Empirical evidence suggests that thousands of children come into contact with the juvenile justice system (JJS) either as children in conflict with the law or in need of care and protection. Both categories of children are often at risk of abuse by the system. These include physical and emotional abuse perpetrated by the judicial officers, the process and the institutions that provide care and shelter. This is partly due to limited knowledge and inappropriate procedures and spaces for holding the children. There is not an effective Juvenile Justice Information Management System (JJIMS) in many countries to inform policy and programs.
While both formal and informal justice systems have existed for several centuries, the concept of making decisions that are child right based and in the best interest of the child, is relatively new. A report by UNICEF (2002), estimated that 85% of children in the justice system were exposed to the criminal procedures, which should not be the case. This exposure often has detrimental effects to their development which may affect their developmental outcome later on in life. With an increasing number of children-specific matters being processed through both formal and informal justice systems, the question is, are the decisions made in the best interest of the child?
Policy makers and other legal actors lack evidence based practices that focus on a child right centred administration of justice. AICS has championed improvement of access to justice for children through training, research and policy advocacy.