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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 72267 Find in a Library
Title: Juvenile Protection Agents (From Fonction sociale du tribunal de la jeunesse, P 37-47, 1979 - See NCJ-72264)
Author(s): G Kellens
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 11
Format: Document
Language: French
Country: Belgium
Annotation: The Belgian juvenile justice system is experiencing many problems because of a lack of clearcut policies and too many juvenile protection agents working within the system without coordination, often at cross-purposes.
Abstract: The 1965 juvenile law reform discarded the concepts of punishment and repression for juvenile delinquents without substituting definite treatment and rehabilitation directions, speaking only of the protection of youthful offenders under the assumption that no one below the age of 18 is criminally responsible for his or her actions. Juvenile judges, police officers, social workers, and others involved with juvenile justice were interviewed concerning perceptions of their roles, objectives, and the functional realities of this system. The interviews revealed that the current Belgian juvenile justice system does not satisfy anybody, least of all its practitioners. The latter have been deprived of their traditional roles; they can no longer ensure the rule of law. Public prosecutors are now supposed to play the role of mothers; judges have become father figures; policemen regard themselves as social workers, and social workers feel that they are expected to be social policemen. Defense attorneys regard themselves as superfluous, because their potential customers can no longer be charged with any crimes. The judges' discretionary powers do not extend to imposing any penal sanctions; they are supposed to protect juveniles from committing further antisocial acts before coming of age, but lack any means for fulfilling this ambiguous task. Juveniles enjoy virtual impunity, regardless of their behavior. A hard core of habitual offenders are pleased with this situation but some confused youngsters would prefer to be held responsible for their actions. Parents are bewildered and frustrated. Some parents fear that their children will be taken from them to be placed in some benevolent institution; other parents fear being burdened with their ungovernable and dangerous children without any recourse. Social workers do not relish their unofficial roles as extensions of the police and the courts. The juvenile justice system has become a nonsystem, in which no one is sure of his role, and no one knows what to expect. Widespread confusion and malaise at all levels is the result. Footnotes include bibliographic references.
Index Term(s): Attorneys; Belgium; Deterrence effectiveness; Foreign juvenile justice systems; Judges; Judicial discretion; Juvenile courts; Law reform; Police juvenile relations; Prosecutors; Role perception; Services effectiveness; Social workers
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