Dr. Ved Kumari ‘s response to Dr. Pande’s article in The Hindu on Juvenile Justice

The Hindu Article

 I have read it and I disagree with his longer sentence proposition.
Prof. Pande concludes his article by saying: “Therefore, the most urgent reform in the juvenile justice law is to enhance the ranking of custodial sentence and increase its maximum limit, during which meaningful reform programme can be implemented to ensure that the juveniles in conflict with law are really redeemed and society feels it is adequately protected.”

Before reading this, I have never thought about the blocks within which we provide education but now I think that we need to know more about it. Primary school is five years, middle school is 3 years, High School was 2 years with 2 years of Inter, then it became three year of higher secondary and now we are again back to 2 years of high school and 2 years of higher secondary. Graduation degree was three years and continues to be three in rest of India though DU has gone for 4 years in the teeth of opposition. Even professional degrees are limited to 3 years in law, four years in Engineering, and perhaps four and a half in Medicine. Post graduate degrees continue to be two years. Why have we not thought of education in chunks of 20 years, ten years, seven years – as is the case for severe punishment? Are we asking for longer duration as ‘just desert’ for what is done or whether purpose of this confinement will continue to be ‘education’?
Are there any studies done to find out what is the duration which is considered appropriate for changing behaviour, indoctrination if you may call it so, providing a level of professional skills to a person? What do the psychologists and social scientists say is the appropriate duration of time to influence thinking and behaviour? Prison studies suggest three years is an appropriate duration for a sentence to prevent the harm of short term and long term imprisonment.
Prof. Pande is asking for longer period but is silent about how much longer? Why longer? On what basis he says that in three years we can teach nothing to him?
Prof. Pande and all those who are asking for longer period must acknowledge that longer period may be the demand of ‘vengeance’ and ‘retribution’ and I can understand that though they are completely contrary to the essence of civilized society. Longer sentences are certainly not justified by reference to ‘deterrence’ or ‘reformation’.
America experimented with harsher punishments when its juvenile delinquency rate went up to 8157 in 1994. In 2010 it came down to 4857 but all the research studies on the decrease clearly point out to no connection between decrease in the JD rates to increased severe punishments. In 2010, American juvenile courts dealt with more than 10 lakh cases of juvenile delinquency while their population of 10-17 years old is about 7 crores. America, has learnt its lesson and is gradually returning to being inclusive and bringing back all its juvenile delinquents back in the juvenile justice system. As pointed out by Prof. Pande, US in the recent past, despite the rate of JD still being so high, has rolled back its harsh punishments by abolishing death penalty and preventing imposition of imprisonment without parole. There is growing demand for applying the JJS to all persons till the age of 18 as more and more states have increased the age till 18 having earlier lowered it to as low as 13 and 14. Today only 2 states in US have it fixed at 16.