Surprise visit reveals abuse at school

  • 2008-05-14
  • By Vincent Freeman
TALLINN - A surprise visit to a correctional facility for children has unveiled widespread malpractice and child abuse.
The discovery prompted Chancellor of Justice Indrek Teder to label the facility a "hotbed of criminal activity."
"That an educational institution is managed in such a manner is a disgrace to our entire country. An institution like this can be described not as offering education and social rehabilitation but as a hotbed of criminal activity," the chancellor said.
Children living in the facility had been physically, emotionally and mentally abused by staff and have been subjected to extreme punishment for relatively minor offenses. They were living in an atmosphere of fear both from each other and the school's staff.

Teder has tasked the chief prosecutor with investigating the case.
The discovery was made during a surprise visit to the facility, located in southern Estonia, which housed 43 minors.
University of Tartu researcher Juri Saar recently published a journal citing the fact that criminal activity is usually fostered as a minor. This paints an alarming picture for the occupants of the Puiatu School.
One of the shocking discoveries at Puiatu was that students' feces were stored in buckets that were left in their rooms overnight as they slept.
Students were also excessively punished with the "isolation room," an area designed to stop a student from hurting themselves and others. It was, however, used for a whole swath of minor punishments. Students could remain alone in the room for up to 24 hours.
Estonian law only permits the isolation of children for calming purposes until they can be reintroduced to the rest of the minors.

Apart from the misuse of the isolation chamber, the chancellor also cited the ignorance of domestically and internationally accepted practices at such facilities.

It has also been revealed that security personnel did not try to intervene in violent incidents that occurred throughout the night, a fact that renders the facility unsafe for many of the students.
Some of the schools charges had been ruled unfit for admission, but were sent there anyway for lack of appropriate care homes in the country.
The school was designed for young males who had committed crimes and were sentenced to serve time there in court. It accommodated 14 's 16-year-olds that have systematically broken the law, according to the Juridica Web site.

The surprise inspection of the school was performed after multiple requests for the facility to fall in line with the standard practices of such facilities.