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COURTS AND JUVENILES
The other side of the “medal” showing the “formal” sanctions of the youth court reveals that unconditional youth prison sentences are restricted to the very last resort by counting only for 2 % of all juvenile and young adult offenders.
About 85 % of youth prison sentences are between 6 months and 2 years, more than 70 % of them are suspended, i.e., the juvenile is supported and supervised by the probation service (see Dhnkel 2011a; Heinz 2014; Table 15.1 below). The short-term detention order (up to 4 weeks)—although being much criticized and in practice on the decline—still makes for 5 % of all offenders sentenced by youth courts. Formal educational and disciplinary measures in the community comprise for 19 % (2013). They have partly been replaced by “informal” reactions (dismissal of cases) as described above.
Altogether, one can characterize the German approach to deal with juvenile delinquency as “evidence-based” and moderate (see Dhnkel 2011a; Heinz 2014, 2015a). In contrast to other European (see Dhnkel et al. 2011; Dhnkel 2013, 2015) and non-European countries (see Zimring et al. 2015), a punitive turn in sanctioning juvenile and young adult offenders cannot be seen in Germany. Despite some problems of increasing violent crime rates in the 1990s, Germany kept the moderate way of dealing with these offenders (see Heinz 2009; Dhnkel 2012 and Fig. 15.4). Much emphasis was given to further developing crime prevention programs and improving social integrative strategies of state and private youth welfare agencies (see Centre for the Prevention of Youth Crime 2004; Deutsches Jugendinstitut 2015).
Table 15.1. Length of youth prison sentences, 1975-2006 (old Federal States) and 2007-2012 (total Germany)
Note: m. months; YI Youth Imprisonment; susp. YI Suspended Youth Imprisonment (probation); y year(s) Source: Federal Statistical Office (Ed.): Strafverfolgungsstatistik 1975-2013; own calculations
Figure 15.4. Sanctions of the Youth Court, 1981-2013. Source: Heinz (2015a).
Figure 15.5. Rates of formal and informal sanctions for reoffending after a first sanction for larceny and a risk period of 3 years (juveniles, 1961 cohort). Source: Heinz and Storz (1994).
Recidivism rates after informal sanctions are lower than after formal court sentences (see Heinz 2014 and Fig. 15.5 below) and recidivism rates after being under the supervision of the probation service and after release from youth prisons have declined from 54 % to 49 % and from 75 % to 66 % for those released in 2004 compared to 1994 (after a risk period of 3 years, see Jehle et al. 2010: 29; the latest recidivism statistics for those released 2007 indicated stable recidivism rates, see Jehle et al. 2013).
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