Acting on the support and rehabilitation of minors. Professor Marek Konopczyński: the school turns into a prison

Lowering the lower limit of “responsibility for demoralization” to 10 years, straitjackets, handcuffs and permission to use physical violence against minors in reform schools, including shocking children with a taser – such ideas are included in the draft law on the support and rehabilitation of minors, prepared by the Ministry of Justice. – It’s more like a prison system. It is strange that the new project duplicates the solutions of the law of 40 years ago – assesses in an interview with “Gazeta Wyborcza” social rehabilitation educator Prof. Marek Konopczyński.

The bill on the support and rehabilitation of minors was submitted to the Sejm by the Ministry of Justice on Wednesday.

It assumes, among other things, that juvenile perpetrators of the most serious crimes such as murder or rape will be sent to penitentiary institutions. Residence in such an institution is possible until the levy is 24 years old (21 years until now). The proposed regulation defines the minimum age of responsibility for behavior that is contrary to the rule of law or constitutes signs of demoralization at the level of 10 years. According to the opposition, the lower limit should be 13-14 years.

As Gazeta Wyborcza points out, the project also allows for the use of a small degree of direct coercion in the form of physical violence. “This applies to the indictment of a youth training center, a youth shelter and a penitentiary. If the physical strength is insufficient, in case of self-harm or an attempt on life, it will be possible to, for example, handcuffs on the arms or legs, a straitjacket, incapacitated belt, baton, non-penetrating projectile, chemical incapacitated substances, objects designed to incapacitate people by means of electricity, ie stun guns, or use isolation” – we read.

The bill also includes a provision empowering the school principal to require a student who has committed a prohibited act to work for the school, including cleaning duties, such as raking leaves, mowing the lawn, cleaning hallways or washing.

A project that “has nothing to do with rehabilitation”

The controversial project of the Ministry of Justice was commented on in an interview with “Wyborcza” by Prof. Marek Konopczyński, rehabilitation educator and professor of social sciences.

In his opinion “it is not a code, but the legalization of some reprehensible practices that have been committed before”. “First of all, it is about applying direct coercive measures against minors: handcuffing them, putting on belts and straitjackets, or legalizing the so-called adjustment room where a minor can be locked up, or isolation. Resocialization educators struggle with this. wants to legalize it all “- points Konopczyński.

According to him, the provisions in the draft have “nothing to do with rehabilitation”. “It looks more like a prison system. It is strange that the new design duplicates the solutions from the law of 40 years ago: the provisions on educational measures were rewritten alive from the legislation created during the time of the Polish People’s Republic, right after the introduction of martial law” – notes the interlocutor of “Wyborcza”.

School director as judge and public prosecutor in oneTVN24

The 24-year-old meets a 10-year-old at the facility. “This is outrageous”

For Konopczyński, it is scandalous that Zbigniew Ziobro’s ministry has proposed to change the lower limit of “responsibility for demoralization”.

“When the law comes into effect, in the penitentiary, the 24-year-old will meet the 10-year-old. What does the latter get from this? He learns from his older colleagues a more professional approach to crime, as well as how to avoid responsibility. This is scandalous” – judges. He points out that a 10-year-old child “is unable to assimilate the system of values, morals and principles of social life because his brain is not yet capable of it, and neither is his psyche”. Before going to the penitentiary, the 10-year-old must face trial, “unable” – as Konopczyński claims – “to understand what is happening to him”.

According to the professor, “they might as well have set the limit at six years.” “From a child development sciences point of view, there is no difference here” – he states.

Neighborhood education centers. ‘Should these be mini rest areas? Mini prisons?’

The Ministry of Justice bill also provides for the introduction of an intermediary model between penal institutions and youth training centers, where the perpetrators of both fairly trivial and more serious acts (currently there are about 4,000 young people). District education centers based on penitentiary facilities will be established across the country.

“First of all, we do not know what role this new entity should play, who should be responsible, who should be there. Should they be mini-residues? , that is, rehabilitation “- notes Konopczyński, emphasizing that “rehabilitation is re-socialization” .

“How can you socialize someone in non-social conditions, in closed conditions? All over the world, rigorism and punitivism have been abandoned for decades. Educators try to achieve social rehabilitation in an open environment, with family and loved ones. There is not a word about it in this project” – comments from the interlocutor of “Wyborcza”.


Main photo source: TVN24 GO

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