U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Hidden Juvenile Justice System in Norway: A Journey Back in Time

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 54 Issue: 1 Dated: (March 1990) Pages: 57-61
K van Wormer
Date Published
5 pages
Information from interviews and official documents form the basis of this analysis of the Norwegian juvenile justice system and the conclusion that it is punitive, arbitrary, and an instrument of social control that contrasts with its progressive treatment of children in other areas.
Norway has a high degree of social and family stability and provides a model for health, child care, and social equality. Children under age 15 receive no punishment for crimes and no special courts have been established to try criminal cases against juvenile offenders. Older teenagers can be tried in ordinary courts, which usually give them only suspended sentences, probation, or several months in an open prison. In practice, the public prosecutor or the judge refers youths to the "barnevern" -- the child protection service. The social workers receive police information to aid in treatment rather than in prosecution. As a result, children have no legal safeguards or due process. They are often sent far away from home to juvenile institutions, often based on minimal evidence. The public is unaware of how individual cases are decided, because the process takes place behind closed doors. Thus, juveniles accused of crimes or behavioral problems receive harsh treatment that contrasts with the strikingly lenient criminal justice system. This oppression under the guise of care and protection should end. Children should have full constitutional rights, and the role of social workers should be for treatment rather than prosecution. 8 references.