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The Treatment of Juvenile Delinquents

Mar 2, 2008
The passage from the old to the new ; from the regime of vengeance and deterrence, operating through the base passion of fear, to that of social protection and individual reformation, naturally finds its most complete expression in the treatment of juvenile delinquents. We say " naturally " because this innovation, which is of distinctly modern growth and has leaped into almost universal favor, bears all the earmarks of the scientific thought that is gradually dominating the age and that this work endeavors to expound. With this, therefore, we conclude our examination of the crime problem.

The juvenile laws are, in reality, an extension of the probation principle, first embodied in the laws of Massachusetts. Judgement is suspended, and the offender, with the co-operation of the probation officer and other agencies at the command of the juvenile court, is given a chance to reform. Separate trials for children were instituted first in Massachusetts and New York, but Illinois, by a law that went into effect June I, 1899, was the first state to install the juvenile court as we have it today.

In the agitation for this reform women's organizations have played a most conspicuous part, and the entire movement doubtless should be regarded as part of that greater social revolt which is protesting against the immolation of child life on the altar of commercial greed ; which, keenly alive to the fatal effects of the slum environment, is establishing city playgrounds throughout the country, and is manifesting itself in many other directions, such as the increasing attention paid to the treatment of defective children, the insistence that children need recreation and substantial food more than they need discipline and book learning, and so forth. In fact we shall find that the leading administrators of the juvenile court laws lay far greater stress on the spirit in which they are administered than on the actual text. The entire movement, which, we repeat, has spread with extraordinary rapidity, is the outcome of a revolt of the spirit ; of the strictly modern, scientific conception that it is absurd to punish offences that are the inevitable effects of well ascertained causes.

Within ten years thirty states passed laws providing for 'the application of the probation principle to juvenile delinquents'.

No one can speak with greater authority on this subject than does Judge Ben B. Lindsey, of the Juvenile Court of Denver, Colo. Incidentally it may be remarked that a most suggestive tribute to the high regard in which the juvenile laws, and Judge Lindsey's administration of them, are held was furnished by those who are, of all others, the most competent critics. Despite Judge Lindsey's protest the Denver boys worked as a unit for his re-election, which upset all the prophecies of the political wiseacres who had declared his success impossible.
About the Author
Malcolm Blake is strongly opposed to cruel treatment of prisoners. He is also concerned with the civil rights of the innocent, and believes that only in an age of openness can we guarantee our survival. His article about the reverse number look up shows how to run a background check.
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