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Child imprisonment is a concept in criminal law where people are considered not old enough to be held responsible for their criminal acts. The age which a juvenile is considered an adult for criminal prosecutions is referred to as the "age of infancy." In most jurisdictions in the US, the age of infancy is generally 18 years old; however, age can vary by jurisdiction (such as the state of Michigan where the age is 17). In England, the age is much younger (10 years). The main problem that most countries are having, is whether children should be punished as an adult for crimes committed as a juvenile; or, if special treatment is a better solution for the offender.

History

Juvenile Courts

A juvenile court is a court of special jurisdiction charged with adjudicating cases involving crimes committed by those who have not yet reached the age of infancy. If convicted in a juvenile court, the offeder is found "responsible" for their actions as opposed to "guilty" for a criminal offense.

Controversy

Pro

  • Rehabilitation (counseling and psychiatric treatment) is a soft option that will make children believe that they are spending short periods of time in a holiday camp. In the US, more than half the boys who were put under counseling orders after offences rather than under detention ended up re-offending during the period they were undergoing counseling. It is better if whatever rehabilitation program is planned takes place in some sort of detention facility. They can still be separated from hardened adult criminals, but that does not mean they should not be detained for similar periods of time [1].

Con

  • Child crime is different from adult crime in that the offenders are, in most legal systems, not deemed to be fully conscious moral individuals. As such, the best way to deal with them is through rehabilitation rather than punishment [1].
  • The only long term solution to juvenile crime is reform of the child. Children are more susceptible to reform and the rate of recalcitrance for child offenders under counseling in the US is significantly lower than that of adult offenders. Even if some end up re-offending, it does mean that just under half of those who had been given the chance to return to normal life took up that chance and did not re-offend. Putting them in a prison, and even worst with adult offenders is likely to increase the chance of recalcitrance because they will be in the same environment as other offenders who will be a negative influence on them [1].

Age of Infancy by Jurisdiction

Child imprisonment per jurisdictions

Austria

Denmark

Before July 1, 2010 as child has to be 15 year old to be charged with a crime. The maximum penalty regardless of the type of crime committed was 8 years imprisonment. After July 1, 2010 the age limit will be 14 years. The limit of 8 years imprisonment will be lifted. They can not be sentenced to life without paraole[2]. Children aged between 12 and 14 will not be allowed legal defense but can be ordered to wear an ankle monitor by the social services [3].

England

  • 10 years

United States

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 http: //www.idebate.org/debatabase/topic_details.php?topicID=123 Is stricter punishment the answer to juvenile crime?, by Vikram Nair, International Debate Education association, May 03, 2001
  2. U.N. unhappy at crime age proposal, by Julian Isherwood, Politiken, October 13, 2009
  3. Ankle monitors for 12 year old, by Rolf Jonshoej, Denmarks Radio, June 4, 2010
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