YOUTH JUSTICE CHARTER

1,000,000+ children are behind bars
all around the world. Join us in demanding change.

1,000,000+ children are behind bars all around the world. Join us in demanding change.

Noé's story
12 year old Noe from Central Africa was thrown in a cell with a gang of adult inmates. He was repeatedly stripped naked, starved for days straight, and coerced into cleaning up the other inmates feces and work as their slave. His crime: stealing a loaf of bread (Over 1 month of detention, before IBJ lawyers secured his release)
Kosal's Story
15 year old Kosal from Cambodia was apprehended and beaten by the police after being accused of theft. Kosal was thrown into a cramped cell with over 140 inmates for months, without access to showers, adequate nutrition, or healthcare, where he caught an infectious skin disease. His crime: stealing a 10 dollar part of a motorcycle (with little evidence).
Paulin's Story
14 year old Paulin from Central Africa was imprisoned for over 3 and a half years before his case was ever reviewed by a judge in court. Too poor to afford a lawyer, Paulin was in one of the most brutal prisons in the world. His youth, education, and opportunity to a fair future were all stripped away from him. His crime: stealing a pair of running shoes worth 80 cents (later proved innocent)
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Noé's story
12 year old Noe from Central Africa was thrown in a cell with a gang of adult inmates. He was repeatedly stripped naked, starved for days straight, and coerced into cleaning up the other inmates feces and work as their slave. His crime: stealing a loaf of bread (Over 1 month of detention, before IBJ lawyers secured his release)
Kosal's Story
In Cambodia, 15- year-old Kosal was arrested for stealing a part of a motorcycle which was worth 10 dollars. He was stuck in a cell with 150 others for months, without even having had a trial. He had to sleep on the floor and had no access to a shower or to health care. There was no education and there were no activities, and he caught an infectious skin disease.
Paulin's Story
Paulin, a 14 year old boy, bought a pair of running shoes from a local street vendor for less 80 cents. What he did not know was that those running shoes were previously stolen. He was then accused of theft and immediately thrown into prison. Too poor to afford a lawyer, Paulin was imprisoned for three and a half years whilst awaiting trial. What should have been a simple case of a boy wrongly accused of a petty crime devolved into three excruciating years in one of the most brutal adult prison systems in the world.
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Noé, Kosal and Paulin are only three children among thousands who are left unprotected against the debilitating and cruel reality of imprisonment.

Noé, Kosal and Paulin are only three children among thousands who are destined to spend the most crucial and vulnerable years of their lives in inhumane conditions.

Children in prison around the world:

Map for Youth Justice Charter
Map for Youth Justice Charter

*due to poor record keeping in prisons, the actual number of child prisoners is much higher

In many countries, children are arrested for petty crimes:

Begging

Sexual Orientation

Minor Theft

Immigration

In many countries, children are arrested for petty crimes:

Begging

Sexual Orientation

Minor Theft

Immigration

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Without the proper resources, the trajectory of a child's life is undoubtedly derailed when brought in conflict with the law.

24

Their voice, dignity, and opportunity to a fair future are all stripped away once thrown behind bars.

25

Our global prison system for youth is inhumane and broken, which is why we must act now.​

23

Without the proper resources, the trajectory of a child's life is undoubtedly derailed when brought in conflict with the law.

24

Their voice, dignity, and opportunity to a fair future are all stripped away once thrown behind bars.

25

Our global prison system for youth is inhumane and broken, which is why we must act now.​

AS YOUTH, OUR POWER IS OUR VOICE.​

Below are systemic issues that contextualize our demands:

Below are systemic issues that contextualize our demands:

Accordion Content
  • Many systematic issues contribute to juvenile mass incarceration such as misinformation surrounding mental health, rampant poverty, discrimination, and a lack of access to lawyers.
  • Economic and social issues often create a gap between written law and its implementation.
  • Inhumane living conditions in detention centers perpetuate malnutrition, violence, and lifelong trauma amongst child prisoners.
  • Incarceration is experienced differently depending on sex.
  • Most children are unaware of the existence of certain fundamental rights which have been agreed by their governments.
  • Children are irreversibly disenfranchised and changed after their incarceration, with detrimental consequences to their growth and development.
  • There is a dangerous stigma surrounding children in conflict with the law, which follows them their entire lives.
Accordion Content
  • When involved in a legal proceeding, children deserve respect for their voice and treatment.
  • All children should be able to give a fair testimony, and promptly receive legal counsel, and trial.
  • The detainment of a child should only be used as a last resort, when all other possibilities are exhausted.
  • Officials must implement local law, as well as protect the child from any form of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse, especially investigative torture.
  • While detained, children’s development must be safeguarded.
  • Officials must recognize a child’s need for “opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational, and “leisure activity”, as well as access to education, healthcare, and psychological support.
  • Despite many countries having signed the UN’s Right of the Child, in many places they are being violated on the daily.
Accordion Content
  • Many systematic issues contribute to juvenile mass incarceration such as misinformation surrounding mental health, rampant poverty, discrimination, and a lack of access to lawyers.
  • Economic and social issues often create a gap between written law and its implementation.
  • Inhumane living conditions in detention centers perpetuate malnutrition, violence, and lifelong trauma amongst child prisoners.
  • Incarceration is experienced differently depending on sex.
  • Most children are unaware of the existence of certain fundamental rights which have been agreed by their governments.
  • Children are irreversibly disenfranchised and changed after their incarceration, with detrimental consequences to their growth and development.
  • There is a dangerous stigma surrounding children in conflict with the law, which follows them their entire lives.
Accordion Content
  • When involved in a legal proceeding, children deserve respect for their voice and treatment.
  • All children should be able to give a fair testimony, and promptly receive legal counsel, and trial.
  • The detainment of a child should only be used as a last resort, when all other possibilities are exhausted.
  • Officials must implement local law, as well as protect the child from any form of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse, especially investigative torture.
  • While detained, children’s development must be safeguarded.
  • Officials must recognize a child’s need for “opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational, and “leisure activity”, as well as access to education, healthcare, and psychological support.
  • Despite many countries having signed the UN’s Right of the Child, in many places they are being violated on the daily.

Our dream is to create a fair legal system that protects children.

Written by youth for youth, this charter demands that every child has the following rights:

Written by youth for youth, this charter demands that every child has the following rights:

We, the youth, demand these articles be respected and prioritized by the global community to secure our rights, our humanity and a just future for all.

We, the youth, demand these articles be passed and recognised by global and national governing bodies for our rights, our humanity and a just future for all.​

By signing this charter you pledge your support and solidarity to youth around the world. You show that you stand against the brutal mass imprisonment of children.

By signing this charter you will pledge your support and solidarity to youth around the world. You will show that you stand against the brutal mass incarceration of children.

How else can I contribute?

Share the charter with your friends:

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How else can I contribute?

Help us spread the charter:

Your signature matters!

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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. 

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 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. 

Why your Signature and Share Matters

1. Your signature and share will be the initial spark to a long term global campaign. The IBJ youth charter is not an individual document, but instead is the catalyst to a series of events. We, the IBJ Youth Initiative, have plans on presenting this charter at the Geneva UN headquarters and other governmental embassies collaborate and find ways to stop the abhorrent violence imprisoned children face every day. This will only be possible with your signature, to show people in power that this is a cause worth fighting for and we demand change.

2. The problem resides not in the laws – most of the countries in which children’s rights are being abused already have treaties against such injustice(eg. The UN Convention of the child). Instead, the global legal system remains deeply underfunded and inconspicuous, making it difficult to implement solutions due to a lack of resources. International governing bodies rarely prioritise broken legal systems as a humanitarian emergency, but by signing and sharing this charter, you are proving that the current treatment of child prisoners is unacceptable and deserves the necessary attention and resources.

3. Your signature and share will enable new minds to learn about the Injustices child prisoners face. This will not only create a much needed discussion that will educate children on their rights, but also enable collaboration with new minds and breed innovation on what solutions can be implemented to help children in prison. This is especially feasible with the ability for people to submit their ideas here and possibly gain funding to transform their idea into an actionable project.

4. Your signature and share will raise awareness, which comes with donations that will enable the implementation of long term sustainable solutions.

5. Your signature and share will inspire a message of hope for child prisoners all around the world. We stand in solidarity, and we will work together to fight injustice.