Administration of Public Welfare

By R. Clyde White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
TREATMENT OF THE JUVENILE DELINQUENT

A juvenile delinquent, as defined by the law and the courts, may be a child who has violated the law, or he may be one who is in "danger of becoming delinquent." The court may take under its care a child whose family is not satisfactory or whose associates are undesirable, and it may put such a child on probation or commit him to an institution although the child has violated no law. Legally any child is a delinquent who is treated as delinquent by the juvenile court. The aim of the laws affecting juvenile delinquents and juvenile courts is to provide early treatment of behavior problems or changes in environmental conditions which may lead to delinquency. It is assumed that if this can be done many children will be diverted from the path which leads to adult crime and imprisonment. This viewpoint distinguishes the juvenile delinquent from the adult offender. The adult offender is a person beyond juvenile-court age who has violated the law and has been convicted of such violation or has pleaded guilty to the charge of violation. The juvenile delinquent is legally not a criminal; he is a misguided or unguided youth who must be taken into custody by the court and given some special education either in the community or in an institution.

The treatment of the juvenile delinquent is, therefore, a problem of special education. His behavior patterns are not yet fixed, and presumably he is more teachable than an adult. The educational program designed to transform a delinquent into a properly behaved youth may include academic training, recreation, vocational training, work, and for disciplinary purposes a fixed daily routine. But the aim is always to see that the child finds satisfactions in life--on the assumption that he will want to do what gives him pleasure and will want to avoid behavior which may bring restraint and reduction in satisfying activities. Obviously, many judges, probation officers, and training schools have very crude ideas of how to achieve this

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