Poor care for young offenders could result in more victims: Juvenile judges
The government is failing to care for young people who have ended up on the wrong side of the law, juvenile judges said to NOS. Specialized youth care, which courts impose, is often unavailable or has waiting lists of up to a year. The government needs to step up and carry out its legal task to organize this care, the judges said.
"We fall short for the young people who need care to improve their behavior. But it also damages society. There may be new victims," said children's judge Susanne Tempel. "The law states that the care imposed by a judge must be carried out. Waiting lists and other personnel problems should not stand in the way of this."
The Netherlands' juvenile law focuses more on preventing recidivism than on retribution. The idea is that children and young adults are highly impressionable - negatively causing them to go astray, but also positively by receiving good help after they misstepped.
Judges now often have to pick the fastest available youth care instead of the most appropriate treatment, Tempel said. "The advice to us often no longer describes the best option. You are looking for what is second best. Or even a third option. Everything to ensure that help is started as soon as possible." And while these kids wait for care, the danger is that they will make a mistake again. "With guidance and treatment, it is precisely the intention to prevent that."
The other parties in the courtroom - the Public Prosecution Service, juvenile criminal defense lawyers, juvenile probation services, and the Child Protection Board - confirm the picture the judges paint.
The Ministry of Justice and Security also recognizes the problem. "Personnel problems are happening throughout the Netherlands. The coronavirus has also influenced this. That has not contributed positively to the workforce. Day programs have been adjusted for that reason. Care has been scaled down there. It groans and creaks. We do organize campaigns to attract staff. But at the moment, everyone is suffering from staff shortages," the Ministry said to NOS.
State Secretary Maarten van Ooijen of Public Health announced last month that he wants to make reforms in youth care. "To improve care for children, young people, and families who need it." He plans to reduce market forces, tackle excessive profits, and curb the growth in the number of youth care providers. "This brings us closer to a system that is really aimed at helping children," he said.