“I always wish[ed] to contribute to the improvement of the justice system in China,” says Jin Yixiang, a volunteer in IBJ's project with the Yanta Procuratorate's Juvenile Rehabilitation Center in Xi’an. Although Yixiang, a student at the Criminal Law Institute at Northwest University of Politics and Law (NWUPL), is studying to be a criminologist, his experience working with youths through IBJ's cooperation with the Yanta Juvenile Rehabilitation Program has enriched his perspective on legal aid in China.
One of Yixiang’s clients is a secondary school student who is barely a teenager. The boy’s father had sent him to Xi'an because he was negatively influenced by other youths in his hometown. This client is a co-defendant in a robbery case in which the boys robbed a taxi driver. Yixiang, who has met with this boy numerous times, feels that his presence and attention has generated a sense of hope for his client.
In addition to giving the young clients crucial legal aid, Yixiang strongly believes that the legal volunteers at the Juvenile Rehabilitation Center play an important role as mentors. The law students and lawyers spend a great deal of time with the juvenile defenders, who, in large part, have been ignored and ostracized by society. Through the process of legal aid, the lawyers inspire youngsters to become more productive members of society.
“I would like to thank IBJ, personally, for offering me the chance to take part in the Juvenile Rehabilitation Program”, says Yixiang, adding that “helping [juvenile offenders] hand-in-hand is the best way to take the theory of rehabilitation and correction into practice.”
Whats New With IBJ China?
Since our last update many great strides have been made in IBJ China. Launching this year, in conjunction with the University of Montana, will be an extensive E-learning curricula containing four online training and reference modules for Chinese Criminal Defenders.
Additionally, IBJ held a workshop in December 2008 to train 50 new lawyers in the field of Juvenile Justice, followed by continual smaller training sessions and roundtable discussions.
Since the last update, 6 field research trips have been taken to gather data and information regarding juvenile justice – one of IBJ’s main focuses for the region.
In addition to these 6 trips, IBJ conducted 3 others to Shanghai, Sichuan, and Xining, where discussions in relation to CCLE (Criminal Clinical Legal Education) took place with clinical teachers and students. During these trips, class observations were taken, lectures were given on legal ethics, and further training was provided for clinical teachers.
When we last spoke we had been looking to complete the creation of the Community Rehabilitation Model for Juvenile Offenders, and we are excited to announce that in May of 2009 the Juvenile Rehabilitation Center opened its doors.
We would like to thank you for your generous support of IBJ China in the past, and hope you will continue to support our program. With your help, we have been able to make great progress in China, and will continue to work to ensure legal rights for every man, woman, and child.
A core aspect of IBJ’s programming is its effort to promote legal rights among ordinary people. Recognizing China’s growing commitment to the protection of juvenile rights, IBJ’s efforts in 2007 were focused on Youth Justice. Over the course of a dozen events around the country, IBJ staff reached more than 31,000 people through trainings, speeches and the distribution of materials. Through materials like “8 Reasons Why You Need a Lawyer if You are Accused of a Crime,” IBJ’s message will live well beyond the events themselves. Should these children ever be in a situation where they are detained, they will know and understand their right to counsel.
The trainings featured participants from a cross section of private and public sector law firms. Half were returning to IBJ to follow up on a previous training; half were participating for the first time. In all cases, trainees took part in an interactive, comprehensive curriculum of those skills central to full and effective representation of the accused.
In 2007, IBJ coordinated 10 round table discussions so that varied stakeholders in criminal justice could share their perspectives and work towards collaborative solutions. Those round tables in Chongqing and Tianjin were specifically intended to improve access to counsel for juvenile suspects. In Chongqing, the bar association, the city prosecutor and the police department reached an agreement in March 2007 to appoint legal aid at the investigation stage to juvenile criminal suspects. In Tianjin, legal aid and the prosecutor’s office went even further – implementing a rule guaranteeing that a legal aid lawyer or other guardian be present at all juvenile interrogations. The effect of this collaboration was immediate, driving a rapid rise in the number of cases assigned during the pretrial stage and resulting in the release of the children mentioned above.
A core aspect of IBJ’s approach is defender training and support. To that end, IBJ’s China team established a new Defender Resource Center in Xi’an to better provide for the legal aid lawyers in the Northwest part of the country. In 2007, IBJ’s core team of lawyers also trained and mentored more than 300 attorneys nationwide – representing a cross section of the defender community. Armed with pre-trial, trial and appellate advocacy techniques, these defenders have advanced more favorable outcomes for their clients.
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