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Prisons For Young Offenders

For the time being Austria has only one special institution for male juveniles (Gerasdorf), which is reserved for individuals with sentences of more than 6 months (Schroll 2010; Jesionek 2003). Female convicts with sentences this long are housed in an institution reserved for women (Schwarzau). In all other cases juveniles serve their sentences in special sections of the penal institutions.

For years now, the installation of a so-called “Competence-Center” for juveniles in the capital of Austria, Vienna, has been demanded by experts. This institution should also include a special prison for young offenders (AG “Jugend im Recht” 2012).

“Enforcement commissions”, introduced to fulfil the OPCAT obligations, monitor the treatment of prisoners and lawfulness of the enforcement. They fall under the field of duty of the Austrian Ombudsman (“ Volksanwaltschaft”).

Early Release

Early release from serving an unconditional prison term is possible after half of the term if there is a positive prognosis in regard to recidivism. After two-thirds of the term, however, release must be granted, unless there is a high risk of reoffending. There is a minimum of 1 month of prison to be served before any early release. For minors, a further rule excludes any consideration of general prevention. Early release must be combined with the allocation of a parole officer unless there are reasons to believe there will be no relapse.

Since 2016 the leader of the institution has the possibility to consign a probation officer with a “Release-Conference” to prepare an early release for the inmate. This is a kind of Family Group Conference. If the young prisoner agrees, the probation officer will bring together the juvenile with his social attachment figures (the family, but also e.g. teachers, and friends). Thereby the social environment is activated and together they find opportunities to support the prisoner after his release and finally work out strategies for the young to take care for himself in liberty[1].

In every early release decision a probation time has to be ordered, during which social workers will be at the juvenile’s side to aid their return to “normal life”. The priority objective of the probation officer is the support of the juveniles, and the aspect of monitoring should be subordinated (see § 20 Act on Probation—Bewahrungshilfegesetz).

  • [1] See (31.1.2016).
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