Selected Papers of Homer Cummings, Attorney General of the United States, 1933-1939

By Carl Brent Swisher; Homer S. Cummings | Go to book overview

9. The Youthful Offender

A letter to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the Speaker of the House, May 12, 1938:

THE federal criminal law is lacking in any comprehensive provisions on the subject of juvenile delinquency.

Although many of the states have from time to time passed laws for special treatment of juvenile delinquents, the Congress has not enacted any statute on the subject. The result is that a juvenile offender against the laws of the United States is treated and prosecuted in the same manner as an adult. The only exception is found in the power conferred upon the Department of Justice by the Act of June 11, 1932 ( 47 Stat. 301, U.S.C., title 18, sec. 662a), to surrender a juvenile offender to state authorities if he has also committed a state offense or is a delinquent under the laws of a state that can and will assume jurisdiction over him.

Students of criminology and penology generally agree that it is undesirable, from the standpoint both of the community and of the individual, that all juvenile offenders be treated as criminals. Many of them can be reclaimed and made useful citizens if they are properly treated and cared for, and are not permitted to mingle with mature and perhaps hardened criminals. In order to achieve these purposes it is important that juvenile offenders should not become inmates of penitentiaries or other penal institutions in which adults are incarcerated. It is likewise advisable that a juvenile delinquent for whom there is some hope of rehabilitation should not receive the stigma of a criminal record that would attach to him throughout his life.

I, therefore, recommend the enactment of a federal juvenile delinquency act and enclose herewith a bill for that purpose.

-76-

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