A youth-friendly legal system

The aim of the ‘Youth-friendly legal system’ project is to prevent juvenile offences and to provide the necessary support and assistance to juvenile offenders to enable them to continue their law-abiding lives and avoid going to prison.

Project goals:

  • Specially trained specialists work with juvenile victims and offenders.
  • Practitioners in the criminal justice system have the tools to assess the needs of offenders and assign interventions accordingly.
  • Forms and models of cooperation between law enforcement, health care, and child protection institutions suitable for the Estonian context have been developed, which would ensure the timely access of minors and young people to services suitable for them.
  • Alternatives to fines and transfers to closed institutions have been developed and made available.
  • Restorative justice methods and the help of voluntary mediators are used to solve social problems in the community.

The project focuses on four areas:

The project has a budget of 4,704,982 euros and is funded from the funds of the Norway and EEA Financial Mechanisms for 2014–2021.

The implementation period of the project is 28 October 2019 – 30 April 2024.

Training specialists

Juvenile offences are often a result of the living conditions of the child being complicated in one way or another. The treatment of young victims or offenders in the criminal justice system can have a major impact on their future lives.

Therefore, specialists working with offenders need to be able to interact with children and young people in a way that supports their development potential and reintegration into society.

All specialists who come into contact with minors in the legal system must receive separate training, which must be systematic and consistent. The integrated training programme will increase the capacity and skills of police officers, prosecutors, child protection workers, judges, probation officers, prison staff, and therapists to treat juvenile offenders in accordance with their age, development, and needs.

Training programme of the unique school developlment centre foundation

The five-module training programme will run from September 2021 to May 2022. Acquisition of modern skills, knowledge, and attitudes takes place all over Estonia both individually and in groups. The comprehensive programme provides an opportunity for regional specialists to learn together, exchange experiences, and strengthen the network around young people.

Training programme: Youth-centred approaches to the special treatment of minors | 233.17 KB | pdf

Child-friendly procedure 

During the project, the child-friendly procedure website was completed, which features all the necessary information and contacts for children and parents who come into contact with the legal system. It also contains important information for specialists working with children.

Joonas Sildre joonistus varjud koos küsimustega

Developing opportunities and models for cooperation between specialists

The icelandic model

The Icelandic model originates in the Youth in Europe programme in Iceland in the late 1990s. It relies on the contribution of the community to reducing risk behaviour among young people. The model is based on the mapping of the risks and living conditions of 15–16-year-old schoolchildren and carrying out appropriate local prevention activities based thereon.

Prevention involves parents, schools, officials, and the community. Children are offered developmental leisure activities to reduce the use of illicit substances and offences.

In Tallinn, the Icelandic model is run by the Social Welfare and Health Care Department, which, together with eight district health promoters, carries out various prevention activities at the school and community level.

The budget of the Tallinn Social Welfare and Health Care Department for the implementation of the model is 193,000 euros. This includes training, implementation of action plans in districts, participation of health promoters in the Planet Youth Conference in Iceland, and a study visit to learn best practices in Lithuania. Together with Icelanders and Tallinn University, the Department also conducts surveys of Tallinn schoolchildren.

More information about the Icelandic model can be found on the Planet Youth website.

Media coverage

30.08.2018   Päästeliit "Kuidas Island oma noored narkost, alkost ja krimist päästis? 
05.04.2019   Õpetajate Leht "Islandi ennetusmudel"
05.01.2021   Pealinn "Abiks: Islandi kogemus kampades hulkumist aiatavd ennetada huviringid" 
12.04.2021   Pealinn "Kooli ja vanematega sõlmitud leping aitab noortel uimastitest ja peksmistest hoiduda"
12.04.2021   ERR "Laidi Surva: kogukonna tugi on koroonaajal veelgi olulisem" 
23.04.2021   ETV "Islandi ennetusmudel" 
18.04.2021   Kanal 2 "Kooli ja vanema leppest" alates 1:06  
9.06.2021     ERR "Laidi Surva ja Triin Vilms: Kelle roll on laste ja noorte toetamine?"

"out of the circle"

The ‘Out of the circle’ model is based on intensive networking. It is usually used when a young person has already committed a number of offences, but it can also be used to prevent recidivism. The willingness and desire of the young person to participate in the process is important.

In addition to the young person, their family or caregivers are also involved, as well as various specialists, such as a child protection official, youth police, the prosecutor’s office, a coach, a youth worker, a social pedagogue, and an inclusive education specialist. Intensive work with the young person lasts about six months, after which the results achieved together are evaluated and progress is celebrated.

Until this point, the whole network actively works with the young person. Upon the completion of the model, the child protection official of the local government will keep an eye on them after receiving further recommendations. If necessary, it is possible to extend the work done under the ‘Out of the circle’ model. It is also possible to start the process again in the event of recidivism. Then, it is necessary to pay attention to why the achieved results were not permanent and what the obstacles were.

the anchor model

The anchor model is a method of supporting young people who the police thinks might commit offences in the future. An assessment team of specialists is convened, who talks to the young person and maps out their needs and risks and provides the young person with services based on these needs and risks.

The specialists involved are the police, the child protection official, the health care professional, and the youth worker. The team meets the young person at the earliest possible stage to provide them and their family with comprehensive support. The aim of the anchor is to support the creation of an environment in which the needs of young people are met as far as possible so that they do not fall into criminal activity.

The anchor model supports the implementation of ‘Out of the circle’ network model.

Media coverage

28.03.2019  Pärnu Postimees "Kampademure võivad lahendada tänavameeskond ja ankurmeeskond"
30.05.2019  Pärnu Postimees "Lauri ja Martti on jälle siin: tulete ehk enne, kui nad sõdima hakkavad"
28.08.2019  Pärnu Postimees "Iga probleemse noorega hakkab tegelema oma politseinik"
5.01.2021   Järva Teataja "Norra toel alustati mullu mitmeid tegevusi noorte õigusrikkumiste ennetamiseks"
6.04.2021   Sotsiaalikindlustusameti taskuhääling "Kuidas saada noor ringist välja?"
26.04.2021 Ajakiri Radar "Kogemus: karistamine ei kasvata"
20.09.2021 ERR "Annely Reile: karistamise asemel tuleks noori toetada"


Developing alternatives for responding to juvenile offences 

wider use of restorative justice

The aim of the project is to modernise the victim support conciliation system so that it is based on the principles of restorative justice.

  • We are working with young people and developing a system of voluntary mediators. The project will be used to train at least 70 volunteer mediators, who conduct at least 100 conciliations per year.
  • November is Restorative Justice Month – every year, we organise various events introducing the principles of restorative justice to both specialists and the public.
  • In 2021, Restorative Justice Month will focus on young people.
prevention of violence and bullying at school
  • We support the expansion of the Bullying-Free School Foundation to at least 26 new schools, 10 of which are Russian-language schools. The aim is to help create a climate free of violence and bullying in schools and to support school staff in dealing professionally with cases of bullying.

    The project includes recruitment and information events for schools, procedures for integrating schools into the programme, long-term support for the use of the programme, and e-learning games that schools can use as a tool.

Developing the service of closed child care institutions 

  • The aim of the project is to develop alternatives to sending children to prison and to provide support and uniform training for specialists working with children in need in closed child care institutions, under probation supervision, or in prison.
  • Children and young people with whom these specialists work have often experienced neglect as well as physical and mental abuse. These children need special protection and care.
  • The project will be used to create a basic training system for specialists working with children and young people, which will help them acknowledge the trauma experienced by the children and thus create a safe ground for their development and the shaping of a mature sense of self.
  • A counselling system will be set up to support the trained staff. The system will support the development of each employee and the introduction of new evidence-based interventions and help to improve the quality of the service.
  • The activities of the project support the establishment of a quality management system for services for young people with a high need for assistance and risk behaviour.



  • The conference ‘Kes te koormatud olete. Kuidas toetada traumakogemusega noori?’ (‘Who are you, burdened ones. How to support young people with experiences of trauma?’) took place on 5–6 of April. The central topic of the conference was understanding and supporting young people with experiences of trauma. During the two days of the conference, answers were sought to questions such as: ‘What is trauma?’, ‘How to reach a child and young person with experiences of trauma?’, ‘How to understand a young person with experiences of trauma?’, and ‘What kind of support do they need?’. The conference is available on the YouTube channel of the Ministry of Justice. The topics discussed at the conference are also available here.

  • On 1 December 2021, the online conference ‘Why do young people need restorative justice?’ took place. Speakers from Estonia and abroad looked at the issue from different perspectives, making us all think about the importance of a restorative justice-based approach in the environments and situations surrounding young people. Hopefully, the conference provided food for thought and ideas for those who work with young people in the education system, law enforcement, youth work, or come into contact with young people in the community. The conference is available on the YouTube channel of the Ministry of Justice

  • On 13 August 2021, a play/discussion on restorative justice ‘The complex art of conflict resolution’ took place at the Opinion Festival. The discussion is available on the YouTube channel of the Ministry of Justice.

  • On 26 November 2020, an international conference on restorative justice, ‘Whose justice is restorative justice?’, took place. The conference is available on the YouTube channel of the Ministry of Justice.

  • On 1 October 2020, the inaugural conference of the project ‘Creating a youth-friendly legal system’ took place. The conference is available on the YouTube channel of the Ministry of Justice.

Project partners

  • Prosecutor’s office – working with juveniles and young people who have committed offences: choosing the right intervention measures, referring to services or assigning obligations and monitoring their fulfilment; participating in networking to support case management and reduce the risk of recidivism

  • Estonian National Social Insurance Board – development and implementation of the ‘Out of the circle’ social programme, the volunteer system of restorative justice, and the training programme for specialists in closed child care institutions

  • Police and Border Guard Board – training of police officers, study visits, and the development of new ways of responding to juvenile offences

  • Tallinn Social Welfare and Health Care Department – implementation of the Icelandic prevention model in Tallinn, organisation of trainings for health promoters and their teams

  • Oslo Police – supporting Estonian colleagues and project implementers through counselling and study visits

  • Norwegian Conciliation Board – supporting Estonian colleagues and project implementers by organising study visits and participation in seminars.

Last updated: 22.09.2022