Evaluation of child diversion programme in Zambia

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Nyalugwe, Saul Alefa Njobvu
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Juvenile diversion program is designed to transfer the formal processing of juvenile offenders within the criminal justice system to a legally conducive alternative. This is because the formal criminal justice system is perceived to have a negative effect on juvenile offenders. The program utilizes informal processing and sanctions as a means of preventing future wrongdoings. In other words, instead of imprisoning children who come into conflict of the law, diversion programme exposes them to an educational or correctional program. The aim is to keep them from falling back into criminal activities. However, since its introduction in Zambia, little is known of its effectiveness in preventing diverted juveniles from committing similar or any other offence. The Diversion Program was introduced after the 2000 Situational Analysis which provides a detailed description of the state of child justice in Zambia as observed then. The study on child justice was instituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs in collaboration with UNICEF, Danish and Swedish Embassies and the Department for International Development (DFID). The overall purpose of the study was to describe the then situation of child justice in Zambia. The study found among other things that children who committed minor offences were being subjected to the formal judicial proceedings. Consequently, the area of concern was the psychological effect on the suspected offending children as regards to the way they were handled from the arrest to detention stage. It was therefore, recommended that a child diversion program be effectively established. As a result, four diversion service providers signed agreements with the Child Justice Forum to receive diversion referrals. The service providers include Rural Youth Children in Need, hereto thereafter, RYOCHIN, Young Women's Christian Association, (YWCA) and Jesus Cares Ministries and Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC). The need to review the Child Justice Administration system in Zambia came at a time when there was an increase in numbers of children who came into conflict with the law. Unfortunately, the Zambian criminal justice system did not have supporting structures for a diversion programme as an alternative to reformatories and incarcerations. This study evaluates the nature and scope of diversion program in Zambia. It is necessitated by evidence of little or lack of diversion activities as being an established principle in the juvenile justice system. This study also evaluates the level of the Child Justice System and its consistency in conformity with the International Laws. This is done on the strength that on 20th November 1989, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Zambia ratified it.
Child Diversion Programme