When minors are convicted and sent to jail, they routinely reappear before a judge years later, according to a study conducted for a doctoral thesis by Brussels Free University (VUB) student Yana Jaspers and quoted on Monday in De Standaard. Jaspers interviewed 17 out of 210 persons who were minors at the time of their conviction between 1999 and 2001, and who were tried as adults due to the severity of the crimes of which they were accused. Almost all the delinquents were convicted again, with the average number of convictions amounting to nine. In 2014, half had been convicted within three years of their first sentencing.
In one case out of five, the convictions related to traffic offences and one in three had to do with theft. The offences were often accompanied by violence.
In 2016, a quarter of the juveniles who had already had a first conviction were still in jail. Their average age today was 33 years and they had already been to jail between three and six times.
When the justice system treats minors as adults, that does not yield the desired results, Jaspers said. “The aim is to place the juveniles before their responsibilities, but in prison they have no responsibilities and practically no power of decision,” the researcher explained. “They therefore have few possibilities for autonomy and development so they do not manage to reintegrate into society when they leave prison.”