Kids no longer sent to jail for minor offenses

Children who commit their first minor offense like shoplifting, will soon only face a strong reprimand. Last year the police experimented in Twente with an approach in which minors were not put in jail after a first offense, but instead had a firm conversation with a police officer in the presence of their parents. This approach will now be implemented nationwide, AD reports.

The experiment in Twente showed that a firm conversation with a police officer is an effective way to keep children from committing crime again. None of the around 120 children between the ages of 12 and 18 who were caught in Twente last year, crossed the line again after their talk with the cops, the police said. 

Currently juvenile suspects go through the same process as adult suspects. That means they are arrested, taken to a detention center, are searched, and put in a cell. They often spend hours in jail, waiting for a lawyer to assist them during questioning. Every year the police question around 30 thousand underage suspects in the Netherlands.

Locking minors up is unnecessary, traumatizing and misses the pedagogical goal, according to Defense for Children, the Children's Ombudsman, and the association of Dutch juvenile lawyers VNJA, among others. It is also at odds with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

The police themselves are also not happy with the current process, police project leader Jeanette de Vries said to the newspaper. "Police officers have chosen this profession because their heart is in the right place. They also have trouble with keeping children in the cell crying for hours because they have stolen a can of coke or something. That just isn't right." 

The new approach will be first introduced in Overijssel and Gelderland next month, and the rest of the country after that. 

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