Prison inmates who were sentenced when they were minors will make up a large number of prisoners to be granted freedom under a special amnesty, a judicial official with the Supreme People’s Court said on Sep 1.
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress adopted the amnesty deal on Aug 29 after a weeklong discussion, granting pardons to four types of prisoners. Of the four categories, minors will account for many of those granted amnesty, said Hu Weixin, deputy director of the research department at the top court.
The deal, marking the 70th anniversary of China’s victory in World War II, targets juvenile prisoners who committed their crimes while under the age of 18 and were sentenced to less than three years in prison.
Minors who have less than a year remaining of their sentences will also be eligible but minors convicted of serious violent crimes, including rape, homicide and arson, are excluded from the amnesty.
The other three categories of prisoners to receive amnesty will be: criminals who fought in China’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45), criminals who participated in wars to safeguard national sovereignty and the security of China, and criminals who are 75 or above and those with physical disabilities. Again, those convicted of serious violent crimes are excluded.
Hu said at a news conference on Aug 31 that a large number of minor inmates meet the special amnesty’s qualification, even though an accurate figure is not yet known.
He highlighted the importance of education and social aid when the qualifying minors are released, saying that judicial bodies and the public should continue to guide them.
“We are also doing some work specially for minor prisoners who will be set free, in a move to take care of and help them return to normal life,” he said. He did not release any details about the top court’s further plans.
Zong Chunshan, director of the Beijing Legal and Psychological Counseling Service Center for Juveniles, said that support for the minor inmates should mean they are fully prepared before they go back into society.
Some legal organizations and community correction centers will keep track of young offenders after they return home, giving them training and psychological help, Zong said.
“But such help is not enough,” he said, suggesting authorities should provide more financial support to improve training standards and attract more people to work with juveniles.
Zhou Qiang, president of the top court, said courts must strictly review which prisoners qualify for the amnesty and avoid judicial corruption and mistakes in dealing with the cases.