What judgement pronounce you upon him who though honest in his flesh yet is the thief in Spirit? – Khalil Jibran The Prophet. I think the above status says a lot about us as a society, as a Nation! Pakistan is a country with over 225 million people and a total prison population of 82,139; negligible numbers, right? The factual context is the state of prisons operating at a capacity of 128 percent with 62.1 percent pretrial detainees. Now, that is just one side of the decaying prison and justice system. These prisons are populated with juvenile offenders, almost 1.7 percent of the total prison population is often forced to live in adult jails. This is the side of the prison problem that no one seems to be concerned about. After all, what is 1.7 percent of the total prison population – Negligible again, right! The data on juvenile jails and the actual inmates is extremely unbalanced. Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) has reported over 1500-2000 minor offenders in Pakistani prisons in its publication titled, “The state of Pakistan’s Children.” However, in March 2021, this number was reported to be a little over 1300. The same news report also states, “ninety percent of these offenders are simply awaiting trial.” As of April 2021, the number of juveniles in Punjab jails accounted for 540 inmates, including teenage girls, with over 464 awaiting trial. Sindh imprisons over 260 minors, 510 in KPK, and around 55 in Baluchistan. What is truly heartbreaking are the statistics quoted in a report by the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), which states that “ten percent of death-row prisoners in Pakistan commit crime as a juvenile or minor offender”. There are more than 3800 people currently on death row in Pakistan. Imagine that ten percent of these death row inmates could have been saved by putting them through an effective corrections system. This is not simply the failure of the state’s justice system; these numbers depict our collective failure as a society and as a nation. This is not simply the failure of the state’s justice system; these numbers depict our collective failure as a society and as a nation. Take into account the 22.8 million out-of-school children, which highlight the deteriorating social system, the failing education system, the increase in drug abuse, and the rising crimes against children. This tells that we have completely, utterly, and miserably failed the children of Pakistan. Most of these inmates come from challenged backgrounds – tarnished family systems, poverty, abuse, abnormal sexuality, mental illnesses, and above all, they do not understand the real consequences of their actions. The irony is that Pakistan’s law does not allow death penalties for crimes committed under the age of 18, but it also does not pay heed to the poor treatment of these children in jails, the complete denial of the rights to be rehabilitated back into the society, and the long-awaited trials, which lead to the criminalization of these young minds. Pakistan lacks rehabilitation programmes for minors, and even if the lucky ones are released, what are the chances that they will not plunge right back into crime? The lack of opportunities, the stigma of being a criminal, and no real hope for survival in the race of economic survival postulate that everything is stacked against them. Someone asked me why should we save these criminals when there are countless abandoned children on the streets, bonded labours, and even those who born in jails? That someone even went on to say, “they were merciless to someone and not misfortunate.” I think there is a thin line between the two, and in this scenario, it is very murky. Is one not innocent until proven guilty? Is it not our responsibility as human beings to save, guide, and provide for as many as we can? By what parameters did we decide that the children under the juvenile justice system are not worth saving, they do not deserve another chance at life, or their only options are to either rot in jails or wait for their sentences, and turn into hardcore adult criminals? The Juvenile Justice System’s negligence towards them has set many on the road to bigger and worse crimes that further leads into abuse and victimization in adult jails and into their complete dehumanization. Who will take the responsibility for the crimes they commit as adults? Is it human to keep hundreds of kids in jails awaiting trials for years? Are we okay with the death sentences for crimes committed as minors? Are we not, in fact, the “merciless” and they the “misfortunate”? The writer is a freelance columnist.