Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`INCORRIGIBLE' AT 10, SUSPECTED ROBBER AT 16 Series: JUVENILE INJUSTICE Sidebar Story

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`INCORRIGIBLE' AT 10, SUSPECTED ROBBER AT 16 Series: JUVENILE INJUSTICE Sidebar Story

Article excerpt

IN THE LAST SIX YEARS, 16-year-old Donald H. has landed in juvenile court 27 times. No one who knows him doubts that he'll be back again.

In the early days, he was called incorrigible. More recently, complaints accuse him of assault and armed robbery.

Often, Donald has gone home in a few hours, or, at most, after a few weeks in detention. Only once has he been sent away for treatment.

Donald's case file at St. Louis Family Court (the successor to juvenile court) provides a glimpse inside the juvenile justice system. Here's the chronology:

Feb. 9, 1988: Donald's mother brings him to court at age 10, saying she can't handle him. After an informal adjustment - usually, advice to parent and child on how to get along - Donald goes home. Neither he nor his mother gets special services.

May 4: Police bring Donald to court for a curfew violation. Again, the court handles it informally and sends Donald home.

July 12, 1989: Police bring Donald, now 11, to court for throwing a rock through a window. The court gives him a warning.

Nov. 8: Donald's mother brings him to court again, and he's charged, at age 12, with incorrigibility. Before a hearing on that charge, he's arrested for misdemeanor assault. He goes home after a night in detention; no charges.

Dec. 28: Donald is accused of breaking another window. He is placed on formal supervision. Donald goes home but must meet monthly with a juvenile officer and attend school.

Jan. 24, 1990: Donald is charged with sodomizing a 6-year-old. He spends 35 days in detention, awaiting a hearing. Eventually, the charge is dismissed for insufficient evidence, and he goes home.

July 26: Donald is brought in for felony burglary and spends much of his 13th summer - 56 days - in detention. On Sept. 1, the court commits him to the Division of Youth Services, the state agency charged with rehabilitating delinquents. The agency sends him home.

Oct. 30: Donald is back in court for a car theft. The court sends him back to the Division of Youth Services, which continues its supervision for 10 weeks.

Jan. 20, 1991: Five days after his release from the division's supervision, Donald is back in court for a burglary. Donald spends 12 days in detention before the case is dismissed because the victim refuses to prosecute.

June 17: Donald is caught stealing a car and sent back to the Division of Youth Services. He spends six months at its Fort Bellefontaine group home in Spanish Lake.

July 21, 1992: Two months after going home, Donald is picked up on suspicion of felony drug possession. He spends a day in detention, but warrants are refused.

Aug. 31: Still under supervision of the Division of Youth Services, Donald is picked up on suspicion of stealing. He spends five days in detention before a warrant is refused and he goes home.

Sept. …

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