Child Research and Resource Centre (CRRECENT), a civil society institution that focuses on evidence-based programmes to promote child and youth rights and development, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Department of Social Welfare as part of its efforts to help secure the lives of juvenile offenders who have come into conflict with the law.
During the signing ceremony in Accra, the Executive Director of CRRECENT, Mrs Susan Sabaa, said the institution had enjoyed a cordial collaborative relationship with the Department of Social Welfare since it began its re-integration of juvenile offenders programme in 2011.
According to her, the department had been very supportive with professional support from the Justice Administration Unit.
“Signing this MoU today signifies a real milestone.
Together with the department, we are making a statement about our preparedness to secure the youth and also contribute our quota to protecting the human resource potential of the nation,” she said.
Victims of society not criminals
She noted that re-integrating young people into society after their release from incarceration was a very necessary step in the chain of juvenile justice delivery.
“After serving their sentence, juvenile offenders look forward to societal support for a stable, independent and fulfilled life.
They are, however, met with hostility even from their families and then the larger public with very little or no systematic and comprehensive support service and programme to prevent their re-offending,” she lamented.
She said youth programmes and employment schemes failed to cover those offenders as the schemes did not consider the unique circumstances that confronted those young ones.
“Stigmatised and neglected, with very little or no support, they often find themselves pushed back into crime, more heinous than what sent them into incarceration.
This makes them double victims of societal failure and system weakness since these same situations triggered their delinquent behaviour to a larger extent. These are victims, not criminals for that matter,” she pointed out.
According her, most of them were victims of parental irresponsibility, poverty, weakness in the educational system, uncontrolled media, lack of effective counselling services in the schools, lack of positive recreational outlets for young people and job unavailability, to mention but a few.
“If these loopholes are plugged, a good number of young people could be prevented from going wayward.
We believe that if social protection schemes can directly synergise with child protection programmes and combined with effective targeting of the most vulnerable in society, juvenile offence can be reduced in the country,” she added.
Social welfare ready collaborate
The National Director of the Department of Social Welfare, Mr Daniel Nonah, commended CRRECENT for taking a judicious step to collaborate with his department to help address issues affecting children, especially the youth in the country.
He indicated the department’s readiness to work with CRRECENT across its decentralised outfits to ensure effective reintegration process for juvenile offenders across the country.
He gave an assurance that his outfit would work closely with CRRECENT to champion the welfare of the youth in the country in order to make Ghana a haven for all.
Present at the ceremony were the Deputy Director in charge of Child and Family Welfare, Mr Fred Sakyi Boafo; the Deputy Director in charge of Monitoring and Evaluation, Madam Georgina Mensah, and the Head of the NGO Unit of the department, Mr Steve Dombo.