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Juvenile “Justice”?
Edward Humes:
No Matter How Loud I Shout
-A Year In the Life of Juvenile Court
Reviewed By: Lindsay Nance
Edward Humes gained an in depth access to the Los Angeles
Juvenile Court system that gave insight not just to parents, teachers
and kids. But, insight for all US citizens to pay close attention to
and look for ways of reform.
In this deeply touching book, Humes reveals several stories of the
children that he saw pass through the juvenile system. Children to
be forgotten, tossed around, and on occasion…helped. The
children’s stories are told through poems and essays written in a
class they took while in juvenile hall. The court room confessions
are also told and the details of their lives prior to conviction are
revealed. The children’s stories keep the reader captivated until the
very last page.
Through this book, readers get a small peak into the REAL juvenile
court system. What we find is nearly as alarming as the many cases
the court sees daily. The good and bad is brought out in the
lawyers, judges, probation officers, witnesses, and defendants. The
system we see, is a system of chaos.
Reaction 1-The Children
The stories and the lives of these children made my heart ache.
Ache with several different emotions. From wanting justice for
them, their victims and their families, wanting their parents to have
to pay for some of the circumstances they put their own children in.
I wanted to know these children, to provide support and to help
guide them and teach them things to help them succeed in their
lives and not be another statistic. These children are our future in
one way or another.
The lives that they had been brought up in and the violence that
they have seen/committed in such a short lifespan is shocking.
Some of them are murderers, gangbangers and stealers. However,
all of them are children who deserve a better life and a chance to
succeed in the world they were brought (not asked to be) into.
Reaction 2- The System
Chaos, pure chaos is the only way I can think to describe what I
have learned through this book about the juvenile system. I
wouldn’t consider myself ignorant in thinking that the US system is
perfect and there were never any malfunctions. However, the
stories in this book were ridiculous. From the way that some of
these children were represented to the way that they were
completely forgotten and left to basically rot in jail and become a
menace to society. I thought that the system was there to help our
children. To guide them in the right direction, support them, and be
the figure of “good” that most of these children have never seen
represented. What it seems is really happening more often than
not, is that the lawyers, probation officers, and judges who are
representing these children in a positive manner (by being what was
considered “harsh” and giving “sermons” in court) are being
ridiculed by others for their purpose in seeing these children
accomplish something with their lives. I had no idea that there was
such a lack in funds, determination and help for our children within
the system.
Reaction 3-What is the answer?
The main question that I had throughout reading this book was…
“What would I have done about the situation? Would I have put
this child in adult court, or would I have given him/her another
chance?” I think what I finally realized is that there needs to be
more communication with these children. Can you ever really know
whether the child is going to change, or if they are just putting on
an act to ensure they aren’t punished as an adult? The only way I
can see finding the answer to this is by spending time with the child
and observing them closely, OUT of the courtroom as well as in.
The problem is that there are so many children and so few judges,
how can they possibly build a relationship with ALL of the children
they see pass through their courtroom. I can’t find the answer.
There are some children who will be given a second chance, only to
get away with murder. There are other children who are merely
accomplices or who were in the wrong place at the wrong time that
will be in jail at least until they are 25 years old. What is the
answer? How many lives will have to be lost physically and
mentally before an answer is found?
Connection to Education
This is one of those books that every educator needs to keep a copy of in
their “teacher file”. I think the best word to describe how this book relates
to education is “Role model”. Teachers need to be that comfort for these
students. These children are living their lives not knowing if they will be
shot from one minute to the next, some not feeling as though anyone cares
about whether they die or not, others who witness their parents selling
tricks and doing drugs. Teachers can only teach if the students want to
learn. However, teachers can try with everything they’ve got to make
classes interesting so students want to come to school. Relate lessons and
classes to the children. Allow them to express what they think through
writing and other forms. Give them the knowledge they need to know that
they can succeed in this world. Always teach what is right, and let the
students know that making mistakes is common and it doesn’t mean that
they are bad, or that because their dad and brother is a member of a gang
that they have to be. Students need to be educated to be themselves, to
know that they have a place in the world. Teachers need to be the rock for
these children, the solid place that they know they can always come to.
Whether this is to sit and think in a safe place, to express how they are
feeling, or to get help in a sticky situation. As present and future teachers,
it is our responsibility to ensure that every one of these children is given the
opportunity to succeed, whether they heed our advice, or not.
Humes, Edward (1996). No matter how loud I shout: A
year in the life of juvenile court. New York, NY:
For a brief synopses, reviews, excerpt, and
further links for parents, families and kids,
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