The Justice Ministry’s 2011 white paper on crime reports that in 2010 the police recognized 2,271,309 criminal incidents (5.4 percent less than in 2009) and made arrests in 1,182,809 cases. The number of criminal incidents has declined for eight consecutive years since the peak year of 2002, in which some 3.69 million criminal incidents were recognized. But how to prevent recidivism has become a big issue.

Among those who were subject to criminal investigation in 2010 (excluding those who caused traffic accidents), 42.7 percent were repeat offenders — a record high since 1991. Among minors, 31.5 percent were repeat offenders — also a record high since 1975, when statistics began being taken.

By age brackets, minors (under age 20) formed the largest group (27 percent) among those who became the target of criminal investigation. Minors and those aged 20 to 29 account for 43 percent of the total.

The report includes a detailed study by a Justice Ministry research institute on 644 minors (606 males and 38 females) who left juvenile reformatories from January to March in 2004 at the age of 18 to 19. By the time they became 25 years old, nearly 40 percent had committed repeat offenses — 15.1 percent given prison terms, 15.2 percent receiving suspended prison terms and 8.2 percent being fined.

The institute was able to determine the background of 189 repeat offenders and found that 58 of them had joined criminal organizations.

In March 2011, 730 minors who had been sent to delinquents classification homes and 372 prisoners who were younger than 30 years old participated in a multiple-choice survey. When repeat offenders in both groups were asked why they had committed crimes again, 43 percent cited relations with criminal friends, 31 percent cited a failure to continue work or school and 30 percent cited a lack of conscientious friends as reasons.

Asked what “psychological brake” could prevent them from committing misdeeds, 45.1 percent of the minors cited parents and 23.2 percent their family. In the case of the young prisoners, 43.2 percent cited their family and 29.3 percent their parents. Only about 10 percent of both groups cited fear of arrest by the police.

Clearly, family and community support plays a vital role in the rehabilitation of young criminals, as do educational and employment opportunities. Families and communities should strive to provide adequate support and efforts must be made to improve vocational training, job placement services and the probation system.

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