Re­form schools can dent ju­ve­nile crime, experts say

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - 4 China - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai zhouwent­ing@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Au­thor­i­ties should en­cour­age par­ents to send chil­dren who have bro­ken the law to re­form schools to stamp out crim­i­nal be­hav­ior at an early age, ac­cord­ing to prose­cu­tors and child pro­tec­tion experts.

Pub­lic se­cu­rity de­part­ments once had the author­ity to order chil­dren un­der 16 who com­mit mi­nor crimes to at­tend re­form school with­out con­sent from their par­ents.

But the law was re­vised in 1999. Cur­rently, the young of­fender, the par­ents and the child’s school must first agree to the move. The change has led to de­cline in the num­ber of stu­dents at re­form schools, experts said at a fo­rum in Shang­hai on Satur­day.

The re­form schools, which are in­cluded in China’s nineyear com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, ben­e­fit par­ents and help ju­ve­niles un­der­stand “that they must re­spect the law and be re­spon­si­ble for their ac­tions”, said Gao Wei­jian, a law pro­fes­sor at South­west Uni­ver­sity of Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence and Law in Chongqing.

Re­viv­ing re­form schools was part of a wider strat­egy pro­posed at the fo­rum to pre­vent mi­nor ju­ve­nile mis­deeds from de­vel­op­ing into se­ri­ous crim­i­nal be­hav­ior. More than 150 prose­cu­tors and experts in the law and child pro­tec­tion at­tended the one-day fo­rum.

Un­der cur­rent law, the vast ma­jor­ity of of­fend­ers un­der age 16 who com­mit mi­nor crimes re­ceive lit­tle or no pun­ish­ment, yet the chances of re­of­fend­ing are high, of­fi­cial data sug­gest.

Over the past five years, more than 90 per­cent of adults con­victed in Shang­hai’s Xuhui district had com­mit­ted of­fenses as a ju­ve­nile, ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal pros­e­cut­ing author­ity. In Nan­jing’s Xuanwu district, the pro­por­tion was 80 per­cent.

“The actual sit­u­a­tion is that young of­fend­ers are head­ing for pun­ish­ment as soon as they be­come old enough, if their mis­be­hav­ior is not ef­fec­tively stopped,” said Yao Jian­long, a law pro­fes­sor at Shang­hai Uni­ver­sity of Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence and Law.

Experts urged law en­force­ment de­part­ments and pol­i­cy­mak­ers to look at early in­ter­ven­tion mea­sures, such as com­mu­nity ser­vice, re­quir­ing of­fend­ers to apol­o­gize to their vic­tims and com­pen­sate them, one-on-one ed­u­ca­tion and out­reach pro­grams.

“The sys­tem we put for­ward can ... deal with these ju­ve­niles to en­sure that the law and so­ci­ety are tol­er­ant to­ward them with­out over­look­ing their mis­takes,” Yao said.

Gao added that par­ents must also take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their chil­dren, as they can of­ten be blamed for fail­ing to mon­i­tor and su­per­vise their chil­dren ad­e­quately.

In Xuhui district, par­ents of young law­break­ers are re­quired to post a bond of be­tween 1,000 and 10,000 yuan ($150-$1,500), which they will for­feit if their child of­fends again be­fore turn­ing 16.

The mea­sure was in­tro­duced six months ago as part of a pi­lot pro­gram that also in­cludes “pay­ing reg­u­lar vis­its to ju­ve­niles and their fam­i­lies to check on their stud­ies and life”, said Ji Dong­mei, the district’s direc­tor of ju­ve­nile pros­e­cu­tions.

“We also try to look for schools and job op­por­tu­ni­ties for them if they have dif­fi­culty, so as to avoid re­peated mis­takes be­cause of so­cial prej­u­dice,” she said.

The pro­gram is ex­pected to be rolled out across Shang­hai at the be­gin­ning of next year, Ji said.

ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

Young girls per­form a folk dance dur­ing the Laigong Tem­ple Fair in Huichang, Jiangxi prov­ince, on Satur­day. Ini­tially a rit­ual to wor­ship a wooden fig­ure said to have brought rain dur­ing a drought more than 500 years ago, the gath­er­ing has turned into a show­case for var­i­ous folk cul­tures.

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