Juvenile Justice Reform Takes Center Stage in Nicaragua

August 2011

In recent weeks, controversial reform suggestions to Nicaragua’s Juvenile Criminal Code have sparked widespread protests and marches throughout the country. Some sectors of society believe that reforms in response to rising violence should increase incarceration time for minors who commit violent crimes. Others recommend alternatives to incarceration, such as rehabilitation and reintegration.

Over the past year, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) has been working with local governmental and non-governmental partners to develop a strategic plan, which supplements the reform efforts and strengthens the country’s juvenile justice system to effectively address these growing concerns while respecting the rights of the youth.

On March 11, 37 institutional representatives, including representatives from the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, the Public Ministry, the National Police and various non-governmental organizations, validated the strategic plan at an ABA ROLI-convened event in Nicaragua’s capital, Managua. The plan promotes inter-institutional coordination, specialized training for justice sector operators, rehabilitation of offenders, awareness-raising and long-term institutional reform. None of these reforms would require changes to the Juvenile Criminal Code.

Since the validation, ABA ROLI has been supporting civil society organizations and government agencies in executing the plan. ABA ROLI representatives have recently met with regional working groups in six municipalities—Granada, Masaya, Villa el Carmen, Managua, Corinto and Chinandega—offering technical assistance in establishing clear objectives that address the plan’s priorities. Embarking on implementation, ABA ROLI partners have recently hosted activities that strengthen coordination within the justice system as well as between the justice system and civil society in three communities. They have also established three working groups comprising youth leaders, school representatives and local authorities in violent communities to discuss best practices for the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders in their areas.

ABA ROLI and its local partners are encouraging alternative methods to juvenile incarceration—including rehabilitation and reintegration—to lessen recidivism. ABA ROLI’s juvenile justice program in Nicaragua is supported by the U.S. Department of State.

To learn more about our work in Nicaragua, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.

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