Young offender scheme cost CHF1 million

Carlos (left) training in Thai-boxing earlier in 2013 Keystone

The “luxury” reintegration programme for a violent young offender in Zurich – a case that sent shockwaves across Switzerland over “coddle justice” – was carried out correctly, but cost too much, an investigating commission has concluded.

This content was published on November 28, 2013 - 14:27 and agencies

Zurich cantonal authorities said they were “satisfied” by the findings. They had earlier defended their choice to give a young offender known as “Carlos” a special individual programme, saying it had made a difference.
The case has provoked a wider debate about how best to deal with violent young offenders.
Carlos benefited from a year-long special treatment programme that included Thai-boxing training, his own flat and constant support, costing CHF29,200 ($32,250) per month. But after the public outcry he was put back into prison. He is currently in a centre for juvenile male delinquents.
A parliamentary justice commission from canton Zurich has been looking into the whole affair, which first came to light following a television documentary. In its report published on Thursday, the commission said that  although the Carlos case was dealt with within the regulations, a better grip was needed on spending.

It has emerged that Carlos’s case has cost almost CHF1 million, covering the period October 2006 to the stopping of individual supervision at the end of August 2013. This included stays in prisons, special institutions and the costs for the supervision. The cantonal government has said that this was an exception. Normally a young offender costs around CHF12,000 a month.

In total, the parliamentary commission has made five recommendations, including that future costs for similar cases be calculated according to expenditure and not on a flat rate and that the special programme services provided by a private company should be more defined at the offer stage. This would give more transparency, it said.
The report will now come before the cantonal parliament on December 9.

Defending the move

The cantonal government, which has already stopped certain programmes for young offenders which have been deemed too costly, said on Thursday that the report supported the work of its youth justice authority. The recommended measures had mostly already been carried out, the canton’s head of justice, Martin Graf, added in a statement.

Planned special programmes will now be subject to approval by the youth justice authority with immediate effect. Martial arts training will only be possible under strict terms, Graf continued.

The cantonal government had earlier on Thursday defended its handling of the case. In reply to a parliamentary question, it had explained that Carlos’s supervision was appropriate because all other measures had failed. It had made a difference, it argued.

The one-to-one supervision was supposed to be relaxed as progress was made – that way costs could also be reduced.

Carlos speaks out

Carlos himself has given his first interview since the case blew up. The 18-year-old bemoaned how he had been treated to the Weltwoche magazine.

He said he understood why people had criticised the sums spent on him, but was grateful for the chance the special programme had given him. He continued that he had served his time for the offences committed when he was younger. “It’s absurd to talk about coddle justice,” he said.

The Zurich cantonal authorities said on November 19 that they had put Carlos into the juvenile centre for his and third parties’ protection. His lawyer has taken legal measures against the move and Carlos himself went on a hunger strike for a few days.

The Carlos case has provoked a debate about how to deal with violent teenagers in Switzerland. Emphasis in the current system is on rehabilitation, experts say, and that the percentage of those offending only once is very high.

There are challenges: finding the right placements for offenders, lack of cantonal coordination, and the high costs. Many experts are, however, convinced that in principle programmes are worthwhile. But many taxpayers and politicians remain unconvinced about the costs.

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