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juvenile or first offender should be tried and convicted or not.'
Along these lines great advances are being made in the trial and subsequent treatment of juvenile offenders. Public sentiment is growing in favor of having an officer in every court where children are tried whose duty it shall be to investigate thoroughly the home environment of every child and report his findings to the Court. The officer should act as friend and counselor to the child, and have it under his supervision both during and after trial. Where advisable the child is returned to its home under the surveilance of such probation officers. Of course, it is now recognized by intelligent officers of the law that juveniles should be kept entirely apart from older and more hardened offenders in police courts and jails.
From experience it has been found that some delinquent children, as well as neglected and dependent, can be placed to good advantage in suitable country homes under the supervision of a competent officer. Where it becomes necessary to commit a child to some institution the so-called “cottage plan” is preferred. In fact, “more and more the problem is seen to be primarily one of education, not of repression, or even of reformation, as the term is ordinarily used. The evil tendencies are to be attacked indirectly by the introduction of new interests, new ambitions, and new powers.''24
It will be seen that the Probation System is the backbone in modern methods of dealing with our juvenile offenders. Without some adequate provision for careful investigation of the personal characteristics of offenders, and of their social environment, any legal treatment must prove ineffectual so far as the reformation of the offender is concerned. Further provisions should also be made to suspend the sentence of juveniles and first offenders, placing them under the surveillance of probation officers.
23The Science of Penology, by Henry M. Boies, pp. 250-1. 24The.Care of Destitute, Neglected and Dependent Children, p. 228.
For some years Massachusetts has had the probation system. Slight modifications of this system have been incorporated in the Juvenile Court Laws which were recently passed in a number of our States. À careful reading of the extracts of the Illinois Bill appended to this study will show how important the probation system is as a part of the juvenile court idea. It seems unnecessary to comment further upon the need for a juvenile court and probation system in every place where large numbers of children are arrested and brought into the courts. Where the system has thus far been tried there has been a great reduction in the number of arrests and commitments to Industrial and Reform Schools, and therefore a direct saving to the State.
About fifteen States now have some form of juvenile court with a probation system. The benefits arising from this change have been two-fold. In the first place, as was mentioned above, there are much fewer commitments to reform schools and hence a great saving to the State. Secondly, and most important, the children are removed from the contaminating influences of criminal courts and jails and aided in living their normal lives.
It is to be hoped that the citizens of Detroit will adapt a juvenile court and probation system to the needs there. Especially is it necessary to provide some house of detention where children may be confined both before and after trial without undergoing the soul-blighting effects of a county jail with its formidable bolts and bars. The trial should by all means be held entirely separate and apart from older offenders. The Judge might bear more the relation of friend and counselor to the child, and dispose of its case in a somewhat summary and informal manner. With few changes the County Agent system could be made into an efficient probation system. Some provision should be made for unsalaried probation officers appointed by the Court. The officers appointed to look after the interests of the child should be removed as far as possible from political influences.
As a result of public sentiment in favor of better treatment of our juvenile offenders a bill embodying the essentials of a juvenile court was drawn up and presented to the last session of the Legislature. It was framed on the model of the Illinois Juvenile Court Law bill, and proposed “to regulate the treatment and control of dependent, neglected and delinquent children under the age of sixteen years within the city of Detroit; to regulate the practice in such court; to provide for the appointment of probation officers; to prohibit the commitment to any jail or police station within the city of Detroit of any child under the age of fourteen years; to impose certain duties upon the State Board of Corrections and Charities and the Board of Inspection of the Detroit House of Correction."
This bill unfortunately called forth opposition from several quarters. It was rather surprising that the opposition should have been led by men whom we expected to stand for sound principles of law and penology. Perhaps there were a few flaws in what otherwise appeared to be an admirable bill. The greatest opposition ceñtered upon the clauses which relate to the establishment of an entirely separate court, and the appointment of a salaried Judge who should give his whole time to juvenile cases. “In addition to his other duties the Judge of said court shall, so far as may be, visit the homes of all the children who shall from time to time be subject to the jurisdiction of said court, secure employment and good homes for them as far as possible”, etc. This, it seems, is too much to require of any Judge, and the objection to the clause may have been well founded. But these few minor details should not have obscured the real worth of the bill. They could easily have been adjusted if the friends and opposition to the bill had met and reconstructed the objectionable sections. The bill, it seems, passed the House with but few dissenting votes. It was then referred to one of the committees of the Senate. In some way it was shelved before the Senate had an opportunity to consider it. Whatever the reasons were for suppressing the bill it is certain that the public sentiment which urged it has not died out. No doubt the matter, with some modifications, will be presented to the next Legislature. In the meanwhile a campaign of education in the interests of more intelligent treatment of our juvenile offenders should be carried on by every public-spirited citizen.
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