The Community Rehabilitation Department (CRD) was established in 2001 with the enactment of the Penal System Reform (Alternative Sentences Act). CRD develops and implements prevention, diversion, and rehabilitation programmes targeting at-risk youth, first-time offenders, juveniles (persons under age 18) who come in conflict with the law and their families.
Although the name can be illusive, the Community Rehabilitation Department was established to promote the use of alternative sentencing (as opposed to custodial sentences), to support the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders or other first-time offenders. Instead of being sent to detention facility, i.e. Youth Hostel or Wagener’s Youth facility, the young person instead serves a sentence while remaining in the community. Community Service, probation, fines, recognizance, conditional discharge and suspended sentences are all forms of alternative sentencing.
CRD has grown over the years and now encompasses 5 Units:
- Court & Case Management Services
- Counselling Services
- Conscious Youth Development Programme (CYDP)
- Princess Royal Youth Hostel (Residential)
- Belize Youth Challenge (Residential)
- Lake Independence Resource Centre (LIRC) – Coming Soon
CRD is one of the lead agencies in Belize’s Juvenile Justice System. We work very closely with The Belize Police Department and the Judicial System, who are also major stakeholders in the Juvenile Justice System.
What is Juvenile Justice?
According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a child is defined as any person under the age of 18 years. All children have a right to be protected from all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation. Children who come in conflict with the law are no exception. When a young person commits an offence against the law, indeed he/she must be held accountable. However, the juvenile justice system operates on the premise that persons under the age of 18 years (children and adolescents) are fundamentally different from adults. They are vulnerable, their development (especially brain development) is on-going, and therefore, their level of responsibility is different. As such, even when a young person commits an offence, he or she, must still be protected and afforded every opportunity for positive change. Rehabilitation is the primary goal of any Juvenile Justice System.
Under the laws of Belize, the Juvenile Offenders Act which was enacted in 1936, sets outs provisions to ensure that special juvenile courts are set up to deal with matters involving youth under the age of 18 years. Twelve is the age of criminal responsibility in Belize.