5-3 Juvenile Delinquency

5-3-1 School Violence
5-3-2 Juvenile Crimes
5-3-1 School Violence

In the 2016-17 school year, 11,000 schools (31% of all schools) reported violence by students under school management. In addition, 2,000 schools (6%) had the students who committed violent actions outside of school management. There were 56,000 reported violence cases by students under school management in elementary through high schools (4.2 cases per 1,000 students): 51% in middle schools, 38% in elementary schools, and 11% in high schools. The rate of violent actions by students was much higher in middle schools (8.4 per 1,000 students) than high schools (1.7 cases per 1,000 students). High school education is not compulsory and high schools have the authority to suspend or expel students who violated school laws. In addition, 3,000 violent actions were committed by students outside of school management (Table 5.3.1).

Table 5.3.1 Violence by Students in ES, MS and HS in SY2016-17
Under School ManagementOutside of School ManagementTotal
Numberper 1000Numberper 1000Numberper 1000
Elementary School21,6053.31,2360.222,8413.5
Middle School28,6008.41,4580.430,1488.8
High School5,9551.75000.16,4551.8
(Monbukagakushō 2018g)

The rate of violent actions by elementary school students was 3.5 cases per 1,000 students and it was the highest since the record-keeping for such cases had started in the SY1997-98. The rate was 0.2 cases per 1,000 students then (Figure 5.3.2; Table 5.3.2). Children shout and behave violently. When the teachers start stopping them, they beat and kick the teachers. Some children break facilities and equipments without reasons.

Table 5.3.2 Violence Cases in ES, MS and HS in SY1997-98, SY2006-07 and SY2016-17
Numberper 1,000Numberper 1,000Numberper 1,000
Elementary school1,4320.23,8030.522,8413.5
Middle school21,5855.130,5648.530,1488.8
High school5,5091.810,2542.96,4551.8
Note: Since the 2006-07 school year, national and private schools have participated in the survey.
(Monbukagakushō 2018g)
Types of Violence Cases

School violence in the SY2016-17 included fights among students (66%); vandalism (18%); attacks upon teachers (14%); and attacks against people outside schools (2%)(Figure 5.3.2; Table 5.3.3).

Table 5.3.3 Juvenile Offenses in ES, MS and HS by Violence Type in SY2016-17
Elementary SchoolMiddle SchoolHigh SchoolTotal%
Numberper 1000Numberper 1000Numberper 1000Numberper 1000
Fights among students15,8102.419,3245.64,3501.239,4842.966.4
Attacks upon teachers3,6240.63,8910.15030.18,0180.613.5
Attacks against people outside schools3250.17840.22430.11,3520.12.3
(Monbukagakushō 2018g)
Offenders of Violence Cases

The number of offenders per grade is high in middle schools and the highest in the 7th grade (12,000)(Table 5.3.4). Most offenders are male students in elementary (90%), middle (94%) and high schools (94%)(Figure 5.3.3; Table 5.3.4).

Table 5.3.4 Number of Juvenile Offenders of Violence by Grade in SY2016-17
Note: Evening high schools have 13th grade.
(Monbukagakushō 2018g)

Students at risk were traditionally low-achievers who came from disadvantaged or dysfunctional families. Many were also repeated offenders. However, troubled youths have been more likely to be ordinary students who become unpredictably violent for a few decades. Ordinary students, and even good students suddenly “explode in anger (kireru)” or “burst into anger (mukatsuku),” which leads to impulsive acts of violence.

School Response to Offenders

Because middle school education is compulsory, students are rarely suspended or expelled. In 2016, among 20,000 elementary school offenders, 111 students (0.6%) were punished by schools, through being transferred to another school (9 students), suspended attendance (4) and reprimanded (96). Among 30,000 middle school offenders, 694 students (2.3%) were punished by schools, through being expelled (5 students), transferred to another school (111), suspended attendance (13) and reprimanded (565).

High schools, on the other hand, have the authority to suspend or expel students who violated school laws. In the past, groups of students were responsible for school violence, but in recent years, a single student seems to be more responsible than groups. Almost four fifths (75%) of high school offenders (7,657 students) were punished by school, through being expelled (58 students), transferred (391), suspended (1,632), house arrested (2,959), reprimanded (676) (Monbukagakushō 2018g).

Offenders Under the Protective Measures

In 2016, 219 elementary school offenders (1.1% of 19,750 offenders), 1,616 middle school offenders (5.3% of 30,490) and 291 high school offenders (3.8% of 7,657) were under the protective measures by related institutions, such as the police, family courts and child consultation centers (Table 5.3.5). Among them, 56 middle school students, 19 elementary school students and 3 high school students entered children’s self-reliance support facilities (Monbukagakushō 2018g). Children’s self-reliance support facilities are for children who have already committed or are likely to commit delinquency and other children in need of daily life guidance, etc. due to their family environmental reasons. As of 2015, 1,397 children stay in 58 facilities (Kōseirōdōshō 2016b).

Table 5.3.5 Number of Offenders under the Protective Measures in SY2016-17
Elementary SchoolMiddle SchoolHigh School
Family Court1035187
Juvenile Prison-03
Juvenile Training School04414
Children’s Self-Reliance Support Center19563
Child Consultation Center1173207
Total number of all offenders19,75030,4907,657
Percentage of all offenders1.15.33.8
(Monbukagakushō 2018g)
Delinquency Prevention

Schools are the main place in which students learn self-discipline. The teachers in student guidance committees discipline troubled students in cooperation with a homeroom teacher, a school nurse teacher, and the supervising teacher of their extracurricular clubs, as well as with community youth centers and the police. Teachers visit homes and remain in contact with the parents of troubled students.

In order to prevent student delinquency, everyone is expected to follow the rules and to make sure that others are doing the same. There are strict rules about how students must present themselves at school. Most schools prohibit earrings, makeup, and permed hair. Male students have to maintain short haircuts. The length of skirts is regulated. Most middle schools and high schools have school uniforms; therefore, schools can regulate clothes easily.

In 1995, the MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) began to deploy school counselors, who had been trained as clinical therapists, to some public schools, where they worked with students, their teachers, and their parents. The MEXT subsidized the funds for school counselors to train teaching staff on the school premises, and to deploy former police officers and other local persons in elementary, middle and high schools as student guidance and school counselors (Monbukagakushō 2013c). In 2008, the MEXT started to deploy school social workers to some schools.

School counselors have been increasing, but are not yet common in Japanese schools. Therefore, homeroom teachers are responsible for guidance counseling and helping troubled students. The teachers on the counseling and guidance committee deal with disciplinary issues and troubled students in consultation with the students’ homeroom teacher, a school nurse teacher, and the teacher in charge of their extracurricular club. Parents expect teachers to correct misbehavior. If necessary, the counseling and guidance committee will also contact the youth center and the municipal police. As a result, the teachers have extra work, but teachers are not only expected to improve students’ minds, but also to improve their moral character.

Human rights education and volunteer activities can instill in students a respect for the law, for life, and for the rights of all people, including the rights of the victims of bullying. The lessons learned from volunteer activities help the students, especially low-achievers, to enhance their self-esteem through service to other.

5-3-2 Juvenile Crimes

According to the Juvenile Law, juvenile status refers to youths under 20 years of age. Juvenile delinquency includes: 1) criminal acts by juveniles aged 14 or over; 2) illegal acts by juveniles under 14 years of age; and 3) pre-delinquency by juveniles, such as runaways. In 2000, the age of minors who can be tried was lowered from 16 to 14. The Criminal Law does not punish illegal acts by those 13 years of age and younger. These cases are handled by the Child Welfare Law and may be referred to the children’s shelters or the home for juvenile training and education. The Juvenile Law goals for the “sound development” of minors, focusing on education and reform rather than punishment.

Three Family Court judges hear cases that involve youthful offenders. In the case of a serious or particularly violent crime like murder, the Family Court allows prosecutors to attend court sessions. If there is any dissatisfaction with the decisions of the Family Court, the prosecutors can appeal. If the defendant is 14 years of age or older, and commits an offense punishable by the death penalty, by penal servitude, or by imprisonment, his or her case is referred to the Prosecutor’s Office. In 2008, the law was amended to allow victims and their families to attend family court hearings. In 2014, the maximum prison term for minors who commit a serious crimes before the age of 18 expanded from 15 to 20 years.

Juvenile Offenders

In 2015, 39,000 juvenile offenders (aged 14 to 19), as well as 10,000 juvenile offenders (under 14) for violation of the criminal law, were arrested or given guidance by the police. It is important to note that the number of 14- to 19-year-olds in protective custody for juvenile crimes declined to one third from 124,000 (15.9 cases per 1,000 students) in 2005 to 39,000 (5.5 cases per 1,000 students) in 2015. The number of 13-year-olds and younger in protective custody for juvenile crimes also decreased to the half from 21,000 (4.3 cases per 1,000 students) in 2005 to 10,000 (2.2 cases per 1,000 students) in 2015 (Figure 5.3.4; Table 5.3.6). The majority of juvenile crimes is theft and the spread of crime prevention cameras may have helped the decrease of the number of juvenile offenders.

Table 5.3.6 Number of Juvenile Offenders in the Age of 14-19 and under 14 in 2005 and 2015
Juvenile Offenders (Aged 14-19)Juvenile Offenders (Under 14)
Numberper 1,000Numberper 1,000
(Naikakufu 2016a)
Types of the Crimes by Juvenile Offenders

Theft has been the most common crime by juvenile offenders. Juvenile offenders in the age of 14-19 committed theft (59%), assault/injury (13%), exploitation/extortion (2.4%), homicide/robbery/arson/rape (1.5%), forced obscenity (1.4%) and others (25%) in 2015 (Figure 5.3.4; Table 5.3.2).

Almost half of juvenile crimes (44%) by juveniles (aged 14-19) were committed from 2:00p.m. to 8:00p.m. The causes/motives of crimes included the possessions/consumption (65%), anger (11%), play, curiosity, thrilling (7%), and money for play and entertainment (6%)(Naikakufu 2016a).

Table 5.3.7 Number of Juvenile Offenders in the Age of 14-19 and under 14 by Crime Type in 2005 and 2015
Juvenile Offenders (Aged 14-19)Juvenile Offenders (Under 14)
Forced obscenity5281.42302.4
(Naikakufu 2016a)
Problematic Behaviors

In 2015, 5,412 juvenile offenders (aged 14 to 19), as well as 800 juvenile offenders (under 14) for violation of the laws other than the criminal law were arrested or given guidance. These crimes include the traffic violations, drug charges and prostitutions. The number of juvenile offenders in the age of 14-19 amounted to 5,412 (0.76 cases per 1,000 students) in 2015, and did not change much from 5,603 (0.72 cases per 1,000 students) in 2005. However, the number of juvenile offenders under the age of 14 increased twice from 407 (0.08 cases per 1,000 students) in 2005 to 800 (0.18 cases per 1,000 students) in 2015 (Naikakufu 2016a).

The police gave guidance to 642,000 (90.5 cases per 1,000 students) youths under the age of 20 for misdemeanors such as late-night loitering (58%) and smoking (31%)(Naikakufu 2016a). In addition, 19,000 runaways, 42% of whom were middle school students, were placed into protective custody in 2013. The percentage of elementary school students in the custody of running away rose from 7% in 2002 to 11% in 2013 (Naikakufu 2015a).

Drug charges include the possession of stimulants, marijuana, and paint thinner. The government and the police provide special counseling for drug abusers, support anti-drug programs in the community and schools, and promote anti-drug campaigns through pamphlets, television, radio and other media. The number of the youths (under 30) who were arrested in stimulant drug cases is on decline from 2,637 in 2009 to 1,536 in 2015, and the number of the arrested youths due to the possession of marijuana have been also decreasing from 1,791 in 2009 to 1,034 in 2015 (Naikakufu 2016a).

In 2013, 1,806 cases of domestic violence caused by juveniles were reported to the police. The offenders included middle school students (45%), high school students (32%), and elementary school students (7%). The percentage of elementary school students among the offenders increased from 4% in 2002 to 7% in 2013. The causes/motives were resistant against discipline (64%); with no reasons (9%); not being able to purchase something (9%); being scolded due to delinquency (5%); being annoyingly told to study (3%); and unclear (10%). The violence was directed against mothers (59%), furniture and other property (16%), fathers (9%), relatives in the household (7%), siblings (9%) and others (0.4%)(Naikakufu 2015a).

Under the Penal Code, anyone who performs a sexual act or commits an indecent act with a male or female less than 13 years of age is subject to punishment, whether or not the act is committed by violence or threats. The Child Welfare Law also prohibits enticing a person younger than 18 years of age into obscene acts.

The 1999 law imposes stricter punishments on sex offenders, brokers of child prostitutes, and on dealers of child pornography in order to stop child prostitution through, Japan’s online child pornography industry, and the problematic “dating service.” In 2013, 1,252 people were arrested in 1,644 cases (Naiakufu 2014a).

In 2013, 939 females in 1,268 prostitution cases were taken into custody on prostitution charges, and 35% of them were teenagers. Child prostitution cases (709 cases) were through the “community sites” (351 cases; 50%) and “online dating sites” (123 cases; 18%)(Naikakufu 2014c). Tougher regulations, sanctions, and public education about the dangers of child prostitution would help prevent the increase of child prostitution.

Delinquency Prevention

Since 2015, the juvenile classification home has more opened to the community as a support center and has consulted juveniles, their parents, schools and related institutions to prevent juvenile crimes in the community. The juvenile classification homes diagnose juveniles’ problems and recommend the most suitable treatment for the family court. Juveniles may be detained in a classification home temporarily. The police also established a trouble consultation window by telephones and mails for the youths and their parents in order to prevent the delinquency, runaway from home and suicide, and to protect victims from crimes, bullying and child abuse (Naikakufu 2016a).

Final Decisions of Juvenile Protection Cases

After the necessary investigation, the police sent juvenile offenders aged in 14-19 who committed a crime punishable with fine or lighter penalties to the family court and those who committed a crime punishable with imprisonment to the public prosecutor. For juvenile offenders under 14, the police gives a notice of the case to the child consultation center if the juvenile offenders do not have appropriate guardians.

In 2015, the family courts accepted 93,000 juveniles in new juvenile protection cases. The cases included theft (29%), road traffic cases (22%), negligent driving causing death or injury (20%), and criminal offenses except for negligence resulting in injury and/or death (10%). The number of juveniles cases settled in 2015 amounted to 96,000 whose cases included traffic related cases (41%). Almost half of juveniles (41%) in new juvenile protection cases were not prosecuted, 22% in protective measures, 18% in discharge, and 5% were referred to the public prosecutor. The courts placed 18,320 juveniles under the probation (19%), referred 2,777 to the juvenile training school (3%), 186 to the children’s self-reliance support center (0.2%), and appropriated 4,556 for the Prosecutor's Office (5%). 1,708 (2%) were over 20 years old, not juveniles, at the time of the final decision of the court (Table 5.3.8).

Table 5.3.8 Juvenile Protection Cases by Institution Type in 2015
Juvenile Training School2,7772.9
Children’s Self-Reliance Support Center1860.2
Juvenile Prison etc.2,8483.0
Over the age of 201,7081.8
Not prosecuted39,54141.0
Consolidated punishment7,1027.4
(Naikakufu 2016a)

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