In the case of young offenders, detention measures in each country are based on the principle that specialist institutions and not prisons are the place for young offenders. These specialist institutions must place reinsertion at the heart of what they do, creating a framework for the development of the individual, this being a fundamental part of reintegration.
Apart from an inherently safe and secure infrastructure, these institutions must have adequate areas for accommodation, for preparing and serving meals, schools, trained personnel, social, psychological, religious, cultural, sports and recreational activities, areas to provide medical treatment and assistance and areas for visits. Unlike other penitentiary facilities, young offenders’ centres must aspire to providing detainees with an educational experience, this being the most important aspect of their period in custody.
In order to respect the referential aspects of criminal penalties in accordance with the crime committed and with the needs of the legal authorities, they must be aware of the opportunities and adequate level of existing conditions in specialist custody institutions for young offenders. Moreover, when we talk of the effectiveness of legal measures, we must take into account those indirectly affected – family, friends, the community, potential victims of the crime prevented by legal action, taken at the correct time and place.
For this panel, we invite you to think about and debate the educational role of courts regarding restorative action for young offenders. We shall therefore analyse specific practices used in the European countries represented by the speakers, highlighting issues to be taken into account when decisions are handed down by the courts to young offenders.