‘What works’ for juvenile prisoners: the role of group climate in a youth prison

Date14 October 2009
Publication Date14 October 2009
AuthorPeer van der Helm,Marian Klapwijk,Geert Stams,Peter van der Laan
SubjectEducation,Health & social care,Sociology
The Dutch juvenile justice system locks up an increasing number of adolescent boys and
girls at a cost of approximately Û250,000 for each inmate annually (Boone & Moerings, 2007;
Tonry, 2005). Questions have been raised, however, about the cost-effectiveness of treatment
in closed institutions. This study, with a sample of 49 adolescents residing in a Dutch youth
prison, examined the role of group climate in establishing and maintaining treatment effects.
Results show that an open group climate, with group workers paying more attention to the
psychological needs of the adolescents and giving them ‘space’ to experiment, led to inmates
feeling that they were ‘being understood by the group workers’. This perception of being
understood was associated with greater treatment motivation and higher internal locus of
control. Positive prison workers in the living group turned out to be a key factor in building an
open group climate and subsequently higher internal locus of control and greater treatment
Key words
youth crime; juvenile delinquency; group climate; youth prison
been raised concerning the negative effects of
incarceration and coercion (Garrido & Morales,
2007; Parhar et al, 2008). Next to adequacy
In recent systematic reviews of the effectiveness
of correctional treatment in reducing recidivism
among juvenile delinquents questions have
‘What works’ for juvenile
prisoners: the role of group
climate in a youth prison
Peer van der Helm
Research Director, Leiden Professional University (School of Social Studies), The Netherlands
Marian Klapwijk
Group worker in a youth prison, The Netherlands
Geert Jan Stams
Associate Professor, University of Amsterdam (Department of Forensic Child and Youth Care Sciences),
The Netherlands
Peter van der Laan
Professor, University of Amsterdam and the Free University of Amsterdam, and Senior Researcher,
NSCR (National Institute of Crime Research), The Netherlands

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