An ethical assessment of the treatment of juvenile offenders under the juvenile justice system in Zambia: a case study of chirundu district and Nakambala approved school.

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Mazunda, Lumbani
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The University of Zambia.
This study aimed at empirically investigating and ethically assessing the treatment of juvenile offenders in the Zambian Juvenile Justice System (ZJJS). The Juveniles Act of the laws of Zambia and international legal instruments provide for the treatment of juvenile offenders with special care as distinct from adult offenders at the stages of arrest, trial and after-court disposition. However, there exists the problem of the gap in knowledge about the treatment of juvenile offenders in the ZJJS at different stages. The objectives of the study were, (i) to establish the current situation of delinquency among juveniles in Chirundu district, (ii) to investigate the treatment of juvenile offenders during arrest, trial and after-court case disposition in Chirundu, (iii) to investigate the treatment of juvenile offenders during rehabilitation at Nakambala Approved School and (iv) to ethically assess the treatment of juvenile offenders in Chirundu district and at the Nakambala Approved School A case study design adopting a qualitative methodology with an ethical component was used to collect and analyse the data. The primary data was collected using in-depth interviews, observation and Focus Group Discussions. Secondary data was collected using relevant literature from books, journals and the internet. Officers from Chirundu Police, Social Welfare Department, Chirundu Magistrate Court and Nakambala Approved School were purposively selected and interviewed. Four Focus Group Discussions were conducted with 24 juvenile offenders, 12 of whom forming two FGDs were detained in Chirundu Police cells and were selected using stratified random sampling. The other 12 forming two additional FGDs – all males – under rehabilitation at Nakambala Approved School were randomly selected. This made a total sample of 28 participants. Data obtained were analysed by coding and grouping them according to emerging themes. The study revealed an increase in juvenile delinquency in Chirundu mainly due to poverty, unemployment and peer pressure. Many juvenile offenders came from disadvantaged backgrounds where lack of appropriate parental care as well as lack of supervision and limited educational and development opportunities is the norm. The study also gave some evidence that juvenile offenders experience some forms of humiliating physical and emotional treatment by police officers during arrest and that those with minor offences were detained without the option of bail and diversionary services. It was further found that juveniles in conflict with the law were detained with adult offenders in the same facilities that exposed them to the risk of negative social influences and contracting disease. Another finding was that offenders undergoing rehabilitation were not satisfied with the existing educational and vocational programmes as they were limited and without adequate instructional materials and equipment. The study further noted the tendency to release offenders before being fully rehabilitated in order to give chance to new entrants and to maintain the number of offenders to a level that allowed their needs to be supported by available resources. Educational and psycho-social care-givers were also not always available to attend to offenders’ needs, hence compromising their rehabilitation. The ethical evaluation with reference to virtue ethics indicated a negative influence on the character traits that juvenile offenders acquired from adults while in detention. Care ethics, deontology and justice ethical theories posed a challenge to the care givers at Nakambala as well as agents in the JJS in Chirundu as the rights of juvenile offenders were not protected accordingly basing on their state of vulnerability. The study recommended, among others, the following: (1) ethical awareness raising among police officers, court officials and social welfare officers about minimal rights and procedures with regards to the treatment of offenders under the ZJJS; and (2) the prioritization by government, in partnership with NGOs, of the specific needs of offenders through increased support and funding towards the expansion of educational and vocational training to include skills that increase their educational, occupational and entrepreneurial opportunities upon release in order for them to contribute to the positive development of society and become law-abiding citizens.
Thesis of Master of Arts in Applied Ethics.