On 26th May 2021, Justice Action (JA) was invited by Legal Awareness Watch (LAW) Pakistan to present a live talk on Zoom during a Juvenile Justice Systems (JJS) Act workshop. The presentation consisted of an analysis of Pakistan’s demographics and problems in their judicial and political systems in relation to the recent JJS Act 2018. By comparing Pakistan’s current juvenile justice system to that of Australia and NSW, JA made recommendations and suggestions.
JA’s online presentation for the workshop
The presentation highlighted many of the pertinent concerns faced by the Pakistani juvenile detention system. On the one hand, these issues are similar to experiences of youth offenders in Australia, particularly First Nation populations. This includes unpredictable trial dates, vulnerability to drug addiction, and lack of education, counselling and mentoring services. On the other hand, Pakistan’s provincial laws and political systems give rise to a unique set of problems related to existence of the death penalty and the failures of age determination mechanisms. Of the 1300 young people in Pakistani detention, only 10% are convicted. The rest remain in pre-trial detention, creating unnecessary prison costs that are better utilised in critical justice reinvestments that reduce incarceration rates.
JA then provided an Australian perspective on the ways that the Act could be implemented and what it should aim to do. LAW Pakistan, in collaboration with local stakeholders, asked JA to share relevant strategies that could prevent youth detention rates and improve outcomes for young offenders who entered the system. Several remedies were put forward by JA, namely implementing early intervention processes, such as parenting and early childhood support, health care assistance and literacy training. The importance of restorative justice through conferencing was stressed to allow youth offenders to discuss harms with victims, creating a platform of understanding that operates as a diversionary mechanism. Further recommendations included restorative justice methods and creating positive detention environments through peer mentoring. JA also described their ‘Computers in Cells’ campaign where prisoners are given access to online resources to communicate with family, obtain jobs and life skills, receive education and report complaints to relevant authorities. Using the example of the ACT, the campaign has had computers in cells for 8 years and is operating safely and effectively.
The Workshop expressed their appreciation and will be sending an email with questions from the audience to JA. JA will provide consultation on these questions.
Legal Awareness Watch Pakistan is a nonpartisan and non-for-profit advocating and raising awareness across Pakistan on human rights of prisoners in Pakistan. Since its inception, LAW has advocated for various issues related to incarceration, including abolition of the death penalty, and mass incarceration practices upon juveniles, poor prison conditions and the marginalisation of women and children within prisons. Their work can be accessed via https://legalawarenesswatch.com/
The presentation slides can be viewed below.