Chedeline, 17 years old,
falsely detained girl released after 32 months
Chedeline was imprisoned for a crime she never committed. On being released thanks to Tdh, she becomes an ambassador for the young people in the same situation.
Present in Haiti since 1989, Terre des hommes (Tdh) monitors and protects children in conflict with the law by offering them legal and social support. Our approach involves the children, their families, the society and government actors to efficiently protect children’s rights at all levels. Thus, we collaborate with the IBESR (Institut du Bien Etre Social et de la Recherche), a Haitian state structure, mandated by the court to ensure proper follow up of children in conflict with the law.
At the wrong place at the wrong time
Being at the wrong place at the wrong time can happen to the best us. This is what befell Chedeline*, a 17 year-old Haitian girl in March 2015. As she was going home from school, this orphan encountered policemen, who were running after thieves. Unaccustomed to police control, she ran away, hid, and yelled in fear. Hence, the police alleged that she was in collision with the burglars who had committed the theft of a government safe. Consequently, she was put in custody for five days and then imprisoned for 32 months at the the civilian prison, Les Cayes, for allegedly colluding in the crime.
The prison conditions for young people in Haiti are horrifying. The cells are overcrowded, unsanitary and detainees get inadequate food rations. Moreover, Chedeline’s aunt and guardian could not visit her in prison due to fear of being implicated in the crime. However, the local Tdh team initiated a mediation process with the Les Cayes prison to end the suffering of the minor and victim detainee. They were also able to bring in extra food for Chedeline. Her aunt and guardian could visit her in prison. Tdh also offered legal assistance because the aunt could not afford it. Tdh’s solicitor could secure the falsely detained girl’s release from prison. “Without the help of Terre des hommes, Chedeline could be still in prison for a crime she did not commit,” repeats her aunt incessantly and gratefully.
Reintegration into the society
For us, justice goes beyond the release of children from prison. We extend our protection to other spheres of these young victims or offenders’ lives to help them reintegrate. For Chedeline, Tdh paid an alimony to the aunt for Chedeline’s upkeep. To boost their standard of living, we provided the start capital for a second-hand clothes business. Chedeline could resume classes in January 2018. She is aware that the society views and associates her with criminality for now. All in all, she is ready to redeem her image as an ambassador of goodwill to the young people, who might find themselves in the same situation. In Chedeline’s case, justice was restored in its legal, social and economic dimensions, in a manner that ascertains of long lasting results.
*For the child's protection, the name and image have been changed.
Photo credit: ©Tdh