Putting at-risk youth in the military

Human rights advocates have been criticizing Mauricio Funes' plans to require at-risk youth to receive military training and discipline. IPS has a story about the program and its critics:
Under the proposed scheme, some 5,000 at-risk youngsters between the ages of 16 and 18 would receive six months training from army officers in military discipline and physical fitnes but without weapons. They would be trained to work in civil protection and risk prevention efforts during emergencies.

They would then receive six months of courses in mountain climbing and other sports, first aid and vocational and skills training. The entire process would take a year, and during that time they would receive 250 dollars a month and would stay in "citizen training centres" specifically set up for the purpose and run by the army. The focus is on social integration and harnessing the productive potential of the youths, while putting them out of the reach of criminal groups.

But the plan has drawn criticism.

The government "has no idea of what it's about to do, and the big problem is that it will increase the risks faced by these young people, because they will emerge from the program as skilled labour power for gangs and drug traffickers," Benjamín Cuéllar, director of the Human Rights Institute at the Jose Simeón Cañas University (IDHUCA) of El Salvador, said vehemently.

Cuéllar told IPS a better idea would be to open sports facilities and skills training centres for young people, while guaranteeing them work, because after a year with the army they will return to the same poverty and crime-stricken surroundings, and the same pressure from gangs.

Creating options for at risk youth makes sense. Military style training might be good for certain youth. It might make sense as an alternative to incarceration for youth who are arrested. But involuntary service, for youth who someone deems "at-risk" without having committed a crime, impermissibly violates the human rights that must be respected, even for those "at-risk."


Anonymous said…
I have commented on my support of this program previously, as a way of getting at risk youth off the streets, but I understand the critics points about how they will simply return to poverty in the end game. Would this program really be a temporary stop-gap to remove them from the streets? One other point I'd like to make is this: these kids who are probably in the 'worst offender/worst behavior' group and they get to receive all this training, some of it pretty cool, plus 250 bucks a MONTH? are you KIDDING me? This will make kids WANT to end up in the program. $250 is what most laborers make a month - but the youth will already be getting free room, board and training - don't lavish them with $ for being 'budding criminals'. Why not take that 250 bucks times 5000 a month and set up a program for some 'good behavior' kids in poverty who are NOT getting in trouble. The ultimate solution is to grow a real economy with real wages here, but resistant investors take their money elsewhere.
Griselda said…
There is no investment because of security issues, if you do not address the roots of the problem, anythingelse is in vain. I do support the project, contrary what opponents say, these teens are the most influencial age, and they are dragged by stupid ideologial ideas! at least they are going to be busy, learning, and earning. Do you know how much of effort takes for a teen to ge a job nowadays in El Salvador, for how much? and what the employer's requirements are?. to begin with is pretty reasonable as studies are their job. The only negative I see on this, is that they are not going to be able to absorb the huge demand
caguirre said…
Giving people no other option but to to live in poverty and among violent criminals is what violates human rights.

I understand that government enforced military training camps may seem abhorrent to most Westerners. Then again, compulsory elementary and secondary education are similarly objectionable to some(western) libertarians.
Loi said…
I think the training will do well but we can’t force them to join. I know that this program is an opportunity for our at-risk youth but it will fail if it is against their will. The best thing to do is conduct a study on how to address the problem directly and solve it so that the population of at-risk youth will minimize.