Home Law International Handbook of Juvenile Justice
Custody for Juveniles
Custody may be imposed by the judge as a precautionary measure, until the trial starts and a definitive measure is imposed. This precautionary measure may only be taken when justified by questions such as the seriousness of the offenses, the personal and social circumstances of the juvenile, a real risk of absconding, or in the case of repeat offenders of the same offense. Custody may also finally be imposed by the judge when other measures are deemed insufficient because of the juvenile’s criminal tendencies as demonstrated in the offense, because of the seriousness of the offenses, or because the JCA lays it down as a required measure in certain cases. The main aim of this measure is to provide a good, healthy environment in order to redirect the juvenile’s antisocial behavior, even though it might be necessary to restrict the juvenile’s freedom. This loss of freedom can vary depending on the kind of restrictions the judge imposes. The judge can only impose custody in a ‘closed center’ when the juvenile has committed a serious and violent crime. All measures of custody must be followed by a period of probation to encourage the juvenile’s progressive deinstitutionalization. There are several types of custody which are implemented in specific centers for juveniles, where they are separated from any adults and where they may remain until the maximum age of 21 years.
In a closed center: the system tries to instill in the juvenile some degree of social competence to encourage later responsible behavior in the community.
In a half-open center: a socio-behavioral plan is implemented in collaboration with community social services. The offenders live in the center.
In an open center: Juveniles are required to perform all activities in the community. However, their residence is in the center.
Therapeutic custody: Juveniles with drug or psychiatric problems need a certain context to implement a therapeutic program, either because his or her environment is not adequate for treatment, or because there are risk factors that require custody in a closed center. This type of custody provides for three regimes: closed, open, or semiopen.
Weekend Custody: Juveniles must stay in their homes or in a Center for juveniles for 36 h over the weekend. They must perform some educational tasks that are imposed by the judge (i.e., road safety education). This measure is usually applied to those juveniles that have committed assault and vandalism offenses during the weekend.
If we analyze more closely the evolution of the different types of custody (see Fig. 20.8), we can see that the closed regime has decreased in favor of the semiopen regime. It seems that judges have accepted the need to restrict this measure to truly serious cases and those in which community sentences have not yielded results. The use of therapeutic custody has also increased, due, perhaps, to an increase in the number of crimes related to mental health problems or substance abuse among juveniles. There has also been an increase in the construction of centers or modules especially designed for juveniles requiring highly specialized attention. There has also been a tendency to reduce weekend custody, which due
Figure 20.8. Custodial measures. Source: Spanish Public Prosecution Service.
to a general lack of educational support, is seen as a measure of detention and confinement, mainly at home, or alternatively at a center.
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