Psychological aid helps teens avoid crimes
Updated: 2013-05-31 07:12
By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai (China Daily)
When 18-year-old Zhang Qi (not his real name) was asked by the judge if he had anything to declare in court, he said tearfully, "The Internet cafe is my home".
Zhang was imprisoned for a robbery conviction in 2010. His parents divorced when he was a child.
Judge Xia Yanhua received a letter from Zhang after he was in prison for three months. It read: "Nobody visited me on the open day. Come to see me."
Accompanied by a psychological counselor, Xia paid him a visit. After several meetings, Zhang stopped keeping his distance. He was paroled in September and found a job in October.
"It's of great significance to introduce psychology to juvenile judgment," said Xia, the presiding juvenile court judge of Shanghai Pudong New Area People's Court. "Teenagers come into the court with not only bad behavior but huge psychological traumas."
Zou Bihua, vice-president of the Shanghai High People's Court, agreed, and said: "It's more meaningful sometimes to know what the world is like through these children's eyes rather than what we see."
In 2011, Shanghai became the first place in China to initiate psychological intervention in juvenile court. Other cities, including Guangzhou, Beijing and Nanjing, followed suit.
Eighty judges who are certified psychological counselors and hundreds of professional counselors work as a team in Shanghai to provide counseling and help for juveniles involved in criminal and civil cases, as well as for their parents.
The counseling starts before the court session and continues until the offender is released from prison, Xia said.
The root problem for most "troubled youths" is the family environment - such as divorce, being raised elsewhere, and having parents who are bad role models, Zou said.
"Trials will not necessarily correct a child, but guiding the teens and their families to recognize the crux of the problems and restoring parenthood will bring a better future," he said.
More than 260 teenagers received counseling in 2011 and 2012, and the recurrence rate of juvenile criminal cases fell from 8 to 4 percent in the past three years, according to the Shanghai High People's Court.
Xiao Jian (not his real name) received a six-year prison term for arson and larceny last year. Court workers provided counseling for him for a year.
His mother died two days after his birth, and his father rarely came home. After graduating from high school in 2010, he began stealing.
The counselors encouraged him with the story of Lyu Daihao, a hoodlum born in 1954 in Taiwan. He received a sentence of 38 years in prison after injuring people, stealing, and running a gambling house. But he finally got a doctorate in pedagogy and theology and committed himself to community service.
"We told him winter is long, but you'll eventually usher in spring blossoms," said Xia Yan, who works at the juvenile court of the Pudong court.
Juvenile court, which is tailored to meet the psychological characteristics of minors, is an important approach to protect their rights and interests, said Zhou Qiang, president of the Supreme People's Court.
Zhou made the remarks on Thursday in an open-house activity of the top court that welcomed more than 100 middle and elementary school students to the Supreme Court to mark International Children's Day, which falls on Saturday.
"There are 2,331 juvenile courts in the country and we will make greater efforts in this area to keep teenagers from committing crimes and help them enjoy a productive life," Zhou said.
(China DailyUSA 05/31/2013 page3)