Juvenile courts in Sierra Leone are filled with minors who have committed minor offences. Out of all the children detained at Freetown Remand and Approved School, respectively 53% and 47% have committed the simple offence of stealing. In the Kenema District, 51% of juvenile court cases are for petty crimes. Those detained can be held up to a month, and furthermore, there is no legal obligation to notify parents of their child’s situation. Lawyers and defence counsel meant to impede detention only appear on average in 35% of cases; in turn, most plead guilty, regardless of the accusation or the truth behind it, falsely believing it will alleviate their sentence.
Children’s best interests are not being accounted for. Here we see large amounts of youth losing their most vital years for petty crimes committed. Rather than educating them in a way that teaches children to learn from their mistake and understand the dos and don’ts of society, they are thrown into a setting that makes them more prone to committing further crime and moreover exposes them to increased risk of abuse and human rights violations.