Hall monitor: Taking juvenile court’s pulse
No Matter How Loud I Shout:
A Year in the Life of Juvenile Court.
By Edward Humes.
New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.
399 pp., $24.00 (hb).
By Denise Huffhines
Edward Humes, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, examines the Los Angeles Juvenile Court and the workings of the juvenile justice “system.” Whether it’s a judge, district attorney or a juvenile in “The Hall,” each one has an opinion of the system and how it works or doesn’t. Regardless of what side of the law they are on, all agree that the system is failing and that it’s spinning wildly out of control.
Humes follows several juveniles over the course of a year, detailing their trials, sentences and placements. He also shadows the judges, attorneys and probation officers involved in these cases. He reveals the personal side of the juveniles through the writings that they do in a writing class he voluntarily teaches at Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall. Throughout the book, Humes illustrates how “the system” works exactly as it was designed, failing the very people it is supposed to help. He gives examples of how common sense is sometimes tossed out the window and how “the letter of the law” sometimes replaces its spirit.
Humes’s year-long examination of the juvenile justice system only reaffirms what those involved in the system already know: The system is inefficient when it comes to handling today’s juveniles, and is often misguided and illogical. Worse still, it is not doing what it was originally created for, namely helping children. This book is a wake-up call for all who are concerned about the future of our children and the justice system that was designed for them.
(Denise Huffhines is a correctional deputy probation officer in San Diego, Calif.)
Pulp non-fiction: Hoover & his criminals
J. Edgar Hoover and His G-Men.
By William B. Breuer.
Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 1995.
245 pp., illus., $24.95.
By Patrick O’Hara
Television has “Cops” and “True Stories of the Highway Patrol.” William Breuer has added to the genre in print with his “J. Edgar Hoover and His G-Men.” Like a TV series director, Breuer gives us crime stories, sometimes several to a chapter. The transitions from story to story are often abrupt and the connections tenuous, leaving this reader wishing for a weekly hiatus between episodes to collect his thoughts before the next rousing story began.
Breuer covers the FBI’s gang-busting era the 1930s. All the familiar figures are present: John Dillinger, Ma Barker, Baby Face Nelson. Tommy guns blaze and cars careen out of control. Felons rat each other out, weave intricate alibis and, in one fascinating case, buy freedom by returning most of their bank robbery loot and somehow (the book doesn’t specify) proving that the rest had been destroyed.
This book is “True Crime Stories,” pure and simple. If that is what you are in the market for, and you yearn for the good old crime days of the 1930s, this is the book for you.
(Patrick O’Hara is an associate professor of public management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.)
(© 1997, LEN Inc. Excerpted from Law Enforcement News, Feb. 14, 1997.)