Anyone under the age of 18 is generally considered as a juvenile, and anyone who fails to obey the laws of the land is a delinquent, but when these two words get together in an unholy alliance, we have on hand a serious problem that requires a prudent approach. Obviously, the way forward is not by means of getting tough but by being caring and careful with the policies and programmes we put in place to handle young offenders.
Children are the future of any nation and if an increasing number of them tend to be antisocial owing to factors ranging from simple to complex, the nation will be deprived of its most precious resource to build, strengthen and gallop ahead.
Just as there is a range of risk factors that give rise to the problem of juvenile delinquency, there are many theories that try to define and address the issue with a view to bringing down the numbers.
A child may engage in antisocial or criminal conduct either because he does not have the means to make himself happy and resorts to unlawful ways to meet his goals, or because he, after failing to meet the normal social standards, tries to form his own group of like-minded youngsters.
Punitive measures that seek to isolate and tough policies that try to discipline him might not work. A juvenile delinquent need to be brought back into the fold of society through the involvement of the whole of society – and that includes the child, his parents, the schools and others in the community. It is a collective work.
The new facility for juvenile delinquents that is coming up in Seeb has received generous support from society. Omani businessmen and corporations have come forward to lend their helping hands to the efforts being put in by the government to get the youngsters who have strayed off the mainstream back on the right track.
The Seeb facility has in its focus factors that could help a young offender get back into the mainstream. “The upcoming project will help the ministry organise more workshops and rehabilitation programmes as it will be located in Muscat, which makes it close to the educational institutions concerned,” said Adnan Mustafa Al Farsi, assistant director of the juvenile affair department in the Ministry of Social Development.
The current facility is located at the Central Jail at Sumail, but by choosing Seeb as the place for the new centre the authorities are looking at the possibility of taking advantage of the vast opportunities available in Muscat to reform and rehabilitate the young offenders. “Children between age 11 and 18 who commit crimes are sent to the rehabilitation centre while the guidance centre cares for the kids who are more prone to violate the law,” Al Farsi explained.
He added that the police would only be in charge of the centre’s security and guard duty. While the Samail juvenile centre is managed by the Royal Oman Police, the new one will be fully operated by the Ministry of Social Development.
The new 4,000m² Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre will be opened in 2019, according to a source at W.J Towell, the company in charge of executing the project.
The ministry signed a memorandum of understanding on September 13 with the Towell group to fund the centre, according to the company’s twitter page. After a week, the company revealed that it invested RO700,000 in the first-of-its-kind project.
The hexagon-shaped centre will be divided into two sections – a rehabilitation centre and a guidance centre – according to Al Farsi. The centre will include a library, food court, gym, an outdoor football field and a mini school. The rooms will be designed to accommodate more than 70 juveniles.
“Juvenile delinquents in Oman are relevantly a small group and they need care rather than punishment. This way we can control them,” the Towell Group source said, adding that the project was still in the mapping stage and the company was working on getting some clearances.
Last year, the Ministry of Social Development reported a decrease in the number of juvenile offenders in the Sultanate. Around 445 crimes were recorded in 2016 compared to 506 in 2015, 423 in 2014 and 457 in 2013.
The data shows that 137 juveniles were arrested in North Al Batinah Governorate, 68 in Muscat Governorate, 53 in A’Dakhiliya Governorate, 34 in Al Dhahira, while South and North Al Sharqiyah registered 47 and 38 respectively.
The charitable project comes amid a wave of donations given by Omani businessmen and corporations.
Local media reported in October that an Omani citizen, who chose to remain anonymous, donated 120 houses for underprivileged families and orphans.
In the same month, MB Foundation, the charity arm of MB Holding Company LLC, donated a new accommodation wing to the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital (SQUH), which is expected to be ready next year.
Saleh Al Zarii, a local businessman, donated in October medical equipment worth of RO700,000 to Jaalan Bani Bu Ali Hospital, according to Atheer news website.
The Corporate Social Responsible initiatives have been highly appreciated by social media users in the Sultanate.