Children don’t think.
Or at least not as well as adults do. They struggle with differentiating right from wrong, weighing out pros and cons, and understanding that there is a consequence to an action. With this in mind, should a child be equally as liable as their older counterparts?
In the Philippines, the concept of jailing children become more prominent. President Duterte and his radical campaign to lessen drug trade have put weight to the idea of a new law, a law which will allow children as young as 9 to be liable for crimes. Crimes being from standing around passed curfew to murder. These kids are then put in a cell and are not cared for. The Philippine Congress, to whom is under Duterte’s thumb, may be ready to mandate this bill that will lead to more children in juvenile centers.
Based on Duterte’s mindset, kids who are outside past curfew should be thrown into a juvenile center. Hanging out past curfews should not be a big deal, but yes if it is a law, it should be obeyed. However, what these “loiterers” truly need is a place to go, a place where they can feel safe. But instead, they get thrown into a system that doesn’t care for them.
The main issue with lowering the age for child liability is not only the increased amount of kids being locked up but the reality that there will be kids that will live in horrid conditions.
These centers have low standards of living. Poor sanitation and cramped spaces. With these poorly kept facilities and an increased number of jailed minors, the way of life in those centers will worsen. To top it all off, the majority of these kids shouldn’t even be there.
The question of whether children should be incarcerated or not is a difficult one. When it comes to judging a crime in general, it is not as black and white as we hope. Some are petty little actions based off of rebellion or misjudgment, and some are planned crimes of heinous acts, but even so, jailing children for the smallest of acts is unfair.
As stated by Human Rights researcher Carlos Conde, based in the Philippines, stated that “the Philippine government should be looking for ways to improve the rehabilitation of children who have broken the law.” He states that there are better ways to deal with children who have committed a crime instead of simply locking them up.
These children just need to be taught. They need to understand what they did wrong and grow from it. Essentially, they just need to learn. But in order for them to learn, they first need to be cared for. If we just throw them into the cell and call it a day, what are they going to gain?
The Philippines has endorsed laws that state that jailing a child is to be done solely as a last resort. So why do they keep jailing kids for the most insignificant crimes? It seems trivial. Stop jailing these kids who’ve done nothing. This solves the problem of overcrowding and the problem of poor sanitation. It allows the juvenile facilities to focus on the few who have done actual criminal actions, for example, murder. But most importantly, it opens up the opportunity for rehabilitation centers to open up and teach the kids of lesser crimes a lesson, so they can be on their merry way and grow as a person.
Children learn best from their mistakes if they are given a chance to fix them.
One thing is certain. The majority of these kids just need a choice. The choice to learn, to grow and to move on.
Gutierrez, Jason. “Philippine Law Would Make 9-Year-Olds Criminally Liable.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 Jan. 2019, http://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/22/world/asia/philippines-juvenile-justice-law.html.
“Philippines: Congress Aims to Lock Up More Children.” Human Rights Watch, 3 Feb. 2019, http://www.hrw.org/news/2019/02/02/philippines-congress-aims-lock-more-children.