Today was another busy day of learning about social welfare agencies in Zurich. We started our journey bright and early at the Public Juvenile Prosecution Office in the Canton of St. Gallen. Here we learned about the Juvenile Court System in Switzerland through a presentation by Catherine. The Juvenile Criminal Law Act of Switzerland seeks to protect teenagers by hiding their criminal charges, educate them to prevent later offenses, reintegrate the offender into society, and prevent stigmatization of the youth based on the offense committed when they were Young.
A social worker will then create an assessment that they believe will be best reintegrate the teenager back into society. This system differs vastly from the United States. Here, a child can have a sentence for their crime, but they have measures, which are similar to goals, that they work to achieve to reduce or even eliminate their sentence. These goals are either ambulatory measures or institutional measures. Unlike in the United States where we “shouldn’t do the crime if we can’t do the time,” a social worker looks at the environment, behavior, and many other factors to fully understand why the youth may have committed that crime.
It was interesting to see that there is investment in the teenager’s life and a desire to understand the root of the situation rather than to simply punish the offender. With ambulatory measures, a teenager is able to live at home, similar to probation, and reestablish and grow the communication of the family rather than separate the youth from home. In the institutional measure, a child may be removed from home, not just because they committed an offense, but they may have even come from a terrible home situation. Overall, it appears that the Switzerland Juvenile Court System aims to meet the needs of the offender rather than to incarcerate the teenager.
We then had a presentation by Kristy and Jen about the Criminal Justice system in the United States and then took a break and grabbed lunch at the Migros grocery store. After lunch we headed to the Kant. Jugendheim Platanenhof the Juvinile Dedlenquency Insitution. We saw the closed institution as well as an open institution from the woman who is the director of the institution. She worked in education for eight years and three years as the director of the institution. These institutions are a place where a teenager may have to live rather than living at home with their families. In the closed institution there are two wings with eight rooms in each wings, and four extra disciplinary rooms for a juvenile who could be harming themselves or others. The juveniles can only stay in a closed institution for 3 months and then the workers decide within the next 6 weeks, where they will go next, another closed institution, open institution, or go home.
Within the closed institution they have woodshop and crafts as well as a living room and kitchen. The juveniles are confined to each space they are in and do not have much flexibility. They also go to school and are taught the level of learning they are prepared for. Also, they are able to learn a trade so they are able to work when they exit the institution. The teenagers have a very structured day from 7:30 am to 9:00 pm. The kids can also go out on the balcony but only at certain times with permission. The ages in the closed institution are 12- 18 years old, and the average age in the whole institution is 14-17 years old. Each child has their own room with a bathroom, bed, and sink. The goal of the institution is to protect, integrate, develop, and educate. The goal is not to punish, but to learn. The open institution allows the teenager to leave and come back at a certain time and can use the public buses, but there are issues with open institutions because there could be a teenager who may attempt to run away. If the escape, they will then be brought back by the police. The juveniles in this institution have usually been to other institutions. We ended our day with dinner at the Spaghetti Factory in Wintherthur.