Sherrlene Uy

Teacher - English and Research, Glendale School, Inc. (QC, Phil)

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Amidst the rising cases involving the youth, should juvenile offenders be acquitted since they are, by law, minors?

Here in my country, the Philippines, crimes involving juvenile offenders are in a hot spot for debate. The dilemma rises from the conflicting ideas as to acquit a "child" for committing a mistake or letting him/her serve the punishment for the crime he/she has committed.

Which do we need to focus on -- the "child" or the crime?

  • Feb 17 2013: Seems to me that kids going the wrong way are lacking in parental guidance (and control). If both parents have to work to support a family, the kids often gang-up with others.
    Parents should be made jointly responsible about what bad things their kids do (up to a certain age). Even if it means paying for any damage. Money usually is a good incentive to do something about a bad situation.

    It would be nice if there was a government program that would evaluate a kid for possible talents and steer in that direction. Then it would also help if businesses were given financial incentives to hire older kids in training programs.
    Programs that are part training, part work.

    There is nothing better for a kid to learn that actions have consequences.

    Also, that in the long run, being useful in society is more rewarding and satisfying than having-your-way. The last has no end.
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    Feb 16 2013: "Which do we need to focus on" The answer is probally both. We assess blame easily ... I contend that it is not that easy. We always ask a kid why did you climb that tree, eat candy before the meal, steal a soda pop, etc ... the short answer is that they wanted to. Kids are not dumb. They know the difference between right and wrong. They aslo understand consequences. When a poor kid gets into trouble ... he has lousey parents. When a preachers kid gets into trouble ... he is a bad seed.

    Yeah, kids do stupid things. As a cop I really try to do the right thing. Stealing a candy bar is one thing .... shooting at you is completely another.

    As a teacher what do you focus on. A student who did not do the assignment but has social problems .. do you focus on the child or does he get 'F' ... I would suggest you are aware of both and within your powers address both.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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    Feb 16 2013: It would be too easy to say (once a kid is in trouble) that the most effective strategy all around is to notice and act on the situation that creates the frustration that leads to such behaviors in the first place. But it is so much easier not to let things get to where kids are murdering kids.

    I read a book recently called Real Notebooks about a writing class at a juvenile detention center, a class in which all but one student was in for murder. What was interesting was how the kids described the thoughts and feelings or lack of thoughts and feelings that got them into their situations. Another interesting dimension was how much they loved and missed their mothers.

    This was anecdote- one case study- but still eye-opening in giving a rare inside view.

    Rehabilitation, education, and reflectiveness arrived after the fact, when for these kids- because it was murder- the kids had little opportunity to demonstrate it would be safe to let them go.

    Where I live schools work strenuously with kids in early adolescence to create a sense of choices and responsibility. Schools have staff whose main purpose lies there. But these educators are only one voice in a larger system of influences that also affect the child.
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    Gail .

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    Feb 16 2013: How about the parents? Why punishment rather than therapy - be it in-patient or out, depending on the nature of the crime?
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      Feb 16 2013: Sad to say but the parents are our primary challenge. I agree with you that it should be more like a rehabilitation program but the thing is, when you are living in a 3rd world country, it's always easy to reason out the lack of money to stop the ball from rolling so the "easiest" solution is to just let them serve the sentence and that's it. I don't want to have a culture of offenders in this country but since we lack more things that the ones we got at present, I am torn which way to focus on.

      Thank you very much for your time! :)
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        Gail .

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        Feb 16 2013: The core of your question is the same one that all "nations" are grappling with. Unfortunately, statistics show that crime is related to education, that is related to disparity of wealth, that is related to money as a medium of exchange.

        The question becomes, how do you take a youth who has never experienced a different culture to understand that they are able to achieve what they do not believe is possible for them.

        Back in the 1970's (?), there was a sit-com on TV here in the US. It was about a successful, upper-middle class black family (the father was a doctor & the mother a successful lawyer). The family was functional rather than the dysfunctional families that are now broadcast). For the very first time, a whole generation of black youth were shocked into the realization that if they applied themselves, they could find that reality for themselves. It was a very popular program.

        I recently read a letter from a high school junior who had recently moved from Baltimore (a poor mostly black city) to Alexandria (a mostly upscale city). He spoke in amazement of his ability to be "him" at school - without the peer pressure that told him how to dress, what music to listen to, that required him to speak with a black dialect, and to behave "black". That young man now has opportunities that he would not have had without the ability to see a different future that wasn't so bleak. He was astounded at how well-received he was. Given his skin color (black), he expected something very different from what he found.

        I was talking about this with a former teacher yesterday as we pondered how to expose today's youth to possibilities that even their parents don't believe in. I think that the solution lies with helping youth learn about themselves (thoughts/emotions/feelings and their relationship to life). Unfortunately, such a program (that grows EQ) would violate the religious principles of fundamentalists, so it could never be instituted.
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      Feb 16 2013: Well said... that would be the ideal scene... But the tougher problem that we have so far is the lack of "parental education". It's kind of hard to REALLY deal with this since not everyone here is aware of how things are suppose to be done.

      Even bothering is the fact that there've been cases wherein 11-15 teens were brought to jail since they are "criminals".

      While other countries have a process when a child committed wrong acts -- here our problem is mainly the parents. I

      I'm really curious how the other countries deal with the same problem. Thank you very much for your ideas! :)
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          Feb 17 2013: Oh, if only that's possible! I'd love to do the same! :p

          I feel so frustrated knowing that I can hold the rope at one end but the one holding it on the other end is pulling it too much. Worse, I do not know who's holding the other end of THIS rope.

          Thanks Kate! :) 'Learned a lot from you! ^^
  • Feb 18 2013: I am also from the Philippines and yes I am very much aware of the debate about juvenile offenders, which between a 12-year old or 15-year old crime offender is old enough to face the consequences. This is definitely a sensitive issue especially that we have to know why these are happening, what pushed these young crime offenders do such crimes, their parents and what can we actually do to correct and help them.

    With the kind of system we have in our country, it's even hard to accommodate prisoners and at least give them a decent life inside the jail, what more with these young offenders? It may help or even worsen the situation. Parental guidance are very important in once growth, however, what about those children who are asked by their own parents to work instead of going to school? What about those children working in the streets for the syndicates? What is there that our government has done?

    It's true that we should look at both sides. Stealing a candy is one story but killing another person is another story. And yes, there are children who do either of the two and yet our government hasn't found a way to minimize or prevent such crimes. While our government is having this debate, there is a child who is about to commit a crime and a child who can be a victim. For me, it wouldn't matter if we choose 12-years old or 15 years old as the minimum age requirement to face the legal actions. We should consider the "child" AND the crime. What our government has to focus on is how they can punish in a way that must help these children if ever they face such situation. The age won't really matter the fact they have committed a crime - petty or serious. For me they have to face the consequences of their actions. But I also don't agree they have to face the same kind of punishment like the 18 yrs old and above offenders have to go through. But we have to have a plan of action when it comes to rehabilitation and education as a part of the legal actions they have to face
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    Feb 17 2013: There is a third avenue, which is to punish to some degree, but also try to rehabilitate, correct.