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Newspaper Page Text
BOYS BREAK LAW IN IGNORANCE OF CRIME
AND PENALTY WHY NOT TEACH THEM?
BY JANE WHITAKER
Whenever social service workers
take up the boy problem they take it
up from the angle-of institutions for
correction or instruction, and that
despite the fact so obvious that insti
tutions have failed either as instruct
ors or as corrective measures. All
that institutions have succeeded in
doing is that which a state's attorney
admitted to me not long since
"locking away a menace to society
for a period of time" and with this
fact before us we stand fair to be a
nation of institutions as we go on
manufacturing criminals and build
ing new edifices in which to confine
Occasionally some one speaks of
preventive measure, but it is like a
whisper in a great babble of noise
it is unheeded and dies away.
Yet there is one preventive measure
so badly needed it seems almost im
possible that even the blind have not
had it forced on some one of their
other senses it is the necessity of
warning boys of the penalty of crime.
They do not know. They do not
realize that if they are caught in
some crime, petty or serious, they
will be given some form of punish
ment, perhaps. They do not know
what is the percentage in favor of
their being caught They do not
know how many seemingly inoffen
sive acts are violations of laws to pro
Not long since a judge looked at
me speculatively. "I would like to
have you spend a few nights in the
different police stations," he said,
"and have you write them up."
I laughed. "I am willing to be
smuggled in," I answered, "but I have
a fair knowledge of the law and am
not likely to break it"
"Aren't you?" He smiled. "You
could be arrested at this moment
Your hat pin point violates a city ordinance."
There is not a day we fail to violate
some city ordinance, and we are sim- .
ply fortunate that the attention of
the city's police force is not turned
our way as it is turned boy-ward,
but how many of us know the penalty
of the ordinances we violate?
Boys do not know. Even those
boys guilty of hold-ups do not know
the probability of their being caught
Thev do not know that at the Dresent
j time every boy to every policeman i3
a criminal until he gives an ahbi, and
that the chance of being arrested for
nothing is so great that there is a
trifling percentage of escape from ar
rest for the boy guilty of any offense.
These boys come into the boys'
court They know nothing of the
law. They know there is some sort
of punishment that can be meted out
to them, but mark this they believe
it is not the law they need fear, but
the sharp tongue of the state's at
torney that may cause the judge with
a merciful light in his eyes to decide
they must be punished.
Their eyes rove from the state's at
torney to the judge their eyes that
seem so indifferent to the result the
while their hands are closing and un
closing or trembling as they try to
hold the'm still. If you could throw
back the flesh from their souls you
would see the same quiver that is in
their hands. t
It is not what is the law. It is,
will the judge be merciful? The
state's attorney demands the pound
of flesh. The judge decides against '
For one moment there is naked
fear in the eyes of the boy, fear of the "
unknown, and then contempt But '
though in his brain he is saying "I
don't give a damn," he is sick with
dread and bitter that he didn't get the
mercy he thinks the "guy before him"
In that frame of mind he goes to '
jail or to the BrjdewelL In that frame '