This Life Without Bars
I was 15 when I was arrested. I had no job and I hadn’t been to school since Grade 2. I was on drugs and drinking alcohol all the time. I was under pressure from my friends to get money, and I got caught stealing. My sentence was 2 years. Being in prison was hard. It made me physically and mentally sick. It has affected me financially and it has ruined my relationship with my family. Cambodian male, aged 17.
Prior to 2016, Cambodia did not have a juvenile justice system. The 2016 Juvenile Justice Law and the 2018 Juvenile Justice Law Strategic and Operational Plan (JJLSOP), were designed to keep children out of prison, but they are not yet fully operational.
As a result children between the ages of 14 and 18 continue to be tried in the adult system and detained in adult prisons. The majority of these children are arrested for drug-related offences. This Life Without Bars is a new program designed to operationalise the 2016 Juvenile Justice Law and the 2018 JILSOP to keep children out of prisons.
What is the aim of the program?
To ensure children in conflict with the law are able to access alternative measures to custodial sentences, also known as diversionary measures, where appropriate.
Program implementation will progress in three phases.
Phase 1: Research. Status: Completed
- Conduct research to inform the development of a framework for diversionary measures in collaboration with all stakeholders.
- The research is complete and the report has been published in both English and Khmer.
Phase 2: Development and endorsement of the framework. Status: In progress
- Build capacity of legal authorities and relevant government stakeholders to implement new frameworks.
- This Life is currently working in this area and we anticipate that this phase will take around six months.
Phase 3. Implement a pilot program in Siem Reap. Status: Not yet commenced
- Work with the judicial sector to identify children in conflict with the law in the Siem Reap province.
- Our target is to work with 40 children in the pilot phase of the program, with a view to expanding in the future.
Why Siem Reap province?
Siem Reap prison has the highest proportion of children in Cambodia. Around 13% of the prison population are under the age of 18, and this indicates a great need for diversionary measures in the province. Siem Reap is also one of Cambodia’s poorest provinces experiencing increased levels of drug use and petty crime in the juvenile population.
What activities do we run?
This is a new program and we are now:
- Building the capacity of legal authorities and relevant government staff to implement new diversionary measures.
- Implementing pilots of diversionary programs.
- Advocating for increased visitation rights by utilising This Life’s networks and building on existing knowledge and experience.
- Consulting with relevant government ministries to advocate for government endorsement and implementation of the frameworks and guidelines.
What are the program outcomes?
- The government and judiciary have increased knowledge and understanding of the benefits of diversionary measures and child-friendly spaces/programs.
- Government and judiciary actively promote and implement diversion frameworks and guidelines, thereby leading to systemic change.
- Children are not exposed to environments that may lead to developmental issues that could have a lifelong impact.
- Recidivism rates in children are reduced as they transition to adulthood.
- Children are supported throughout the sentencing process, are aware of their rights, and are able to make well-informed decisions where necessary.
- Children have hope, opportunity, and choice when considering their futures.
- Children are supported throughout the sentencing process and their family relationships are maintained.
* The image on this page appears with the kind permission of LICADHO.