According to Tawatchai Thaikyo, deputy permanent secretary for justice, the ministry’s rules and criteria for seeking permits to operate privately run facilities for such offenders have been completed.
Another set of rules drafted by the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection, is pending review by the Council of State, the government's legal adviser, he said.
Mr Tawatchai said the Justice Ministry’s policy is to allow the private sector to operate such centres for juvenile delinquents as an alternative to the juvenile correction system.
The move is in line with Section 55 of the Juvenile and Family Court and Procedure Act, which allows a private entity to establish an educational institution, vocational and training institute, or a psychological counselling institute for youth offenders.
Under the section, the director-general of the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection is authorised to grant licences to private operators or state agencies to operate such establishments.
His comments were in response to growing calls by civic groups working on the welfare and rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents for the Justice Ministry to allow private facilities.
They hope to see the expansion of the Baan Kanchanapisek project, a vocational training centre for juvenile delinquents that has won praise for its treatment of residents.
Apichart Charusiri, deputy director-general of the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection, said privately run centres will ease overcrowding and give offenders other opportunities.
“We're drafting the regulations, and these facilities may be in the form of schools with psychological counselling and vocational training courses. They should be scattered across the country,” he said.
He said the department has 4,000 juvenile delinquents at detention centres nationwide and another 3,000 at training centres.
Most young offenders are confined for drug-related offences. He said the draft regulations are detailed and should be announced in January, after which interested parties will be allowed to seek licences.
Arunchat Khuruwanich, a researcher on rehabilitation and detention centres for juvenile offenders, said Baan Kanchanapisek should be made the country’s first privately run facility of this type.
He said Baan Kanchanapisek is different from others under the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection in terms of management and rehabilitation efforts.
Citing research findings, more than 84% of juvenile delinquents sent to Baan Kanchanapisek now exhibit self-restraint, he said, adding the repeat offence rate of those staying at the facility from 2013-2017 stood at less than 5%, compared with 15% at government-run facilities.
Akkarapong Boonmi, a former delinquent at Baan Kanchanapisek, said residents are treated with respect and equality in the belief that people can change for the better.
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