Juvenile delinquents sentenced to prison more often; detention centers under pressure
Juvenile offenders receive prison sentences increasingly more frequently and are detained longer, figures from the Council for the Judiciary showed, according to NOS. As a result, juvenile detention centers are becoming ever more crowded.
Lawyers and interest groups said they are concerned about the development and the impact it has on young people. “It is no secret that juveniles rarely come out better”, juvenile judge Susanne Tempel said.
“Still, sometimes it’s the only option”, Tempel said. “We are seeing more and more young suspects commit serious crimes.” In nearly a quarter of all cases, juveniles were sentenced to prison last year. In 2015, only 13 percent of juvenile offendents were sent to prison.
In addition, juveniles have bene receiving longer priosn sentences. While in 2018, the average amount of time a juvenile offendent spent in a detention center was 50 days, in 2020 the average was 86 days.
Tempel emphasized that prison sentences for adolescents should be the last option. “You put a lot of young people from difficult circumstances together and the influence that this has on children is not good”, Tempel said. “Yet in matters concerning crimes such as manslaughter or attempted murder, unfortunately, there is no other option.”
Juvenile delinquency has been declining overall in the past years, yet the number of serious crimes has risen.
The large influx of young people puts a considerable strain on the justice system. “It puts enormous pressure on the capacity of juvenile detention centers”, a supervisor for the Inspectorate for Justice and Security said.
The average occupancy rate of juvenile detention centers is nearly 90 precent. In some cases, occupancy rates can reach up to 150 percent.
Outgoing Minister for Legal Production, Sander Dekker, announced that he is overweighing increasing the capacity of youth prisons. “If you see that you are reaching the limit, you really shold now look at how you can create more places”, Dekker said, according to NOS.
Last year, two juvenile justice institutions in Veenhuizen and Cadier en Keer were closed as part of a program focused on small-scale juvenile detention centers with individual treatment.