Since the 1980s, politicians in many European and North-American countries have moved away from the child care approach that characterized the policy towards children in conflict with the law in the larger part of the 20th century. In Russia, in contrast, the development has gone in the other direction. In recent years, the sentencing policy towards young offenders has softened, and new alternatives to deprivation of freedom have been developed. Yet, there are institutional challenges to be approached before the Russian juvenile justice system is in accordance with Russian obligations under international conventions. This thesis discusses the current ambivalent approach to children in conflict with the law in Russia from a policy perspective. Special attention is given to possibilities and obstacles for further development in a non-punitive direction.
Untraditionally for Russia, the leading part in the reform process is not undertaken by Kremlin, but by the federal subjects. The regional reforms are based upon the experiences of a broad scope of actors involved in the child care and juvenile justice systems. Russia has a tradition for adapting laws from other countries, laws that have not always turned out to be easily implemented under Russian conditions. The current development pattern, where Russian regions are adapting international juvenile justice norms to Russian reality, may be more sustainable.