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JUVENILE OFFENDERS IN THE CITY
WITH SUGGESTIONS FOR A JUVENILE COURT AND PROBA
With the rapid growth of American cities many complex social and economic problems have arisen which demand patient and painstaking consideration. Upon their proper solution the future stability and progress of our great commonwealth depend. The new social relations engendered by the concentration of immense wealth in a number of commercial and industrial centers, by the supplanting of manual labor with machinery, and by the steady movement of the rural population towards the large cities offer the student of sociology a mass of data which must carefully be analyzed before any constructive study is possible.
It is desirable that this data be gathered at first hand in the cities themselves. While Social Settlements, or so-called Institutional Churches, should never be used merely as sociological laboratories, it is nevertheless true that social data can most satisfactorily be obtained by entering into their activities. Excellent opportunities are there afforded for that personal contact which is so essential to an intelligent understanding of the common people”, and of the social fabric of which they are an integral part.
The study of sociology has assumed a place among the courses of study in our Universities practically within the last ten years.
In that time it has had so rapid a growth that it now occupies an important place in the curriculum of nearly all institutions. The time is ripe for Universities to make ample provision for students desiring to carry on original investigations along social lines in our thickly populated cities. Such investigations could easily be undertaken under the direction of the sociological department and supported by scholarships given by beneficent individuals, or raised by some interested association.
It is to the credit of the University of Michigan that steps have already been taken in securing an affiliation between it and Social Settlement work. For the past five years the Students' Christian Association of Ann Arbor has raised, each year, money enough to provide a scholarship for five months' residence at Chicago Com
The recipients of these scholarships are chosen by a committee of three professors of the University. A subject is assigned each student for investigation and study, the results of which are embodied in a thesis. This is presented to the sociological department, and a certain amount of credit is allowed by the University for the work done.
For several years there has been a feeling that the University of Michigan should be in touch with some sort of Social Settlement work in Detroit. On account of its nearness to Ann Arbor, professors and students would probably take more interest in social studies carried out there than elsewhere. At the same time opportunity would be given for studying actual social conditions near at hand.
When Professor Graham Taylor of Chicago Commons visited Detroit and Ann Arbor a year ago last winter renewed interest in Social Settlement work was aroused. At that time a number of prominent people
in Detroit suggested raising money to establish a scholarship at the University for the residence of some student at Franklin Street Social Settlement. Shortly after this, an offer came to me to take up the Boys' Work in connection with the Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church of Detroit—a church which, for several years, has been gradually extending its influence along lines of social service.
After consultation with Professors Adams and Cooley, and acting upon their suggestion, a petition was presented to the Faculty for a leave of absence during the semester to carry on the work in Detroit. The petition was granted with the privilege of pursuing study under the direction of the sociological department, and of preparing a thesis, at the completion of my work, upon some phase of the "Boy Problem." Satisfactory arrangements were also made for residence at Franklin Street Social Settlement. Under such happy auspices I began work among the boys on February 10, 1902.
The question of public playgrounds was then engaging the attention of a few public spirited citizens, and seemed to offer a fruitful subject for investigation. But after several weeks' residence at the Settlement, and work among the boys, I was convinced that the playground question was not a very serious problem in Detroit. The problem of juvenile offenders seemed to offer a broader field for investigation. There appeared to be a need of more intelligent treatment of the boys and girls known as “our juvenile offenders.”
The city of Detroit is, at present, in a very favorable position to take steps to prevent the growth of juvenile delinquency. The seemingly hopeless conditions which prevail in the congested districts of New York, Chicago, and other large cities need never be repeated here if proper preventive measures are taken. The seeds of the tenement and slum, where a great deal of juvenile delinquency germinates, are already sown in Detroit, and unless their growth is nipped in the bud we may expect to reap a full crop of disease, pauperism and crime.
The rank growth of tenements and slums can successfully be prevented by providing better houses for the poor; by preserving ample open space; by laying out playgrounds and placing them in charge of competent instructors; and by supplying public baths. More careful attention should be given to the education of truant children, and more intelligent treatment to juvenile offenders in police courts and jails.
Within the past year a strong public sentiment has been aroused to the need of better treatment of our juvenile offenders. A number of interested individuals are exerting their influence in this direction, and several prominent clubs of Detroit have taken the matter into consideration. The daily press, from time to time, expresses the growing sentiment. The National Conference of Corrections and Charities, held in this city May 28 to June 3, 1902, gave an added impetus to the matter. The conditions in Detroit, therefore, seem to justify the establishment of some form of juvenile court with a probation system.
The present study was undertaken altogether from an unprejudiced and unbiased standpoint. An attempt is made to apply scientific methods throughout, although, in the nature of the case, it is impossible to eliminate entirely the personal equation of the writer. Where this study seemed to demand criticism of existing laws or methods no hesitancy has been felt in expressing it.
The method of investigation has largely been that of personal observation of the children brought before the police courts and those confined in the county jail awaiting final disposition. This has involved personal visits to these places and interviews with judges, court officials and others interested. A somewhat limited study