Prosecutors have the first right to choose between criminal procedure and that of protection in juvenile cases handling. Prosecutors can also impose various conditions to suspend juvenile prosecution if there is the necessity for proper guidance (Juvenile Law Article 49-3).
The conditional suspension of the prosecution of juvenile offenders is a diversion to minimize social labeling by imposing various community treatments, not by institutional treatment based on the potential for the juvenile to change. It is widely used for adult criminals since it started in 1978 at Gwang-ju. There are three types of conditional suspensions of juvenile prosecution; suspension of prosecution with supervision provided by a volunteer for juvenile crime protection, suspension of prosecution with education at a juvenile delinquency protection center, and suspension of prosecution with the supervision of a probation officer.
The decision to prosecute or not impose the suspension of prosecution or conditional suspension of prosecution are completely at the discretion of the prosecutor. Although the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office and Ministry of Justice have practical guidance for juvenile case on the suspension of conditional prosecution, impartiality is under criticism because target selection is usually left to the prosecutor’s discretion. In this sense, an evaluation is needed to determine how the three types of conditional suspension of prosecution programs in operation carried out the purpose of the system. First, juvenile crime protection using private resources for the volunteer guidance program is highly regarded from the community service perspective. However, there are problems because different volunteers have different ways of intervening and levels of understanding. Second, a juvenile delinquency protection center has a variety of delinquency prevention programs, but the efficacy is also under criticism because it provides only short-term education for three to five days due to subjects academic difficulties in school. Third, the probation office has nothing but face-to-face instruction once or twice a month. It is hard to find countries that empower a prosecutor’s wide discretion. The Germany Juvenile Court Act (Jugendgerichtsgesetz §45 ①) provides for prosecutor suspension of proceeding, but the details of diversion are provided in the administrative rules of each state. Involvement of prosecutors in the U.S. is limited in scope because most juvenile cases are treated in juvenile court. In the UK, the extent of prosecutor intervention has been expanding since the introduction of the Crown Prosecution System in 1985. Prosecutors focusing on juvenile cases also need to be specialized and meet the requirements. Prosecutors in Japan have no right to intervene because all juvenile cases are processed in juvenile court.
This study tried to evaluate objectively whether the current conditional suspension of prosecution has a proper screening system and how each type of suspension of prosecution influences the prevention of recidivism. This study surveyed 582 juvenile delinquents that were imposed conditional suspensions of prosecution. According to the results of the survey, 76.8% of the subjects were students of middle school and high school, 71.0% had parents, and the economic level of 87.1% of the subjects was above normal. This means that the subjects of the conditional suspension of prosecution had better family backgrounds than the subjects of probation or juvenile institutional disposition. The juveniles did not have much criminal history. The rate of juveniles that repeated suspension of prosecution was 17.8%, and 37.8% of juveniles were between suspension of prosecution and protective disposition. The juveniles under suspension of prosecution with supervision of a probation officer and a volunteer met with each of them once a month for 20 minutes on average. The subjects of suspension of prosecution with education at a juvenile delinquency protection center received three to five days of delinquency prevention education. The effects of crime prevention on the subjects under suspension of prosecution with supervision of a probation officer were the highest.
According to another survey of 190 staff working for juvenile suspension of prosecution, the employment histories of the volunteers were longer than other staff. The entire staff focused on acknowledgment, encouragement, regular life, and restoration of confidence. The volunteers especially concentrated on restoration of family relationships and financial support, probation officers focused on regular life, and staff from the juvenile delinquency prevention center helped juveniles improve their legal awareness. The problems that the staff pointed out were low awareness of the subjects, lack of a specialized program for each problematic behavior, supervision difficulty resulting from an insincere attitude, obscurity of the standards for each type of program, etc. The staff suggested ways to improve the program, such as establishing standards for each program, strengthen the professionalism of the volunteers, unify the management of suspension of prosecution with education and supervision, and build the system for information sharing related to juvenile justice.
In the survey of ten expert’s opinions, the standards for each subject of the conditional suspension of prosecution are suggested. They also proposed parent education, a restorative justice program, counseling as a condition, and a combination of education and supervision as new types of suspension of prosecution to be introduced. The problems and details for improvement they suggested were similar to those of staff. They said that strengthening the professionalism of staff and establishing standards for subject screening were needed to make the best use of the investigation system before the final decision of the prosecutor and to provide enough budget and human resources. The following are needed to improve juvenile conditional suspension of prosecution.
First, the screening standards of the practical guide for the subjects should be changed to fit the individual’s character, and suspension of prosecution should be limited to the subjects that are experienced in juvenile protective disposition. Second, the task professionality of prosecutors should be prepared, and they need to make the best use of the investigation system before making a final decision. In addition, a management system for volunteers should be established. Third, various conditions such as parent education, a therapeutic program, a reconciliation program, supervision of teachers in charge should be considered as a new type of program. Fourth, the duty of explanation for the juveniles and their guardians and a procedure for appeal are also needed to improve the system. Fifth, information sharing for the subject through a unified information system and continuous monitoring after disposition are also needed so the juvenile will not be exposed to a criminal environment.
Juvenile Offender, Prosecution