This installment in our ongoing series of book reviews looks at Children’s Rights and the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility by Don Cipriani. Michael Gigante’s review takes a critical eye towards the arguments Cipriani advances in favor of requiring all nations to establish a minimum age of criminal responsibility.
By Michael V. Gigante
Ideas about the proper role of criminal responsibility in juvenile justice tend to fall along a welfare-justice continuum. The welfare approach, prominent at the birth of the modern notion of a juvenile justice system, essentially dismissed the notions of competence and criminal responsibility for children. State authorities intervened to make benevolent decisions on behalf of children, who were portrayed as objects without liberty rights. On the other end of the continuum, the justice approach—towards which clear shifts have occurred in recent decades—places criminal responsibility and children’s alleged competence at the center of juvenile justice. Accountability, due process, and punishment are the foundations of this approach. In Children’s Rights and the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility: A Global Perspective, Don Cipriani points out the flaws of both these approaches and describes the merits of a children’s rights approach as a way to mediate between the tensions of the welfare and justice approaches.