Claret Homes: responding to penal urgencies with young people
“The young person is not a difficulty, it is an opportunity.”
Gabriel Mejía cmf
Director of the Atlantic Region of Colombia. Claret Homes
The Claret Homes Foundation was created in 1984 and promoted by Fr. Gabriel Antonio Mejia, Claretian Missionary. Fr. Gabriel felt the need to care for children and young people imprisoned in drugs and whom he loved with all his soul; the way he found was the creation of a group in which relationships and care were the keys to rehabilitative change. His missionary heart could not leave these children and adolescents far from the caring love of the Father.
The population served includes young offenders of criminal law, young people disengaged from the armed conflict, children, and adolescents in protection, street children using psychoactive substances, older adults, and all types of addictions. At present, Hogares Claret Foundation provides programs in 7 departments of Colombia: Cundinamarca, Antioquia, Eje cafetero (Risaralda and Quindio), Valle del Cauca, Atlántico, Santander and Bolívar. The professionals who work in Claret Homes are around 600, including psychologists, social workers, pedagogues, institutional managers, nutritionists, socio-cultural facilitators, workshop leaders, educators, lawyers, occupational therapists, among others. Three Claretian Missionaries are present in 2022 in the Claret Homes Foundation: Gabriel Mejia, Orlando Hoyos and José Fernando Tobón.They attend 1744 people in 25 homes. We will now go on to present the fundamentals and the recovery program.
1. What is the system of criminal responsibility for adolescents?
As described by Colombian law, it is the set of principles, rules, procedures, specialized judicial authorities, and administrative entities that government intervenes in the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed by adolescents between fourteen (14) and eighteen (18) years of age at the time of committing a punishable act.
The process must guarantee restorative justice, truth, and reparation of damages. It is a specialized system for administering justice in cases of adolescents in conflict with the criminal law; although it refers to the accusatory criminal procedure, it is a system differentiated from the criminal justice system for adults, so its application is the responsibility of authorities and bodies specialized in children and adolescents.
Sanctions within the SRPA have a protective, educational and restorative purpose and must be applied with the support of the family and specialists; they also seek to restore the violated rights of both the victim and the adolescent who committed the punishable conduct.
When an adolescent is declared criminally responsible and it is found that a sanction must be imposed, the judicial authority may apply any of the sanctions established in the Code for Children and Adolescents.
The non-custodial sanctions are: reprimands (no established duration), imposition of rules of conduct (may not exceed two years), community service (for a period not exceeding six months), probation (may not last more than two years), internment in a semi-closed environment (may not exceed three years), and the penalty of deprivation of liberty is served in a Specialized Care Center (for a period of two to eight years).
The Specialized Care Centers will provide specific and differentiated pedagogical care for adolescents under eighteen years of age and those who have reached the age of majority and are serving their sentence.
This attention should include, as far as possible, their separation within the center, in the organization of activities, as well as the other guarantees contained in the Political Constitution and in the International Human Rights Treaties or Conventions ratified by Colombia, especially the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
2. What are the characteristics of the service?
The admission and release of the adolescent or young person can only be effective by means of an order or ruling of a competent judicial authority.
Personalized attention to adolescents and young people will be organized by gender and age in order to respond to the purposes of the system of criminal responsibility for adolescents.
Activities such as awareness-raising, participation in restorative practices of coexistence during care, reflection on the protected legal right that has been affected by the actions of the adolescent will be carried out.
The actions to be developed must respond to the concept of the professionals in the initial assessment, the interests of the adolescent, and the family’s commitment to the Individual Care Plan of the modality in accordance with the phases and components of the care process indicated in the Model Care Guidelines for Adolescents and Young People in Conflict with the Law.
Accordingly, it is worth mentioning that the Claret Homes Foundation is the entity that operates the services of the criminal responsibility system in several regions of the country, including the Atlantic coast of Colombia.
It is a non-governmental organization that is responsible for complying with the guidelines of the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare, which is the Colombian state entity that works for the prevention and comprehensive protection of early childhood, childhood, and adolescence, strengthening young people and families in Colombia.
3. What are the characteristics of the adolescents who enter the programs operated by the Claret Homes Foundation in Colombia?
According to the Department of National Statistics, 30% of the population in Colombia belongs to individuals in adolescence and youth.
Therefore, it is worth mentioning that 95% of adolescents who break the law in the Colombian state are consumers of psychoactive substances and/or poly-consumers of substances, with multiple risk factors that have an impact on punishable conduct, such as, for example:
Dropping out of school, child and domestic abuse, abuse of sexual freedom and integrity, broken families, recomposed or absent parents, labor exploitation, violation of fundamental rights, recruitment into criminal gangs or illegal groups, peer pressure, easy access to firearms and bladed weapons, parental permissiveness, involvement in gangs or peers with negative influence and other risk factors associated with the neighborhood and the family.
4. How does Claret Homes Foundation intervene with young people deprived and not deprived of their liberty so that they do not re-offend when they leave the system of criminal responsibility?
The model of care is based on the Therapeutic Community, whose purpose is self-help and mutual aid. It is a therapeutic-pedagogical model, which is articulated with the following techniques and/or pillars adopted by Claret Homes. Family accompaniment, education based on conscience, spirituality, and scouting.
Director of the Atlantic Region of Colombia. Claret Homes