VI. CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
BY ALBERT E KAHN
Chapter 6 from The Game of Death
We may say that a culture which is dynamic, complex, materialistic, with inconsistencies between precept and practice . . . a culture which produces slums, breathes the gang spirit, exploits the disadvantaged classes . . . and tolerates behavior in economic and political fields approximating that which it also punishes as crime . . . such a culture with any given population components would seem liable to produce much crime. This we observe in America.
1. "The Nation's Nightmare"
IT WAS quite early in the evening when a disheveled white-haired man hurried into the police station at 177 East 104th Street in New York City. He strode directly to the sergeant's desk and dropped some packages on it. Out of them rolled several hypodermic syringes and some small envelopes, from which spilled a white powdery substance.
"My boys are using drugs again," the man blurted out. "I didn't want to do this but it's for their own good. Please go out and find them and arrest them."
Questioned by the sergeant, the man gave his name and the facts of the case. He was fifty-five years old and unemployed. His wife worked in a lingerie factory. They had ten children. His two oldest sons, aged twenty and eighteen, had become drug addicts two years before. Both boys had gone to the Federal hospital in Kentucky for treatment. Soon after their return home, money began disappearing from the household, as well as various articles, which were later seen in pawnshops. The man had been sure his sons were buying dope again but had been unable to catch them with the drugs. That evening, however, he had found the hypodermics and packets of heroin hidden in their bedroom. Confronted with this evidence, the two youths had attacked their father in an attempt to wrest the drugs from him. When their mother started to scream, they had fled from the apartment.
"Please find the boys and save them from this awful habit," the man begged the police sergeant.
Two detectives accompanied the man on a search of the neighborhood. In the early hours of the following morning, they found the man's twenty-year-old son. They were unable to locate the other boy.
Later that day in Felony Court, the magistrate ordered the youth who had been arrested to be held on bail for trial on a charge of illegal possession of narcotics. The judge commended the father for having had his son taken into custody.
"My own father turned me in, my own father," muttered the youth.
"Son," said the man brokenly, "it's for your own good,"
That incident occurred in New York in the middle of November 1951 . . .
Four months later, in March 1952, a New York World-Telegram and Sun reporter was interviewing a young woman and her husband in a tenement house in the lower Bronx. As she talked, the young woman gently rocked her four-months-old sleeping infant.
"I visited little Joe in Bellevue and he looks normal for the first time in months," she told the reporter. "His eyes are bright, like they used to be. He's interested in things an eight year-old should be. He's like the Joe we knew before he got mixed in with the Brook Avenue bunch. . ."
The woman was speaking of her eight-year-old son. The child had been taken into custody for smoking marijuana cigarettes and sent to Bellevue Hospital for treatment.
"The first time I suspected Joe was taking dope," the woman went on, "was the afternoon he came home from school smelling like perfumy smoke. He had been using his lunch money to buy reefers. Then before we fully realized what had happened, he came home beaten up. "We learned later that an older boy had blackened his eyes because Joe didn't have fifty cents for a reefer. . ." (1).
She stopped, choked by emotion.
The father spoke with suppressed fury. "If I had a gun and a shield, I'd kill the bums who are making slaves of these children. . ."
The mother nodded wearily. "They put Joe in with crazy people at Bellevue. Of course, he needs treatment and actually he's better off than if he were wandering around the streets. . . These gangs of hoodlums have no mercy. Why, I heard they started a child of six on reefers" . . .
Another woman living a few blocks away told the World Telegram and Sun reporter about her sixteen-year-old son: "My boy is in jail with killers, burglars. But God knows it's not entirely his fault. Yes, he's an addict. But these bums beat him if he didn't try to make addicts out of other kids. He came home twice with black eyes, his face swollen. . . . Dope peddlers beat him with a ball bat. . . . Yes, my boy should be punished. He's a fool of a kid who made a mistake, a terrible mistake. But he'd have been killed if he didn't sell the stuff."
The woman added: "God only knows, he and other New York children deserve a better break than this."
Such harrowing tales are now to be heard in many cities in the United States. Like a purulent cancerous growth, narcotics addiction has been spreading across the country among children and youth, rotting away their lives and dooming them to nightmarish existences of suffering, degradation and crime.
The first signs of the epidemic appeared in the late 1940's. As a feature article in the June 11, 1951, issue of Life magazine related:
Then an ugly phenomenon was observed. The average age of patients committed to the biggest U. S. hospital for drug addicts suddenly dropped 10 years. An alarmed Chicago discovered that one out of every five "junkies" [slang for drug addicts] it was arresting was a minor. One was only 12. New York cops estimated the city held at least 5,000 teen-age addicts. A series of Detroit raids netted 48 dope pushers, all of whom had been selling to high-schoolers. In a decade California arrests of juvenile dope users leaped from two a year to more than 200. Numerically these totals were not enormous. But they unmistakably signified a terrifying trend. A decade ago dope addict arrests were always adult, often middle-aged.
"What," asked the Life article, "had come over today's 15-year-olds?"
Describing a visit to the U. S. Public Health Service Hospital at Lexington, Kentucky, for drug addicts, journalist Howard Whitman reported in an article in the June 1951 issue of Woman's Home Companion:
In the five years since my previous visit the rate of teen-age admission had increased seventeen-fold. . . .
The young addicts I found at Lexington came from New York, Chicago, Washington, New Orleans, Newark, Louisville, Dayton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toledo, St. Louis, Kansas City and a number of other cities. Teen-age addiction is no regional phenomenon. It has blanketed the nation. Dr. Vogel, the medical director at Lexington, calls it an "overwhelming mushrooming trend."
At a congressional committee hearing in Washington, Public Health officials testified that as a result of the sudden unprecedented influx of teen-age addicts at Lexington and the other Federal hospital for narcotics addiction treatment at Fort Worth, Texas, several hundred war veterans who were neuropsychiatric patients at these hospitals had had to be moved from their beds to make room for the young addicts.
Casualties of the Second World War were making way for casualties of the Cold War.
By 1952 a nationwide network of narcotic rings was garnering profits estimated at $50,000,000 a year from the sale of drugs to children.Headed by millionaire-gangsters
In cities from one end of the country to the other, small armies of "pushers," or drug peddlers, are feverishly striving to multiply their sales among teen-agers and young school children.
The hub of the flourishing drug trade among children is New York City. Here, according to the World-Telegram and Sun, "about ten big narcotics rings are fighting for the children's business." Federal Bureau of Narcotics officials have estimated there are two thousand dope peddlers in the city, most of them concentrating on sales to children.
At scores of drug stores, cafes, bars and cafeterias, on street corners and playgrounds, in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, the "pushers" ply their abominable trade, often under the watchful protection of the police. Frequently drugs are sold at the very steps of school buildings. In the words of James R. Dumpson, counselor on welfare and delinquency for the Welfare Council of New York City, "Sellers stand along the walls of schools and pass it to students entering the school to go to their classes."
Describing "the routine" at one New York school, Will Oursler and Lawrence Dwight Smith write in their book, Narcotics: America's Peril:
Peddlers sometimes met the youngsters just outside school grounds. Nearby vacant lots were used for such "meets." Where the peddler himself was a student, dope was even sold in the school itself, in the gym or the washroom. Several cases are on record where heroin was actually sniffed in the classroom while the teacher was lecturing. . . .To solicit the "business" of new customers, many peddlers make a practice of giving away free samples of narcotics to children until they are "hooked" and desperately ready to pay cash to assuage their craving for drugs. (2) A special effort is made by the "pushers" to recruit child addicts themselves as salesmen by the promise of "easy money" and by offering them free drugs for their own use based on the quantity they sell to other children. "The dope peddler knows," relates Howard Whitman in his article in the Woman's Home Companion, "that if he hooks five youngsters in a neighborhood, within a few weeks he'll be selling to fifty. His 'live bait' will hook the others for him" . . .
"You've got to have it at regular hours. That sets up a metabolism in your body which you can't throw off . . . ," states Harry J. Anslinger, chief of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, regarding the effects of drug addiction. "If the drug is denied you . . . nature does horrible things to you. . . . And usually the drug addict lives about two-thirds as long as the average person." On a program broadcast over the CBS radio network, a Los Angeles mother whose fifteen-year-old son was a drug addict gave this appalling account of her child's agony when deprived of narcotics:
I've seen him lay on the bed, doubled up, sweating, eyes dilated, every muscle in his body just bent double,stomach cramps, yawning, nose running, just absolutely beat his head against the wall.The radio program which carried the words of this anguished mother across the land was fittingly entitled "The Nation's Nightmare."
The torture which wracks their bodies when they are deprived of narcotics is not the only price children pay for drug addiction. Their physical torments are matched by a frightful moral decay.
Almost invariably when their small allowances and lunch money prove inadequate to meet the gnawing demand of their growing appetite for drugs, child addicts are driven to stealing money and pawning articles from their homes, to shoplifting, holdups and other criminal acts.
At a Senate Crime Committee hearing in Washington, D. C., in June 1951, one youth, questioned by the senators regarding prostitution among schoolgirls who were drug addicts, testified in part as follows:
WITNESS: They appear to learn pretty fast. It is pretty hard to specify the age. I mean, there is no age limit. I mean, if somebody would buy their bodies, they would sell them. I mean, there is nothing to it . . .
SENATOR WILEY: The ordinary girl of twelve or thirteen. . . is she indulging in prostitution at the age of twelve, thirteen or fourteen?
WITNESS: Well, I saw one fourteen, whom I knew personally, engaging in prostitution, but I have seen numerous girls of fifteen and sixteen . . .(3)
Of all the horrifying revelations at the Senate hearings, the most monstrous concerned what witnesses called "hot shots." These, according to the witnesses, were poisoned doses of drugs foisted upon children who "talked too much" to parents and teachers about their addiction or who revealed the identity of drug peddlers.
A seventeen-year-old drug addict told the senators that he knew of one case of a child dying from a hot shot. "It made me more cautious," said the witness. "After that I always tested the stuff to see it was all right."
Here is the testimony of another witness upon being asked by the senators for information about "hot shots":
WITNESS: Well, from what I understand, a "hot shot" contains poison; it is sold under the pretense that it is drugs; it is usually given to a person because they have informed on somebody else.
CHAIRMAN: Do you know of any instances where persons have died from the use of it?
CHAIRMAN: What information do you have as to that? . . .
WITNESS: Well, I just know of an incident that a fellow was arrested and turned loose when he had drugs in his possession. And after he was turned loose there was about fifteen peddlers that went to jail behind him.
CHAIRMAN: Then what happened?
WITNESS: He got a "hot shot."
CHAIRMAN: Then what happened?
WITNESS: He died.
By no means all of the deaths among child addicts, however, result from "hot shots." In the words of one veteran addict: "Sure kids are dying. I'd say more than five hundred kids have died in New York since the early 1940's from overdosages or chemically impure heroin."
That this estimate is probably not exaggerated was indicated in a report issued on December 20, 1951, by Dr. Thomas A. Gonzales, chief medical examiner and a member of the Mayor's Committee on narcotics addiction among teen-agers in New York City. According to Dr. Gonzales' report, there had been fifty-six known deaths in the city during the previous eleven months as a result of narcotics addiction or diseases closely associated with addiction. Thirty-two of these deaths, stated the report, were among individuals under twenty-five years of age.
In a recorded interview with U. S. News & World Report, which was published in the magazine on June 29, 1951, Narcotics Commissioner Harry J. Anslinger was asked what he thought was the cause of the rapid growth of narcotics addiction among the nation's youth. Anslinger answered: "I think it is just a general breakdown- in family life, lack of parental control, lack of personal responsibility in the home, . . . It is hard to figure out the reasons. Family conditions have a lot to do with it."
A less tenuous answer than Anslinger's was contained in a statement by a youth of nineteen who was one of the drug addicts to testify at the Senate Crime Committee hearings on narcotics. Asked whether he believed that telling teen-agers about the dreadful consequences of drug addiction would prevent them from trying drugs, the youth replied:
Well, I personally believe it has to be more than a mere telling, pointing out the dangers in using drugs and showing how horrible it is. It will stop it to some extent, but danger itself and horrors won't stop a teen-ager from using something. He has danger all around.When a fellow becomes seventeen, eighteen and nineteen, he is subject to go to Korea. He has danger all around him. We are living in an age and time when danger doesn't mean a thing.
Striking corroboration of this young addict's contention that awareness of danger would do little to diminish drug addiction among American youth came from Francis Cardinal Spellman upon his return from a trip to Korea in January 1953. Speaking before the annual dinner of the Catholic Youth Organization, Cardinal Spellman related that while in Korea he had learned from doctors and officers there that they were profoundly concerned about the "frightful number" of drug addicts among American troops. The Cardinal added that the "terrible disease" had been acquired by the soldiers "in their American environment" before they were inducted into the Army. (4)
2. Ways of the Jungle
DURING THE years of the Cold War, a miasma of crime and corruption has settled across the land, seeping into every city and town, infecting high and low places alike, contaminating the very life of the nation.
Vice rings, gambling syndicates and other networks of organized crime have mushroomed on a coast-to-coast scale, their annual loot running into hundreds of millions of dollars. "Organized criminal gangs operating in interstate commerce," states the Report on Organized Crime submitted to tile Senate by the Kefauver Committee, "are firmly entrenched in our huge cities in the operation of many different gambling enterprises . . . as well as in other rackets such as the sale and distribution of narcotics and commercialized prostitution. . . . These monopolies are secured by persuasion, intimidation, violence, and murder. . . . the leading hoodlums in the country remain, for the most part, immune from prosecution and punishment . . ."
Newspapers overflow with hair-raising tales of bribery-riddled police departments, gangster-dominated political machines, and public officials in the pay of notorious racketeers. Scarcely a week passes without new disclosures of prodigious frauds, embezzlements and violations of anti-trust laws on the part of major industrial and financial concerns. Nepotism, venality and graft have become rampant in high Government places, and one Federal agency after another has been rocked by sordid scandal.
Never before in American history has lawlessness been so all-pervasive and so cynically accepted as a normal way of life. (5)
Nor has American youth proven immune to the malignant sickness which grips the land.
"Juvenile delinquency is on the rise in the city, the state and the nation," wrote the journalist, Lucy Freeman, in a front-page story in the New York Times on April 20, 1952. "It increased 20 per cent in New York City last year over 1950, 20 per cent in the state and 10 per cent in the country as a whole."
Reporting the findings of a nationwide study conducted by the Times, Miss Freeman related that not only was "the upward trend . . , continuing at a sharp incline," but the crimes of juvenile delinquents were becoming increasingly grave and desperate. A constantly growing number of teen-agers were being arrested for such crimes as robbery, felonious assault, rape, grand larceny, manslaughter and murder, "This extreme behavior of youth, authorities suggest," noted the Times reporter, "may reflect the impact of the Korean war and the psychological effects of national and international insecurity" . . .
By the summer of 1952 such newspaper headlines as these were commonplace in every part of the country:
2 ARSONISTS 15, GET SIX MONTHS ON PROBATION
Chicago Tribune, June 8
BOY 12, WITH CRIMINAL RECORD HELD IN THEFT OF $128 AND CAR
Washington Evening Star, July 9
THREE DEDHAM BOYS PLEAD GUILTY OF STEALING CAR
Boston Herald, July 10
YOUTHS FACE TRIAL IN PARK ROBBERY
Detroit News, July 16
BOY YEGG 8, SEIZED IN 9 JERSEY THEFTS-CRACKSMAN ARRESTED WITH HIS BROTHER 15
New York Times, July 19
14 FLINT BURGLARIES ADMITTED BY BOYS
Detroit News, July 19
TEEN-AGERS ROB, BEAT WIDOW 80
Boston Herald, July 22
FIVE TEEN-AGERS RAID BROOKLYN LAUNDERETTE, BEAT WOMAN
New York Times, July 26
BOY 14, BROODS ABOUT ARREST, FOUND HANGED
Chicago Tribune, July 30
17 YEAR OLD SHOT WHILE LOOTING OFFICE
San Francisco Chronicle, August 2
BANDIT 12, PERILS ALEXANDRIA GROCER WITH LOADED PISTOL
Washington Evening Star, August 6
LEADER OF YOUTH GANG HELD IN $100,000 BAIL
Philadelphia Inquirer, August 8
SUSPECTS 8 AND 12, SEIZED AS "THUGS"
Philadelphia Inquirer, August 14
4 TEEN-AGERS ARE ARRESTED IN JEWEL THEFTS
Atlanta Constitution, August 14
6 BOYS CAUGHT AS CAR THIEVES
Boston Herald, August 19
"Children in scores of cities are committing more crimes and worse crimes than at any time since World War II," reported the Associated Press on January 3, 1953, in a dispatch making public the findings of a survey its bureaus had been conducting in almost every city in the country. Noting that the survey had established "that juvenile delinquency started to increase in many cities in 1948, that the rate jumped in more cities after the Korean outbreak, and that it is now rising fast in many areas," the AP dispatch added:
Experts at the United States Children's Bureau are deeply concerned about the heights it may reach if the Korean conflict and the cold war mobilization program continues for many years. . . .
It is difficult to think of children as burglars, gangsters, drug addicts or murderers. Such has become the reality, however.
While ever-growing numbers of American youths in uniform have been killing and getting killed on the Korean battlefront, killings by American children have become an increasingly familiar phenomenon on the homefront. These are a few that have occurred during the last couple of years:
Dover, New Jersey, March 1951: A sixteen-year-old boy shot and killed his uncle and two aunts. The youth shot one of his aunts as she sat dozing in a chair, then killed his uncle who was a bedridden invalid; and after that, shot his other aunt when she returned home from visiting a neighbor. The boy told police he had committed the killings with a rifle he had bought for this purpose from a friend. His reason, he said, was that his uncle and aunts had refused to permit him to drive a car.Of the steadily mounting toll of killings by children, a considerable number result from savage feuds between juvenile gangs which operate in major cities throughout the country. In themselves, these gangs are not new. But never before have they been so widely prevalent or the crimes of their members so desperate and violent.
Typical is the case of a juvenile gang in Brooklyn, New York, called "The Gringos." When the gang was broken up in January 1952, seventeen of its members were held on charges of sodomy and rape, five for burglary, and one for receiving stolen goods. Three guns and 200 rounds of ammunition were seized during the police round-up; and gang members admitted to twelve armed robberies and fourteen burglaries . . .
Pitched battles between rival teen-age gangs, armed with clubs, knives, brass knuckles, blackjacks and guns, are regular occurrences in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and other metropolitan centers. Frequently, participants in these fierce encounters are badly wounded; and fatalities from knifings and shootings have become so commonplace that they generally receive scant space in the press. Only occasionally is a juvenile gang killing deemed sufficiently sensational to merit front-page headlines.
Such an event occurred not long ago in the city of San Francisco.
Shortly before midnight on March 30, 1952, members of the Portola Gang and the Filmore Gang met for a "showdown" in San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza. No sooner had the skirmish started than one of the Portola Gang, a youth of nineteen named Robert Ranson, drew a .45 Colt automatic from a shoulder holster and began shooting. Before his gun jammed, he had killed two rival gang members and seriously wounded three others.
Sentenced to life imprisonment at San Quentin Prison, Ranson later told Dan Fowler, a staff writer for Look Magazine:
I don't know why we did those things. We enjoyed a fight. Whether we won or lost it, we enjoyed it. I guess we stripped cars just for kicks. . . . We didn't need the money. . . .
I stole my first car when I was walking along and noticed one parked with the key in it. I forget how old I was then. . . .
I guess when you fight another gang you expect to fight dirty. You know you're going to run into a knife or a sap or a belt buckle, so you use them too. We used to make brass knuckles in the school workshop when nobody was looking. . . .
Maybe if we'd had some place to go and something to do, maybe we wouldn't have been out stripping cars. But I don't know.
3. Jungvolk in America
IN THE late summer of 1949, an event which shocked the world occurred near Peekskill, a small town about forty miles up the Hudson River from New York City. Hundreds of teen-age Americans took part in the event.
A concert by the eminent Negro singer, Paul Robeson, had been announced for Saturday evening, August 27, at the Lakeland Acres picnic grounds outside Peekskill. Several days before, the Peekskill Evening Star featured a front-page story charging that the purpose of the concert was to aid "subversive" elements. Local patrioteers denounced the concert as "un-American." Veterans' organizations voted to hold a protest parade and demonstration on the night of the concert.
The concert was never held.
On the evening of the affair, an ugly-tempered mob blocked the way to Lakeland Acres, preventing anyone from entering the grounds. The mob included large numbers of youths. Here, in the words of a New York Herald Tribune report, is what happened to persons trying to reach the park by car:
. . . they were stopped by a road block of boulders and logs, and ordered out of or pulled from the vehicles. The men were manhandled, the women permitted to depart with jeers. The machines were smashed on tops, sides and windows with rocks . . .At nightfall, the hoodlums broke up the folding chairs set up in the park, made a blazing bonfire of them, and launched a violent assault on persons who had entered the grounds earlier in the evening. The attackers shouted: "No one of you leave here alive. . . We're Hitler's boys-out to finish his job."
Not until the rioting had been going on for several hours did police finally arrive on the scene and restore a semblance of order . . .
Indignant citizens immediately formed a Westchester Committee for Law and Order and invited Paul Robeson to return to sing at Peekskill. A new concert was scheduled for Sunday afternoon, September 4, at the Hollow Brook Country Club. At the insistence of the Westchester Committee, Governor Thomas E. Dewey ordered state police to Peekskill on the day of the concert.
Twenty thousand persons, including numerous families with picnic lunches, attended the second concert. As they approached the entrance, they passed between lines of hundreds of police restraining crowds of young hoodlums and demonstrators calling threats, curses and epithets. Some of them shouted: "Commies, kikes, nigger lovers. . . You're goin' in but you ain't comin' out" . . .
At the conclusion of the concert, the police directed departing buses and cars along a steep winding road which passed through thick woods. Bands of men and youths were waiting in ambush along the way armed with piles of rocks, stones, bottles and bricks. A storm of missiles met the vehicles coming along the road. Hundreds of men, women and children were struck by the missiles, their faces gashed by the flying glass of shattered car windows. A number were seriously injured. Witnessing the ferocious bombardment, many of the police stood by and laughed or brutally manhandled injured persons who asked for help. . .
In a carefully documented report on the riots at Peekskill, the American Civil Liberties Union stated:
An . . . important question is whether the participation of teenagers in the rioting was spontaneous delinquency on their part or was the result of an organized recruiting drive. There is no reason to believe that all, or even a majority, of the teen-agers involved were recruited. Yet not all the youths involved were spontaneously inspired to hoodlumism. . . .
There is overwhelming evidence that mature adults circulated among the youths, urging them to continue their stoning, advising them to move down the road, or into the bushes, or to go to other spots in order that the ambushes might be kept perfect.
Therefore, one of the most serious aspects of this crime against the peace was that grown men led youngsters of unformed minds into juvenile delinquency bordering upon an attempt to commit murder.
It is not only in Peekskill during these last years that young Americans have been persuaded to commit murderously violent acts against men, women and children because of their color, religion or political beliefs. In towns and cities in almost every part of the country, thousands of American youths have been caught up in a mounting wave of organized hoodlumism, mob violence and storm trooper incidents grimly reminiscent of the savage outrages perpetrated by Nazi Jongvolk in the early 1930's in Germany.
"Anti-Semitism and other race biases are not new in Boston. . . ," commented an editorial in the Boston Herald on November 4, 1950. "But gang fights of this sort can't be taken lightly. They are symptoms of tensions which may burst forth in still more serious form . . . The police may not be able to anticipate the next outbreak, and any blood that flows would be on all our hands."
The Herald editorial was referring to an epidemic of anti-Semitic violence by teen-age youths which had broken out in Boston and its suburbs.
Similar episodes have been occurring in other cities throughout the country. As recorded in a report of the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai Brith, which was published in the form of a book entitled The Troublemakers:
. . . in September 1950, the walls of Independence Hall in Philadelphia -the national shrine to the fight for human rights- were defaced with anti-Semitic scrawlings and obscenity.
In Forest Hills, New York, vandals broke into the Bayside Cemetery and the adjoining Mokom Sholem Cemetery on February 17, 1951, kicked over the ancient grave markers, and trampled down the shrubbery.
In New York City, hoodlums threw rocks into the windows of a Jewish-owned lunchroom on March 15, 1951, shouting, "We're going to kill the Jews," and then ran down the street to throw rocks, cracking two windows in a Jewish synagogue at Ellwood and 196th Street. . . .
On the morning of May 24, 1951, students of Los Angeles City College discovered their campus sidewalks had been defaced by paint and acid. The single word "Jew" had been scrawled in three places, the Star of David in another. . .
On the evening of October 7, 1952, elderly grey-bearded Rabbi Joel Steinberg stepped from his house on the East Side of New York City and started down the street on his way to visit some neighbors. Suddenly, several youths sprang out from between some parked cars and rushed at the rabbi. "Kill the Jew'" they shouted. "Take a knife and finish him'" One of them struck Rabbi Steinberg fiercely on the arm with an iron bar. Another hit him on the head. As the rabbi dropped to the ground, the youths fled.
Unconscious, his arm broken, Rabbi Steinberg was hurried to the hospital . . .
Later that night, two of the youths who had assaulted Rabbi Steinberg attacked two young Women who were daughters of another rabbi in the community. The mother of the young women later told journalist Betty Stevens: "My youngest had a black eye, a swollen nose and a cut lip. The oldest had bruises all over her body. They kicked her when she went to help her sister and yelled, 'Hitler had the right idea, kill all the Jews!' " The mother added: "Please do not use our names. We fear vengeance."
In an article in the magazine, Jewish Life, Betty Stevens wrote:
Until recently, the East Side was known as one of the most progressive communities in the country. . . . But in the past year some parts of the East Side have become hotbeds of anti-Semitism. . . .
Some people in the area told me that hoodlums go about freely mouthing anti-Semitic epithets, stealing, pulling beards, throwing things out of windows at people.
"We don't even tell the police any more," one person told me. "The police don't do anything." . . .
These events are not haphazard. They form a pattern that has as its condition the atmosphere favorable to fascist expressions not only at home but abroad.
In some cases, the anti-Semitic teen-age gangs now operating in American cities not only resemble but are painstakingly modeled on the former Hitler Youth movement in Germany.
Exemplifying this development are recent events in Philadelphia and New Orleans.
"TEEN RUFFIANS IN NAZI ARM BANDS TERRORIZE PHILA. JEWISH AREA" read the headline of a prominently featured news-story in the January 31, 1952, issue of the New York Post. The story reported:
A teen-age gang patterned along the prewar Hitler youth movement whose members brazenly wore Nazi arm bands was believed responsible today for the fire-bombing of a synagogue and the nightly terrorizing of Jewish religious pupils. . . .
Detective John Monserrat said the hoodlum gang consisted of nearly 150 boys, most of them pupils at Olney High School. Large numbers of them wore Nazi arm bands, he said. . . .
They are believed to be the same youngsters who nightly congregated in a nearby cemetery and then pounced on Hebrew pupils leaving the Oxford Circle Jewish Community Center. . . .
The gang functioned under the name, "Hitler Youth Group."
Twenty-one gang members, only one of whom was older than sixteen, were taken into custody by the police. They appeared at a juvenile court hearing early in March. Several of the youths told how they had learned to give the Nazi salute and to goosestep from seeing the Hollywood film, "Desert Fox," which dealt with the career of the Nazi general, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Part of the testimony at the hearing concerned the gang's attempts to set fire to the B'nai Israel Synagogue and a nearby motion picture theatre.
"Why did you do such a thing?" asked the judge.
"We did not like the Jews," one of the boys replied.
"Did you read Mein Kampf".
"About half of it."
"What did you find in Mein Kampf"
"We read that Hitler hated the Jews, that Hitler said the Jews are profiteers . . . In several cases it stated about synagogues being burned."
In sentencing four of the boys to reform institutions and placing the others on probation, the judge said, "I think their removal from a nauseous atmosphere is indicated."
Commented journalist Walter Lowenfels in Jewish Life:
But no one in the court intimated why this "nauseous atmosphere" had moved from nazi Germany to this country. (6)
Not long after the Hitler Youth Group was broken up in Philadelphia, police officials in New Orleans announced they had smashed a "Nazi Storm Troopers Club" of teen-agers in that city.
The emblem of the club had been the Nazi swastika. Membership cards carried a picture of Adolf Hitler and the words: "This certifies that __________ is a member and in good standing of the Nazi Party." To qualify for membership, a prospective "storm trooper" had been required to jump on and off a moving freight train, smash a certain number of street lights, and hit a Negro on the head with a brick.
In an abandoned building which the "storm troopers" had used as their secret headquarters, the police found a cache of about 4,000 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition, boxes of shotgun shells and a quantity of knives.
Of the nine arrested ringleaders of the gang, all were under sixteen years of age.
4. "How to Mangle a Soul"
"IT WOULD seem," writes John R. Ellingston, the American Law Institute's special adviser on criminal justice for youth, in his book, Protecting Our Children From Criminal Careers, "that the greater the criminality of the government in power and the greater the violence, corruption, and immorality of its members, the more brutal it has to be to the offending scapegoats who have the misfortune not to be protected by the machine."
Considered in the light of this statement the present treatment of juvenile delinquents in detention homes, jails and reform schools in the United States has a very special significance . . .
Several years ago the well-known psychologist and specialist in child delinquency problems, Dr. Fritz Redl, wrote a report about the Detention Home in the city of Detroit, an institution through which some eight thousand children pass each year. Dr. Redl's report was entitled: "How to Mangle a Soul." The phrase could be aptly used to characterize conditions in the vast majority of the nation's detention homes.
The exact function of these detention homes has never been clearly defined. A catchall for neglected and dependent children, the homes also serve as places for the temporary confinement of juvenile delinquents pending their appearance in court or disposition after court hearings. Behind the barred windows, forbidding walls and barbed wire nettings of these institutions, homeless children are confined with feeble-minded youngsters, and impoverished boys and girls mingle with teenage burglars, drug addicts and members of juvenile gangs.
Frightfully overcrowded and woefully understaffed, devoid of any educational program and lacking the simplest recreation facilities, most of the detention homes resemble bleak and squalid prisons in which hapless children are penned like so many cattle. Regular features of the monotonous and harshly regimented routines at the homes are long hours of enforced silence, prohibition of private conversations, periodic searchings of the inmates, and the use of toilets only at specified times. Solitary confinement and whipping are common forms of punishment.
Commenting on the nature of most detention homes, the report of the Juvenile Detention Committee of the 1946 National Conference on Prevention and Control of Juvenile Delinquency termed them "a vicious system of regimentation completely at cross purposes with everything we know about making useful citizens out of erring youth." The report added: ". .
But shocking as is the treatment of children in detention homes, their lot in jails and reformatories is far worse.
Of the 3,111 county and city jails inspected in 1947 by the United States Bureau of Prisons, three out of four were rated by the Bureau as unfit for the confinement of adult prisoners. Nevertheless, some one hundred thousand children are incarcerated in these jails each year. Herded into cramped, vermin-ridden cells and fed on scanty, noisome rations, these children -not a few of whom are ten years of age and younger- are locked up for days and sometimes weeks on end in the company of adult hoodlums, prostitutes, sex perverts, drug addicts, thieves and murderers." (8)
The situation is a disgrace to the nation," James V. Bennett, chief of the Federal Prisons Bureau, testified before a Senate committee. "I need not tell you how demoralizing these institutions are. . . they are shocking beyond description. The situation is one which accounts in no small degree for the large number of juveniles who continue in delinquency and eventually become adult criminals."
Horrifying accounts of the treatment of children in jails were given by Federal inspectors during the 1946 National Conference on Juvenile delinquency.
One inspector reported how he had found a number of boys and girls being held in a "dirty, revolting" jail from June through August while waiting for the juvenile court to reconvene after its summer vacation. The most serious charge against many of these child prisoners, some of whom were as young as twelve, was that of stealing a few packages of cigarettes.
Here are excerpts from the reports of two other inspectors:
. . . I found a ten-year-old boy in a cell . . . The youngster told me he had been picked up for refusing to go to school and had been committed to jail by the juvenile court judge. I was deeply touched by the plight of this little boy, who cried and begged to be released, promising me that he wanted to go back to school. . .
The brutal manhandling of imprisoned boys and girls by their captors is a common occurrence. There are cases on record of jailers raping young girl prisoners; and more than once, guards have been known to beat to death some child in their custody.
Scattered throughout the country are approximately one hundred state reform schools or correctional institutes for children, with a total population of some 25,000 inmates. The names by which they are variously designated -"training schools," "vocational schools," "industrial schools," and "state homes"- are distinct euphemisms. As John R. Ellingston says: "Behind all terms, with few exceptions, hide nothing more than prisons for juveniles."
If most of these institutions are alike in their penitentiary character, it must be said that the children committed to them comprise a thorough mixture. In Ellingston's words:
The system requires the institutions to receive whatever commitments the judges send them. They have to take first offenders and experienced gangsters, boys going through the emotional upheaval of adolescence, runaways, truants and disobedient children with burglars, arsonists, rapists, and even killers. They have to take youths of all grades of intelligence, from feeble-minded to brilliant. They have to take sex deviates and perverts and drug addicts and alcoholics. . . .
Although a large percentage of the children in reformatories are suffering from mental or emotional disorders, most of the institutions are without a staff psychiatrist. Many of them lack trained social workers and vocational instructors; and some, despite the fact their inmates are supposed to receive regular schooling, have no qualified teachers. State appropriations for reformatories have long been woefully inadequate and precluded the employment of proper personnel and the maintenance of suitable facilities; but during recent years, as a result of inflationary costs, the critical shortage of teachers and other effects of the Cold War program, the situation has grown steadily worse.
Far from being rehabilitated at these reformatories, the overwhelming majority of children in them are conditioned by their treatment to become hardened, incorrigible criminals. Shut from the outside world, deprived of parental affection and care, and forced into routines of deadening monotony, the children are subjected to barbarous punishments for committing minor infringements of the many onerous regulations. "
Among the disciplinary practices in training schools. . . ," reported the 1946, National Conference on Juvenile Delinquency, "are the following: whipping or spanking with sticks, wire coat hangers, paddles, straps; striking about the face and head with sticks and fists; handcuffing to the bed at night; use of shackles and leg chains . . ,"
At some reform schools, the supervisors and guards constantly carry blackjacks, clubs or switches which they use at will on their young charges. Other not uncommon forms of punishment are whipping children with wet towels, spread-eagling them and flogging them with heavy belts, strangling them until they are half-conscious, punching them in the stomach, placing them for weeks and even months in solitary confinement in a cell without bed, table, chair or light. . . .
In August 1948, at the State Training School for Boys at Boonville, Missouri, a boy confined in an isolation cell was strangled to death by another inmate. Five months later, two Boonville inmates killed another boy in the same cell. The ensuing investigation brought to light frightful practices which were everyday occurrences at this reform school.
Unrestrained terror had ruled at the institution. Living in conditions of dreadful squalor in decaying dormitories overrun with cockroaches, the child inmates were subjected to fiendish abuse by degenerate, sadistic guards. Children frequently had teeth knocked out by the savage blows of their captors. Horrible beatings took place regularly. Describing them, a former steward at Boonville testified:
. . . I saw groups of boys whipped. They were stripped completely and held over a table and the beatings were administered with leather straps three feet long and about two inches wide. Officials of the institution were present at these beatings, and on many occasions blood appeared from cuts made by the straps. Sometimes iodine was put on the cuts, but the boys were not taken to the hospital.
"The usual corrective procedure among the guards," stated a superintendent who had served for a brief period at Boonville, "was to knock a boy down with their fists, then kick him in the groin."
A report issued by the State Board of Training Schools included this trenchant comment: "Parenthetically, the condition of the cattle at the Training School has always been as good as the condition of the children was bad."
During 1947-1949, Albert Deutsch, a talented crusading journalist widely known for his writings in the fields of mental health and public welfare, undertook an extensive survey of conditions in the nation's institutions for delinquent children. Deutsch's findings, which he incorporated in a book entitled Our Rejected Children, constitute a damning indictment of the present reform school-system.
Long before his survey was complete, Deutsch relates in his book, he had become familiar with a new and grimly meaningful vocabulary:
I learned that "brick counting" is a form of punishment wherein the boy or girl is made to stand erect for specified periods with his or her nose to the wall . . . I learned that "rice polishing" means forcing a boy to crawl on his hands and knees across a floor strewn with rice grains until bleeding starts or the suffering is intense enough to satisfy the disciplinarian that justice has been done. I learned that "runaway pills" is a humorous term applied to laxatives and cathartics forced upon captured runaways "to help keep them running."
At the Illinois State Training School for Boys, the superintendent, Colonel J. C. Hodgin, took Deutsch to the institution's Security Branch annex, "a tight little prison structure . . . surrounded by a high steel-wire fence," where supposedly recalcitrant boys were confined. There Deutsch saw a group of boys being led from the enclosure to work in a gravel pit under the guard of armed supervisors on horseback.
Escapes from the institution rarely occurred, Deutsch was told, and fleeing boys were almost always caught. "The people around here help us," said Colonel Hodgin with satisfaction. "They don't go looking for an escaped boy. They go gunning for him, and they don't fool."
Deutsch asked Colonel Hodgin: "What are your particular qualifications for directing an institution for boy delinquents?"
"Well, that's easy to answer," replied the colonel. "I've handled thousands .of grown men in the Army and the National Guard. It ought to be a pipe to handle a few thousand boys" . . .
Summarizing the results of his survey, Deutsch writes:
The facts, as I found them, shook me profoundly. They added up, in my mind, to a black record of human tragedy, of social and economic waste, of gross brutality, crass stupidity, totalitarian regimentation in institutions and corroding monotony even deadlier than physical violence. . . .Other punishments have been inflicted on American children in this Cold War era which are also symptomatic of a profound social disorder.
(1)· "Reefer" is a slang expression for a marijuana cigarette.
(2) One Chicago peddler, for example, who was jailed in 1951, was found to employ fifteen "runners" to give free samples of heroin to school children.
(3) On the opening day of a New York State hearing in June 1951, in the crowded hearing chamber at the State Office Building in New York City, a horrified audience heard a tape-recorded recital by a sixteen-year-old high school girl of how she had become a drug addict at thirteen and how her addiction had led her to burglary, mental breakdown and prostitution. The child's tragic story, told in a soft unemotional voice which was amplified through the room, began:
"I am sixteen years old. I go to high school in the Bronx. I am in the fourth term. About three years ago, while I was attending junior high school in the Bronx, I went to a dance. . . . At this dance one of the fellows that I met was smoking a reefer. He asked me if I would like to smoke one. I was curious and so I said I would like to, and so I smoked one. At the time I was thirteen years old. . . .
"One day somebody offered me and my boy friend some cocaine. The boy I went with bought cocaine for me. Whenever we went on a date together, he would get cocaine and reefers for both of us,"
The girl went on to relate that, after meeting a youth who gave her some heroin, she had eventually "entered the big league" by taking the drug with a needle: "My boy friend injected it into me in the veins of my arm. After this time I began to use heroin more often. . . . We didn't have enough money to buy all the heroin we needed and so I used to walk down the street and panhandle from anybody I thought would be a soft touch. . . Finally, we decided to break into a home in our neighborhood and see if we could steal some money. We were caught by the police,"
She was "sent away" for several months, the girl related, and then committed for six months to a mental institution. On returning home, she again started taking drugs. To obtain more money for dope, she began "sleeping with older boys" who paid her. After that, she said, "I began to have sexual relations with older men in my neighborhood. I stayed with one older man, he was in his late forties, and he paid me . . .'
(4) During his interview with U. S. News 6' World Report, Narcotics Commissioner Anslinger complained that the forces placed at the disposal of the Narcotics Bureau by the Government were utterly inadequate to cope with the mounting drug sales to children. "We have one hundred and eighty agents," he said. "It's like using blotting paper on the ocean. But we catch them -the smugglers, the syndicates, the pushers, the wholesalers and the users. We catch them. But we can't keep them. They serve about sixteen months. We put one crowd in jail, then start on another one. By the time we get the second one, the first is out working again. So it's just a merry-go-round."
It is a revealing sidelight of the state of affairs in the nation that while men and women are being sentenced to lengthy terms of imprisonment under the Smith Act because of their political beliefs, criminals who profit from ruining the lives of children with drugs are treated with such leniency as Anslinger indicates. Of course, the millionaire-gangsters who direct the narcotics traffic from behind the scenes are rarely punished at all.
Also significant is the fact that while Congress grants vast sums to the FBI to investigate "subversive activities," the funds made available to the Narcotics Bureau represent only a small fraction of its actual needs. Similarly, with prodigious amounts being spent on war production, not a single state or city in the land provides anywhere near adequate funds for the care and treatment of child drug addicts. (For FBI expenditures on trailing the wives and children of defendants under the Smith Act. see page 154.)
(5) "The revival of moral concern during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt," writes Blair Bolles in his book, How To Get Rich In Washington, "has been smothered, since the end of World War II, by a new era of corruption which diverts and amuses but seldom excites the populace. Today we have government of the people, by corruption, for the privileged. The misuse of the federal government in our era exceeds anything known in those two outstanding past epochs of political sin, the Grant and Harding Administrations. . . . A phenomenon of the times is the rising influence of the criminal classes in political life."
(6) Walter Lowenfels' comprehensive and revealing article in Jewish Life dealt not only with the juvenile court hearing and the background of the case but also with a "festering reactionary atmosphere in Philadelphia (which) has given rise to storm-trooper violence by fascist-minded youth through the city."
How extensive racial prejudice is among school children in Philadelphia was indicated in 1949 in a highly revealing survey conducted by the Philadelphia Early Childhood Project. Based on a three-year study of prejudicial attitudes among children in six Philadelphia public schools, from kindergarten to second grade, the survey found that racial prejudice was widely prevalent among these children, even though most of them were under seven years of age.
Only 10 per cent of the children were found to accept Jewish children as equals, and 27 per cent openly rejected Jewish children. The prejudice expressed by white children against Negroes, however, was far stronger. As Howard Whitman wrote in an article in Woman's Home Companion, commenting on the Philadelphia study: "When it came to Negroes the children showed the saddest symptoms of all. They showed how deeply the adult world has infected them with racial hatred, fear, falsehood and distrust." Sixty-eight per cent of the children openly rejected Negro children.
Of all the children interrogated, only 7 per cent indicated they were free of racial and religious prejudice and liked people "of any kind."
(7) Here is how EIlingston describes a typical detention home in Protecting Our Children From Criminal Careers: ". . . the home provides no education and no case work and limits recreation to one half hour on pleasant days. The yard permits neither space nor equipment for games other than tag. . . . What do active boys and girls do day after day? They wash windows and walls, scrub floors, do the dishes and then return to their rooms to wear out the hours. . . .
"This home attempts to isolate newcomers for the first 24 hours. It does not permit even reading matter to some children during this period, 'so that meditation will be encouraged'. Punishment, says the matron, is little used . . . the matron may douse a child with cold water. Most effective of all, she reports, is to send or threaten to send the child to the psychopathic ward in the county hospital. 'All the other children are impressed then, too,' the matron observes.
(8) More than half of the states, ostensibly recognizing the viciousness of confining children in prison cells with adults, have enacted legislation for bidding the detention of children in jails. Actually, however, such legislation is virtually completely disregarded by law officers, and the confinement of children in the jails of these states is almost as common a practice as throughout the rest of the country.
Most communities have no special facilities at all for the detention of children. In the country as a whole, there are only about 150 juvenile detention homes; and almost one fifth of these are in the single state of California.
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