Wednesday, June 3, 2015
In this article, I trace the emergence of diverse models of juvenile prosecution practice in Germany and show how those models reflect local and regional attitudes towards the character of juvenile crime. The evolution of distinct local practices poses an intriguing challenge to a key underlying premise in the German criminal justice system-namely that prosecutorial decision-making is objective, impartial, and grounded in neutral legal standards which are impervious to political influence. To set the stage for this inquiry, I begin by laying out the basic framework of German juvenile law and the ambit of discretion which it permits. I then explore the actual patterns of juvenile criminality and punishment using published statistical reports. In the chapter’s core, I delve into prosecutors’ perceptions of the purposes of juvenile crime and actual sanctioning practices. This includes a discussion of decision making norms. Finally, the article details the aims and practices of newly developed fast-track programs and innovative “repeat offender” units established in some German cities. In the framework of that discussion I show how the latitude inherent in the law as well as the structure of management controls and workload pressures empower prosecution offices with the latitude to tailor prosecution policies to respond to community and political pressures.