More than 1 million children are detained through justice systems worldwide at any one time, although this is likely to be a significant underestimate given the difficulties in obtaining data about the many unreported children in custody. Not only are data collected inconsistently, they often do not include children awaiting trial, young children detained with their parents or children held temporarily by the police.
Among 44 countries for which data were available, around 59 per cent of children in detention had not been sentenced.
The vast majority of children in detention have not committed serious offenses. Many are only charged with status offenses, such as running away from home, violation of child-related curfews, truancy or alcohol use. Children are also detained in the context of immigration, mental health concerns or for ‘their own protection’. Children who are victims of crime and children who are witnesses to crime are often ‘re-victimized’ by justice systems that are not adapted to children’s rights and needs.
Five countries are known to have applied the death penalty to children since January 2005.
Source: Child Protection from Violence, Exploitation and Abuse; UNICEF, full fact sheet at: http://www.unicef.org/media/media_45451.html
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