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Youth offenders get voluntary service
By Cao Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-16 05:51

SHANGHAI: Xiao Jun, 17-years-old and the recent recipient of a suspended two-year sentence for robbery,is now part of the city's drive to stamp down on youth offenders.

Earlier this month, the teenager signed up to a 200-hour social work contract at the city's Changning District People's Court.

"He will work at the Labour and Education Base of Changning District to help the old and sick people there," deputy director of the court Zhang Jingmo said on Friday. .

"Although the volunteer work won't reduce the prison term, it may help him readapt to society."

Zhang said the scheme has received overwhelming support from parents since it started in 2002.

"We suggest all youth offenders over 16 who are handed light punishments like probation, suspended sentences or fines should do up to three-months of voluntary work," said Zhang.

"One judge and one tutor in the education base oversee offenders' behavior during the process."

Over the past year, the court's juvenile tribunal, set up in 1984 as the first in the country, has signed social work contracts with 27 young offenders.

According to Zhang, on completing the contracts many of the them have gone back to school or found jobs.

This, however, is only one of various methods the city's four juvenile tribunals have adopted to help rehabilitate increasingly large numbers of youth offenders.

"Juvenile crime is growing at about 10 per cent every year," said Lu Min, a judge from Shanghai Zhabei District People's Court.

" In 2004, Shanghai witnessed nearly 1,000 juvenile crimes."

And according to Zhang Jingmo many of these crimes are related to online gaming.

"Robbery is the most frequently committed juvenile crime and often it is because the youngsters need to pay for Internet games."

"To stop them from becoming addicted to the Internet or attempting robbery again, we give counselling to the offenders and to their parents during the probation period," said Zhang.

The tribunal has started issuing supervision orders to each young criminal sentenced to probation or a fine. The scheme may also involve the offender's parents depending on the specific situation.

"Many juvenile crimes are related to the youngsters' parents, who are either too busy to take care of them or have spoiled them," said Zhang.

"We are hoping to help them better educate their kids."

And 99 per cent of offenders and their parents said the order was helpful in building a more responsible attitude and improving the relationship between the offender and their parents.

Zhang said the court is currently working on a proposal to keep young offenders' criminal histories confidential.

(China Daily 04/16/2005 page2)

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