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Feature Story/ TDH – Grooming the future: barbering workshop empowers juveniles in detention centers

Feature Story

TDH – Grooming the future: barbering workshop empowers juveniles in detention centers

January 2018

Juvenile Justice, Youth 

The weekends are very busy for Samir[1] as his clients line up at the barbershop in Rusaifah’s Rehabilitation Center waiting their turn.

“I had never thought of becoming a barber, but now I believe my future lies in mastering this profession,” said the 16-year-old.

A year ago, Samir attended a barbering and a grooming vocational training supported by Terre des hommes (Tdh) in one of Jordan’s six training centers (for children in pre-trial detention) and rehabilitation centers (for convicted children). He and hundreds of other children in conflict with the law pass through the formal system of detention centers every month.

Over four months, Samir and other children practiced barbering and grooming skills including threading, shaving, and giving haircuts. “Every week, I was mastering a new skill,” Samir told TDH. “My confidence increased as I felt I was improving and growing as a person”.

The barber training has not only offered Samir financial relief, but also helped him to make use of his time as he waits to finish his sentence and copes with being away from family and friends. On the eve of Eid holiday, Samir gave everyone a haircut at the center- just like they would if they were outside not detained.  “It was the third holidays I passed in detention. This time it felt like real ones, because it brought joy to others.”

Samir says that he often dreaded the idea of leaving the TRC, because he was afraid of encountering the outside world. But since he learned barbering skills, he feels he has a dream to fulfill. “This profession is like a weapon that I can use anywhere as I become independent and support myself” Samir told Tdh.

He already has a plan. After being released, Samir plans to work for a year to improve his skills and save money to start his own business.

Juvenile Law is pending implementation

In 2014, Jordan amended its juvenile law to raise the liability age from 7 to 12 years-old and introduced non-liberty depriving measures as alternatives to detention. Although the law conforms to international standards, it is not fully implemented yet.

The Juvenile Police Department (JPD) was established according to the 2014 law to be specialized in juvenile cases[2]. JPD has the authority to settle some cases in offence where the punishment does not exceed two years. However, in practice JPD does not deal with all cases of children in conflict with the law. Offences such as sexual offences, drug offences, serious theft, and extremism allegedly committed by boys and girls 12-18 years are investigated by other police departments (eg. The Family protection department for sexual offenses and domestic violence, Anti-drug department for drug related offences), which are not always specialized in dealing with children, nor familiar with the specificities of juvenile law and procedures.

According to statistics obtained by Tdh from the Ministry of Social Development (MoSD)[3], around 1,920 children passed by the Training centers and the Rehabilitation centers from January to October 2017. Approximately, 90 % of them are in pre-trial detention, which clearly indicates that alternatives to pre-trail detention are not applied in most cases by judges.

During a roundtable discussion organized by Tdh in August 2017, juvenile justice stakeholders and local Community Based Organizations (CBOs) highlighted the lack of a referral system between the MoSD, MoJ and local CBOs to implement non-liberty depriving measures and alternatives to detention (such as volunteering or public service and vocational training and rehabilitation programs).

A mapping of CBOs conducted by Tdh in May 2017 shows that 57 % of 111 CBOs surveyed are knowledgeable about the alternatives to detention measures, but only 16 % of them deliver activities to children in conflict with the law[4].

According to MoSD’s 2017 statistics, the most common offences committed by boys were theft, fights, drugs related offences, and sexual assaults. Giving false testimonies was the highest percentage (20%) of offences committed by the 48 girls who have been detained this year so far, followed by drug related offences, fights and theft.

While there is no single cause of law-breaking behavior, Tdh surveys in the training centers and rehabilitation centers show that poverty and marginalization are key factors. According to a study conducted by Tdh in 2016 in five of these centers, more than 66% of the children interviewed were from poor or very poor families and were working to support their families[5].


Limited rehabilitation programs in training and rehabilitation centers

Jordan has 5 training and rehabilitation centers for boys and one for girls in Amman, Zarqa, Irbid and Madaba. MoSD is currently working on establishing two new facilities.

Although training centers and rehabilitation centers offer decent living and housing conditions, they do not provide systematic and ongoing educational and rehabilitation programs. With insufficient financial resources and most centers’ staff lacking the necessary skills and training to deliver such programs, MoSD relies on international and national organizations to deliver service delivery – a precarious situation in the long run.

According to MoSD statistics, only 27.5 % of the children benefited from vocational training in 2017. In some centers, social supervisors offer informal learning sessions to children.  However, with a huge turnover of children in the facilities, no continued services are delivered. Tdh supports vocational programs for mobile maintenance in Rusaifah center and a barber workshop Irbid and Amman Centers. It also delivers structured psycho-social activities in Amman, Irbid and recreational activities in al centers.

Reinsertion programs

After-care and reintegration programs are almost non-existent to children once they leave training and rehabilitation centers. After being released, children struggle to reintegrate society because of the social stigma brought on to them. Having no or limited education makes it even harder for them to secure job opportunities that could help them start over. According to MosD Statistics, only 16 % of the children have had some secondary level education. The majority dropped out after elementary or basic education.

Lack of reinsertion programs could lead to re-offending, isolation and further marginalization of the children. The percentage of re-offending children this year is 22.5 %. Delivering vocational training for children while in the training centers and after the release is very important to help them reintegrate.

Future outlook

In October 2017, the National Council for Family affairs (NCFA) launched the national strategy on Juvenile Justice for 2017-2019 as a first step to ensure full implementation of the law. The strategy aims to reduce delinquency rates by strengthening preventative awareness raising activities, to improve the conditions and infrastructures of the centers, and develop local capacities to ensure reinsertion and integration programs in communities.

Furthermore, MoSD has recently applied article 5 of the juvenile law by separating convicted children from those in pre-trial detention. Both are key steps towards implementation the law, especially alternative measures to detention.









Pictures: 1) Mobile maintenance vocational training trainign center © TDH/Claire Merat 2) Football tournament © TDH/Alaa Dabas

[1] Name changed

[2] The Ministry of Social Development, Jordan Juvenile Justice Law, Accessed online http://www.mosd.gov.jo/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1998:-32-2014&catid=13:13

[3] Ministry of Social Development’s Monthly Statistics from TCs and RCs, updated November 2017.

[4]Terre des homes, Mapping of Civil Society Organization working with Children at risk or in conflict with the law in Amman, 2017.

[5] Terre des homes, Children Deprived of Liberty: a survey among detainees in Jordan, 2016.

About the Author: Terre des Hommes (Tdh)

Terre des hommes (Tdh) is the leading Swiss child relief agency. The Foundation has been helping children in need for over 50 years, defending their rights regardless of their race, creed or political affiliation. In over 30 countries, Tdh protects children against exploitation and violence, improves children’s and their mother’s health and provides emergency psychological and material support in humanitarian crises.

In order to ensure the best interests of the child within the Jordanian judicial system, Tdh encourages the establishment of a restorative juvenile justice approach. Towards this end, Tdh Jordanian experts work to enhance the skills of professionals in juvenile justice, and give training courses.  Tdh also assists youngsters in conflict with the law to enable them reintegrate into society. 

Tdh is a member of the Jordan INGO Forum. More information: https://www.tdh.ch/en/our-interventions/jordan