I am still offering help to young offenders

(China Daily)      Updated : 2019-09-17

Juvenile crime was rare until 1978, when China opened its doors to the world and life became more diverse.

Young people are easily influenced by new things, positive or negative, so I heard many cases involving juveniles, especially theft, during the early 1980s. My career of helping children via the rule of law started during this period.

Although legislators included some sections about this issue in the Criminal Law and the Criminal Procedure Law in 1979, handing down prison sentences to young offenders was not as effective as we had expected. Some reoffended or even became worse after being jailed, which made us realize that prison was not an effective way of helping young people correct their mistakes.

In 1984, we were still searching for the right means to alleviate the problem, so Peng Zhen, the chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, highlighted the importance of education in fighting juvenile crime. He clarified the idea that when dealing with such cases the aim was to get young offenders back on track, not to leave them in prison after sentencing.

Also in that year, China's first juvenile tribunal opened in Shanghai's Changning district. Three years later, our court established an identical tribunal.

To ensure education was effective, we invited parents, teachers and close friends of juvenile offenders to attend case hearings, and we spent a lot of time explaining the laws and the seriousness of the crimes during trials. We hoped our judicial aid would help young offenders by showing them that no one would give up on them.

When dealing with such cases, I was upset sometimes because some offenders had to cease their studies or they had difficulty finding a job because of their criminal record. Young people's occasional mistakes should not create obstacles in the future. So in the 1990s, we began trying to lessen the effects on young people after they were imprisoned.

I was pleased the nation's lawmakers also noticed the problem. Under the revised Criminal Procedure Law, effective from 2013, the record of crimes committed by people ages 18 and younger who were sentenced to less than five years are sealed to protect their future and help them continue their lives positively.

I retired in 2014, but I have never stopped helping juveniles. I have started a fund to help poor juvenile offenders continue their studies, and I also work with volunteers and social associations to offer judicial lectures for children.