We interviewed the juvenile judge Reyes Martel who is leading an innovative reintegration program in the Canary Islands, with the participation of Fundación MAPFRE Guanarteme.

Text : Raquel Vidales     Photo: UP2U


The detention centers have a bad reputation. Are they too tough for minors?

The negative image hanging over them from the past is unwarranted today. The cases of maltreatment, such as that reported in Almeria two years ago and widely covered by the press, are exceptions. Solely in the case of serious offenses are measures adopted which entail deprivation of liberty in a detention center. Nor in these cases is this deemed a punishment: they are sent there when it is felt that educational programs may prove insufficient for their reintegration, because what is needed are more profound measures related to rules of conduct, coexistence, etc. But they are also offered training and leisure activities in the centers. They are not like the reform schools of the past – they seek reintegration.

Compared to our European neighbors, how does Spain treat young offenders?

It’s not the worst. There are some countries like Romania or Bulgaria which still have a long way to go. But neither is it one of the best. A few months ago I was in Germany at a meeting of juvenile court judges and I had the chance to see how well they work in that country. Not just because they have a much betteroiled system than we do, but also because public awareness of the issues is much greater. For example, the victims are involved in the recovery of these minors: they are shown the damage they have caused, the direct consequences of their acts.

Are we not caring for them well? Has the crisis been detrimental?

An increasing number of crimes are committed by minors from structured families, without apparent problems. There has also been a rise in the maltreatment of parents and bullying among children. This has to do, not so much with the economic crisis we have been through, but rather with a crisis of values. Poverty plays its part, of course, but also values. There is a lack of communication within the family and in society as a whole. Recently in Gran Canaria, they discovered a family with three children aged eight, seven and one locked up at home, without schooling or vaccinations. A neighbor informed the police, but I ask myself: how can it be that, for eight years, no one had realized what was going on in that house? We need to think about what kind of society we are creating for our children.