Abu Dhabi: Falling in with the wrong crowd, breakdown of the family, parents’ divorce, and poverty are some of the reasons that can result in dangerous crimes, which can keep thousands locked up in juvenile detention centres, a leading expert told Gulf News in the capital.

“Delinquent juveniles require intensive care and rehabilitation programmes to reintegrate and reinstate them into the society. Therefore, a project will be implemented in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Police and University of Salford to transform Al Mafraq Juvenile Welfare Centre (JWC) into one with an international reputation for excellence and best practices in juvenile welfare and rehabilitation,” Andrew Hampson, associate dean at the college of health and social care at the University of Salford, told Gulf News.

The clinical staff at Al Mafraq Juvenile Welfare Centre (JWC) in Abu Dhabi is currently trained to raise juvenile welfare and rehabilitation capability to one of best practices and mentor the development of policies and procedures.

“The collaboration is built upon the academic and research strengths of the university in criminology, sociology, social work and psychology. This is a strategic partnership between Abu Dhabi Police and the University of Salford. This isn’t about imposing western values on the JWC; it is about working together to enhance the juvenile centre’s international reputation. The project is essentially about high-level knowledge transfer, conveying Salford expertise to the team and JWC,” he said.

Salford Univesity has an internationally renowned Centre for Prison Studies (CFPS), which was established in 2008 as part of the university’s centre for social research.

The centre aims to provide a forum in which academics and prison practitioners can meet via conferences, seminars, and informal workshops and begin to close the apparent gab between the knowledge of prisons held by academics and the end knowledge of prisons held by those who work in them.

“The project is 18 months long and will be led by a mix of university academics and external consultant practitioners. The project will be implemented in two phases. The first phase will focus on the consultancy element, which will be made up of 12 work streams relating to operations within the JWC. For example, bullying and harassment, offender behaviour, risk assessments, child protection. The consulting team will fly in to the centre at various intervals throughout the project,” Hampson told Gulf News.

“However, the second part will focus on the therapeutic model, which will involve a team of five clinical professionals, made up of psychologists and social workers and a family worker based in Abu Dhabi for the duration of the 18 months. The team will provide clinical services as well as knowledge transfer and mentor the current clinical staff in the JWC,” he added.

Al Mafraq JWC was opened in 1995 for delinquent juveniles. It hosts around 172 juveniles, distributed into four buildings, with a total number of 43 rooms in each. The centre also has a department for minor females to develop their behaviour and implement several educational, psychological, and health programmes.

As reported earlier by Gulf News in 2004, juvenile crime had increased by 20 per cent in the past three years, from 190 reported cases in 2001, to 240 in 2003. Also, juveniles commit crime at twice the rate of adults, according to a study conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology.

Studies have found that factors such as hostility from teachers and peers at school, abusive conditions at home. parental alcoholism, poverty, breakdown of the family, or death of parents can result in children turning into criminals.

“The scope of the project will include addressing such issues as individual risk assessments, suicide and self-harm, anti-bullying and child protection. The project will also include the establishment of a clinical therapeutic model to support the needs of juveniles undergoing rehabilitation,” Hampson, who sits on the main project board, told Gulf News. Studies done in the United Kingdom have also shown that sports programmes for children at high risk of delinquency reduced truancy, increased self-confidence, discipline and leadership skills.