SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS - Although juvenile crime continues to decrease, recidivism among young people is increasing, with over a third of convicted juvenile criminals finding themselves back in trouble within two years.
Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker considers this rate unacceptably high and the government has therefore approved a package of measures to enable quicker and more effective interventions to minimise the likelihood of recidivism. The new strategy will provide treatment of juvenile delinquents and focuses on what the individual in question truly needs.
Judicial detention of young people is only used as a last resort. If judicial detention is unavoidable, then these offenders need care, treatment and security in order to minimise the likelihood of them committing future offences.
The current system only offers one type of institution for all juvenile offenders and Minister Dekker wants to abolish this ‘one size fits all’ approach. ‘All these young people have so many different and unique problems that making them jump through exactly the same hoops simply won't work. For this reason, we need to adopt a more tailor-made approach.’
The problems that young people face are becoming increasingly complex and there is also huge variation in the length of time offenders spend in institutions. Tailor-made sanctions and care are the only solution to these issues, and to provide this, greater variation of young offender institutions is necessary. Therefore, the government is introducing two new types of institution: small-scale facilities and national specialist facilities.
The purpose of the small-scale facilities is to allow young people to maintain greater connection with their life outside the institution during their detention. The majority of incarcerated juvenile offenders are only serving short sentences, with – for example – half of all young offenders in pretrial detention being released within a month.
For this reason, this government is investing in small-scale facilities for the incarceration of juvenile delinquents that enable them to go to school or work during the day and remain connected with their life on the outside.
This makes it easier for them to pick up their lives where they left off upon their release. The small-scale facilities set up in Amsterdam as part of a pilot will be continued, and four other small-scale facilities will also be added in Rotterdam, The Hague and in the North and South regions.
In addition to the small-scale facilities, the young offender institutions will be converted into national specialist facilities. Here, juvenile offenders serving long sentences and with more complex issues – e.g. young people with youth hospital orders or serious behavioural problems – will receive more intensive care and a high level of security.
Extra investment will be made in the training of staff, further improvement of information exchange, higher quality of education and all adjustments required to make the current institutions more suitable for young offenders to attend school, work, etc.
The government will increase investment in the small-scale facilities and national specialist facilities over time, rising to a recurring total of €17 million by 2024.
Reduction of empty cells
The decline in juvenile crime in recent years has left many cells empty, with forecasts predicting that only 358 of the current 753 places in young offender institutions will be required by 2024. The government has therefore decided to reduce capacity by 180 places. This will leave enough flexible capacity to accommodate unexpected fluctuations in the juvenile crime rate.
Two young offender institutions (JJIs) will be closed: JJI Via Het Keerpunt in Cadier and Keer (as of 2020) and JJI Het Poortje Juvaid in Veenhuizen (as of 2021). In addition, JJI Teylingerland will be relocated from its current site to the adjacent new building, which will allow the current premises, accommodating a capacity of 92, to be closed. In the North and South regions, the capacity and jobs will be partly retained as small-scale facilities will be set up in the area.
‘Every euro that we spend on empty cells is a euro that can't be spent making the country a safer place,’ explains Minister Dekker, ‘For this reason, it's good that we're taking action on this matter. Of course, I understand that these will be challenging times for the employees in Veenhuizen and Cadier en Keer, although this will put an end to the uncertainty in the sector once and for all.’