Success in giving new life to former jailed youth

By Fr. Shay Cullen

There is good news, hope and success for children in conflict with the law (CICL) at Preda New Dawn Home in Liloan, Cebu. This open center founded in 2018 is an alternative to jail and life there is based on trust, respect and building the self-value and dignity of the troubled youth. It is succeeding in giving a new, happier life and education to the young people sent there by enlightened and compassionate judges in Cebu who are dedicated to implementing the provisions of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA) that promotes restorative justice.

Ken is one of many success stories of a boy arrested for the possession of marijuana and held in a police jail. The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act in the Philippines carries a jail sentence of many years. The compassionate judge, Judge Maria Dee Seares,  applied the provision of the JJWA and referred him to the Preda New Dawn Home. Ken, at first, was aggressive, easily angered and frequently created conflict with his fellow residents.

However, after weeks of values formation sessions, supported by the respect of the staff, and Emotional Release Therapy, he released his anger and hurt and pain in his life experience. Then, his aggression subsided and he became reflective, cooperative and very helpful to the staff and respecting the other boys in the home. He eventually underwent tests and examination by government agencies and after almost 18 months was eventually pronounced fit to be discharged by the court and reintegrated with his family. He is now living a drug-free life and continuing his studies.

The dedicated and committed Preda Foundation staff that operate the home are saving many youth through a positive program of rejuvenation, value formation, therapy and education. The youth at the home are saved by court order from the suffering and abuse they endure in the youth prison and police holding cells. In prisons or in Bahay Pag-asa detention centers, the children in conflict with the Law (CICL) have few opportunities in the prison-like conditions to overcome their lack of education and the abuse and deprivation they endured in childhood. In the detention centers, there are jail cells with steel bars and they suffer bullying, beating and gang violence. Some sleep on the floor and live in subhuman conditions. There is zero to little value formation, training, therapy or education in these government facilities for children in Conflict with the law in the Philippines. All this is traumatic and damaging for young people.

That’s why alternative homes for youth like the New Dawn Home in Liloan, Cebu, supported since 2018 by Aktionsgruppe “Kinder in Not” e.V based in Germany, are essential as outlined in the JJWA, a law that is often not implemented by local governments. The children and youth are still considered by some government officials as having “criminal minds.” This is far from the truth as is seen from how the youth respond in the New Dawn Home when they are respected, treated with dignity, accepted, affirmed, and receive value formation and education on their rights and value as human beings and as children of God.

These youth, from 15 to 17 years of age, are successfully persuaded and encouraged to take Emotional Release Therapy to bring out their emotional pain and memories in therapy sessions. Then, after therapy, they can talk about their past painful experiences. The Preda Foundation home is an alternative to jail providing a caring and supporting environment where the youth can grow and change. The number of admissions to the home is growing as more are sent by good caring judges that want to help the youth reform.

 

The Preda New Dawn center is an open center that thrives on trust, affirmation, respect, emotional support and education.  The youth,  released from jail by compassionate and enlightened judges, agree and volunteer to stay by free choice.  They feel wanted, cared for and of value and have dignity and rights that are respected and cherished by the dedicated staff. They are cared for by a staff of dedicated social workers and facilitators who teach, inspire and support them every day.

There are 32 boys in the Preda New Dawn Home, 28 are children in conflict with law with legal cases and four are children at risk. Out of the 32 boys, 17 were rescued from the youth prison Operation Second Chance, 10 from police detention facilities and four from drop-in centers. These children in conflict with the law and children at risk were accused of committing offenses in the community and they were referred by the courts or by partner local government units to Preda.

There is great hope to help and heal more young prisoners and save them from a life of crime. There are eight more youth waiting for admission and to be helped at Preda New Dawn Home. They are being held in temporary detention by local social workers and will soon be transferred to the Preda New Dawn Home. The Preda staff are prioritizing (for admission) boys with court orders, those who may be sent to youth prison for their serious violations and those with failed community diversion programs. When admitted to the New Dawn Home, they are saved from enduring the horrors of the jail-like system.

Education is the escape from poverty, hardship and life in jail. In the New Dawn Home, the boys participate in program activities and are helped to continue their education through non-formal and formal education such as the Alternative Learning System (ALS). At present, there are 23 boys enrolled in the Alternative Learning System (ALS).This is a successful alternative to detention that could be adopted by all the youth jails and Bahay Pag-asa. That is vital for their healing and recovery and chance for a better future. It is what the New Dawn Home is all about, a new better start in life for them and their families. The research data for this article was provided by Emmanuel Drewery, the executive director of the Preda Foundation.

www.preda.org

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