SAN FRANCISCO (October 23, 2008) – From October 12 to October 23, 2008, The Dui Hua Foundation hosted the first-ever delegation from China’s Supreme People’s Court to study juvenile justice in the United States. The delegation, led by Senior Judge Hu Weixin, Deputy Director of the Supreme People’s Court Research Office, was made up of six judges from the Supreme People’s Court, the Political-Legal Institute under the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the Beijing High People’s Court, and the Qingdao Intermediate People’s Court.
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the foremost institution promoting reform of the US juvenile justice system, co-hosted the delegation. The MacArthur Foundation provided financial support and introductions to leading US juvenile justice experts. The delegation was also co-hosted by the Juvenile Court of the City and County of San Francisco (Presiding Judge Lillian Sing), and was assisted by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Rights and Labor and the US Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion in the US Supreme Court’s 2005 decision abolishing the death penalty for juveniles, received the delegation in Washington on October 16.
A priority of China’s just completed five-year plan for legal reform has been improving the country’s juvenile justice system. (In China, juvenile offenders are defined as those between the ages of 14 and 18; children under 14 are not regarded as being criminally responsible.) Although juveniles still account for a smaller percentage of criminal offenses in China than in the US – just one of every 10 crimes in China is committed by someone under 18 years old—juvenile crime is growing rapidly: since 2000, juvenile offenses have risen at an average annual rate of 12 percent.
The country’s strategy for reforming its juvenile justice system has seen the establishment of more than 2,000 juvenile tribunals under adult courts, as well as the creation of a few experimental juvenile courts. New approaches to dealing with juvenile offenses that stress education and rehabilitation are being studied and adopted. The Supreme People’s Court has thus far made study tours of juvenile courts, among other facilities, and engaged in discussions with experts and practitioners in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Ultimately, the Supreme People’s Court and other judicial organs will advise the legislature, which will then draft laws governing the operation of juvenile courts and other elements of the juvenile justice system.
A year in the planning, the Supreme People’s Court delegation visited juvenile courts, detention centers, and other facilities in Cook County, Illinois, Washington, DC, the State of Maryland, and the City and County of San Francisco. The delegation members met with judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, officials overseeing juvenile justice at the federal, state, and local levels, representatives of non-governmental organizations working on reforming juvenile justice, and many of the nation’s leading scholars on juvenile justice. They were also given the opportunity to discuss the US system directly with juveniles whose cases are before juvenile courts as well as youth housed in correctional facilities.
“In recent years, the US and China have often confronted each other on sensitive questions of human rights. But there are several areas, such as juvenile justice, where the countries can engage in dialogue to their mutual benefit,” said John Kamm, executive director of Dui Hua. “Dui Hua, with its co-hosts and partners, looks forward to working with friends in China and the United States to enhance protection of the rights of young people, society’s most vulnerable members, in the criminal justice systems of both countries.”
The Dui Hua Foundation
San Francisco, California
October 23, 2008