Thailand is Executing “Sports” Initiative for Juvenile Offenders Rehabilitation
During our school years, most of us were required to go through some sports trainings as part of our curriculum in every grade and certainly we can still remember the hardship and difficulties when we practiced hitting a volleyball, running, swimming and so many other activities that we had to do to pass the test. One of the moderately challenging sports was table tennis. The first test imposed by the instructor would be how to hold the paddle, whether in Chinese Penhold grip, Thai-style grip or other styles depending on individual preferences. Another challenge was to pass the ball-tossing test where we had to toss the ball for at least 50 or 100 times – in one go. Eyes have to focus, hands have to be constantly moving and mind has to be calm.
This is where concentration comes in and distractions are blocked.
Of course, this is one of the benefits of sports to the mind of the players.
The Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ) recognizes the importance of how sports can steer back those who took a wrong turn in life, probably as a result of bad decisions made within a split second, so that they can be reintegrated into the society with the hope and a way of moving forward in life. Hence, TIJ proposed a Resolution on “Integrating Sports into Youth Crime Prevention Strategies” into the meeting agenda of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice or CCPCJ held in Vienna, Austria in April 2019. Consequently, the Meeting consensually voted in favor of the Resolution which will also be tabled for consideration once again at the United Nations General Assembly, to be held towards the end of this year.
Prior to that, TIJ hosted a conference on “Youth Crime Prevention Through Sports” on the 27th of November 2019 with the collaboration and support from the public and private sectors who attended the event and shared their perspectives to support the use of sports to prevent crimes in tangible and sustainable manners in Thailand.
Sports and Youth
Miss Tisha Na Nakorn (as known as Aunty Mol (or Pa Mol in Thai), the director of Ban Kanchanapisek Vocational Juvenile Training Centre for Boys, has more than 10 years of extensive experience in assisting and rehabilitating juvenile offenders. She frequently says that
“whenever school door closes, prison door opens.”
This reflects that if the youth have too much free time on their hands and they cannot find a way to constructively make use of that time, there is a possibility that they will be led down the wrong path and eventually end up committing offences and inevitably have to step into the confinement of the Juvenile Observation and Protection Centers.
Sports are one of the activities that will enable the youth to constructively make use of their time. From the evaluation report of “The 2nd Chance Project”, the project which focuses on using sports to rehabilitate prisoners in the United Kingdom, reveals that sports can reduce stress level, enhance social development and increase the employment opportunities for the participants of the Project (Meek, Champion & Killer, 2012).
For this conference, KhunyingPatama Leeswadtrakul, Board Member of the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and Member of the Board of the TIJ provided an opinion on the importance of sports that
“Pursuant to the Olympic Values, there are 3 core values of sports. The first is respect, that is to respect oneself and others, respect the rules of the society and the game, not to use any substances and to strictly adhere to the rules of the game and to respect the coaches and fellow team members. The second is excellence. It is believed by the Olympics that human beings can improve their potential, learn about and develop their capacity to a higher level. The third value is friendship. Sports can plant friendship among the team members and coaches, fellow countrymen and those from other nations. Friendship can blossom from competition and enables love to grow and people to co-exist despite their differences”.
While Mr. Niwat Limsuknirun, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Physical Education under the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, provided that
“The problems in our society today are partly caused by the acknowledgment of the people of their rights but their failure to adhere to their responsibilities. Sports have their own sets of rules and etiquette. By doing sports, the concept of rights and duties according to the rules of the game will be instilled in the kids’ conscience and hence they will acknowledge their rights and also responsibilities towards their duties when they are in the society.”
Therefore, sports do not only improve physical strength but also enhance the psychological wellness of the players, reinforce their patience, tolerance, discipline and make them realize their self-worth, and have respect towards themselves and others.
How Can “Sports” Create Second Chances?
“Sports can rehabilitate the behavior and the mind which may be shaped or effected by past mistakes.”
, said Mr. Sahakarn Petchnarin, Director-General of the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection. He also provided that sports can create new future for kids and youth who are systematically trained and can be applicable to their future careers as well.
Bounce Be Good Club (BBG Club) is an important illustration of how sports can play a role in supporting former juvenile offenders who had served their time in the Juvenile Observation and Protection Center by giving them a second chance at a better future. BBG Club was originated by the royal vision of Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha Narendiradebyavati, the Princess Rajasarinisiribajra who recognizes the importance of sports as a tool for physical, emotional, mental and societal capacity-building and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders in Thailand. Sports are also recognized as a medium to prevent kids and youth from being involved in any wrongdoing.
Mr. Ekaphop Detkriangkraisorn or Mr. X, the President of Bounce Be Good (BBG) Sports Club, provided that BBG Club was founded in 2014 by the assignment of professional table tennis coaches to train the inmates at one male and one female Juvenile Observation and Protection Centers. After a year, it was found that juvenile offenders there had made better progress and could be brought outside the Centers for training and competition purposes. After that, the initiative had been scaled up to involve other Centers including those located in the area with high-risk juvenile groups, foster homes and etc.
However, upon release, juvenile offenders are prone to return to their former surroundings and there is a potential of recommitting crimes. Thus, the Club initiated a home for ex-juvenile offenders. The process of fostering the youth at BBG is that the youth with athletic potential and determination will be selected to join the Club where their athletic skills will be developed until they can improve themselves to the professional level. This will go hand in hand with the development of life skill and education.
“The youth in our care do not have equal leverage due to their habit of smoking or substance abusing. They are at a disadvantage both physically and mentally. Other kids who aim to be a professional may have been trained from a very young age but our kids got to train at the age of 15-16 years old. They are granted with the opportunities to train and encouraged to study. Some of them had trained and improved their skills until they made it to the country’s top 25 while others are very good with their studying.”
, said Mr. Ekaphop. He also emphasized that
“Not every kid can excel at sports. Among 100 kids, not all of them will be qualified for the national team but the more important thing is that the sports skills that they’ve learned can be adapted to their future professions.”
The achievement of BBG Club is those who participated in the Club’s initiative, the average of 17% of minors and youth country-wide who had been released for about a year, have been rehabilitated and gone through self-improvement through the use of sports with the repeating crimes rate being less than 1%.
Sports are not elixir
With numerous benefits of sports whether in preventing, supporting, rehabilitating and treating the offenders, sports are not a cure-all medication. Using sports as a tool for crime prevention among youth, especially for those who have took a wrong turn in life, has to be done hand in hand with enhancing their life skills. Weight must be given to the “attitude” of the minors and youth involved in the justice process.
“The hardest thing about changing the minors and youth who had taken the wrong turn is to change their existing mindset towards their mistakes.”
, said Prof. Dr. Kittipong Kittayarak, the Director of the TIJ
This is consistent with what Mr. Ekaphop said about the kids participated in BBG Club that
“We always tell our kids and athletes what the society has given them. But social acceptance is essentially a chicken and egg problem. Should the society accept them first or do they have to prove themselves first to earn that acceptance? At BBG Club, we teach the kids and youth to think of it from two different perspectives. It doesn’t matter how the society looks at you, you are in charge of your own improvement. This is the underlying concept of our slogan “Victory is yours”. No victory is as great as overcoming your insecurities.”
Apart from the motivation and determination to change their attitude that the juvenile offenders should have, the society itself also plays an important role in encouraging them to have the confidence to change.
At present, 18 Juvenile Observation and Protection Centers country-wide have their own sport centers. At which, 4 types of sports training were provided: table tennis, badminton, futsal and football. Department of Physical Education joined hands with the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection by allocating trainees to these venues to train the kids and youth so that they can constructively spend their leisure time and have their athletic skills trained. Department of Physical Education also collaborated with the Department of Corrections in supporting sports trainings for the underprivileged group in prison and correction institutions. The collaboration also aligns with Thailand’s National Strategy for Human Capital Development under the 20-year National Strategy (2018-2037) which encourages the use of sports to create societal value and national development.
In the future, the encouragement of the use of sports as crime prevention tool among the members of the youth would be even more intense.
Mr. Somsak Thepsuthin, Minister of the Ministry of Justice, touched upon this issue “This conference marks the first step of cross-sector collaboration. It is an essential step to encourage the use of sports for crime prevention purposes and criminal justice facilitation among the youth in accordance with the goal of the international community.”
Prof. Dr. Kittipong Kittayarak, the Director of the TIJ, provided that by shedding a light on this issue in Thailand, all sectors, including those in sports industries, would be motivated to push forward this initiative by working together systematically under the framework of the National Strategy and international standard.
A significant progress after the TIJ presented the Resolution of Youth Crime Prevention through Sports was that the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting passed a resolution to have the Youth Crime Prevention through Sports Initiative included in 5-year ASEAN Work Plan on Sports (2020-2025). The TIJ, together with United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) will co-host the international expert conference during the 16th – 18th of December of this year to discuss the utilization of sports as a tool for crime prevention and facilitation of criminal justice among the members of the youth. The goals of the conference are to analyze and gather the international standards and practices on crime prevention through sports and also to make recommendations to the government sector so that this can be included in national and international-level policies.
“In order for the encouragement of juvenile crime prevention through sports to be successful and sustainable, there needs to be a number of factors involved. This includes the consensus of the United Nations General Assembly on the Resolution, the forming of networks across the public and private sectors, the support from the civil society and the adoption of internationally-accepted practices. It is expected that these international practices can be tabled to the 14th Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Meeting in Kyoto next April. Also, most importantly, these practices should be seriously implemented in Thailand by encouraging relevant parties to recognize the importance of sports.”
, said Prof. Dr. Kittipong. He also ended that
“This is to ensure that kids in vulnerable groups can be protected and those who had taken the wrong turn can be rehabilitated.”