Point of View

Rehabilitation centers for juvenile delinquents are at risk of closure


Համայնքային վերականգնողական կենտրոնում

Community rehabilitation centers for juvenile delinquents established by the Project Harmony International are at risk of closure due to lack of funding.  The centers have been funded with donor support since 2006 until now. The organization requested funding from state bodies to continue the centers' activities, however when it comes to good and useful projects the answer is that the state budget is limited.

The idea of establishing community rehabilitation centers was of the Project Harmony International, although on various occasions the Police officials have attributed the initiative to themselves.

Having learnt the international experience, in 2006 the organization established the first community rehabilitation center in Yerevan. Later on the number of centers has increased up to 11, covering all marzes in Armenia, except for Vayots Dzor marz.

The centers work with children who committed non-grave crimes and were summoned to police. The trained staff carries out social-psychological and pedagogical activities with children.

“Police provides with an opportunity to work with the rehabilitation centers to those children who are subjects of being registered in the police lists or even if there is no need to be included in the list but there is a need for continuous attention to prevent crimes in the future. Thus, police does not register them, and seem to treat them in a softer manner. Otherwise they would be under police supervision for one year”, says Mariam Martirosyan, the Head of the PH International Armenian office.

Since 2006, the centers have worked with 680 juveniles, 638 of whom successfully finished the program, whereas the other 42 cases are either in the process or were suspended for lack of progress and the local police continued working with them.

The rehabilitation centers were established on the basis of human and material resources of community organizations. The program is supported by the Armenian Police, which refers juvenile offenders who committed a crime the first time, with permission of their parents, to the community rehabilitation centers.

Until March 2013, the project was funded by the US government. In 2011-2013, also the UN Children's Fund-UNICEF provided some financial support. UNICEF will continue providing symbolic funding to 9 centers operating at the moment until the end of the year to ensure that juveniles are provided with the services of the centers. However, after that the fate of the centers is unclear.

Some communities support centers' activities. For instance, the Kapan municipality provided the center with space and took responsibility for paying the staff’s salaries. The Chambarak municipality provided co-funding to the local rehabilitation center. However, according to Martirosyan, this is not sufficient.

“In course of the recent years we have been negotiating the issue of obtaining funding with different state bodies, including ministries, marz authorities, and municipalities. Several centers have received some support, but there is no standard sustainable funding, such as state support provided to all community rehabilitation centers,” says Mariam Martirosyan.

The justification is scarce finances, but this is not justified. “In all countries there is shortage of financial means, but there is a need to come up with some solutions. For example, the neighboring Georgia started this program much later, seeing our success; however, there is already a state program in place over there, relevant changes were made in the legislation, whereas we continue to work simply on the basis of an agreement concluded with the police. Thus, this is only a temporary instrument: when the program ends, then the agreement will be terminated,” noted the Head of the PH International Armenian office.

We discussed the future of the community rehabilitation centers with a representative of the Ministry of Justice. Nikolay Aroustamyan, Advisor to the Minister, stated that they highly appreciated the role of the community rehabilitation centers, but the state does not have enough financial means to fund this program.

He added that they intend to involve the staff of this program, considering their experience, in the framework of probation service to be introduced in 2014.

It is clear that it will take a long time to introduce and sustain the probation service.

If the rehabilitation centers stop operating, what will happen to the juveniles attending the centers? Most probably the police will work with them using their traditional methods.

By Mariam Sargsyan

Source www.hra.am