Parents to face stiffer penalties for offences against their children


Amendments have been made to the Criminal Code increasing liability for crimes against the family and children. Although, of course, depriving children of proper parental attention can probably not be called a crime and will not be punished, psychologists and the heads of juvenile corrective institutions say that it is most often due to lack of attention that leads to young people ending up behind bars.

There are, overall, less young offenders behind bars than five years ago. According to the Deputy Head of the Department for the Execution of Sentences Mykola Iltyai, this is partly because of legislation on juvenile offenders becoming less severe. These days other measures rather than imprisonment are applied. He believes that a general improvement in the standard of living is also a factor.

However, while numbers have fallen, there has been an increase in the brutality of crimes. According to M. Iltyai, “Young people come to us whom society has not coped with. The Penal system deals with them, our specialized institutions. There are 10 altogether – 9 for boys and one for girls.”

Out of almost two thousand juvenile prisoners 116 are female. More than ten percent are serving sentences for murder, or for causing serious bodily injuries. The main core of prisoners have been convicted of theft or robbery with violence. The majority of young offenders are 14-17.  

Penal staff say that these are not simply cases. They cite the example of an adolescent who inflicted thirty knife wounds to his mother.

Yet the Deputy Head of the penal institution for young women Olena Khrystoforova says that for her the young women in her charge are first and foremost children. She says that when they arrive, they’re like hedgehogs, closed up inside, but that there is a warm, more homely atmosphere in the colony.

Half of the adolescents imprisoned were being brought up in families without both parents, as a rule, on low incomes. A considerable number are orphans deprived of parental care.

Specialists say that their asocial behaviour has its roots in the family. Having not found understanding or warmth there, they seek refuge on the streets, often falling under the bad influence of older kids. They say that the blame lies in the first instance with adults.

According to child psychologists, Ukraine still does not have a single programme for adolescents with disturbed behaviour making it possible to help them before they end up committing a crime.

The Head of the Sambir Penal Colony Yury Kapustensky says “I always tell peoples that there are no bad children. It’s we the parents who are bad for letting a child end up here.”

People who work with these young people everyday say that the idea that they won’t be socially adapted later is a stereotype.  Mykola Iltyai says that only one in a hundred juvenile prisoners commits a crime again and ends up in prison.  18 adolescents, on the other hand, entered higher educational institutes after serving their sentence.

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