Students riding on a school bus a few weeks ago were getting
increasingly unruly, and, after the driver was hit in the back of
the head by a book, she called the police. When an officer arrived
and tried to restore order on the bus, he was, according to news
reports, taunted by the children: They pointed out to him that they
could do whatever they wanted, and he could do nothing about it.
The kids knew their civics. They knew that the officer had no
choice but to stand there as they jeered at him. As juveniles, they
can break the law with impunity. In fact, they can just about get
away with murder.
The juvenile justice system, as it now apparently operates,
does not hold offenders accountable for breaking the law. Because
the proceedings are secret, it is not possible to know exactly how
or whether juvenile criminals are being dealt with appropriately.
If you judge the criminal justice system by results, however, it
No one is surprised that, according to a study by the Missouri
Bar, the number of kids being referred to the juvenile courts has
doubled in the last 10 years and that the kids are becoming more
violent. The number of juvenile referrals relating to violent
crimes has more than tripled.
People are wondering what is going on. According to a Gallup
Poll taken last September, 72 percent of respondents have no
confidence in the juvenile justice system. They believe that
efforts at rehabilitation and protection by juvenile authorities
have failed to stem juvenile crime; and, of course, they are right.
The juvenile justice system is run by special judges and social
workers whose efforts at rehabilitation are based on counseling and
therapy. It's not working.
Don't bother looking for explanations in social work
literature. In the textbook "Social Work Treatment," Ray J.
Thomlison, dean of the faculty of social work at the University of
Calgary, puts it succinctly: "Complete and accurate data regarding
the incorporation of behavior therapy in social work practice is
The social work profession doesn't even try to systematically
validate its treatments and practices. Professional literature
contains many case studies and much theorizing, but there are no
data showing that behavior therapy, especially as applied to
juveniles, has productive or positive outcomes.
When Alderman Freeman Bosley Sr. proposed spankings for
juvenile offenders, the reaction was mild bemusement. It will never
happen, of course. Liberal do-gooders will whine that the practice
would teach that "society condones violence," or that "violence
should not be construed as a solution to a problem." Spanking would
at least demonstrate that society will impose sanctions on criminal
behavior. It would also forestall the public's frustration and
anger at the manner in which juvenile crime is being handled by
government. A military-style reform-school system run by veterans
would probably be more palatable than spanking, however, and would
be more effective in reducing juvenile crime. …