Punishment is a must - but because of the pandemic, there are hardly any places for community hours.
Courts extend the deadlines and resort to alternatives.
But community hours have an important educational aspect.
BY MERLE HUBERT
Ursula Walder is concerned. Inquiries about requests for community hours to be completed pile up on her desk. She works for youth welfare in criminal proceedings at the bridge in Dachau. In consultation with judges and public prosecutors, the association coordinates the facilities in the region where young people can do their social hours. Community service is a common punishment for minor offenses such as theft, driving without a license, damage to property, or minor bodily harm. “Small offenses are usually followed by eight to 16 social hours, with larger ones 80 to a maximum of 120. On average, the young people work around 32 hours,” explains Walder. They can be served in retirement homes, kindergartens and sports clubs, for example. All social institutions,which remained closed for a long time due to the corona pandemic. But if social hours are not worked off, the educational aspect of the punishment is also missing.
This is a development that worries Walder.
“We experienced a massive slump in the number of deployment sites,” she says.
"At the peak of the pandemic, all internal facilities were closed." Although there are also places available in landscape maintenance, work cannot be done there in bad weather either.
Youth welfare associations in other regions of Bavaria also have the problem.
At the bridge in Starnberg, more than 90 percent of the facilities were lost.
Of the around 60 deployment sites, only five were recently left.
Theft, damage to property or driving without a license: community hours as a punishment
The Ministry of Justice and the Bavarian Judges Association confirm that there were bottlenecks everywhere in the Free State. In 2020, around 20 percent fewer social hours could be done in Bavaria than in previous years. In 2019, almost 80,000 daily rates could be paid. Last year it was only around 62,000.
Courts try to counteract the problem. Ralf Jehle is a youth judge at the Starnberg District Court. In the past winter in particular, there were hardly any work sites there. "In Starnberg, social hours were only arranged in a few cases in which no other useful means could be identified," he reports. "And then only with a very long deadline for completion." In many places, the deadlines for working through the hours have been extended. But that has consequences. Timely punishment is particularly important for young people. "The point of punishment is also that there is a reference to the act," says Walder from the bridge in Dachau. "The criminal case is a long process anyway and it takes at least four months to go to court - usually significantly longer."
The judges are therefore increasingly resorting to alternative punishments.
“The courts have increasingly imposed financial restrictions,” says juvenile judge Jehle from Starnberg.
“Consultations are also possible.
You can also do that over the phone. ”As an alternative, the judges have ordered further educational measures.
The young people could write a letter of apology or deal with a reading with a reading instruction.
In addition, offenders can take part in social training courses or take up an apprenticeship or job.
Despite Corona: Social hours are important for the development of delinquent young people
The situation is currently easing, so that courts are increasingly ordering social hours again. But only a fraction of the facilities take on juvenile offenders again. The managing director of the bridge in Dachau fears that some deployment sites could be permanently eliminated due to the pandemic. "For example, in kindergartens or in the health and care sector, charitable work is not possible because of Corona," she explains.
However, completely foregoing community hours as a punitive measure is not an option. They play an important role in the development of delinquent adolescents. "We want to help adolescents lead a life free from punishment," explains Judge Stefan Tillmann from the Rosenheim district court. “Working hours can be useful to give the young people a daily structure. You learn to perform certain tasks reliably and to take responsibility for them. ”According to Ursula Walder from the Dachau youth welfare service, social institutions in particular fulfill important functions. “Personal contact with people is very valuable. At supervised locations, we work hand in hand with the young people, ”she says. "Only by building a relationship can something be changed in adolescents."
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