Debates on the System of Criminal Liability for Adolescents in Colombia

From the 20th July 2020 to the 25th October 2021

Remember Youth Fund coordinates, in collaboration with the foundation of the consultancy company ideaborn a participatory analysis of the adolescent penal system in Colombia.

Methods and beneficiaries

The study is divided into six working papers, the first of an introductory and general nature and five dedicated to the analysis of specific topics.

The working papers are being prepared in three phases. The first is a review of the documentation currently available on the subject. The second phase involves interviewing civil servants with key roles with the juvenile justice system in Colombia, including the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare, the Ministry of Justice, the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation. . The final inputs phase involves a debate from the RYF website of the draft version of each working paper with non-state actors, incorporating recommendations from academics, civil society organizations and legal experts directly or indirectly involved in the adolescent penal system in Colombia and other countries.

Debate structure

Incorporating inputs from non-state actors is done online, via the online debate section of the Remember Youth Fund website. The discussion is focused on responses to four overarching questions for each working paper. Online debate is opened for four days per question. In total 16 days will be dedicated to each working paper. The working paper will be available on the RYF website one week before starting the participative debate.

Registration to participate in the debate on the SRPA in Colombia 

It is important that participants and organizers know with whom they are debating and from whom they are receiving feedback, ensuring a rigorous and transparent debate among participants and ensuring that pertinent and useful recommendations can make their way to those in charge of the penal system for adolescents in Colombia.

In order to participate in this and other RYF discussions, participants are required to identify themselves and the institutions with which they are affiliated.  If you are an independent professional, you must include the focus of your work/expertise and country in which you work. You must also provide contact information so that the information can be verified.

In the course of the analysis of each question, the participant will be able to see, comment, expand and refute each of the contributions received. At the end of each day of debate, the moderator will provide a summary of the debate from the previous day. Comments and contributions for each question will remain open for four days, after which the debate will be considered closed in order to move on to the next question.


Each working paper presents a particular challenge faced by the public entities which make up the System of Criminal Liability for Adolescents in Colombia (SRPA). You can find below a brief description of each working paper and the link to enter to the open debate at the moment (Working Paper 3).

1 – The Causes of Juvenile Delinquency in Colombia (in Spanish).

The first working paper serves as an introduction to the following working papers.

In Colombia, the System of Criminal Liability for Adolescents (SRPA in Spanish) considers a person between 14 and 18 years of age to be an adolescent. According to the Colombian Department of Statistics (DANE), by 2015 the Colombian population in this range amounts to 4,344,000 people, representing 8.9% of the total population. The levels of delinquency and violence are a serious problem for the country due its magnitude, impunity and irrationality, which affects the future of the community and the social bonds that ensure peaceful coexistence.

In this first working paper, ten causal variables of juvenile delinquency were identified for analysis, namely: ethical standards, the family, schools, neighborhood/location, mental health, drug trafficking/drug addiction, poverty and exclusion, internal armed conflict, state institutions, impunity and civil society. To improve the system, regulatory, institutional and budgetary changes can and must be made, in addition to direct engagement with Colombia society. 

2. Overview of the Criminal Responsibility System for Adolescents (SRPA), its organization, goals, institutional coordination, and financing (In Spanish)

Participatory debate from Monday July 20 to Tuesday August 4, 2020

This debate is closed

This working paper studies the relationship between the organization, goals, the institutional coordination and the financing of the SRPA in Colombia based on a specific question: What are the perceived problems, challenges and needs of the entities that make up the SRPA which, if solved, would allow the system to achieve its states goals, given the current institutional context and taking into account available financial resources?

The paper is broken down into three sections. First, it presents the overarching goals of the system and its specialized nature, the institutional framework and its coordination and financing mechanisms. Second, it reviews the system’s most important challenges related to its organization, coordination and financing. Finally, conclusions and recommendations made to address challenges and shortfalls.

3 – Access to justice in matters of criminal responsibility for adolescents

Participatory debate from February 8 to 1 march, 2021.

This debate is open

This document describes and analyzes access to justice for adolescents in conflict with criminal law in Colombia, the differences between the regulatory treatment and the practice of the operators that intervene in that route, starting with the question: How distant are the existing regulations in the Adolescent Criminal Responsibility System (SRPA) from the reality experienced by institutional operators regarding the access of minors in conflict with the law to the judicial system and how does this affect the rights of adolescents?

For this reason, many sources are studied as bibliography, interviews and official figures, we also counted with the intervention of the various entities in the exercise of their functions and institutional policies that facilitate or not their development. With this information, the first section explains how the procedure for the investigation and trial of adolescents and the physical infrastructure is configured; A second section analyzes the role played by the main actors of the SRPA to facilitate real access to the system, highlighting the difficulties encountered; finally, preliminary conclusions are presented.

4 – Information management – Analysis of the current method of collecting, systematizing and using information.

Participatory debate from May 24 to June 12, 2021

In this issue, the diagnostic work focuses on studying information management within the justice system for adolescents in Colombia. With the participation of the main entities that make up the system, the current method of data collection and systematization will be analyzed and evaluated for its strengths and weaknesses.

5 – Territorial approach and specificities around treatment of adolescents belonging to ethnic peoples

Participatory debate from August 2 to April 23, 2021

This issue will begin with an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the territorial organization of the system. It will analyze the national and subnational levels, as well as the special provisions for the treatment of adolescents belonging to ethnic communities.

6 – Criminal responsibility under the current sanctioning regime, restorative justice mechanisms, discharging and reinsertion of adolescents.

Participatory debate from October 4 to October 25, 2021

The final working paper will be structured around specific aspects of criminal responsibility for adolescents: the current sanctioning regime, restorative justice mechanisms, discharging and reinsertion of adolescents. As key factors in the system, where principles and purposes of the system play out, we will be able to analyze the overall strengths and weaknesses of the system.