Monday, 24 October 2016

Treatment of Juvenile Offenders

The Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges and Homes, as regular readers to our blog will know, sailed across to Canada twice a year with parties of children. These parties were heading for a new life out of the city slums, on to the rich farming lands of Ontario. Their journey has already been well documented throughout this blog

In the corn at Marchmont

Each party of children was looked after by a staff member ofthe charity. Sometimes members of the board joined the trip, visiting children already resident in Canada or other organisations working in the area of childcare. One such trip was made in 1904 by the then honorary secretary of the charity, Thomas Ackroyd. His trip took him to America, where he reported in the November edition of the Children’s Haven, on the work being undertaken in regards to the treatment of juvenile offenders. In England at this point, any child arrested for a crime was sent straight to the adult lock up. There was no separate establishment for children. From 1896 the Refuge had already begun to take in children to its Shelter on Chatham Street to prevent them having to be locked up in an adult police cell. This was an exception to the rule however.

Entries to the children shelter, 1902
Ackroyd spent a morning at the Children’s Court in New York during his trip. Unlike the UK, the Americans had established a separate court for juveniles. Ackroyd observed how; "One of the State judges presided, and in the kindest way possible dealt with every child. These boys and girls were made to feel that they were not regarded as criminal; they looked upon the judge as a counsellor and friend". Akroyd saw how the use of a child only court was beneficial to the young people involved. It removed them from the vicious atmosphere of the ordinary police court. The public were not admitted, only parents or friends of the young person.     

Artist Impression, Children’s Haven, 1904
It was reported that in 1904,in Manchester alone, 530 juveniles had been arrested. Of this number 66 were under the age of 10 and 435 were aged 10-16. Many were in front of the court not for a crime but for begging, sleeping out or selling goods on the street without a corporation license. Some undoubtedly, under the influence of those they came into contact with at the police courts, drifted into more serious crime. Ackroyd went on to campaign for separate courts for juveniles as a result of this trip. They were finally established four years later under the Children’s Act of 1908.

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