Published by Save the Children uk, Bosnia and Herzegovina Programme

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Medical care

In addition to a prison doctor employed in Zenica Prison, medical care comprises visits by medical specialists from local communities at least once a week. In Zenica Prison there is an outpatient clinic for patients with minor health problems, while patients with severe medical problems are sent to hospital. Correctional-penal institutions in the RS do not, according to the information obtained, have a full-time staff doctor.

There are no special programmes in prison institutions for the treatment of drug misuse, despite the fact that is a critical problem for juvenile convicts.

Contacts with family and the wider community

Visits to prisoners are usually allowed once a month. Weekends at home and visits to a town are subject to consideration for each individual convicted juvenile. According to the Educational-Reformatory Department of Zenica Prison, juvenile convicts who behave well may accumulate 80 days of leave (outside the institution) each year.

The relationship with one’s family may be critical for rehabilitation of a prisoner, especially after release from an institution. Building such a relationship depends to a great extent on the staff employed by the institution. Visits by individual persons or groups from the community have often been considered but, while planned, have not occurred on a regular basis in practice. Practice in other countries clearly indicates the positive impact of visits by community groups or students groups. Funding to cover the visits by students or children at high risk would not be a serious constraint.
Examples from International Practice

Celje Juvenile and Young Offender Prison

The approach is educational with the staff establishing close links to prisoner’s families and home towns. After a one month assessment period a programme is proposed to the juvenile with a view to preparing him for reintegration into society. The main focus is education with some juveniles even following courses outside the prison. Students from Celje also visit the prison regularly.

Radece Correctional Home

The home runs a special programme for those juveniles who want to give up drugs. They are moved to a separate self-contained dormitory where they enter a 3-stage programme: education and motivation on changes in life (two months); education on how to spend free time; and moving to an open department where the focus is on education and sport activities and vocational skills.

Complaints and the possibility of external supervision

According to the described system in which juvenile prisoners are entitled to file complaints, which is no different to that which applies to adults, an answer to a complaint may be provided only inside the same institution. Neither the law nor practice anticipates the possibility of supervision over the treatment of a juvenile in prison facilities by an international organisation or community representatives.

Preparation for release

Neither legal solutions nor practice in prison facilities pay enough attention to the critical issue of preparation for release. While the law stipulates the release procedure in detail, the provisions for the preparation for release define only that parents, guardians and the social welfare centre are to be informed of the expected release and involved in preparation for it. In practice, centres of social welfare are not involved with any particular planned activity.

International Standards:

“All juveniles should benefit from arrangements designed to assist them in returning to the community, including early release and special courses. Juveniles should be provided with suitable residence, clothing, employment and sufficient means to facilitate successful reintegration…”

UN Rules on Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty

The shortage of funds certainly affects the preparation for reintegration into the community, but significant improvement could be made within existing resource limits, as pointed out by the staff at some prison institutions. Staff members interviewed stressed that such arrangements represent the weakest point in practice, while social welfare centres are also blamed for a passive approach to this problem.

Education of staff in residential institutions
Efforts are made to employ adequate staff as anticipated under the law, but this is not always feasible. Managerial staff in some institutions underlined the need for specific training for existing staff directly dealing with juveniles. In the views of some, supervision of staff performance (which is currently non-existent) is needed in order to help staff to do their jobs more efficiently, given that the nature of work in prisons is characterised by enormous stress.


Juvenile Justice Prevention – International Instruments
The UN Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (Riyadh Guidelines) cover measures to prevent juvenile offending on a number of levels,97 notably:

  • Primary prevention, i.e. general measures to promote social justice and equal opportunity, which thus tackle the perceived root causes of offending such as poverty and other forms of marginalisation

  • Secondary prevention, i.e. measures to assist children who are identified as being more particularly at risk, such as those whose parents are themselves in special difficulty or are not caring appropriately for them

  • Tertiary prevention, involving schemes to avoid unnecessary contact of juveniles with the formal justice system (diversion) and other measures to prevent re-offending.

Prevention as perceived theoretically and practically in this manner may encompass a large spectrum of activities and various actors, ranging from government measures to reduce poverty and provide equal opportunities to marginalised groups (primary prevention) through educational work directed at children at risk, provision of police protection to smaller groups in the local community (secondary prevention), use of out-of-court measures on behalf of the prosecution and court officials, and social welfare centre activities to prevent recidivism (tertiary prevention).

This breakdown of prevention into three levels demonstrates the clear links between the concepts of ‘prevention’ and ‘reintegration’. Reintegration is the stated aim of juvenile justice as a whole. Very often, by this or another name such as rehabilitation, it is perceived as simply assisting an offender to return to the community. Consequently, while reintegration is the aim of specific measures set out particularly in the non-binding international texts (for instance, vocational training, counselling, conditional release, and halfway houses), there is also considerable similarity between preventive measures on all three levels and those that are proposed for reintegration itself.98
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child does not explicitly mention action related to prevention, but many see the implementation of the treaty as whole as being the best and most fundamental manner in which to approach prevention.

The Riyadh Guidelines reflect many rights contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Thus, for primary prevention, the right to an adequate standard of living is clearly reflected (Article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child), the duty of the state to intervene if parents do not provide good care of their child (Article 7) is included in secondary prevention, and strong advocacy to divert a child from the formal justice system whenever possible (Article 40 of the Convention) is contained in tertiary prevention..

The Riyadh Guidelines may be used as a checklist for the development of prevention strategies in BiH, especially at high administrative levels. The Guidelines, by virtue of their comprehensiveness, provide a full framework for the definition of preventive strategies and, with their links to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, provide legal grounds for such prevention activities.

Juvenile Justice Prevention in BiH – existing plans
There is no strategy for the prevention of juvenile offending at the state or entity level in BiH. Documents developed at BiH level, as well as at entity level, which were available for the present analysis, were action plans for children in BiH at the state level and for the Federation of BiH and the Republika Srpska. These three documents comprise activities that only partially cover prevention of juvenile offending, whereas the police are given the main role in carrying out these activities (under the respective Ministries of Internal Affairs in both entities). More specifically, the three documents contain the following provisions:
The Action Plan for Children in Bosnia and Herzegovina 2002–201099 has guidelines related to juvenile offending and describes the “designation of duties to Ministries of Internal Affairs (the police) to analyse juvenile offending in order to provide adequate follow-up and work on its prevention.”
The Action Plan for Children in the Federation of BiH 2002-2010 anticipates the following activities in the area of juvenile offending:

  • continued information-sharing and joint working of various competent institutions

  • timely detection, reporting, investigation and proving of offences in the domain of juvenile offending

  • co-operation of various bodies and institutions

  • special assignments to staff of Ministries of Internal Affairs to deal with juvenile offending.

Timely detection, reporting and investigation should be key activities aimed at curbing juvenile offending. The police should conduct most of the work, with strengthened capacities, as envisaged by the Action Plan for the Children in the Federation of BiH.

The Action Plan for Children in the Republika Srpska 2001–2010 anticipates that social welfare centres should request the RS Ministry of Internal Affairs to provide analyses on juvenile offending so they can adequately follow-up and work on curbing this phenomenon with the help of police officials.

A review of the three documents leads one to conclude that the issue of juvenile offending in BiH, and more specifically its prevention, is being simplified. The prevailing term, ‘curbing of offending’, is a regular term used by internal affairs bodies. The designation of the Ministries of Internal Affairs, i.e. the police, as the key, and almost only actor, in all activities related to curbing juvenile offending raises the question of how much internal affairs institutions alone can do in the planning or implementation of preventive programmes. It is difficult to assess how the police could avoid deterrence as the basic method of prevention and provide a combination of other approaches (social approach). Another question pertains to the awareness in internal affairs institutions about the need to involve different actors in the community (municipal level) in the implementation of preventive activities.
Concerning concrete preventive initiatives, the only confirmed information available for this analysis relates to the Plan for Prevention of Juvenile Offending for Sarajevo Canton.100 Details are not available, as activities based on this plan have not yet been initiated. However, drafting of the plan is to be welcomed.

Preventive Programmes in the area of Juvenile Offending – experiences from Western Europe

In criminological terms, the concept of prevention has changed dramatically in the last few decades,101 moving from a punitive approach via clinical-social treatment of possible offenders, to a social approach. These diverse approaches have continued to co-exist in prevention programmes across Western Europe to date.102 As a result, prevention has become a vague concept and very different policies have claimed to be preventive. Different programmes include those for the integration of marginalised children, adapted educational programmes, police patrols, streetlights or video monitors, and warning campaigns for the citizens.

Two studies from Western Europe103 describe trends and good practice in a variety of different preventive programmes, but also outline elements in different programmes that caused a decreased level of desired outcomes.

  1. Over the last ten years in Western Europe, central governments – especially Ministries of Justice and of Internal Affairs, have taken initiatives to enhance a more conscious prevention policy. In France, Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK and Belgium, bodies like Prevention Councils play central, leading roles.

  2. The central initiatives generally try to develop prevention programmes at local level, with the participation of agencies at that level being crucial. The municipalities are very important driving forces and co-ordinators, although operations often take place at the level of smaller territorial entities.

  3. It seems to be generally accepted that crime prevention rests upon economic and social integration, that is reasonable housing and living conditions. This approach has given rise to a great diversity of programmes focused on juveniles or neighbourhoods at risk in many Western European countries. A general problem has been, however, the lack of systematic methodology in implementing and evaluating actions. The more focused projects seem to have, as a consequence, better methodologies.

  4. Many programmes are based on socio-clinical approaches to individuals and/or their families. This approach has the longest tradition, but they now have the advantage of new developments in clinical science and of advanced forms of inter-agency co-operation.
  5. Situational prevention is are fairly well developed in several countries, especially the Netherlands and the UK. This approach defines clear, measurable goals of crime reduction and involves simple well-defined actions and evaluation after a specified period of time. It provides measurable results in the short term, which is attractive for authorities. On the other hand, broad social problems are neglected within this approach, which is why most authorities turn to so-called ‘integrative prevention’.

  6. Integrative prevention means that a more holistic prevention attempt is co-ordinated simultaneously by the diverse actors, intervening in different aspects of the child's social life, aiming to prevent crime and the fear of crime. Socio-clinical, social and local efforts are made at the same time, in order to help individuals at risk and avoid the creation of risk situations in future. These programmes also need better methodologies and evaluation.




It is necessary to make amendments in that part of the legislation of the Federation of BiH and of the Republika Srpska which pertains to the area of juvenile justice in accordance with international instruments so as to obtain solutions which are applicable in practice. With the full participation of policy-makers, practitioners, children, and the government and non-governmental organisations at various administrative levels, it is necessary to provide a comprehensive approach to law reform which ensures that the rights of children in conflict with the law are respected. This process would require the following activities:

  1. Training for staff in all sub-systems and institutions on international instruments within the area of juvenile offending.

  2. Evaluation of the compatibility of all legal provisions regulating the area of juvenile offending with international standards.

  3. An analysis of the possibility and the effects of compiling all legal provisions on juvenile offending into a separate legal act.

  4. Evaluation of specific segments of practice by means of comparative analysis and specific research studies.
  5. Informing policy-makers and practitioners through enabling possibilities to gain insight into the different legal solutions and practice in countries with similar justice systems or verified good practice.

  6. Consultations at all levels and within all sub-systems on proposed new legal provisions. Prior to laws being finalised, analysis of the impact that any potential new legislation would have on children coming into conflict with the law should be conducted, ensuring that their rights are duly protected and respected.

  7. Informing the public on the process of juvenile justice reform and the creation of a positive public view on desired changes.

  8. Realistic estimates on the cost of infrastructure needed for the implementation of proposed measures.

  9. Research on the possibilities of applying the model of restorative justice within the process, as well as alternative measures based on the culture and tradition of the peoples of BiH.

  10. Launching pilot projects on some initiatives to check the feasibility of their implementation and assess their likely impact by means of monitoring and analysis, prior to larger-scale implementation.

  11. Establishing government bodies to supervise the process of reforms as well as both government and non-government sector organisations to report on new legal regulations over a longer period of time.


It is necessary, through changes in legislation, policy and practice, to ensure the possibility of raising current standards of work to international standards, and to aspire to the introduction of new models of processing cases of juveniles which have been proven to have positive effects on minors and the system as well. In the area of work of each and every institution in the system of juvenile offending, the following should be done:

Ministries and other government bodies (at various administrative levels in BiH)

  1. Establish a compulsory, clear and uniform system of data collection and processing relevant to juveniles and juvenile offending and delegate it to the Ministries of Justice.

  2. Provide regular information to the public on trends in juvenile offending, initiatives for law amendments, the work of institutions, and particularly closed institutions, in enforcing criminal sanctions.

  3. Establish inter-agency (interdisciplinary) bodies with representatives from various official levels (state, entity, canton), and the local community to be engaged in the process of improving juvenile justice administration, based on the development of theory and practice relevant to this area.

  4. Provide for relevant training concerning provisions in international juvenile justice instruments for prosecutors, judges and lawyers in the RS and the FBiH through the existing centres for education of judges and prosecutors in both entities.

  5. Provide for the implementation of international standards for juveniles deprived of liberty who are placed in closed institutions (in both BiH entities) that are legally under the responsibility of ministries. This would include exploring the possibility of establishing external commissions for appeals by imprisoned juveniles, as well as the possibility of supervision of work of closed institutions (reformatory-correctional homes and penitentiary facilities) by mixed commissions (government sector, non-governmental sector, reputable individuals and public figures in community).

The police

  1. Reduce detention during preparatory proceedings so that it is used only for the most serious cases, while also introducing an alternative to custody.

  2. Provide for separation of juvenile detainees from adult detainees along with provision of special accommodation for female offenders.

  3. Explore the possibility of vesting more powers to the police so that they can use official cautions for less serious forms of offending as a way of diverting juveniles from the official criminal justice system.

  4. Ensure a defence counsel from the onset of any proceedings against a juvenile (the Republika Srpska).

  5. Ensure better-equipped facilities for work with juveniles.

  6. Provide specific training courses on child rights and communicating with children, particularly in their first contact with the police, and acquaint police officers with examples of good practice in the region.

  7. Enable police officers to have longer assignments in particular section of towns.

  8. Strengthen co-operation between social welfare centres and the police, as well as between schools and the police, at local level, around work with child offenders up to 14 years of age and other children at risk of offending.


  1. Define more precisely and in methodological terms the implementation of educational recommendations in the Federation of BiH so as to enable prosecutors to resort more frequently to reformatory recommendations, in compliance with the law.

  2. Provide, within the legal framework, possibilities for prosecutors to divert juveniles from further criminal proceedings and to organise pilot projects of diversion (Republika Srpska).

  3. Provide specific training and examples of good practice in juvenile justice in Europe, especially the model of diversion.

  4. Establish a legally binding obligation (within future cantonal prosecutor offices (FBiH) and district prosecutor offices in the RS) to monitor juvenile offending trends.


  1. Analyse the possibility of establishing juvenile courts as separate departments of first-instance courts, and any effect this might have.
  2. Conduct research to identify the causes of lengthy criminal proceedings and the ensuing consequences on juveniles, and subsequently address the issue with the Ministry of Justice.

  3. Make firm legal regulations ensuring the compulsory employment of professional assistants at courts.

  4. Provide, within the legal framework, possibilities for judges to divert juveniles from further criminal proceedings (Republika Srpska).

  5. Legally stipulate the duty of judges to regularly supervise juveniles in custody, as well as those placed in closed institutions.

  6. Make legislative changes to the use of bail for juveniles, especially pertaining to bail of a non-financial nature.

  7. Organise special training courses for judges and enable them to gain an insight into good practice in Europe.

  8. Monitor recidivism systematically and in specific terms, and take part in analysing of the causes of recidivism jointly with other institutions of the system.

  9. Establish more stringent legal regulations for the suspension of criminal sanctions and replacement of sanctions.

  10. Examine the possibility of the recognition of a control hearing as a specific work task that can be appraised within the existing quota system as other works tasks.

Social Welfare Centres

  1. Seek funds (municipality, canton) for the work of a specific service for juvenile offending in larger areas in BiH, or for appropriate specialists in smaller places.

  2. Provide better working conditions to improve standards of preparation of the social analysis and participation in implementation of measures.

  3. Analyse the existing capacities of social welfare centres before introducing new measures in criminal legislation.

  4. Define the role of social welfare centres in methodological terms, with regard to the implementation of reformatory recommendations in the Federation of BiH.
  5. Provide for special training sessions and exchange of experience with corresponding services in other countries of the region related to models of work in social welfare centres in the implementation of criminal sanctions.

  6. Legislate the duties of social welfare centres and social welfare services in such a way as to increase their responsibilities in the post-penal treatment of juveniles (subsequent to their release from the institutions).

  7. Introduce compulsory monitoring of recidivism and examine the possibilities of adjusting programmes of implementation of measures to the actual needs of recidivists.

  8. Arrange for two-way communication and exchange of information between faculty institutions in BiH (faculties for social welfare work, psychology) and social welfare centres, and advocate for the introduction of specific training courses for students in the area of juvenile offending.

  9. Provide support by founders and financiers (municipalities, cantons) in devising joint programmes with non-governmental organisations, be it pilot projects or expansion of available services provided by social welfare centres in implementation of measures using the capacities of non-governmental organisations and associations (youth clubs, counselling centres, etc).


It is necessary to analyse and revise the existing system of criminal sanctions for juveniles in BiH. The following should be taken into account, in addition to a comparative analysis of the existing infrastructure in (re)defining the system of criminal sanctions:

  1. The necessity of carrying out research to evaluate the effects of individual measures on juveniles in the long term.

  2. Undertaking pilot projects on new measures prior to the introduction of changes (as this has proven to be exceptionally good practice in numerous countries).

  3. Realistic evaluation of practical applicability and financial feasibility.
  4. Good and documented experiences in implementation of the model of ‘restorative justice’, as well as confirmed good experience creating such models in a manner appropriate to a certain country and culture.

  5. Good and documented experiences in the application of diversion and out-of-court treatment of juveniles.

  6. The need to enable greater participation by the community and to use existing capacities, especially taking into account civil sector capacities (non-governmental organisations, associations, and clubs, counselling centres).

It is necessary to make plans for the prevention of juvenile offending at different levels, by including all key actors in the process: the police, schools, local authorities, social and civil sectors, and children. The following elements should become constituent parts of this endeavour:

  1. An intensive public debate on juvenile offending, its most frequent causes, the status of the young in society and ways of supporting young people at risk.

  2. Research on risk factors of juvenile offending.

  3. Research on the public perception of juvenile crime, undertaken with the participation of young people.

  4. Research and publications on the effects of institutional measures on the life of minors.


Definitions in use by Save the Children UK Programme in BiH

Please Note: Some of these words will have broader or different definitions when used outside Juvenile Justice. The definitions which follow represent how these words are used in a Juvenile Justice context.

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