Accelerate Release of Children from Detention, and Protect them from COVID-19

The pandemic reminded the world of the necessity to stop depriving children of their liberty. This unprecedented situation strengthened international mobilisation to reduce, if not eliminate the deprivation of liberty of minors (see more here), who are more at risk of contracting the virus given their conditions of detention (overcrowding, lack of access to healthcare, unsuitable sanitary conditions, etc.). In this context, the IBCR participated in the creation of guidelines to support professionals working in contact with children in conflict with the law during the COVID-19 crisis.

When the virus appeared, many organisations flagged places of deprivation of liberty (police cells, prisons, closed centres, migrant centres, etc.) as being harmful to children’s mental and physical health, in times of pandemic even more than usual. Their mobilisation allowed to engage a dialogue with several governments and release thoudands of children from detention centres. For these releases to be carried out in the best possible way, and to lead to reinsertion and reintegration into society with respect to the children’s rights, it is necessary for the profesionals in charge to be adequatly equipped. 

It is in with this objective in mind that several organisations, including the IBCR, have come together to provide clear, concise and concrete documentation and guidelines on adapting professional practices to the health crisis situation. Aimed at social workforce, security forces and legal professionals, pillars of the child protection systems worldwide, these Operational Guidelines are intended to provide practical “how to” recommendations and principles of action during COVID-19 pandemic in order to support children and young people who:

  • are in contact of in conflict with the law 
  • have been deprived of liberty
  • have been released or are in the process of being released from detention due to the pandemic;
  • were already in the process of reintegration through non-custodial measures and their reintegration plans require modification due to the pandemic.

The ambition of these guidelines is both to avoid deprivation of liberty by promoting alternatives to detention and to provide tools and keys to enable children deprived of their liberty to be released as soon as possible and reintegrated into an environment that is more appropriate and conducive to their development.

As the spread of the virus is not at the same stage in all countries around the world, these guidelines are intended to be adjustable and can be adapted to the needs and specificities of each country.

This initiative is part of the global Justice With Children initiative, a programme launched in 2019 bringing together international organisations to address the most current issues related to children in contact and conflict with the law. It aims to facilitate the interaction between actors in the field of justice for children, through spaces for reflection, exchange and learning.


Find here the complete documents of the operational guidelines by sector: 

˃ Policy and Practice Brief

˃ Operational guidelines for professionals interacting with children in conflict with the law during covid-19

Pictures © Terre des hommes


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