Mainstreaming Gender in the framework of the Juvenile Justice System Baseline Study in Albania (Swedish Mandate)

At the request of the Government of Sweden, ISSAT supported a baseline study of the juvenile justice system in Albania linked to the recently launched Swedish Juvenile Justice programme in Albania. The aim of the study was to provide a snapshot of the current juvenile justice system against which the programme could measure progress over time.

The approach, comprised of a desk review and field deployment. It aimed to analyse the existing strengths and weaknesses of the legal framework, structures, capacity, and coordination systems governing the juvenile justice system. The assessment used a problem-solving approach: first identifying the needs and then understanding the institutional factors that drive the juvenile justice needs in Albania. The methodology incorporated a 3+2 model that assessed capacity, procedures and tools dedicated to juvenile justice cases using three internal factors (management, accountability and capacity) and two external factors (inter-institutional relations and institutional ability to implement mandate). Based on available sex-disaggregated data, the assessment generated several insights on gender-balanced representation and inclusiveness within the target institutions.

From the onset, the methodology envisioned the participation of women police officers, judges and prosecutors in the data-collection process to broaden the perspectives of the juvenile justice system (40% of practitioners interviewed during the mission were women). The ISSAT team also counted on the support of local women justice experts to help in analysing the differential needs, access, participation, resources and impact on boy and girls in the Albanian juvenile justice system.

Key takeaways:

  • The mission team’s active seeking of different perspectives from the national actors allowed for a stronger social-cultural understanding behind the obstacles impacting access to services. For example, the team identified when girls in conflict with the law reach the age of juvenile criminal responsibility, social-cultural norms tend to influence the decision of police to divert the justice system and send the girls back to their families.  Currently, girls account for less than 1% of the overall number of cases reported by the police. Their absence from the juvenile justice system indicates a problem in the reporting of cases when girls are in conflict with law but also equates to marginalisation from any judicial rehabilitation programmes.
  • The 3+2 model was useful in identifying gaps in victim-centered services significantly impacting one sex over another. For example, in spite of established procedures prescribing the interventions of psychologists, their actual role in the process remains poorly defined and incoherent, contributing to largely passive and observer roles with limited engagement to protect the juvenile. There is no active information sharing between the different psychologists involved limiting the ability to monitor the extent to which the juvenile is traumatized by the process nor to develop more robust psychological assessments over time. The disproportionate representation of boys in the system implies their greater vulnerability to this potential psychological harm.
  • Although all juveniles in detention or pre-Trial detention have access to vocational training programmes, the relevance of the training (including carpentry, welding, electrician certification and plumbing) can be questioned. In particular, concern was raised by the low participation rates and the relevance of vocational training activities with the interests of the juveniles in general and girls in particular. In the future, the reliance of vocational training activities on manual labour or the physical strength of the juveniles could be a factor discouraging officers to process the girls through the system.
  • The 3+2 model helped to identify accountability gaps in the overall system. Monitoring and statistics on performance of institutions remains weak. There is a high degree of discrepancy between even basic statistics on number of cases reported between the institutions. This lack of basic data impairs the ability to devise informed strategies for boys and girls in conflict with the law
  • The methodology applied enabled the team to identify a gender imbalance in the participation and access to juvenile justice system as a result of numerous intra-and interinstitutional disarticulations. This is reflected by the general lack of understanding of what information should be collected (and by whom) related to the background and circumstance of the juvenile and the very limited data sharing between the institutions, particularly gender-focused data. Moreover, it is common to find that all institutions interview the juvenile to collect the same information without taking into account the different needs of boys and girls. Case file information transferred from prosecutors to probation is usually very basic with no information provided on background or circumstance.

Recommendations:

  • As a means of promoting greater individualization of sentencing as well as alternate sanctions for boys and girls, probation service will need to produce pre-sentencing reports with a greater gender equality focus for all cases of juveniles in conflict with the law. Methodologies should be developed utilizing sex-disaggregated information with subsequent guidance influenced accordingly within institutions and coherently between institutions.
  • There is little awareness or even understanding of how diversion should work in practice. While diversion is frequently, albeit informally, used by police for cases related to girls there is currently no vision or clarity on what cases would be eligible or should qualify for prosecution or court referred diversion (eg. mediation). There is an opportunity to share experiences as well as provide awareness on diversion measures (including restorative justice) that are more gender inclusive while gradually helping the institutions to develop a vision or even system of diversion that could clarify what steps/measures would be taken in practice and what pre-conditions/circumstance diversion measures should be applied.

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