By Rebecca Rosefelt, Staff Member
Childhood is a relatively new concept, and juvenile justice systems like those in Western democracies gained steam with the industrial revolution. However, one issue has been of contention since at least the fifth century: at what age does society hold a person criminally liable? Standards still vary across the globe, but the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) has generally hovered between seven and fourteen since Roman rule.
Determining a MACR considers an adolescent’s lower moral and cognitive development. The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child recommends that the standard be no lower than twelve. In contrast, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights encourages minimums closer to eighteen, and perceives twelve as unacceptably low.
The U.S. has a MACR of eleven for federal crimes, leaving states free to establish their own. England and Wales have minimums at ten years, and Scotland recently increased its MACR to twelve. The median MACR in Latin America is twelve, on a spectrum ranging from seven to eighteen. The Philippines has repeatedly introduced legislation to reduce its MACR from fifteen to nine—still higher than the average of seven years in South Asia.
Early goals in juvenile justice systems included rehabilitation and reintegration, which are still championed by proponents of higher MACRs. The Philippines is just one example of a trend towards lowering minimum ages in the name of crime reduction. In a world where detention is faster to land than childcare, it must be asked: do the kids even stand a chance?
 Edward Rothstein, How Childhood Has Changed! (Adults, Too), N.Y. Times: Books (Feb. 14, 1998), http://www.nytimes.com/1998/02/14/books/how-childhood-has-changed-adults-too.html (“[A]bout 300 years ago . . . [c]hildren started to be treated as if they were something other than small adults.”).
 Am. Bar. Ass’n, Dialogue on Youth and Justice, at 5, Am. Bar. Ass’n (2007), https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/publiced/features/DYJpart1.authcheckdam.pdf.
 Lisa Micucci, Responsibility and the Young Person, 11 Can. J.L. & Juris 277, 280 (1998).
 Id. at 278.
 Comm. On the Rights of the Child, Children’s Rights in Juvenile Justice, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/GC/10, ¶ 32 (Apr. 25, 2007).
 Vanessa Sedletzki, Legal Minimum Ages and the Realization of Adolescents’ Rights, 55, UNICEF (Jan. 2016), https://www.unicef.org/lac/20160406_UNICEF_Edades_Minima_Eng(1).pdf.
 The Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Continues to Divide Opinion, Economist: Graphic Detail (Mar. 25, 2017), https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/03/daily-chart-7 (mapping and graphing MARCs around the world). Notably, thirty-five states have no minimum.
 It’s time to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility, Halsbury L. Exchange (June 1, 2015), http://www.halsburyslawexchange.co.uk/its-time-to-raise-the-minimum-age-of-criminal-responsibility/.
 Sedletzki, supra note 9, at 52.
 The Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Continues to Divide Opinion, supra note 10.
 Don Cipriani, South Asia and the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility, 6, UNICEF (July 2008), https://www.unicef.org/rosa/Criminal_Responsibility_08July_05(final_copy).pdf.
 Human Rights Implications of Over-Incarceration and Overcrowding, 3, Child Rights Int’l Network (Apr. 28, 2015), https://www.crin.org/sites/default/files/crin_submission_overincarceration.pdf. See also Am. Bar. Ass’n, supra note 2, at 5.
 Human Rights Implications of Over-Incarceration and Overcrowding, supra note 14, at 1; The Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Continues to Divide Opinion, supra note 10.
 Human Rights Implications of Over-Incarceration and Overcrowding, supra note 14.