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Juvenile courts turn to psychology

By Lu Chen (Global Times)

09:10, May 31, 2013

Shanghai's juvenile court system held 193 psychological counseling sessions and interventions for juvenile offenders and their families in 2012, more than twice as many as in the previous year, Shanghai Higher People's Court said Thursday.

Juvenile courts currently handle about 1,300 criminal cases, down from 2,682 cases in 2007. About 80 percent of juvenile offenders are the children of migrant workers, the court said.

"Despite the drop in the number of juvenile criminal cases, some young offenders have a tendency toward extreme and violent behavior when they get into disputes," said Zou Bihua, vice president of Shanghai Higher People's Court.

It is necessary for the courts to have psychologists who can assist judges and attorneys with forensic evaluations of defendants and provide judges and attorneys with an analysis of the youths' emotional, behavioral and cognitive states, Zou said. When dealing with juvenile offenders, judges have sought assistance from psychology graduate students at East China Normal University. Last year, 10 graduate students helped the courts carry out psychological interventions for juvenile delinquents. The effort is part of a long-term cooperation agreement between the university and the court system.

The courts still need to do more, Zou said. Judges have been required to obtain basic psychological knowledge so they can communicate better with young people and improve how juvenile cases are handled.

So far, about 80 judges have obtained a grade-2 national certification for psychological counseling. Fifty judges have been chosen to work as court psychological counselors, according to a press release.

Psychological intervention can also help reduce the criminal relapse rate, which has dropped to 4 percent from 8 percent three years ago, Zou told the Global Times.

The ultimate goal of interventions is to help the juveniles make a smooth transition back into society, said Sun Lei, vice president of Pudong New Area People's Court. "This way, they can make new friends, go back to schools and find a good job in the near future," Sun told the Global Times.

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