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Barbara Stando-Kawecka INTRODUCTION

A juvenile justice system, separate from the adult criminal justice system, was created in Poland in the 1920s and 1930s. At that time, discussions on the need to remove juveniles from the adult criminal justice system were influenced by the Youth Court Movement, which emerged in some European countries at the very beginning of the twentieth century and relied on the North American ‘Child- Saver’ movement (Albrecht 2013; Stando-Kawecka 2015). Polish scientists and practitioners who made efforts aiming at the creation of the juvenile justice system recognized juvenile offenders as different from adults who were still developing. In line with that approach special provisions on juvenile proceedings were introduced in the 1928 Code of Criminal Procedure. This gave the juvenile judge a dominant role in juvenile cases (Taracha 1988). Additionally, the 1932 Criminal Code included a special chapter on criminal responsibility of juvenile offenders.

According to the 1932 Criminal Code, the age of criminal majority was set at 17 years. Juveniles who committed an offense below 13 years of age were treated as not criminally responsible. Only educational measures, such as reprimand, supervision by parents or other trustworthy persons or institutions, or placement in a state or private educational institution, could be imposed on them. The same applied to juveniles who committed an offense after the 13th birthday, but prior to the 17th, and at the time of the offense were lacking discernment (rozeznanie). Discernment meant the ability of a juvenile to understand the meaning of his act and control his behaviors. Juveniles aged 13-16 who had committed an offense with discernment as a rule were sentenced to the placement in a correctional institution (zakladpoprawczy) for an unspecified time and could be institutionalized until the age of 21. In the doctrine of the criminal law, the view prevailed that the placement of a juvenile in a correctional institution was a special penalty

B. Stando-Kawecka (*)

Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Krakow, Poland e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

S.H. Decker, N. Marteache (eds.), International Handbook of Juvenile Justice, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-45090-2_17

of an educational nature which substituted prison sentences imposed on adult offenders (Makarewicz 1938; Stando-Kawecka 1993). Thus, since the very beginning of the creation of a separate juvenile justice system in Poland the legislature aimed at removing juveniles from both criminal courts and criminal penalties provided for adult offenders in order to protect, educate, and resocialize them and facilitate their becoming law-abiding citizens in the future.

The protective and educational approach to juvenile offenders was furthered strengthened in 1982 when a separate Act on proceedings in juvenile cases (further: JA)[1] was enacted. The legislature decided to abolish the criterion of acting with discernment in order to stress that determining the issue of culpability was insignificant to making proper choices of measures to be applied to juveniles. Additionally, the scope of the juvenile justice system was broadened because it covered not only persons who violated criminal law while being under 17 years of age but also minors under 18 years of age who displayed predelinquent, antisocial behaviors not prohibited by the criminal law, referred to by the legislature as ‘signs of demoralization.’ ‘Signs of demoralization’ are similar to ‘status offenses’ known in English-speaking countries and include, among others, violation of social rules, truancy, vagrancy, running away from home, using alcohol or drugs and prostitution. Juvenile proceedings were entrusted to family courts which as a rule applied civil procedure. The use of provisions of criminal procedure in juvenile cases became very limited (Stando-Kawecka 2015).

Although in 1989 Poland experienced a change in the political system, the transition from a postcommunist country into the democratic state based on the rule of law did not influence the juvenile justice system much. Reforms undertaken in the 1990s focused mainly on the adult criminal law and aimed at making criminal policy more human, liberal, and rational (Stando-Kawecka and Krajewski 2010). The juvenile justice system based on the welfare ideology was not subjected to criticism as opposed to the repressive adult criminal law and criminal policy from the communist era. In the late 1990s, the social and political climate around crime and criminal policy began to change for several reasons, such as the increase in official crime rates, growing fear of crime, and politicization of problems concerning crime control. These changes, however, affected mainly adult criminal law (Stando-Kawecka and Krajewski 2010). Family courts turned out resistant to political pressure on tougher reactions to crime. Additionally, strong scientific support for dealing with juveniles according to their needs rather than deeds (Kolakowska-Przelomiec et al. 1994) inhibited reforms aiming at a more severe approach to juvenile offenders. Generally, in the last decades the protective and paternalistic juvenile justice system formed in the 1980s has not experienced fundamental changes.

  • [1] Ustawa z dnia 26 pazdziernika 1982 r. o postqpowaniu w sprawach nieletnich, Journal of Laws1982/35, pos. 228 with subsequent amendments; since its entry into force, the 1982 JA has beenamended several times, however, those amendments did not change basic assumptions of the juvenile justice system shaped in the 1980s.
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