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International Summaries: Dutch Experiments With Community Service

NCJ Number
J Junger-Tas
Date Published
4 pages
This report explains the evaluation of community service (CS) as a penal sanction for adults in the Netherlands, presents as a penal sanction for adults in the Netherlands, presents evaluation results, and recommends three changes in Dutch penal law.
In 1980, the Dutch Minister of Justice appointed a commission to establish experimental CS programs in 8 of the country's 19 court districts starting in 1981. Goals of the CS experiment were to reduce the number of prison sentences of up to 6 months, to complete CS within specified time limits (maximum of 150 hours to be completed within 6 months), to produce a positive experience for the offender and supervising agency, and to contain reconviction rates to be comparable with those of similar offenders receiving other dispositions. Data on the operation of CS came from records compiled between February 1981 and May 1982. A total of 453 cases were analyzed. Interviews were conducted with prosecutors, judges, probation workers, the staff of community agencies, and offenders assigned to CS. Data were obtained on offender characteristics, the decisionmaking process, work placements and hours, control and feedback to judicial authorities, CS organization, and CS outcomes. Three approaches were used to determine whether or not CS increased the number of persons drawn into the criminal justice system or increased the severity of sanctions. CS offenders were compared with those refused CS, with all offenders sentenced to 6 months or less, and with fined offenders. CS did succeed in reducing the number of offenders sentenced to prison terms of 6 months or less, and CS orders were generally successfully completed. CS was also usually a positive experience for the offender and the supervising agency. The commission recommended that the penal code be changed to make CS either a prosecutorial disposition, a major judicial sanction, or a form of pardon.