Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
This article displays in one automatically-generated column. View the full page to see article in its original form.

JUVENILE OFFENDERS.

(Concluded.)

What agencies, it may be asked, are already at work ? In Australia the evil has become so prominent that special measures of various kinds have been taken; but in Dunedin we can point only to the gaol and the Industrial School. In other words, we 1 rok on as if unconcerned whilstgreatnumbera of young people are being initiated into the ways that lead to crime, and when they have thoroughly learned their lesson we employ our energies. in getting them to unlearn it. Would it not be easier and batter to act a little more under the spirit of human brotherhood, and to try what can be done to lead these young fellows out of harm’s way. At this point I want to mention one or tvo things that have occurred to me, or that have been suggested to me, by way of remedy. The problem is mainly this : how te find pleasant and profitable occupation for the evenings of our young fellows who have last left school. It is a difficult problem. The person to be dealt with has peculiar tastes, and Is not to be tempted with just exactly what you think the best thing for him. He is full of animal spirits, is of comparatively low intellect, and, as he finds life easy, is not troubled with any particular zeal for self-improvement. How are we to tempt him—for we cannot well force him—into better ways. One considerable section of this class, however, we can force, and we ought to force, off the streets. Amongst those who go to swell the number of our street larrikins are many who, according to the law of the land, ought t) be at school. Many of them have left school long before passing the Fourth Standard. In 1887 there were in New Z -aland about 36,000 children between the ages of five and seven. Of this number 22,000 were known to be attending school, and 14,000 were unaccounted for. More than that; out of 8,216 children that left school in the year 1887, only 2,938 had passed the Fourth Standard. In Otago alone you will find that every year about 500 or 600 pupils leave school after being presented in the Third Standard, and that a considerable number never even reach that standard. Now, it must be held a matter of the greatest consequence that such a largo number of young children should be so early cut adrift from the school. It is clear that it was never so intended by our legislators. We must admit either that the law has been found so oppressive that there is by tacit consent a general conspiracy to evade it—which I cannot think —or that the law as it stands is unworkable. I am not learned in the law, and have some natural timidity about posing as a law makei; but I cannot help thinking that something might be done to improve matters. I take it that a boy does not usually leave school simply to eat the bread of idleness in h’s father’s house. He leaves it because, as the saying is, he gets a' “ billet,” and henceforth earns wages. The prospect of money to be made is doubtless a great temptation both to the boy and to his parents, and we need not wonder that it often proves too Bkong for them. So far as I can learn the penalty for thus breaking the law is merely nominal, and is never inflicted. But all the B ime, the custom constitutes a serious evil, aid is well worthy of the notice of the Legislature. If I might venture to make a suggestion, I should say ; Why not punish the employers of any child that ought to be at school? Let there be a smart fine imposed on such people without fear or favor, and this particular aspect of the evil will soon disappear. I see no reason why every young boy who wants employment should not be expected to present either a certificate that he has complied with all regulations as to school attendance or an exempt ceitificate, conorning the granting of which due precautions could easily be taken. There are found, however, in the streets at night not only children of school age, but also children in actual school attendance. In looking over the books of the Industrial School at Caversham lately, I was surprised to see the tender ages at which children got into serious trouble, and to find that some of the worst offenders had been sent there direct from the State schools. Now this is a matter that appeals directly to ourselves. I believe that the history of a boy who gets into the Industrial School is generally something like this: ho has a weak mother who hides his faults from his father or his teacher. Under a course of her management the boy grows worse as ho grows older. He prepares his school lessons badly and finally neglects them; he takes to spending his evenings as much as possible away from home; he begins to find school an objectionable place to go to, and stays away as often as he cap. Next he takes to pilfering from his own parents; and last of all grown bold at finding no punishment follow his evil doings, he begins a career of petty larceny, of which he is sometimes fortunate enough to find the end in the Industrial School. Now, one of the influences that might possibly be strong enough to save such a boy from going utterly to the bad is that of the school. If a boy goes to school during the day and learns his lessons at night, he will not have a great deal of spare time. If he manages to shirk both duties or either, he becomes exposed to serious temptations. Is it too much to expect that head-masters ought to know how their boys are in the habit of spending their evenings, A little trouble expended in this direction repays itself over and over again to the teacher, and may mean simply salvation to the boy. One who believed in heroic legislation might be inclined to suggest that the law should be called into requisition in order to keep young children indoors after dark. The Wellington Justices have, I see, recommended something of the kind. I should be disposed to think that in the first place the regulation would be found oppressive; and, in the second, that it would be unworkable. All the same, I should be glad to see the experiment tried. Law is not much good except to crystallise into shape the already formed convictions of the people. In itself, when not thoroughly supported by public opinion, it is a poor thing. Now, if ever each a regulation as this were made, the inconvenience it would cause to all classes of society would make it hard, and perhaps Impossible, to work. I would further remark on this point that, could we sweep the streets clean of larrikins and compel all boys to keep indoors at night, the evil even then would be repressed, not cured; would be hidden, not healed ; and would simply break out again elsewhere and in some other manner. But, let us suppose that things are so managed that no child leaves school before the lawful time, and that all school children are kept so busy with their lessons at night that they are not found on the street. There still would remain a vast number of young people who have at their disposal no rational means of spending their evenings. Is society quite doing its duty by them ? Is it not rather by its apathy pursuing a policy that is both short-sighted and costly ? The problem is now a difficult one, and delay only increases its difficulty. The radical cure is, as I said before, to be looked for in the spread of enlightenment and culture; meanwhile we can do a good deal in the way of lessening the severity of the trouble. Let us concentrate our attention on one particular aspect of the question: What can be done for the evening recreation and employment of young people of the poorer ?iaaap« ? This year yon know that m Dun edin a very great effort has been made and a vast amount of good has been done by the

Technical ('lasses Association. Rut there can be no doubt that these classes have drawn to them not the worst, but the best of our youths. The unfortunate class of young people that love to haunt the highways and byways are not to be compelled to come in by such allurements as Latin or French, or even shorthand. Yet there is no doubt that for them, too, something might be done by evening classes. In New South Wales and in Victoria such classes are instituted by the Government, and are worked with fair success ; in England and in Scotland they exist, and are also supported by the State. The Educational Committee for Scotland, in their report for 1S87» “ lay deep stress on their belief in the great usefulness of evening schools, in their right additional grants from Parliament, and in the enormous value they have as aids to technical education.” In the larger towns of New Zealand I hold that there ought to be such classes, and in these classes there ought to be taught all subjects from as far down as the Fourth Standard up to the very gates of the University. But, if even such classes were at work successfully, much would still remain to be done. The question of recreation must on no account bo overlooked. Along with the ordinary subjects of school education there ought to be special attention paid to such things as gymnastics and music. Let us suppose for a moment that here and there in Dunedin there were moderate-sized buildings, with gymnasiums, with small swimming baths, with well lighted reading rooms, and with a class room or two. And let us suppose that in those places ex-school-boys could practise vocal music, could organise a flute or brass band, could learn gymnastics, swimming, drawing, elocution, etc. Let us further suppose—if lam not taxing your imagination too much that each youth paid a small fee, had a share in the management, and was a member only during good behaviour, and that these places by their brightness, by their amusements, and by their occasional entertainments, were made as attractive as they could well be, la it not to be thought that the young fellows now called larrikins would be drawn to these places, and would thereby be brought not only out of the reach of much evil influence, but also within the reach of much good influence ? It may be said that such occupations as I have mentioned may be very good as amusements, but are of little or no educational value. This is certainly a mistake. Consider, for instance, the influence of music. What is the meaning of our elaborate sacred music, of our organa in churches, of even our Salvation Army bands, if it is not that somehow music quickens man’s moral nature and refines it. “ The movement of sound so as to reach the soul for the education of it in virtue (we know not how) wo call music, 1 says Plato. Aristotb, who devotes a book of his politics to the subject of popular recreation, comes to the conclusion that music is the best means for providing such recreation. “ For this reason,” he remarks, “ the ancients made music a part of their education.” “ There is something,” says Jevons, “in the thrill of a choice chord and the progression of a perfect melody which seems to false the hearer above the trifling affairs of life. At times ‘it brings all heaven before oureyes.’” Andrew Fletcher’s saying, that “if a man were permitted to make all the ballads he need not care who should make the laws of a nation,” has also some bearing on this point, The testimony of practical men of our day is to the same effect. The other week in our Industrial School I saw a very interesting brass band composed of juvenile performer?, some of them about as high as your knee and others nearly full grown. It is certain that music is found to be a moat important auxiliary in that institution. The opinion of the general public is shown clearly enough by the fact that the musical instruments in our Industrial School have cost from first to last about LI,OOO, and that that cost has been met not by Government, but by subscriptions. Of cou’SGj even if tho desirability of such institutions as I have suggested be conceded, I am prepared to hear that the whole idea is utterly Utopian. lam afraid this is partly true ; all the best things are_ Utopian. But the world moves, and what is visionary today is practicable to-morrow. Indeed, it has already been found practicable to try this very experiment in Melbourne, and if I had time it would be easy for me to satisfy you of the fact that the experiment has succeeded beyond all expectation. I shall not attempt to give the many details which have been kindly sent to me by Mr Craig, the superintendent of the Gordon Institute, as it is called ; but they are at the disposal of anyone interested. I shall quote one or two extracts The Institute contains a lofty and suitable hall, the back part of which is fitted up as a gymnasium. In this hall the lads have their singing, elocution, and other classes; and on a Friday evening an hour of games, followed by an entertainment. The meeting is opened by the chairman (one of themselves) taking the chair and calling on tho secretary (also one of the lads) to read the minutes of the previous meeting, which are put in the usual way. Addresses by the leaders of the Try Excelsior Class, dealing with the affairs of the class, songs, recitations, and gymnastic performances make up the entertainment.’ Another writer says: “On each evening of the week there is held a class of some kind, including an elocution and a gymnastic class ; but the great event of the week is the Friday evening entertainment, when there is often an attendance of over2oo lads, who on these occasions thoroughly enjoy themselves. The programme is often a diversified one, and tho performers all belong to the class. The entertainment is open to anybody, and boys of all sorts troop in on the Friday evening. There is no lack of music, for in addition to the Try Excelsior Society’s brass band there is a capital grand piano, the gift of Mr George Coppin, and some of the ladies who attend are always willing to give their services and play a little music. There is also a harmonium. The hall contains an excellent library of books, of all kinds from encyclopaedias to novels. Here of a night may be found scores and scores of boys, who, but for the existence of this place, would most certainly form part of the larrikin gangs la the streets.” One more quotation : Tho Mayor of St, Kilda recently declared that “ before the opening of the St. Kilda branch of the Try Excelsior Class, almost every Court day boys of tender age were brought before him for the perpetration of some petty crime, but since its inauguration only two cases had been before the Bench.” lime forbids me to say more about the Gordon Institute. The fact that it is doing good work could, I believe, be vouched for by more than one of our number who visited it during the recent Exhibition, and from whom 1 first heard of it.

My remaining suggestions—for I have still some to make—shall be stated in as lew words as possible. The other day the following cablegram from Sydney appeared in the papers:—“ The Government have approved of a scheme for compelling schoolboys over twelve years of age to undergo military training, and after they leave school drafting them to senior cadet corps.” Here apparently is a very important and somewhat expensive experiment to be undertaken. What its fruit will be, time will tell. For my own part I have long thought that a cadet corps of ex-school boys would be a good thing in Dunedin, It would furnish a wholesome outlet for the over abundant spirits of our youths, and would at least do more good than harm. Again it is to be noted that there are very few entertainments for the people nowadays compared with what there used to be twenty-five years ago. At that time tho town was smaller of course, but the places of entertainment were considerably more numerous. Theso entertainments were perhaps not very high class, but they must at least have been a higher influence for our youths than they can now meet at the street corners. This change in the customs of the town I suppose cannot bo helped. But at least some facilities for the quiet enjoyment of the music of our numerous bands might be looked for. There is at present really no suitable place of the sort near the centre of the town. Is the famous Triangle likely, I wonder, ever to serve such a purpose ? Are we to have there the shade of trees, the scent of flowers, the coolness of grass, the falling of water, and the strains of music, with the whole place flooded in light that rivals the day; or are we to have—another Octagon ? One who has lived in Edinburgh can never forget the crowds that used to sit cn the grass of a summer’s evenii g

and listen to the bands in the Princes street Gardens, nor yot the weekly people’s concerts in the great Waverley Market. Are we to wait till Dunedin be as big as Edinburgh before we attempt anything of the sort here ?

I cannot close without a few words about an institution that is at the present time doing a vast amount of good—l mean the Industrial School at Caversham. You are aware that into that dustbin of New Zealand society are swept young people of the worst kind known to the police, A very few are merely orphans and destitute ; some are put there by arrangement with their parents ; but most are comparatively hardened offenders, who, if simply sent to gaol every time they were convicted, would undoubtedly grow up to make their living by preying upon society, If you look into the previous history of any of these children, you will see that the material Mr Titchener has to work upon is most unpromising. Yet if you follow their history into after life, you will find that a great number become highly respected members of society that some become well-to-do and influential; while a very small percentage ever relapse into crime. Dipping at random the other day into the records kept by Mr Titchener, I read the history of 100 children whose names came in succession, and who had been committed to tho School as criminals about ten or twelve years ago. I found that of the hundred only eight had come under the notice of tho police after leaving school. Many of the others were doing extremely well; and not a few looked back upon tho school as a sort of home, kept up a correspondence with Mr Titchener, and from time to time delighted to visit the old place. The record of those who were sent to the School not as criminals, but as being orphans, destitute, or found in places of evil repute was still more satisfactory. Only about three out of the hundred turned out badly. Here are a couple of fairly typical extracts : “ , aged nine years. The following is an extract from his ‘ record ’: —‘ He was previously convicted of stealing and sentenced to three days’ imprisonment and twelve stripes, and on another occasion to seven days’ imprisonment for larceny. He is without doubt the worst boy in Dunedin.’ He is now a frequent visitor at the School, and I can safely say that he is a hard-work-ing and well-conducted man.” “ , eleven years. Convicted of stealing a gold chain, value LB. I put this lad to service in Southland, and in due time presented him with his earnings, LI7 2a 2d, He is now the owner of a small farm. He spends a week at the School every Christmas.”

Another, who at the ago of fifteen had been transferred from gaol to the School, is now married, and owns a farm of 800 acres. He writes that he would have been a gaol bird all his life but for the Industrial School. Now, if these are admitted to be facts, and they cannot be denied, they prove convincingly two things: Firtt, that no very conspicuous evil has yet arisen from the mingling of the destitute and the so-called criminal children in one institution ; and secondly, that our industrial schools are doing an admirable work for the community. With the first point, which is now attracting some attention, I have little to do. I merely ask you to notice the fact; and I venture to suggest as an explanation that the children committed for orchard robbing, petty larceny, and the like are not usually far gone in criminal ways, and that a proper method of treatment soon reduces them to the normal standard of good behaviour: and so not much harm, it any, is done. The second point is more worthy of your attention. It suggests the idea that we do not make sufficient use of our industrial schools. For my part I should like to see a great many more children put betimes under the wholesome restraints of these institutions, provided always that the whole cost of maintenance be borne, wherever possible, by the parents, and not by the State. This may savor a little of Spartan legislation, and may be looked on by some as an unwarranted interference with the liberty of the subject. Hut as the interference would altogether be brought about by a failure on the part of the subject to perform the most fundamental duty of a citizen, I submit that interference of this sort is more than warranted ; it is obligatory on any government worthy of the name.

One word more, and I have done, Y T ou must all have noticed the drastic proposals made a clny or two ago by the Committee appointed at Wellington to inquire into the question of juvenile crime. 1 have already signified my dissent from their proposal to keep children off the street merely by repressive legislation. I rejoice much, however, to see that the terribly hurtful plan of sending children to prison is cordially condemned. The testimony as to the harm wrought by this barbarous practice is pretty well unanimous. Captain Hume, for instance, in his report for 1887, rays : “ With reference to the juvenile offenders whoso criminal career I have closely watched, I have no hesitation in stating that sending them to prison does considerably more harm than good, and that however carefully they may be looked after in prison, they are more dangerous to society when liberated than when they are sentenced, and the dread of prison life is lost to them." The fault I find with tho recommendations cf tho Wellington Committee is : First, that they are repressive more than curative ; and secondly, that the Government is invoked to do alone a work that might very properly be shared by the community. And now I must not longer trespass on your patience. The subject I have been discussing is really too wide for a single paper; and lam perfectly aware that I have not only left many important aspects of it untouched, but that I have also dealt britfly and inadequately with those I have taken up. I now leave the matter in your hands, hoping that your discussion will do something to supplement my deficiencies.

Mr White said that he had listened to the paper with great interest. So far as he was aware this was the first time that the question of juvenile offenders had been discussed by the Institute. It was a question that concerned teachers most intimately; no teacher having the interest of his pupils at heart could ever see any of them turning out badly without feeling the deepest regret. As citizens interested in the welfare of the rising generation, the subject Mr Morrison had brought under their notice deserved their close attention. He was pleased to hear from the statistics given in the paper that tho moral condition of those born and bred in the colony stood so high. Mr Morrison attributed the existence of the socalled larrikinism to several causes, chief of which no doubt was the want of parental control. It was very surprising to see so many parents coming before the Police Court confessing their inability to control very young children. There was something wrong with the parents when this was the case. Either the father or the mother was quite as much to blame as the juvenile offender. The absence of home influence and of tho conditions of true family life lay at the root of the matter. Mr Morrison had rightly pointed out that it was better to prevent larrikinism than to repress it. Ho thought that the various recreative evening associations suggested by Mr Morrison would do good work. Many lad? did not care for study, and the exercises of the gymnasium and similar institutions would be more acceptable to their habits and tastes. The Technical Classes Association did not meet tho requirements of this class of youth, and he would be pleased to see something done in the direction pointed out by Mr Morrison. It might be well to refer to the good work that was being done in an unostentatious way at Leavitt House by Mrs Miller and other philanthropic ladies. Many lads were by means of this institution induced to spend their evenings in a rational way in some kind of mantul work, much to their own benefit and to the peace of the neighborhood in which they lived. Ho complimented Mr Morrison on his treatment of the subject, and hoped he would continue his study of it and deal with the next aspect, viz.: Since we have got this class of juvenile offenders or larrikins, what shall we do with them ? As Mr Morrison had shown, the lndustrial School was an excellent institution. It is well conducted. It had done great good. Everyone could testify to that. It seemed, however, somewhat of an injustice to locate in the same institution two very distinct’* classes of children—criminal children and neglected or orphan children. Might not something ba done to effect a reform in the matter ? He had great plea-

sure in seconding the vote of thanks to Mr Morrison for his able and interesting paper, The motion was carried by acclamation.

This article text was automatically generated and may include errors. View the full page to see article in its original form.
Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890709.2.35

Bibliographic details

JUVENILE OFFENDERS., Evening Star, Issue 7954, 9 July 1889

Word Count
4,527

JUVENILE OFFENDERS. Evening Star, Issue 7954, 9 July 1889

Working