Academic journal article International Social Science Review

The Youth Facility as a Total Institution: A Focus on Experiences of Mortification

Academic journal article International Social Science Review

The Youth Facility as a Total Institution: A Focus on Experiences of Mortification

Article excerpt

Republic Act (RA) 9344 of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA) of the Philippines promises to champion the cause of youth offenders as it takes into consideration the flaws of the juvenile justice system. (1) The law seeks to deal with youths in a manner that is appropriate to their stage of development, while reinforcing the fundamental importance of restorative justice. As such, RA 9344 veers away from retribution, which was the principle behind the policy of youth incarceration in the Philippines before its passage in 2006. This change in attitude started with the use of the neutral term children in conflict with the law (CICL) instead of the term delinquent. This landmark legislation mandates that anyone who is fifteen or younger is exempted from criminal liability, while those older than fifteen but younger than eighteen can only be charged accountable if it can be proven that they acted with discernment. (2) The 2013 amendment of the law retains the age of fifteen as the minimum age of criminal responsibility, but requires the twelve to fifteen year-old recidivists and serious offenders in a youth facility to be rehabilitated. (3)

For the CICL to be rehabilitated, RA 9344 provides for the adoption of a diversion system with a two-fold purpose. First, to dispose of the CICL's case without a formal trial and second, to admit them into youth homes where they can receive services and go through programs to rehabilitate them. Diversion is rooted in the notion that youth is a transitional period in life; wayward activities are inevitable among "persons in formation" because their moral sense is still developing but they will eventually "outgrow" criminal behavior. (4) Diversion clearly steps away from the deterrence argument, which argues that it is only through the certainty, swiftness, and severity of punishment that youth re-offending can be prevented. (5) Diversion, as an example of a community-based program, allows offenders to serve all or a part of their sentence in the community and makes use of community resources to complement and support traditional correctional functions. (6)

When the CICL are diverted to a facility, RA 9344 dictates that each child goes through an individualized program that responds to his or her needs, based on the assumption that youth offenders come from different backgrounds and their degree of involvement in delinquency also varies. (7) The goal is to teach the CICL mechanisms for self-regulation so that when they are released to the community, they will be able to avoid or refuse opportunities to re-offend. (8) Hence, the crucial role of facilities to reform the CICL cannot be overemphasized, and as such section 53 of RA 9344 directs the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to establish a facility in each region, while section 17 obliges local government units (LGUs) to establish their own youth homes within five years of the law's implementation. (9) It is in this context that St. John's Shelter (10) was established in Cavite, Philippines. When RA 9344 passed in 2006, the local Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) turned over all incarcerated minors (defined as those younger than eighteen) to St. John's Shelter and hitherto, all minors caught violating the law have to be admitted to shelter. (11) As a community-based facility, St. John's Shelter is guided by its mission (12) "to provide utmost care, protection, and guidance of its residents (13) using the multidisciplinary approach that adequately prepares them for an outright living and be a better person when reunited with their families and reintegrated with their family and community." Since the shelter opened, thirty-five to fifty residents are housed at any given time at this facility.

The hope that community-based facilities can genuinely reform youth offenders is not unfounded. Mark Lipsey's 1995 and 1998 studies concluded that community-based corrections can effectively rehabilitate delinquents. …

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