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There is no dispute that the age set for criminal responsibility remains vague, and this has translated into a justice system that acts from an ambiguous principle. Precedents for the appropriate age for penalties are scanty; this is because there is no yardstick that would apply and check the excesses of the judiciary in writing judgments of minors. A consequence has been the prevalence of cases such as Lionel’s, which exceed the boundaries of corrective purpose. A beginning is important, albeit inadequate on agitation towards an influential and constructive focus on policy and proposals that will clear the mist on juvenile age issues. The resulting policies should see beyond adjusting age brackets up or down but recognizing the need for clarity in this issue (Finley, 2007).
Supporting Evidence for Solutions
According to Child Rights International Networks (CRIN) policy paper, countries may feign compliance to international rules such as Beijing’s Rule 4 to justify their settlement at a particular age as appropriate for criminal responsibility. It continues to note that this has given the impetus to some states to set the age to as low as 7 or 11. Countries such Georgia and Panama have lowered the age, while Argentina, Philippines, Russian Federation, Brazil and Korea Republic are proposing to take the age down.
The comment by Article 40 by the Committee on Rights of Children (CRC) that urges nations to establish a minimum age below which there shall be a presumption that a child is devoid of a capacity to infringe on penal law’ should be upheld and interpreted in the broad contemplation of capacity. Policy on age must recall that it did not escape the attention of CRC drafters that children of 7 years do have the physical capacity to shoplift or fight with friends; their intention was the mental capacity. The proposal is to go beyond the current pragmatic approach debate, and discard the principles of those incriminating children at younger ages is the solution to suppressing rising insolence. Coming up with a system that responds to the legal needs of all minors up to 18 is tenable, then applying it in the presence or absence of a criminal act, in which, the minors know and appreciate its existence and consequence. To solve the ambiguity complimentary approaches are necessary; non-legal apparatus such as parental presence and guidance should assist in shaping children and driving the system (CRIN, 2012).
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Sentencing younger children in successive periods and imprisoning a minor for life is scandalous, yet a norm. The trend must reverse if the juvenile system is serious in regaining relevance at all as a correction approach. To achieve this, there must be separation of responsibility from criminalization. Children’s responsibility in a crime must be different from the adults approach. This process must be characterized by appropriate identification, assessment guided by the principles of children’s rights and response guided by the reality and constructiveness of a rehabilitative progress. The approach is only possible upon departure from the current urge of criminalizing minors and approaching the case from a rehabilitative approach (Moll, 2012).
The current proposals on juvenile policies must be rehabilitative and re-integrative. A policy that addresses the need to integrate the rehabilitated minors is the only answer to the recurring crime upon release from juvenile centers. The United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency offers a benchmark by stating that labeling minors as delinquent, deviant or pre-delinquents predisposes them into developing consistency in patterns of criminal acts. The CRIN proposal and policy paper requires that governments shift focus from fixing arbitrary ages for criminal responsibility age, since the trend is not curative and seems to lack adequate wisdom informing the move. CRIN as such elevates the approach to another level where new approaches can be sought (Butts, 2008).
Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) is an advocacy group that identifies the challenges to Texas juvenile and criminal justice systems. It offers solutions, concerning the challenges and ramifications of juvenile families. TCJC advocates for partnerships and community based alternatives. The solutions to the family of juveniles are reduced through communal ownership; this approach under Texas Families of Incarcerated Youth (TYIF) is a sponsorship by TCJC. The initiative maximizes rehabilitation and assumes communal responsibility for errant youths. This is a model solution in that it recognizes the entire role of a society on ensuring that children are law abiding and juvenile exits stay out of crime. Such social approaches minimize the effects of age per se and introduce a component that rehabilitation is possible within social dimensions. Ambiguity as appertains to social awareness vanishes. It is an important ingredient that juvenile system is yet to explore all wealth and exhaust options of making it better (Hoose, 2009).
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