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Tuesday 19th of November 2019

Press Room

“Improving Juvenile Justice Systems in Europe” Project: BIM organises a workshop for juvenile justice professionals in Austria

Friday 11th of November 2016
IJJO Day by Day

The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights (BIM) is an Austrian partner of the European project “Improving Juvenile Justice Systems in Europe – Training for Professionals”, led by the IJJO. In October, BIM organised, in close cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Justice (BMJ), a nationwide workshop in Vienna aimed at increasing the awareness and strengthening the capacities of professionals working in the field of juvenile justice. All together 48 key experts from the police, the justice system, the probation office, civil society, etc. contributed, allowing for interdisciplinary perspectives. 

In Austria, some reforms implemented in recent years have led to significant improvements within the juvenile justice system, which is why standards of juvenile justice in Austria are relatively high. To give an example, in January 2016 the modified Juvenile Court Act came into force with the aim of reducing or even avoiding pre-trial detention.

In addition, the so-called “social network conferences” for juveniles have been installed. These conferences are held together with the juvenile concerned, their family/holders of parental responsibility, a juvenile court social worker and a probation officer. The juvenile commits to strict rules, such as the attendance of school or work, and to start certain therapies, such as an anti-aggression training. Although the social network conferences still show some weaknesses, which must be addressed, in total they have led to a decrease of juveniles in pre-trial detention.

Nevertheless, the workshop still revealed gaps and challenges that the Austrian juvenile justice system is facing. One issue, which was raised in almost all working groups, referred to the lack of adequate cooperation and communication between different professional fields, such as police and the justice system, or the justice system and the youth welfare organisations. In particular, if unaccompanied minors and socially disadvantaged children are concerned, preventative measures were decided to be notably significant when protecting these children against the risk of getting in conflict with the law.

The rehabilitation phase must also be understood to be as important as crime prevention. Rehabilitation, which may be implemented after detention, is understood to be especially important because of juveniles’ needs for comprehensive, tailor made support, which ensures them a successful and sustainable integration back into society.

In order to guarantee that this kind of individualized assistance is provided, close cooperation among all involved institutions (juvenile justice system, probation office, and child and youth welfare organisation) should be guaranteed. However, in practice, this frequently does not happen.

Apart from this, there was a broad consensus that education and training for professionals working with juveniles plays a vital role in improving the juvenile justice system. To empower children and young people to exercise their rights, in particular their right to information and their right to be heard, professionals need to be properly equipped with communication skills, such as reflective listening, child-friendly language use, and the setting of conversational rules.

The participants of the workshop welcomed the manual for professionals “Can anyone hear me? A manual on how to make European juvenile justice systems child friendly”, published by the IJJO in 2016, as an important tool in which specific guidelines, recommendations and other relevant information is provided. During the workshop, more than 100 copies were distributed and due to strong demand about 200 copies have since been reprinted.

Co-funded Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme of the European Union

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  • International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO). Belgian Public Utility Foundation

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  • Head Office: Rue Mercelis, nº 50. 1050. Brussels. Belgium

    Phone: 00 32 262 988 90. Fax: 00 32 262 988 99. oijj@oijj.org

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