Early intervention can prevent crime

Early intervention programmes play a vital part in reforming juvenile delinquents.

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For two days this week, The National focused its attentions on the country’s prisons and looked at the state and health of these institutions from every angle: the conditions inside our jails, the purpose they serve in our community and plans to build the correctional facilities of the future. We’ve also reported from Abu Dhabi’s juvenile detention centre on the educational programmes it stages and the community schemes it intends to introduce.

Waleed Al Abri, principal of Al Mafraq Juvenile Education Care Centre, said it has been working to initiate a delinquency programme for schools. According to the plan, which is scheduled to be introduced next year, social workers will visit schools with a high number of juvenile delinquents and hold private sessions with problem students.

The introduction of this scheme will be of great benefit. There is, thankfully, no strong culture of crime or long-standing organised criminal gangs in this country, although petty theft and minor misdemeanours remain an issue, especially among young people. But it is important to get to these young people before they fall through the cracks of society and become repeat offenders – and the best way to do that is through engagement.

Psycho-educational techniques can contribute greatly in promoting pro-social behaviours among chronically aggressive and violent adolescents. They can develop their social skills and help them have emotional control and moral reasoning.

A school-based prevention programme can improve social integration, reduce violence and classroom disruption, and could lead to improved academic performance and stronger attachment to school, according to research. Such a scheme would also help unclog the criminal courts by giving youngsters pause for thought before they commit an offence for the first time or making them question why they may have previously offended. Similar community programmes have been seen to make a difference in the United States, Europe and Australia.

Juveniles are often victims of their situations, as well as peer pressure and just need a suitable environment and the appropriate kind of support to redirect them along the right path. Early intervention programmes play a vital part in this process.