We defend children in prison.

Globally, over 1 million children are behind bars. IBJ launched the Youth Justice Charter Initiative in 2023. Written by youth for youth, IBJ’s Youth Justice Charter demands that every child around the world has essential legal and human rights outlined in the document’s 10 articles. 22 Youth Charter Defenders have been empowered and are working on projects to implement the charter globally.

As Youth, our Power is our Voice.
Nathaniel Wong
Founder, Youth Charter Initiative

Highlights of our Youth Programs

Youth Justice Charter

Here are the 10 articles of the IBJ Youth Charter. To read more about the charter or children in prison, click here.

Meet our 22 Youth Justice Charter Defenders:

Map of our Youth Justice Charter Defenders. Click on one of the markers to see more info about them.

Our Impact in 2019 - 2020


Before the Youth Justice Charter Initiative, IBJ launched the Youth Champions initiative in 2019. This initiative accomplished the following:

  • Gained the release of 25 child detainees
  • Provided 258 minors with social, legal and psychological support 
  • Organized 36 workshops and conferences
  • Created a movement of over 400 youth in 5 continents

Frequently Asked Questions

There are various ways to support our mission. If you’re looking to make a financial contribution, consider donating to our cause. For students in schools or universities, we encourage you to become Youth Justice advocates! Starting a Youth Charter Chapter is an impactful way to make a difference, and it’s easy, free, and fun. For more details click here.

For access to the Youth Justice Charter, click here.

For any further inquiries or specific requests, please email us at youth@ibj.org. We’re here to assist you!

Article 1

In many countries, children are often left without a lawyer for days or weeks. Frequently, children are alone and scared, without knowing their rights, and thus are often left incarcerated for long periods. Even when they are introduced to their lawyer, preparation is often bleak. Every child deserves to feel free of fear by having legal representation through legal processes. 

This is the most effective solution for the mistreatment of children in conflict with the law. In an overwhelming majority of countries where arrested children are mistreated, their treatment is in fact illegal. The protection of a lawyer would not only protect children from any form of unregulated abuses, it would also ensure that they are not left behind in the system.

Article 5

Without IBJ’s interference, in most cases, children can be awaiting trial for days, weeks, months, and even years. No child deserves to spend their youth in prison, especially for a crime that has not been by any means proven. This past year, a young Cambodian boy awaited trial for three months (IBJ Q2 report). The detrimental impacts that prison time can have on a child, like physical and mental abuse/trauma, make it a pertinent matter to provide a fair and treaty trial to a child who has been arrested and detained. 

Article 9

Many times in underdeveloped criminal justice systems, children are detained with adults. Incarcerating children with adults unnecessarily puts children at significant risk of sexual and physical violence, increased trauma, and suicide (Equal Justice Initiative). Children are subject to traumatizing circumstances without adequate protection systems implemented in prisons. Children must be protected in jail to prevent lifelong damage. 

Article 2

In many countries, children are not respected and are not given proper autonomy. As a result, children often do not know their rights and are either coerced, and many times tortured into confessing to a crime they did not commit. For example, in 2022, a young Cambodian boy was arrested and detained for a petty crime. The police immediately started interrogating the boy without a lawyer or a guardian present. The two policemen interrogated the young boy and then beat him (IBJ Q2 report). Every child should be treated with dignity, despite their age, gender, ethnicity, etc. 

Article 6

We firmly believe that no child deserves to spend the most crucial time of their lives imprisoned, destined to live abhorrent conditions. When a child is imprisoned, their education often comes to a standstill, and their psychological growth can be permanently altered, tremendously increasing the perpetuation of cycles of abuse, crime, and poverty. Other alternatives when children come in conflict with the law are much more effective, such as preventative support and education. 

Article 10

 Many countries do not have adequate programs in place to reintegrate children. Without these programs, children are susceptible to being confused and helpless when they reenter society (Penal Reform International). While in prison, these children lost valuable time to learn and work in order to become productive members of society. Upon being released, many children could fall victim to the cycle of re-imprisonment or be left without a job to support themselves and their families. 

Article 3

Unfortunately, there are instances in which children are tried as adults because they do not have a birth certificate present to prove their actual age. This results in children being unfairly charged as adults, potentially resulting in a heftier punishment. For instance, In Myanmar this past year, three boys from Naypyitaw were charged with a non-existent crime, and since they did not have legitimate proof of age, they were automatically deemed to be over 14 (IBJ Q2 report). 

Moreover, children are often detained with adults in prisons due to neglect and gross accommodations. Another instance where children have been unlawfully detained with adults was in DR Congo, where two young boys were detained without being separated from adults in Kabare central prison (IBJ Q2 report). Detaining children with adults leaves them vulnerable to physical and sexual violence from adult inmates. For the well-being and safety of the child, children and adults must be separated in detention centers. 
Children as young as 12 years old are receiving adult sentences. Thousands of minors are also held in the same cell as adults, leading them vulnerable to abuse and violence.  Statistics show minors are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted in adult detention facilities and are 36 times more likely to commit suicide if housed in an adult jail or prison.

Article 7

Overpopulation, endangering hygiene standards, starving for days at a time, and a lack of medical care are all preventable yet detrimental challenges that prisoners face. This is especially relevant for a child, who is still physically developing and are even more susceptible to physical danger. Not to mention, the mental trauma that may come with extreme physical discomfort and danger.  

Article 4

Children are often denied the opportunity to see their parents or guardians after arrest, which is a direct violation of their rights. In fact, many parents or guardians are also often never notified of the arrest of their child, and so are powerless to aid children when they need it most.Not only does this induce psychological trauma for the child, but it also slows the process of fair legal representation.The child is left to fend for themselves in prison without the guidance of an adult they trust. For example, this past year in DR Congo, two young boys who were arrested and detained spent five days at the police station and seven days of deprivation of liberty without the accompaniment of their family or a lawyer (IBJ Q2 report). Children must have support when navigating the criminal justice system at such a young and vulnerable age. 

Article 8

Imprisonment for children very often lead to severe consequences to their mental and psychological health. The rate of depression, post traumatic disorders, and suicide are exponentially increased for children in prison. The rates children imprisoned that have mental illnesses is also very significant. We believe that it is imperative that these children can have access to psychological support- if prisons cannot provide it themselves, as we recognize the financial issues these prisons often face- access to psychological support through visitation is at least necessary.