Home Law International Handbook of Juvenile Justice
Imprisonment After A Conviction
The threatened prison sentences, which are included in the offences in the Criminal Code, are adopted and shortened for juveniles. As of the last amendment, most of these regulations are also applicable for young adults. The maximum sentence is halved, and there are no minimum sentences. However, there are two exceptions. Life, or 10-20 years punishment is replaced by 1-15 years, if the juvenile committed the offence when he or she was 16 or older, and 1-10 years if the offence was committed before the age of 16. The maximum sentence for young adults is also not lifelong but up to 15 years.
If a prison sentence is ordered, the shortest time is 1 day. A prison term can also be suspended in whole or in part.
Regulations For Imprisonment
Generally, young offenders in prison are subject to the provisions of the Penal Code (Strafvollzugsgesetz—StVG), but special regulations of the Juvenile Court
Act have to be considered. These rules make allowances for the needs of young prisoners. The aim of the prison time is to educate the young offender to a social adequate behaviour.
In the special rules of the Juvenile Court Act important issues are mentioned, aiming at supporting the resocialization of the juveniles and avoiding stigmatization, such as the need for schooling, the appropriate nutrition required for their physical development, as well as physical exercise in the fresh air. Furthermore, it is important to note that prisoners are not publicly exposed, in particular during transfer or when working outside the penal institution. In addition, visiting times and the right to receive parcels are expanded, and the regulations regarding house arrest and solitary confinement are softer, both of which are intended to maintain social ties between the juvenile and other relations. Social workers assist the young prisoners and, where necessary, psychotherapeutic support should be provided (Jesionek and Edwards 2010).
As a rule, juveniles serve their sentences in more relaxed conditions. This means that the doors to the common rooms, sometimes even the gates during the day, are not locked. The prisoners are only guarded—if at all—in a limited manner when working outside the premises, and there is the possibility of leaving for work or for educational purposes. The law also allows the offender to undergo therapy as an outpatient (Jesionek and Edwards 2010).
Convicts up to the age of 18 fall under the regulations of the penal system of the Juvenile Court Act. If it can be taken for granted that there will be no negative or other detrimental effects on juvenile convicts, persons who are not yet 22 years of age may begin to serve their sentence in the juvenile penal system. The relevant decision lies within the discretion of the competent court.
If a convict is already in the juvenile penal system, he may remain in it under the aforementioned preconditions until he turns 24. If the person in question has to remain in detention beyond that age, he may remain in the juvenile system if the remainder of the sentence does not exceed 1 year, or if the transfer to the adult system would entail substantial setbacks for the young prisoner. The relevant decision is within the discretion of the head of the penal institution or the Ministry of Justice. Persons 27 years of age have to be transferred to the regular penal system.
Juveniles are to be assigned to the institution where the objectives of the juvenile penal system are met in the best possible manner. Moreover, the special regulations of the Juvenile Court Act are also supposed to prevent “criminal contagion” by eliminating contact with adult inmates. For this reason, young offenders should serve their sentence in special institutions, or at least in a prison section separated from adults. According to the Juvenile Court Act, this separation can only be lifted if a detrimental influence on the juvenile can be discounted. This exception is to be handled extremely restrictively (Schroll 2010). It is to be applied in practice only in special cases, for instance, in order to obviate isolation if there are too few juveniles in an institution (Jesionek and Edwards 2010). According to heads of institutions, exceptions are also made if juveniles need the calming, positive influence of an adult.
Similarly to the judges and public prosecutors who are involved with juvenile cases, all those dealing with minors should have some pedagogical knowledge and an understanding of the basics of psychology and psychiatry. Because no specific training for guards in juvenile institutions exists at present, this requirement is only rarely met. There is, however, a “mentor system” in which a guard is appointed to each prisoner to watch over him or her and in whom he or she can confide. In this way, conflicts and problems should be more easily spotted and countered.
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