Sentencing Patterns in the German Juvenile Justice System

Frieder Dunkel, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universitat Greifswald

The paper discusses the development of juvenile justice agencies and of the sentencing practice after the reunification of Germany. In the Federal German system in general and especially in East Germany (former ODR) in comparison to West Germany different sentencing practices have emerged. This is partly due to regional traditions and patterns of juvenile crime. The paper presents the analysis of up to now unpublished statistics and the results of a nation-wide poll of juvenile justice agencies concerning the availability of restorative and educative -measures for -juvenile courts and youth departments. Restitution and victim-offender mediation 'have developed rapidly since the mid of the eighties and mediation schemes have been established in nearly all local youth departments. Juvenile courts in Germany deal with 14-21 years old young offenders. The transfer to adult courts for offenders aged 18-21 years is practised very differently in comparison of the Federal States. In contrary, to the American waiver decision practice the more serious cases remain under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court in order to find a milder sentence in comparison to more than 21 year old adults. The practice of juvenile courts varies between more liberal/educative to more repressive (using more extensively youth custody) sentencing approaches. In spite of an increased crime rate especially concerning violent crimes the East German Federal States are not following a very repressive policy. The data indicate that diversion and community sanctions are more frequently used to cut down the greater influx of cases and to cope problems of prison overcrowding. The declining or at least stable crime rates since 1994 do not support more repressive strategies.

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Updated 05/20/2006