18 May Juvenile sanctions for young adults: the Adolescent Criminal Law as a developmental approach
Juvenile sanctions for young adults: the Adolescent Criminal Law as a developmental approach
Symposium94André van der Laan, WODC, The Netherlands; Maaike Kempes, NIFP, The Netherlands; Kirti Zeijlmans, WODC, The Netherlands
Room 1EWed 10:45 - 12:15
In the Netherlands, young adults aged 18 up to and including 22 years old can be sanctioned with a juvenile sanction. This is part of the Adolescent Criminal Law (ACL), which was implemented in 2014. The policy theory is that, due to their immaturity, young adults will profit from the focus in juvenile law on developmental interventions and resocialisation. Although sanctions are imposed by a judge, the public prosecutor and forensic experts have an important role in preselecting young adults eligible for juvenile sanctions. This practice raises questions regarding the relevance, impact, efficiency, equity and effectiveness of sanctioning young adults with juvenile sanctions. In this symposium, a framework for an overall evaluation of the ACL is presented, combined with first evaluation results, findings from a study into the characteristics of eligible young adults as signaled by forensic experts and international alternatives for sanctioning young adults. Presentation 1: Evaluating Adolescent Criminal Law: a multiple-criteria approach Evaluating Adolescent Criminal Law: a multiple-criteria approachThe main focus of criminological evaluation studies on interventions or sanctions is on the effectiveness on outcome, such as reducing recidivism. Environmental studies often use a more broad multiple-criteria evaluation framework, which is not limited to effectiveness, but also focuses on criteria such as relevance, impact, efficiency or equity. This framework is adopted in a case study were a post hoc evaluation is conducted of the Adolescent Criminal Law (ACL) regarding the sanctioning of young adult offenders aged 18 up to and including 22 years old with juvenile sanctions in the Netherlands. A multiple method and sources approach was used, including a reconstruction of the policy theory, a literature review, interviews with practitioners, and an analysis of empirical data of forensic experts and court decisions with regard to young adult offenders sanctioned with a juvenile sanction. Results showed that ACL is of relevance in order to stimulate desistance from a criminal career, and has impact in the sense that it is increasingly used over time and increased the use of forensic advice on the target group. Bottlenecks found in practice are, for example, vagueness of the eligible target group, unfamiliarity of public prosecutors with the possibility of this type of sanctioning, differential use of sanctioning across the Netherlands, and impossibilities for forensic services to offer the targeted interventions. These bottlenecks indicate threats on equity in the use of ACL for young adult offenders. The multiple-criteria framework and its usefulness for evaluating ACL will be presented and results will be discussed. Presentation 2: Is mild intellectual disability a marker for developmental delay in juvenile offenders? Is mild intellectual disability a marker for developmental delay in juvenile offenders?Since april 1, 2014 Dutch aged 18 - 22 can be prosecuted under juvenile criminal law, but only when the judge finds ground in the personality of the suspect or the circumstances under which the crime has been committed. Generally, this is interpreted that there must be clear indications that the development of the young suspect is delayed. In this respect forensic psychiatrists and psychologists play an important role in advising the judge. When the law was first introduced it was generally assumed that specifically young suspects with low IQ may be candidates to be seneteced under juvenile criminal law. Therefore, we studied 192 forensic assessments to examine a possible relationship between intellectual disability and type of law advised. In addition, we also studied the relation between adaptive functioning, IQ and type of law advised. Results showed that expert witnesses advise juvenile criminal law significantly more often than adult criminal law for suspects with mild intellectual disabilities. However, this relation wasfully mediated by the level of adaptive functioning the suspects were capable of. These results show that expert witnesses do not view IQ but adaptive functioning as a marker for developmental delay. Presentation 3: An international comparison of young adults in the justice system An international comparison of young adults in the justice systemYoung adults have been the focus of a growing debate on legal boundaries, not just in the Netherlands. They can be perceived as a group with different needs compared to children and adults due to their ongoing neurological, psychological and social development. Over the past decades, an increasing number of European countries started using a distinct approach towards young adults in their criminal law. The aim of this presentation is to describe and compare European justice systems’ approaches towards young adults. First, using the data from a literature review and supplementary exploratory questions to researchers from different countries, an overview is presented of the approaches used in European justice systems towards young adults. Four categories of distinct approaches for young adults are distinguished: separate placements while incarcerated; mitigation of sanctions; other measures compared to older adult offenders; and the application of distinct justice procedures. Secondly, a more in-depth comparison between the Netherlands and four other countries (Austria, Germany, Portugal, and Sweden) is presented based on a questionnaire distributed to local experts. The five countries all use a distinct approach towards young adult offenders in their criminal law; yet, differ in the possible sanctions and procedures that can be used on this specific group. Using the situation in the Netherlands as a starting position, the profiles of the four other countries provide alternative approaches that can become opportunities for the Netherlands to deal with the weaknesses and risks of the current Dutch adolescent criminal law.