Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr., proceeding with the philosophy that youthful offenders should not be housed with adult criminals, but should instead be “treated with love,” implemented a program of new investments in Quezon City’s Molave Youth Home. While the Molave Youth Home was initially built in 1973 and thus does not itself qualify as a recent innovation, the fresh round of financial support revitalized the aging facility, providing housing to hundreds of so-called “youths in conflict with the law.”
The importance of separate, caring housing for youthful offenders cannot be overstated: city jails are notorious for being unable or unwilling to look after younger prisoners. In a penal system faced with a perennial lack of funds, it is difficult for even the most conscientious warden to make a special effort to single out minors for treatment in an undifferentiated mass of convicts.
With the belief that guidance and caring are particularly essential to prevent juvenile offenders from becoming hardened recidivists, the mayor improved the quality of both counseling and education available to children in the Molave Youth Home. Additional funding has also enabled innovators to increase the number of social workers available at the facility. Once released, the city’s authorities continue to supervise the children’s progress, monitoring their behavior through their families. In this way, professionals at Molave are able to extend their care of youthful offenders into a more holistic treatment program incorporating active family participation and support to insure that the children continue to apply the lessons they learn while living at Molave.
Before the mayor’s reforms, minors generally stayed in Molave for around eight months; the average is now four, a positive indication that the environment is rehabilitating young offenders quickly. There are 180 to 200 residents in Molave at any given time, of which only 10% are female. Many of them come from disadvantaged and often dysfunctional families.
This year, Quezon City has invested over seven million Philippine pesos into Molave to staff the facility with trained professionals able to encourage self-esteem and self-discipline amongst previously wayward children. To supplement improvements in staffing, the city has also begun renovating the facility itself, with a multipurpose recreational area that cost around five million pesos nearing completion.
In addition to government funding, Molave is now also receiving support from non-governmental organizations and religious groups. It stands as a model of innovation in juvenile offender rehabilitation.