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To link together personalization and efficacy working in justice


Background. Our contribution starts from a reflection on the social work made by juvenile justice social services about efficacy in regard to children needs, the meaning of being a judge, the efficacy of explicit and implicit rules of organization.

In accordance with the Italian law 448/88 (reforming the penal process for young offenders) there are always two dimensions according to which processes need to be just right and effective: one is related to the offence and the other one to personality. Justice social services were created just as a response to this internal coherence. In particular, a measure was created to respect these two dimensions: probation. Probation is meant to be a growing possibility for young people involved in crime, not an alternative to punishment. Indeed, this is proposed by social services before judgment and social services become responsible for the project. Efficacy depends on this aim, no other measure has such a high investment of services and activities (educational,reparative, therapeutical).

We can say that all probations positively concluded were occasions of growth. On a statistic level, in 2006, among 450 cases of young people involved in crime in our service, we proposed (only) 87 probations with different length (from 6 months to 3 years).We have few data about probations in Italy, but we can say that 80% have a positive end.

Other measures taken by law are so far from te crime itself (because they are proposed after judgment) that it is impossible to do an efficient work about responsability, mediation, reparation.

Purpose. We presented two studies made on children implicated in penal measures and analysed some remarkable points that could help practitioners elaborate intervention and quality indicators of personalized projects.

In this work we suggested the qualitative analysis of case study with particular reference to interventions, critical elements and project efficacy. We presented the history of Marco and Sara. Marco is a young boy from Perù, accused of an homicide committed together with his cousins against another Peruvian person. It was just one month since he had arrived in Italy and eight years since he had been apart from his family, when he did the offence.The other is a 16-year-old Italian girl accused to be a drug pusher - cannabis and ecstasy. She was already known by local evolutive social services because she had had a breakdown when she was 14 and had tried twice to commit suicide. During the last 2 years she was admitted to psychiatric hospitals three times.

Key findings. Case study results illustrate interventions, critical elements and good aspects.

Working with Marco

Critical elements: It was a very difficult case because of:

  • crime severity, linked with a "soft" penal decision (he was only obliged to stay at home)
  • a very closed family system
  • language problems
  • absence of a social network

 Projects efficacy. This result was made possible for the presence of professional workers with different competences but the same values and goal towards people and institutions (in this case their aim was to help Marco build his personality and get over the trial positively).

This meant being professionally brave to propose, for the first time in the history of that Court, an alternative project for such a case. An equal working load (1 worker /20 users) and organizational conditions that allow the care-worker not to end in collapse of energies. Evidence of these efficacy items was that when the two workers (social worker and psychologist) were substituted, the coherence of the whole project risked to fail.

The investment in building a social network, in terms of alliance spirit as well as availability of working and travelling hours, was efficient for the boy and the whole system.

Working with Sara

Critical elements. Significant psychiatric problems, apparent parents agreement on the personalized project proposed by services, parents' difficulty in being helpful, orienting Sara and providing her with good and realistic limits, collusion mother and daughter.

Intervention: community for young girls; probation, different therapeutic support for Sara and her parents.

Projects efficacy. It was demonstrated because Sara achieved some important results. Relevant aspects: the participation of all professionals involved; relevant communication and collaboration of the team in regard to those interventions whose aims and methods of intervention had been previously arranged; the ability of the team to contain Sara's problems and emotion and to promote a gradual increase of her independence; daily support to the girl, characterized by a constant collaboration between community educator, social worker and the girl's psychologist.


Recommendations. Efficacy parameters we referred to were: positive exit regarding probation experience, admission of the young's own responsibility, positive growing and development. We found some key points: the capability to orientate the focus of intervention towards "wellbeing" and "capacity of responsibility" of the youth on the basis of youth's needs, the judiciary requests and their involvement into the project organization in order to elaborate a concrete proposal.

Youth justice practice must be characterised by inter-agency, co-operation by social services of local authorities, youth justice social services and voluntary organisations: we need to find the best practises to join services and practitioners which have different disciplinary approaches, institutional missions and aims. Everyone who manages in professional ways has to build a clear self-perception of his/her own competences, the recognition of the need of a co-ordination, the attention to keep flexibility inside multiprofessional integration.

How to manage "responsibility": in regard to the youth, this corresponds to the continuous presence of a professional capable of handling the complexity of interventions and of being a constant reference point for the young, their families and the judicial authority. In regard to the organization: responsibility corresponds to good methods and procedures within care, thus contributing at creating good practice.

Key references

Barbero Avanzino, B. (2003). Devianza e controllo sociale. Milano: Franco Angeli.

Bandini, T. & Gatti, U. (1987). Delinquenza giovanile. Milano: Giuffrè editore.

Charmet, P. (1993). Minori: devianza e trasgressione. Prospettive sociali e sanitarie, 4.

Palomba, F. (1989). Il sistema del nuovo processo penale minorile. Milano: Giuffrè editore.

Scivoletto, C. (2000). Per i minori stranieri solo accoglienza in carcere. Minori e Giustizia, 1.

Contacts: Sinigaglia Marilena, Ufficio di Servizio Sociale per i Minorenni di Venezia, Ministero della Giusitizia, Palazzo Giustizia Minorile, via Bissa Mestre, E-mail: ussmvesezionepd@tin.it, Phone 049875.41.22.


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