Young Adults in the Juvenile Justice System -- German and European Experiences

Frieder Dunkel, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universitat Greifswald

The paper discusses the situation of young adults in the juvenile justice system in different European countries with special emphasis on the sentencing practice of juvenile courts in Germany. In many European countries reforms of the juvenile justice system have empowered the juvenile courts to apply educational sanctions towards young adults (regularly at the age between 18 and 21). Recently Austria, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Slovenia and Spain have introduced such flexible regulations. In Germany already since 1953 young adults have been included into the juvenile court's jurisdiction. The paper describes empirical data on the sentencing practice particularly in Germany with comparison to other jurisdictions in Europe. In the German system in general and especially in East Germany (former GDR) in comparison to West Germany different sentencing practices have emerged. The paper presents the analysis of up to now unpublished statistics. The transfer to adult courts for offenders aged 18-21 years is practised very differently in comparison of the German 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. Adult criminal law is applied in the case of traffic and petty property offences in order to use a summary (written) proceeding, regularly with the outcome of a fine. Looking at the other European countries the application of educational sentences concerning young adults seems to be more restrictive than in Germany. The paper discusses the causes of different sentencing patterns and the perspectives for a European harmonisation in juvenile crime policy and practice.

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Updated 05/20/2006