Gambar halaman

either a superabundance of animal nature, a lack of employment, a neglect on the part of the parent to pay much attention to their condition, or from the mischievousness of the child. These cases also are not so difficult of adjustment. They include the child who teases and annoys the smaller children of the neighborhood; who destroys the daily newspaper that may be left at the door of the house in the neighborhood, just for the sake of the mischievous act; who uses the bean shooter, destroying property and endangering health—in other words, doing petty, annoying acts which make them a nuisance in the community. The treatment in such cases is a warning to the child or to his parents, possibly a light fine, or probation.

The third class is the destitute, or, under the laws of the State of New York, the child who is without proper guardianship in violation of section 291 of the Penal Code. This class of cases is also one that does not trouble the mind of the justice in disposing of it, as they are mostly real cases of destitution, and unless a relative can be found, or someone who will be responsible for their care, there is no disposition that can be made of them but commission to some of the institutions for the care of such children.

The fourth class, however, is one that uses up the gray matter of him who sits on the bench. This we might call the “ unwelcome” child, and is usually one whose parent has tired of its care and is desirous of being relieved thereof by the intervention of the public authorities. A boy is born into a family whose father or mother dies shortly after his birth, and the remaining parent may again marry; then a new set of children are brought into being and through lack of interest the boy is not as well cared for as the rest of the children. While the others have the loving interest of their own father and mother, our unfortunate boy is neglected and drifts into the errors natural to youth and soon comes to the attention of the authorities. He may not be a boy of any bad proclivities. The court may not be able to find, even by careful investigation, that he has committed any willful wrong. At the same time the animus of the parent or stepparent is wholly to get rid of the unwelcome burden, and the result is that there is no place for this boy but some reformatory or other institution. Therefore, through no fault of his own and largely because of these unfortunate conditions, this boy must be branded as a disorderly or ungovernable child, when in reality such is not the case. So we have the difficulty on the part of the court of knowing what steps should be taken to protect this child and to care for him in view of this condition.

A girl, 13 or 14 years of age, reared under similar conditions, is not criminally neglected by her stepmother or the one who has the maternal headship of her home, but is simply neglected. She goes to the streets, visits friends, has no warm reception when she returns, and it is the most natural thing in the world for her to visit and stay in places which are most pleasant appearing to her. It frequently happens that just such places are the worst possible surroundings for this girl, and before long she is picked up, charged with abandoning her home, with a quasi criminal stamp upon her. She can not return to her home, because the stepparent will not have her there. She has possibly no relative who will stand in loco parentis to her, and what is left to the court to do but to commit her to an institution? When this happens, even though a due appreciation is given to the kindness and benevolence upon which these institutions are formed, with a full knowledge of the loving kindness and tenderness frequently exhibited by those having charge of the management, at the same time no institution where a number of girls are gathered together can give our girl the home surroundings, the tender nurture, the motherly advice, and the kindness that every girl should have in her own home.

So it is that problems come before the children's court, and the mere recital of them in the rough, as is done here, shows the serious character of their nature and the importance to the community of their proper disposition. The general criminal court has no time to consider these matters, and therefore it is, indeed, a good thing that the children's court is established, to give proper treatment to just such conditions.

The children's court in Brooklyn, in two months, has had something like 400 cases, which promises a large number of children who will need its attention during the coming year, and as each year goes by I predict that more and more will the wisdom of its establishment be recognized.

[blocks in formation]

Any work to prevent an individual committing crime is a more important work than the punishment of an individual who has committed crime. Misdirected and sometimes maudlin sympathy must not be associated with intelligent, earnest effort to prevent crime. Every actual vicious criminal guilty of a repeated offense had better be locked up for life, as the best thing for him and for society. I grant that punishment of those who commit crime is intended as a preventive measure. Wisely administered it is a justifiable method until we can find something better. Yet the history of criminology will show that punishment of individuals is not a successful method of preventing crime. If it were, there ought to be fewer people in jail every year. On the contrary, crime is on the increase. Each year adds to the inmates of nearly every reformatory in this country. There is no justification for the punishment of a human being unless it is necessary to help him, or (what is more important than to the individual) unless it is necessary to protect society; that is, to best secure to all individuals security of life, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Any other view would be to admit the doctrine of vengeance as just, wise, and humane. What we seek is justice, administered with wisdom, humanity, and charity. It is a sad and at the same time important thing that the increase in crime is largely among the youth of this nation. Facts and figures in this respect come alınost like blows to remind us of our responsibility and to suggest our shortsightedness.

It is said that over half the inmates of reformatories, jails, and prisons in this country are under 25 years of age. Some authorities say under 23. We now know that the seeds of criminality in the great majority of cases are planted in youth. The English prison commission recently reported to Parliament that the age of 16 to 20 was essentially the criminal age, and between 10 and 16 the most important age for the care and formation of character. The Earl of Shaftsbury, after much study, declared that not 2 in any 100 criminals in Lon


don had formed the habits which led to criminality after the twentieth year. The age between 10 and 16 is also the religious age. It is that age when the good, the true, and the beautiful are most effective upon life and leave the most lasting impression.

There are from three to five times as many children, in proportion to population by ages, arrested every year in the cities of this country as adults. Seventeen thousand under 16, it is said, were arrested in Chicago the year before the juvenile court law went into effect. A similar condition may be found in nearly every large city. / These children are all subjected more or less to the contaminating influence of the jails and the criminal courts.

Atlanta is much better off in this respect than some cities I know. Yet recently I visited its jails. The annual report of the chief of police shows 16,434 arrests for 1902. One thousand one hundred and fifty-five of these were children 15 years of age or under; 2,808 between 15 and 20 years of age-a total of nearly 4,000 under 20 years of age. Nearly 25 per cent of the total arrests were boys and girls, generally about 20 boys to 1 girl. Of course the Negro element adds to the difficulties of the problem in the South, and the great majority of such arrests are of that race. It is an illustration of the fact that the handling of this problem may depend to a large extent on local conditions. What might be done successfully in one city might be impracticable in another. Leaving out duplicates and taking individual cases of children arrested for a period of say six years, between the tenth and sixteenth year, you will find in most cities probably that one out of every five mothers' sons land behind the bars in this important period. This was true in Denver, and Denver is better off in this respect than many other cities. The period of incarceration may have been only two hours or two months. The important point is that the children were in jail or arrested for some offense which landed them there. Therefore the majority of lawbreakers in cities, in proportion to ages and according to arrests, are among the young. This is no reflection on the children. It is a reflection on the parents, the government, and the people, if it is a reflection on anybody.

These children do not know how to obey. We want to teach them how and why. They must learn to respect the law, to respect authority, to respect the rights of others, for their own good and happiness as well as that of others. This is the first step in reform. If the home in which this duty rests can not do it, the state must; and in performing this function, a purely parental one, it must frequently deal with the home, the parent, and the child. The state must handle the problem as a wise parent should. It never has and never can do this through jails, prisons, and criminal courts as such. These things may be all right for adults. They are monstrous for children. Their method of dealing with children in the past is a sad commentary on the injunction of our Divine Master, who said of anyone who would harm one of these little ones that “it were better that a millstone be hanged about his neck and he be cast into the sea. The harm the state has wrought upon the youth of this land by its pungling methods in attempting to reform a child waywardly disposed will some day form one of the blackest pages in the history of our criminal jurisprudence. But I predict that we are on the eve of a great awakening, when the dark blot will be obliterated in the refulgence and radiance of new methods founded in the love and teachings of our Divine Master and the tenderness of a mother for an erring child.

A number of systems are combining to bring about this change. No one will accomplish it alone. All will not accomplish it entirely. Each has its place in the great work of reform. The industrial school is doing splendid work. It is no longer looked upon as a reform school. It no longer has about it the odor of degradation. The time is almost here when a boy from an industrial school, as those institutions are now being conducted, may hold as honorable a place in the community and be as proud of his record at that school as his more for.. tunate brother from the university. Certainly this is as it should be.

I am going to speak particularly of the juvenile court and what it can be made as a means of correction at home—this side the institution. There should be no hesitation to send a boy or girl to an institution when it is a proper case. I rather fear the danger of not sending them there when I ought. These schools are doing work as important to the State as your universities. It is not appreciated and little understood by the general public. Their superintendents deserve to rank for character and ability with the presidents of universities. They should be the best material among men that the State can secure. They have a responsibilty and a duty to the State that certainly equals, and in my judgment exceeds, that of any other educator.

Yet with any kind of a decent home the place for a boy or girl is within that home. We all agree to this. The juvenile court and probation system will keep him there if it is proper and possible. It is proper unless the home and environments are of a character positively dangerous to the welfare of the child or unless it has demonstrated its inability to correct it when evilly disposed. It is possible in most cases where it was hopeless before.


[ocr errors]

I do not know how to explain what may be done with the juvenile court and its offices better than to tell what has been done in the court over which I have the honor to preside and to refer to some of the principles underlying the methods pursued.

Its purpose is of course to prevent crime before crime is actually committed; to correct, to aid, and assist those who might be criminals, or who might do a criminal act, to avoid falling into either mis

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »