“I’ve seen cases of distribution of pornography, in which boys shared the photo of a girl in a group,” related a judge of juvenile matters in Nicoya, Jose Pablo Monge. “Then the girl’s mother reported them, and the minors said that since they were minors, no one can tell them anything,” he added.
Monge cited the case as an example of the ignorance that, on many occasions, minors and their families have of the criminal proceedings they may face. “We have to change that idea that since they are minors, nobody can do anything to them. It’s a very common mistake,” remarked Monge.
Due to the urgent need for education on issues of juvenile crimes, the Nicoya Juvenile Criminal Court is organizing a whole week of talks and activities for students from five high schools in Nicoya: Belen High School, Technical Professional School (CTP for the Spanish abbreviation) of Nicoya, Saul Cardenas Educational Center, Nicoya High School and CTP of Mansion.
The activities are part of Preventive Literacy Day, a new date included last year on the calendar of the Ministry of Public Education (MEP) that should be commemorated every May 25. This was decreed by former President Carlos Alvardo last year.
The topics of talks that will be given at the high schools range from juvenile criminal justice law to dating violence, improper relationships, bullying, life skills and college career options.
The court also planned a screening of the film El pájaro de fuego (The Bird of Fire) at the Casa de la Cultura (House of Culture) in Nicoya. The activities will take place from May 23-27 at 7:10 p.m. and are aimed at young people between 15 and 18 years old, although others who are interested can also request admission. If you want to participate, fill out this form.
“We want to prevent minors from having to go through criminal proceedings and that’s why we need to guide them,” said the judge.
Saul Cardenas Educational Center’s principal, Iris Araya, agrees with him. She, teachers and other school principals have been involved in organizing the activities. Institutions such as the Public Force, the National Children’s Trust (PANI for the Spanish acronym), the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Institute (IAFA for the Spanish acronym) and the Municipality of Nicoya are also participating.
“We’ve taken it quite seriously because, for us, healthy coexistence becomes a relevant element and for young people to avoid conflicts. It’s necessary to educate them in prevention and not just in resolution,” said Araya, who considers it necessary that the people responsible for young people, such as their fathers and mothers, also get involved and raise awareness.
In fact, the week also has a talk scheduled for them focused on parental responsibility and prevention of delinquency of minors. This activity will be on May 27 at 7 p.m. in the new church of Nicoya. It’s open to the general public.
An Ounce of Prevention
For eight years, Monge has been working as a judge in juvenile matters for the Judicial Branch in Nicoya, a branch that serves all the territories of the Nicoya Peninsula between the canton of Carrillo and the district of Jicaral.
Based on his experience, the majority of young people who face judicial procedures in that court do so for misdemeanors, in other words, minor crimes that are usually punished with fines and not with jail time. “They fight, threaten to fight each other or attack each other with weapons, like sticks or stones,” he cited as examples.
However, in 2020, they registered three minors responsible for homicide, instead of just one, which was the annual average. In addition, when kids went back to in-person classes, complaints against minors increased.
The lockdown influenced this, the judge pointed out. And that’s why it seems to him that this celebration comes at an ideal time to draw closer to teenagers.
“The lockdown creates a stress for them due to their age, because they’re developing their personality, hormones play [a role], and, in addition, [in the context of the pandemic] they struggle with limitations at home,” said Monge, who also pointed out the increase in cases of violence in schools after returning to in-person classes.
Now, by decree, MEP must take into account the new celebration, so the court plans to rotate the preventive literacy week to each canton it serves in the coming years.
“Normally, repeat offenders in the juvenile prison is very low, close to 0%. That’s why it’s important to address them soon, because otherwise, we run the risk that they continue to commit the same acts,” explained Monge, who added that the court keeps its doors open to giving talks at educational centers.
The principal of Saul Cardenas, Iris Araya, hopes that the close relationship between the court and educators and school principals in Nicoya will continue even after literacy week.
“Due to the circumstances in which young people develop, the conflicts within society, families and the problems of educational centers, she urges that we join forces. I intend to keep in touch and I think we’re going to achieve it,” she said, posing the challenge to keep adolescents away from cyber, sex and drug crimes.
Preventive Literacy Week | Activities:
- Talks in high schools from May 23 to 27.
- Screening of the film El pájaro de fuego from May 23 to 26 at the Casa de la Cultura in Nicoya. Request your free admission here.
- Talk for parents on May 27 at 7 p.m. at the new church in Nicoya. Free admission and no registration required. The court hopes to broadcast the talk but is still coordinating steps to achieve it.