Minister Takes Measures after Report on Drugs and Alcohol in Correctional Institutions for Juvenile Offenders

Minister of Justice Hirsch Ballin takes stern measures to deal with the use of alcohol and drugs in Correctional Institutions for Juvenile Offenders (JJIs). The basis for the measures is a report showing that a considerable percentage of juveniles is using alcohol and drugs during their detention in a correctional institution. The Minister wrote this in a letter to the Lower House.

On the instructions of the Research and Documentation Centre of the Ministry of Justice (WODC), researchers of the Utrecht University carried out an investigation into substance abuse in correctional institutions for juvenile offenders, so that the addiction problems can be dealt with on the basis of the knowledge gathered. It concerns a self-report investigation conducted from March to July 2009 among 155 male juveniles in ten correctional institutions for juvenile offenders.

The investigation established the substance abuse of juveniles prior to their stay in a JJI. The results were compared to peer groups of male juveniles in residential youth care, regular secondary education and special education. The results show that the JJI population, by their own account, uses alcohol and drugs more often, in larger quantities and at a much younger age than their peer groups in regular and special education. This is in line with the current impression that juveniles placed in correctional institutions for juvenile offenders form a group with multiple, complex problems and that, barring exceptions, substance abuse already plays a role before their detention in a JJI.

Substance abuse during detention in a JJI also examined. This investigation distinguished between inside use and outside use during periods of leave and in the home environment. Over a third of the male juveniles of the total group examined indicated to have used alcohol since the beginning of their detention, about 26% of the group examined indicated to have also used alcohol inside the JJI. As regards cannabis, 65% of the male juveniles indicated that they have used this drug since the beginning of their detention in the JJI and that almost all of them have also used cannabis inside the JJI. The comparison of the use of the JJI population preceding their detention and the use of these same juveniles during their detention in the JJI shows that both alcohol and hard drug use is decreasing. The percentage of male juveniles that claims to have used cannabis (once or several times) during their detention remains virtually the same (65%) compared to the period preceding the detention.

Minister Hirsch Ballin finds the results of the investigation alarming. The Minister is taking several measures to tighten up control:

  • modification and continuation of circulars and protocols;
  • preparation of new means of control, such as saliva analyses and breath test
  • large-scale, institution-wide inspections and investigating the possible use of sniffer dogs;
  • sector-wide exchange of best practices.

Improved control – essential for the wellbeing and safety of juveniles in JJIs - always goes hand in hand with treatment. This should prevent juvenile offenders from reoffending due to substance abuse. It should also enable them to cope with the temptations they experience when they return to society. The Minister therefore implements several measures in the field of treatment and prevention, such as the use of accredited behavioural programmes, linking substance abuse to granting leave, and improving the provision of information. The Lower House will be informed of the progress of the measures this autumn.