Rewriting the future

Protecting children and adolescents in the justice system

It is not just about the numbers: it is all about the impact

While numbers play a major role in monitoring the extent of work efforts, they can only provide a limited picture of the real impact and long-term change affecting the lives of many individuals.

Through its services, JCLA empowers children who are abused to seek help, it informs them of their rights and duties, and it provides parents, caregivers, teachers and other relevant figures with the tools to protect children and act in their best interest.

“I used to hide to eat my lunch for fear that the other kids would beat me and steal it from me. Now nobody beats me anymore, I am strong like the others”.

Like Rami, the over 10,000 children reached through anti-bullying awareness activities between 2018-2020, signed a pledge committing to never bully another and report bullies to their teachers at school. In addition to creating a conducive environment at school, this is a major step towards preventing delinquent behavior. In fact, JCLA noticed that several of its younger beneficiaries facing criminal charges were bullies or bullied in the past. By informing parents and school personnel to spot bullying and take appropriate measures, JCLA contributes to the prevention of criminal actions. JCLA also trains teachers and public schools’ personnel on referral and reporting mechanisms should they suspect cases of child abuse or harassment.

In terms of legal services, the impact of JCLA is best shown by returning to the protagonists of this chapter, to glimpse into how their stories were rewritten.

Sami, after spending 9 years in an orphanage, was reunited with his father, who could finally take him home and watch him fall asleep. In Jordan, children born out of wedlock are placed under the custody of the Ministry of Social Development, as parents are deemed unfit to care for them. While this could at times be the case, the best interest of the child is sometimes lost between complex regulations and legal procedures. At JCLA, we acknowledge the gaps of our imperfect system, and take action to rectify it.

To Mahmoud and Omar, the 14-year-old twins, our assistance meant a not-guilty verdict, saving them from years in a juvenile detention center. In the absence of a comprehensive and clearly defined system for alternative sanctions, children doing time in juvenile centers often find it challenging to reintegrate into society. This fuels the cycle of recidivism, which is likely to continue through their adult life.

In the case of Lina, JCLA not only helped her get divorced from her abusive husband but earned her a significant financial compensation which allowed her to open her own business. Economic vulnerability often drives families to marry off their daughters at a young age. By helping Lina generate her own source of income, we ensured that her financial sustainability is dependent on nobody but herself.

After 17 years of invisibility and fear of being stopped and arrested by the police, Khaled was referred to JCLA. His mother, when signing her marriage contract, did not use her official name, and his father left soon after she became pregnant. With no means to either prove or rectify the marriage certificate or the paternity of the baby, Khaled’s mother never registered him as a Jordanian citizen. JCLA proved its paternity and finally Khaled obtained a birth certificate. He is now taking professional classes while working under contract. Documentation issues affect Jordanians and non-Jordanians alike, with the same result: children are stripped of their rights, because they are invisible in the system. Through our intervention, we ensure that all children, no matter their economic vulnerability, enjoy equal rights and protection under the law.

In Ahmad’s case, JCLA intervened when the judge had already sentenced him to five years in jail. We appealed the decision arguing that Ahmad’s statements were not admissible in court, as he was questioned without the presence of an adult. The judge annulled the sentence and Ahmad went back to complete his education. The prosecution of national security crimes, such as terrorism and drugs trafficking, often does not differentiate between juveniles and adults. Through its intervention, not only did JCLA free a child, but also created a precedent for strategic litigation.

These stories are not dissimilar from the other thousands of children reached by JCLA. The protection and legal empowerment of children and adolescents is essential to build a society where citizens are accountable. Through its services, JCLA offers alternative future scenarios for vulnerable children, in the effort to achieve an accountable and just society.