The sector study focused on three questions: What has happened in the closed (judicial) youth institutions since 1945? How did the violence take place? And how was the violence experienced by ex-pupils and what consequences did this have for their later life? Researchers Van der Laan, Eichelsheim, Dirkse, Bruggeman and Asscher conducted archival research, interviewed ex-pupils, analysed pupillary files, studied media reports and charted supervision and inspection. They have also listed developments and legislation since 1945. This resulted in a summary report and nine source studies.
The researchers note that violence has often been committed in closed (judicial) youth institutions. It concerns physical, psychological and sexual violence, by employees against young people, but also between young people and by young people against employees.
The violence is very diverse:
In the first period after the war (1945 - 1965), strict and austere regimes with long and frequent isolation, long sentences, labour exploitation and a hard (physical) approach were characteristic of the youth institutions. In the period after that (1965 - 1990), long-term and frequent isolation was also common, but at the same time, the discussion about the (un)desirability of this started. Threats and intimidation by employees continued unabated. Institutions are also in the news because of sexual abuse. In the most recent period (1990 - now), the obligation to report and register with the inspectorate provides more insight into the violence. However, violence is still very common.
Violence in closed (judicial) youth institutions is linked to a series of (risk) factors, some of which cannot be seen in isolation from the young people who are placed there, for example with serious behavioural problems and problematic family situations. Many young people have a long history of assistance and have already been removed from home several times. Other risk factors are related to the institution, such as the strong hierarchy, inequality of power and the living environment. The living environment was and is - in a different way - repressive in nature, whereby the use of violence has been legitimized. In addition, there were and are often personnel changes, partly because of the difficult working conditions. The training of employees was initially insufficient, it also took a while before treatments and methods were developed. Supervision of the institutions was limited in earlier periods, as were the laws and regulations. This has improved in recent decades, partly by strengthening the legal position of young people.
Experiencing or witnessing violence in a youth institution is very drastic. The impact on the rest of life is great. Many ex-pupils have to deal with chronic physical and mental health problems, relationship problems (divorce, no contact with family and own children), addiction problems, behavioural problems and difficulties with income and daytime activities. This explains the feelings of resentment, suspicion and powerlessness towards society and authorities. The fact that supervisors must have seen the abuse but did not intervene, has bothered many former residents throughout their lives. They feel ignored and are angry and frustrated.
Over the years, the manifestations of violence in closed (judicial) youth institutions have changed, but have become no less drastic and invasive. The impact on the further life is as great as ever. Provisions have been modernized, but unequal power relations and restrictions on autonomy still exist. This offers scope for psychological and physical violence. The problems of young people and families also remain complex and serious, and are not very different from previous decades.
Violence has diminished in some ways through, among other things, better supervision, more openness within institutions, strengthening the legal position of young people, instructions for violence and the judiciary of the Council for the Application of Criminal Law and Youth Protection (RSJ). The professionalism of employees has increased due to better training, new treatment methods and the arrival of behavioural experts. The further prevention of violence requires refinement of the regulations, more intensive supervision, continuous (further) training of employees and, above all, reduction of the repressive nature of the institutions.
Commissie Onderzoek naar Geweld in de Jeugdzorg (2019). Onvoldoende beschermd. Geweld in de Nederlandse jeugdzorg van 1945 tot heden.
Deel 1: eindrapport
Deel 2: sector- en themastudies
Deel 3: bronstudies