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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 78629 Find in a Library
Title: Experimental Model for Assistance in Decisions on Detention in Hamburg - Use of Social Workers in the Activities of Detention Judges
Journal: Bewaehrungshilfe  Volume:27  Issue:2  Dated:(1980)  Pages:182-191
Author(s): K Hardraht
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 10
Type: Program/Project Evaluation
Format: Article
Language: German
Country: West Germany (Former)
Annotation: A Hamburg project is described that uses social workers for intensive background investigations of accused offenders prior to pretrial detention decisions and for pretrial service to defendants and their families.
Abstract: The objective of the program is to prevent detention of accused defendants whenever possible, thus reducing the disruptive effects on their lives and consequent dangers of recidivism. The project is modeled on the service of the VERA Institute of Justice in the United States. Under the American system, a social worker verifies statements of accused offenders and on the basis of this information makes recommendations to the detention judge about holding or releasing the accused. The social worker helps released defendants with adjustment problems and assists detainees with preparation of their cases. The German project was founded in May of 1978 by the Probation Assistance organization and the Hamburg justice agency. No basic legal problems have arisen in using social workers for assistance in detention decisions. But as the interests of many agencies overlap in this area, social workers must attempt to remain objective and neutral in their reports to avoid conflicts. Social workers are called upon to investigate if it is thought the offender might flee. They do not work on cases when concealment or repetition of criminal acts is suspected. Social workers' reports are also used for young offenders, offenders with no previous record, perpetrators of petty crimes with previous records, and perpetrators of serious crimes with previous records but no recent offenses. The judge usually requests a background report at the first detention hearing. About 70 percent of the requests for background investigations come from the judge, while another 25 percent are passed on to project workers from defendants themselves or prosecutors. The report is based on a later verified interview in which the social worker determines whether the social situation of the defendant would be endangered by detention. In some cases the social worker serves as the supervisory person for released offenders. Although the success of the project cannot yet be assessed, the project appears to contribute to just decisions by judges. However, the number of offenders in detention probably is not reduced, as the number of defendants spared incarceration by social workers reports is offset by a number of defendants who unexpectedly receive negative reports and are not released.
Index Term(s): Background investigations; Detention; Germany; Judicial discretion; Pretrial procedures; Pretrial release; Program evaluation; Social workers
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