From talking about the to talking with them…

The target group for ambulant sanctions


Project period

1996 – 1999

Project staff

Monika Brakhage

Dr. Regine Drewniak


Niedersächsisches Kultusministerium

Project description

A preceding review of ambulant sanctions for juvenile offenders pointed up needs for improvement in practice with regard to goals, willingness to take part, and the form of participation. There were also major information deficits as to the specific nature of the work in the projects concerned – something that was also a key factor in whether juvenile courts actually made use of the projects. This study aimed to remedy such deficits by focusing on the future prospects of the adolescents concerned.

A total of 48 guided interviews were carried out with participants from 14 projects across Lower Saxony. Importance was attached in sample selection to ensuring that the projects reflected the project landscape in Lower Saxony and that the respondents reflected the target population of all adolescents reached by the projects (at the time of the survey).

The central criterion for adolescents to take part in a project was having committed a criminal offence, with three very different types of delinquency represented: violent offences, procurement offences, and offences committed ‘for kicks’. This classification reflects differences in the described forms of delinquency, the described rationale for delinquency, and assessments of criminal liability and the subsequent consequences.

The descriptions of pathways into the projects indicate that the adolescents themselves were rarely asked. The adolescents knew very little regarding why in relation to their specific situation they were receiving the support or what they had been told to take part in entailed, i.e. what the projects were about.

In terms of methodological orientation, it was confirmed that (most) projects elected flexibility by combining action, experience and discussion-based offerings. In the case of exclusively or predominantly discussion-based offerings, adolescents were unable to gain anything from taking part in a project. They reported a significantly more positive experience if as part of the project they received individual support in managing their own lives. The presentation of specific life prospects also proved a relevant criterion, not least in determining the continuation or discontinuation of delinquent behaviour.

While the current projects generally failed to reach adolescents from immigrant backgrounds, the picture with girls was different, with participation in a project giving them access to a package that catered to longstanding support needs not previously met by youth welfare services.

Finally, the adolescents’ responses pointed to a more general need for improvement. This related to matters such as (poor) acceptance of the projects by the juvenile courts, the proportionality (or otherwise) of the legal consequences imposed by juvenile courts, the failure to involve adolescents themselves in line with youth welfare principles, and the fact that the projects needed to be better geared to the needs of the adolescents concerned and to specific target groups.

Project related publications
  • Brakhage, M. & Drewniak, R. (1999). “Sonst wäre ich im Knast gelandet… ”   Die ambulanten Maßnahmen aus der Perspektive der betroffenen Jugendlichen. Baden-Baden: Nomos.