Reformations in Zimbabwe's juvenile justice system
Children in conflict with the law are often stigmatized and shunned by society as they are perceived as a threat to society. Historically, Zimbabwe’s juvenile justice system has been retributive and focused on punishing the juvenile offender. As a result, it has been criticised from a number of viewpoints, including the need to ensure maximum protection of children. This study sought to examine recent reforms in Zimbabwe’s juvenile justice system. In addition, it explores the role social work practice play in relation to the reforms. The article is based on a desk review of existing literature on juvenile crime in the country. Findings reflect that Zimbabwe’s juvenile justice system is transforming from being retributive towards a reformative and rehabilitative system. This process is marked by introduction of new legislative instruments and policies which provide for the rights of children in conflict with the law, specifically the right to free legal representation and participation in judicial proceedings. Also, the instruments abolish the death penalty for convicted child offenders. The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act 2013 is one such instrument. Social work practice continues to play a pivotal role that centers on preventing recidivism and providing remedial and preventive services. Despite these reforms, gaps remain in the current system. For example, children continue to spend prolonged periods of time in adult prisons while they await repatriation to institutions due to resource constraints. Key recommendations include expanding the Pre-trial Diversion Programme to all the provinces as it has yielded results that benefit the child as well introduction of alternatives of institutionalisation.
KEY TERMS: delinquency, juvenile justice system, pre-trial diversion, diversion officer, probation officer