Home Law International Handbook of Juvenile Justice
DIFFERENCES IN TREATMENT OF BOYS AND GIRLS
Formally, there are no differences in the treatment of boys and girls by the juvenile justice system. Female juvenile offenders constitute only a small part of the clientele of juvenile courts, as they primarily commit less serious offences which—to a large extent—are dismissed by the juvenile prosecutors. Unfortunately, there are no statistics available on the diversion practice. On the youth court level, we dispose of statistical data, which, however, are of only limited value. In general, we may say that young female offenders (aged 14-20) in only 1.8 % of the cases received a youth prison sentence, the proportion of their male counterparts being 7 %>, i.e., more than three times higher. The proportion of those sentenced to a short-term detention (up to 4 weeks) was 18.1 %>, for males and 15 % for females. All other young female and male offenders were sentenced with community sanctions, amongst them 11 % (males) and 4.9 % (females to a suspended youth prison sentence (i.e., probation). The at first glance “milder” sanctioning practice for young female offenders may be interpreted in the light of less severe crimes committed by them. Looking only on certain categories of crimes, the differences are less visible or even disappear. The proportion of young offenders sent to youth prisons or youth detention is almost the same in the case of robbery and extortion (see Fig. 15.8). In the case of burglary, the proportion of those sentenced to youth imprisonment in 2014 was 4.3 % for females and 14.3 % for males, for serious bodily injury 2.7 % against 9.7 % for males. If females receive a custodial sentence, it will more likely be only a short-term detention of up to 4 weeks than youth imprisonment of at least 6 months.
The interpretation of the data is difficult as the less severe sentencing practice towards female young offenders may be caused by less serious forms of crimes even within the categories of burglary, etc. (see Heinz 2015b: 284). There is the observation that females when committing crimes in groups, they are not the leading persons, but rather supporting their male co-offenders which may result in “milder” sentences.
One of the results of different sentencing practices is that female offenders make only for a small proportion of young offenders in youth prisons. On 31 March 2014, only 181 of the 4910 sentenced offenders in youth prisons were females (3.7 %, see Federal Office of Statistics, Ed., Strafvollzugsstatistik 2014: 10). There are problems to accommodate them close to their families or places of future residence and to provide the necessary treatment, schooling and vocational training facilities, as in most Federal States only a few females are in custody. Some youth prison units started to have mixed units with males and females in order to prevent the isolation of young females and to give them the chance to participate in rehabilitation programs (see in detail Haverkamp 2015a, b).
Figure 15.8. Sentencing young female and male offenders by youth courts in 2014. Source: Federal Office of Statistics (Ed.). Strafverfolgung 2014, author’s calculations.
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