lead you to break the law.
He said that unfortunately the same society does not give the young person a space and the opportunity to rehabilitate himself. “The offending boy is a product of the family and social context. In the social area we have not recovered from the migratory issue, while in the family it does not have a reference, there are no rules in the home, they suffer from low self-esteem and the problem is aggravated because they come from homes where there is violence.”
Anaín Pazmiño, social worker of the Remar Foundation, agrees with Castro. She stressed that the State invests little in the matter of walking towards a true rehabilitation of those who, for different reasons, have committed crimes and are sentenced by the justice system and censured by society.
She believes that the State has lacked support to deal, in a special way, with the issue of adolescent offenders. He argued that, in turn, society is not interested in the rehabilitation of minors in prison. For this reason, in many prison centers there is more work and the presence of foundations and private organizations than of the same State. “Exclusion is the main reason why children transgress the law. The society is cruel to them when they get out of jail, they never give them work, “said.
Lack of proper infrastructure Jairo Borja, educator of the “Guambras Action” project, and Fredy Ruiz, project technician of the organization “Chicos de la Calle”, assured that young offenders do not have a real physical infrastructure in the country to rehabilitate themselves. And they went further by saying that there is no comprehensive and sustained rehabilitation work, which should include the participation of families and the State itself.
Even after serving the sentences and leaving the prisons, they consider that there should be a follow-up of each case, to see if the child has recovered or not and, if possible, to continue helping him so that he does not commit the same or worse offenses. They regretted that this does not apply in Ecuador, as happens in other countries.
“The boys have no life, development options. Most are from poor neighborhoods where the only option is football. That lack high opportunity leads them to commit crimes, “said Borja. He added that if at some point it is intended to put together a real rehabilitation project for juvenile offenders, “it should not be done from a desk”.
A teenager cannot be transferred to an adult center so he or she comes of age. Ruiz, meanwhile, regretted that the State does not invest or 10% of the budget allocated to the social in the restoration of young offenders. The specialists consulted said that due to the lack of a comprehensive rehabilitation policy, children leaving the centers return to the same routine and environment: dysfunctional homes, alcoholic parents and bad friends.
That makes them prone to continue violating the law. It is possible to rehabilitate Liliana Guzmán, Vice Minister of Justice, said that in Ecuador there are 624 male adolescents detained and 52 women (total 676). She explained that at the national level there are nine centers of adolescent offenders for men and two for women.
She stressed that one hundred percent of detainees are linked to the education system, including one of them is in the university. “There is a model for the implementation of restorative justice, different from what is offered to an adult,” she said.
She assured that in all the rehabilitation centers the traced axes are met, including an educational training, health care and work activities. “In the centers we have bakery, sewing and mechanical workshops. In the women of Quito they raise chickens, guinea pigs, birds, the bees take out the honey, “she said.
Contrary to what experts said, representatives of foundations and legislators, Guzmán said that they are doing everything possible to carry out a real rehabilitation process. “We have to work in different ways: psychological, educational, seek how to do reintegration and the reincorporation of children not only with society, but in the workplace,” she admitted.
Berenice Cordero, Minister of Economic and Social Inclusion, agreed with Guzmán that they are working with delinquent children, especially in the field of education. However, Nicolás Reyes, Technical Secretary of the Council for Intergenerational Equality, said that more than working with young offenders should be done with their families and society, because that does not happen at present. (I)