By Jessica Sandoval
In recognition of Universal Children’s Day (UCD), first declared by the United Nations in 1954 and the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Georgetown Law’s Human Rights Institute and the Juvenile Justice Clinic held a panel discussion titled “Children’s Rights and Juvenile Justice: Victories, Challenges, and Opportunities”. The rich discussion covered the importance of having such a treaty and the need for the United States to finally ratify it. Currently, the United States remains only one of three nations to not sign the treaty—Somalia and Iran are the other two nations.
It was a reminder that the treaty and conventions hold remarkable possibilities for improving the lives of children under the age of 18 in the youth justice movement and other fields. These international laws set a higher standard of care for children than our current laws do and are grounded in the idea that children should have special protections.
According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, youth in conflict with the law should be separated from adults when incarcerated and receive treatment appropriate to their age, with a focus on rehabilitation. This is obviously contrary to the current US practice, as youth are routinely prosecuted as adults. It is estimated that there are as many as 200,000 youth in the adult court system every year. The automatic application of transfer to the adult court ignores everything we know about the harms to public safety, opportunities for rehabilitation, and the safety of youth who suffer in adult facilities.
Today is the 25th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and we should be steadfast in our efforts to encourage the United States to ratify the CRC to ensure that we will offer the same human rights protection that almost every country in the world offers to their children. We must demand that there is more awareness brought to this issue through our networks and other fields. We are capable of doing more to insist that these policies are applied to create the protections outlined in the CRC to all children in the United States of America.
Let’s all hold each other accountable for protecting our children and work together to build a nation that is more healing than harmful.
For information about the CRC visit:
Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Child Rights Information Network (CRIN)