Trying to understand young people in Italy – the Summer School project

Summer Schools on adolescents’ rights, where young people and professionals from the criminal justice community try to understand each other. That is one of the innovations carried out by the Italian Juvenile Justice system. Gemma Tuccillo, head of the Department of Juvenile Justice and Probation since March 2017, held a speech on the subject during the 22nd Council of Europe Conference of Directors of Prison and Probation Services in Lillestrøm (Norway) last June. “This was for us a new way of trying to understand how young people think and live and which dangers they encounter.”

The aim of the Summer School is to find ways on how adolescents and social and youth workers can relate to each other. “It is a bit like experimenting”, Gemma Tuccillo explains. “We want to realise opportunities of growth for both groups. We also want to raise awareness and have both groups acquiring new skills. The first Summer School was organised in July 2012. The Summer School was about the language the youth speak to each other. This certain language frequently appears incomprehensible to adults. It is important for professionals within the Juvenile Justice system to have the tools to decode these languages. In that way we can better understand young people, prevent troubles, encourage their talents and try to help to make their wishes come true. Knowing the language of young people is understanding them better. Many professionals in the Juvenile Justice system are still young themselves. On the other hand, the very fast evolution of lifestyles and of the language itself makes continuous updating of knowledge in these fields necessary.”

Organised crime

So far four Summer Schools have been organised, each time in different ways and on different topics. Gemma Tuccillo: “We have, for example, tried to ‘re-read the city’ by looking at cities through the eyes and experiences of adolescents. This was for us a new way of trying to understand how young people think and live and which dangers they encounter. Drugs, for instance. Or organised crime, that tries to recruit young people and for which the weakest among them have a dangerous fascination. We try to fight that by presenting a correct narrative about the mafia and by showing valid and satisfying alternatives for young people.”

200 persons

Each Summer School has involved about 200 persons: adolescents (from different communities), Juvenile Justice social workers, volunteers, mediators, lawyers, judges and professionals working in schools, healthcare, social cooperatives and other associations. The Summer Schools have been organised by the Central Training Institute of the Department of Juvenile Justice and Probation. The date for the next Summer School has not been set. “One of the reasons for this is the reorganisation of the entire Ministry of Justice. Before this reorganisation a Directorate within the Department of Prison Administration was in charge of community sanctions and measures. Now it has been transferred to the Department of Juvenile Justice and Probation. Training has become the responsibility of a Directorate General that works for both Departments. The Juvenile Justice administration itself has not undergone a major reorganisation itself. We have more gradual reforms, innovations and improvements of the way we work.”

Results

The Juvenile Justice system and its eleven Juvenile Justice Centres all over Italy have achieved significant results in the last thirty years of its existence, says Gemma Tuccillo. “Prison really is the last resort. On average there are fewer than five hundred minors in juvenile penal institutions. The vast majority of minors that have committed offences benefit from alternative sanctions or follow tailored treatment projects. Ten per cent of them follow probation programmes that suspend the trial. If they fulfil their obligations it will extinguish the crime. In this way they will not have a traumatic passage through the criminal circuit (including prison). In total, some twenty thousand young people are engaged in educational projects in the community.”

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