(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Torah Forum (c) Project Genesis

Date: Sun, 26 Dec 1999 21:10:10 -0500 (EST)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: Child Murderers

What is Judaisms attitude on minors who commit crimes?
<  <  We are doing a project on Judaism's attitude towards young people
committing crime; specifically towards the Jamie Bulger case.  What do you
think Judiasm would say about the two boys that killed Jamie Bulger when
they were nine? Were they responsible for their actions and should they be
rehabilitated, or kept in prison for the forseeable future? Thank you very
much for your help.>  >

Here is my response to the above question.

I would really like to see Torah Forum discuss this over several issues. My
understanding is that

1) A minor has no understanding that he is "killing" someone vs
destroying property--ie he doesn't fully understand he is killing
someone. Furthermore he doesn't fully have a soul and is therefore not
responsible for his actions. So Biblically nothing should be done to him

2) According to Rambam, Theft, Chap 1, "We punish minors who steal by eg
hitting them in order that they not repeat it again".

3) However as far as I know NOTHING would justify putting anyone in what we
call today a prison. The ways of the Torah are kind EVEN for a murderer.
Indeed, the Talmud applies the verse "LOVE THY NEIGHBOR LIKE THYSELF" to
murderers to justify "drugging" them before execution so that they
shouldn't feel the pain. Modern prisons encourage animality, drugs,
homesexuality, and future liasons with criminals. No one should be put in
any prison (even adult murderers). (Thus a child should be "fined" and
hit and made to understand that he did something "horrible" but he should
not be put in prison).

4) It would appear to me that if a minor repeatedly killed people then we
would have the right to possibly do further actions. Since there are no
sources on this I abstain from spelling out details (Though other areas of
law specify that when a person does a crime "repeatedly" he is to be given
additional punishments to stop him (eg ef Theft and Losses 3 or the
treatment of someone who receives lashes for violating a law 3 times is
given a different treatment).

Again, I think discussion of Judaism's views towards Prison should be
discussed on Torah Forum.

Russell Hendel; Phd ASA;Math;Towson Univ;