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HOME  > Past issues  > 2021 April 14 - 20  > Revision of Juvenile Act will harm chances of young offenders’ rehabilitation
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2021 April 14 - 20 [POLITICS]

Revision of Juvenile Act will harm chances of young offenders’ rehabilitation

April 16, 2021

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The government led by Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide seeks to enact a bill to adversely revise the Juvenile Act in the current Diet session. The bill is designed to stiffen penalties for minors aged 18 and 19 by redesignating them as “adults”. Advocates of the law revision have insisted that the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be lowered to 18 from 20 to coincide with the age of adulthood under the Civil Code. It is unacceptable for the government to push forward with hasty discussions on the bill.

The Juvenile Act was established under the postwar Japanese Constitution as well as the Fundamental Law of Education and the Child Welfare Law. The juvenile law aims to subject delinquent juveniles to protective and rehabilitation measures by acknowledging them as individuals with basic human rights. Fostering the sound development of juveniles is the law’s fundamental principle.

All juvenile cases are referred to a hearing and a decision by the family court. A family court probation officer interviews a juvenile, investigates the juvenile’s family background and life history, and makes a decision on measures that allow the juvenile to receive a second chance.

The current law requires the family court to send to public prosecutors juveniles who commit serious crimes, such as a criminal act that results in the death of a victim. Under the bill, the scope of young offenders needed to be accused will be expanded to those who commit crimes subject to relatively minor punishments.

Furthermore, the bill seeks to lift the ban on news reports that give descriptions of an accused juvenile. In the Net age, the disclosure of the names and photos of juvenile offenders will negatively affect minors arrested for crimes as well as their families almost permanently. The bill also seeks to introduce a provision which will limit the occupational opportunities for juveniles aged 18 and 19 who commit crimes. This will make it difficult for them to find jobs, and will not only deprive them of the opportunity to be reintegrated into society but also increase the risk of turning them into repeat criminal offenders.

Since the establishment, the Juvenile Act has functioned effectively and helped minors who committed crimes reform themselves. The number of juvenile cases is on a downward trend. There is no need to revise the law. The urgent need is for the government not to tighten penalties on minors but to strengthen support for social workers dealing with juvenile delinquents.

Past related article:
> Don’t weaken Juvenile Act’s role of nipping crimes in bud [February 18, 2019]
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