DIFFERENCES IN TREATMENT OF BOYS AND GIRLS
In the main, the differences between the treatment of boys and girls as already stated, the product of the nonavailability of remand homes in every locality, and the absence of a Senior Correctional Centre for girls have resulted in:
- 1. Detention behind the police counter for girls while boys in similar circumstances would be kept in cells with adults
- 2. The absence of a Senior Correctional Centre leading to inadequate custodial arrangements for girls and custodial supervision done by welfare officers
- 3. Detention of boys in Senior Correctional Centre under the supervision of prison officers—thus leading to harsher treatment of boys than of girls
The system of juvenile justice has been subjected to scrutiny here. To this end, some effort has been made to look at the workings of the system from the moment the processes of the juvenile justice system were activated right until the final disposition is made. The institutions have been looked at, with a view to discovering how much their operations conform to the statutory regime. In particular, the diversionary measures such as cautions and child panels must be used more. District assemblies must be made to assume responsibility for the welfare of the children in the communities and provide funding for the child panels to operate properly. They must also be tasked to designate and maintain places of safety for juveniles in their localities to prevent juveniles having to spend time in police cells with adult criminals, some of whom subject them to sexual abuse in return for protection from the other remanded. To achieve proper results, there should be more interaction among the three Ministries of the Interior, Gender and Social Protection, and Local Government to ensure better enforcement of statutory prescriptions.
Urbanization produces many dysfunctional families, and the absence of avenues for counseling in a period of rapid urbanization is a situation that must not continue. The state must step in and provide the necessary facilities for counseling to the general populace, many of whom have lost their traditional means of support as a result of their migration to urban centers. The religious bodies must strengthen their counseling and other social support programs to assist distressed persons belonging to their community. However, counseling must not be left to them as not all the inmates subscribe to particular religions or even denominations of the same religion.
Trauma counseling for bereaved children should be included in these programs as the churches and other religious institutions are best placed to know which family within their community has suffered bereavement. They must also take up issues of child-rearing norms and parenting as poor parenting eventually has an impact on the integrity of the household. Bereaved children should not be tossed from relative to relative and moved from place to place, since dealing with the loss of a parent, as well as having to adjust to social circumstances that keep changing from relative to relative, can have deleterious effects on their mental health and push them toward seeking solace in the wrong kind of friends, experimentation with substance abuse, or other antisocial habits.
It is generally acknowledged that it is cheaper to build schools than prisons. Therefore, preventive measures that keep children out of the juvenile justice system should also receive attention. Healthy recreational opportunities and avenues for decent entertainment must be provided to occupy the leisure hours of the youth and help them burn off energy. School curricula should be made more interesting and fulfilling so that children stay in school as long as they are required to do so. Religious bodies, which remain the most important operatives of civil society, should strengthen their youth programs so as to give meaning to the lives of young people. Above all, the state must acknowledge that welfare institutions and programs are expensive to support, but in terms of eventual cost on human lives and social dislocation, such investments are cheaper in the long run. Such acknowledgment would enable it to provide better funding for welfare programs and institutions. Institutions such as the Probation Service and fit person programs must be properly supported as they help to stave off future problems with maladjusted youth. The system needs to be supported and equipped to rescue the young from themselves or their social circumstances.
Acknowledgments I am indebted to my research assistant Cletus Alengah for the many hours of research he has invested in this project.
Henrietta J.A.N. Mensa-Bonsu Professor Henrietta Joy Abena Nyarko Mensa-Bonsu LL.B (Ghana) LL.M (Yale) Barrister-at-Law is a Professor of Law, at the School of Law, University of Ghana. She is currently the Director of the Legon Center for International Affairs and Diplomacy at the University of Ghana and a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences.