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Treatment of Juvenile Offenders in Spain

When the Judge imposes a measure, the professionals of the Social Welfare system implement the corresponding program. The regional governments in Spain have competence in the social welfare system therefore the services of regional governments are in charge of carrying out the measures adopted by Juvenile Judges. This organization was significant for two reasons: first, because it implied the decentralization of the juvenile criminal enforcement system; and second, because it is in support of an integral child policy, ranging from the protection of juveniles at risk to a judicial response to criminal behavior.

Each region has a different social welfare structure as well as different resources. This difference in resources can make a big difference in the kind of measures the judges can apply to juveniles. Regarding the treatment received by juveniles, there are no standard protocols or common guidelines across the autonomous communities. In consequence, there is a huge variety of programs and interventions, which differ from one region to the other (Redondo et al. 2012) and even within the same region (Uceda and Navarro 2013). In this sense, each institution responsible for attending to and treating the juveniles has its own protocol and intervention programs.

Nonetheless, analysis of the existing protocols and programs confirms that, broadly speaking, they are coherent with current knowledge on antisocial behavior and risk/protective factors (Redondo et al. 2012). Consequently, specific programs exist to work on the juvenile offender’s main difficulties in different developmental areas: improvement of training and preparation for employment; psychoeducational programs; psychological treatment for specific substance abuse-related problems, sexual assault, and other mental problems; healthcare programs; leisure and free-time programs. It can also be seen that the pertinent institutions/organizations endeavor to adapt to changes in juvenile behavioral patterns; for example, there has been a gradual increase in the number of specific programs regarding gender violence, internet misuse, or child-to-parent violence. In 2007, most professionals did not feel qualified to approach child-to-parent violence but in 2015, programs or actions have been implemented in all the autonomous communities. This willingness to adapt to emerging problems has also encouraged the development of family-based interventions as opposed to traditional interventions directed specifically at the juvenile.

A review of these protocols/programs allow us to conclude that precedence is given to cognitive behavioral treatments, which have proven to be the most effective tools for reducing recidivism with young delinquents and adults (Garrido et al. 2006). However, a lot of these protocols/programs make almost no reference to rehabilitation theories or models for juvenile offenders.

The specific model for offender rehabilitation more used in Spain has been the cognitive model proposed by Ross and Fabiano (1985); however, the Risk-Need- Responsivity model (Andrews and Bonta 2006) has gradually come to form part of the training of professionals and of the dynamic of the system itself. The

RNR model is clearly a benchmark among Spanish academics and researchers. To the degree that these experts participate in the juvenile justice system, the RNR model and the various approaches to rehabilitation underlying the model, lead the design, implementation, and assessment of the rehabilitation programs. This is clear, for example, in the Community of Madrid (Grana and Rodriguez- Biezma 2010) or in Catalonia (Cano and Andres-Pueyo 2012), but is difficult to establish in the country as a whole.

As suggested by Redondo et al. (2012), the lack of criminological models as a theoretical reference and the absence of clearly explained specific aims (or criminogenic needs) in most of the protocols/programs, render it impossible, in practice, to assess the actual implementation of this rehabilitation model.

One aspect which characterizes this inconsistent process toward the implementation of the RNR model is the adaptation, validation, and introduction into the system of risk assessment tools. These instruments help to identify static and dynamic risk factors, and the protection factors of each juvenile, which should guide the selection of the measure to be imposed and the objectives of the treatment. Furthermore, they facilitate assessment of the juvenile’s progress once the action is implemented.

The use of assessment tools is widespread in the Justice system (Arbach- Lucioni et al. 2015), but there is practically no research in Spain on the applicability of these tools nor the corresponding criminogenic needs of the juveniles. To the best of our knowledge, only one study has analyzed how the introduction of the assessment tools has an impact on the everyday work of professionals with the juveniles; this study concluded there is a mismatch between the information provided by the tools and the proposals for intervention developed by the technicians (Grana et al. 2007). It is worth noting, furthermore, that the tools are not integrated in the protocols. Consequently, within any given resource network, some technicians use them and others don’t, and in some cases they even use different tools (Arbach-Lucioni et al. 2015).

Some authors have expressed their concern that the risk assessment tools are seen as a means to “manage the risk posed by a juvenile” rather than a tool to facilitate the application of a needs assessment and the principle of responsivity (Bernuz and Fernandez-Molina 2008). This is especially so because the incorporation of these tools has not been accompanied by an adaptation of the available resources. The professionals who attend to and treat the juveniles may also have had this perception, since the implementation of the assessment tools has been met with a considerable amount of resistance. In this line, Bernuz and Fernandez- Molina (2008) consider that the discourse of professionals depart from trends toward risk management, which could indeed be found in the successive amendments to the JCA or in criminal policy decisions.

In our opinion, this resistance could reflect both a rejection of the punitive nature of the guidelines they receive regarding the treatment of juvenile offenders (Uceda and Navarro 2013) and the basic training they received, which focuses more on social adaptation and community-based interventions than theories of reoffending (there is still only a small number of criminologists in the Juvenile Justice system). Professionals on correctional treatment usually place more emphasis on improving self-esteem, social adaptation, or empowering the juveniles, than on their impact on recidivism.

Consequently, it could be concluded that we are at a time of transition in the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders in Spain. Starting from highly diverse actions and programs of difficult assessment and with limited grounding in criminology, we are now advancing toward more contemporary models of rehabilitation. Certain resistance voiced by professionals coincides with criticisms made of the RNR model (Ward et al. 2007): insufficient attention to the offender motivation and personal identity, the well-being of juveniles is secondary, and too much emphasis on the risks. Furthermore, the resources available are not consistent with the criminogenic needs evaluated. Spanish professionals appear to prefer a more positive orientation, which focuses more on factors of protection than on risks, and more on desistance than on recidivism (for example, Blasco et al. 2014).

Given the lack of assessment of the programs and interventions, there is little information available on the effectiveness of either the measures applied or the programs/interventions implemented with the juveniles. The data available paint a relatively positive picture (Camps and Cano 2006; Bernuz et al. 2009; Acosta et al. 2012; Martin et al. 2013) despite the doubts and criticisms from the Spanish society. Yet it is still not clear which specific aspects of the system explain the positive results, as has been mentioned previously in this chapter.

With regard to recidivism, there are no national data but there are a number of studies published in some autonomous communities with samples of juveniles under various measures. A review of these works allows us to conclude that the mean rate of recidivism is around 25 %, but with significant variations depending on gender, age, and other variables (Redondo et al. 2012; Ortega-Campos et al. 2014). Recidivism is more frequent in younger boys who have committed violent crime, have received heavier judicial measures and present more risk factors; individual factors such as impulsivity, seem to hinder desistance (Blasco et al. 2014). In this sense, Bravo et al. (2009) conclude that interventions with juveniles presenting more risk factors and chronic trajectories seem to be insufficient, both in semiopen and closed regimes. They consider that greater emphasis is required on working with the families of juveniles and in their environment.

Treatment programs for juvenile offenders are designed and applied equally with boys or girls. Although researchers have highlighted the differences in needs between delinquent boys and girls (Morales 2011; Redondo et al. 2012) no specific programs or actions have been designed for girls. There is no evidence, either, that professionals adopt a gender perspective in their work, in contrast to the situation with women in prison.

Generally speaking, the only references to be found in reports on girls’ needs are as follows: the number of places available for girls in each center, the living arrangements for girls in mixed-sex centers, and the adaptation of some rooms for young mothers with children under the age of 3. The existence of specific programs for young mothers in centers with places for girls is officially regulated, but no information on these programs has been published. These reports all highlight the fact that, given the limited availability of places for girls (some centers do not have them), it is especially complicated to meet their right to complete the measure in a center near the family home.

Thus, the international debate between the gender-specific approach and neutral approach, which aims for RNR, is not observed in Spain. It is true that the cognitive behavioral programs for recidivism seem to be equally effective for girls and boys (Morales 2011; Gobeil et al. 2016). Although recidivism is lower in girls, there is no evidence that this lower recidivism among girls is the result of correctional interventions.

For those who defend a gender-specific approach is not clear whether needs of girls are met. It is known that girl offenders present more physical and mental health problems and more prior history of abuse (Rodermond et al. 2015). No tool including gender-sensitive assessments has been validated in Spain; nor do protocols include specific actions for girls’ needs. The absence of a gender-specific attention for girls could increase their vulnerability, not for crime, but for their own development (and that of their children in the case of mothers). Also, boys could benefit from a gender approach, especially those who show marked masculinity values or sexist attitudes (Carlsson 2013).

Anyway, it is clear that all matters related to juvenile offenders in Spain require further study, especially if they refer to girls offenders.

 
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