« EdellinenJatka »
DOMESTIC RELATIONS COURTS Special courts or parts of courts for the handling of domestic relations cases are maintained only in the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, and in Buffalo. It is desirable that in all large cities these cases be tried in special courts, or at least in separate sessions. In the larger cities a judge should give all his time to these cases and become expert in handling them. What is perhaps still more important, special probation officers should be employed to investigate and when possible adjust these cases out of court. This is now done in many instances in the domestic relations courts of New York city.
It is now generally agreed that the proceedings in cases of desertion, non-support and other domestic relations cases should be modified from the strictly criminal and made in some respects similar to the handling of juvenile cases. Where it is possible to effect the ends of social and family welfare without formal trial and conviction this should be done. Under the special provisions of the Inferior Criminal Courts Acts, cases are now adjusted in this manner in New York city. They are placed on probation and required to provide for the support of families without formal conviction. To modify the procedure and to enlarge the powers of domestic relations courts the Commission has urged an amendment to the Constitution granting to such courts full equity jurisdiction.
The question has come up during the past year as to whether men or women should be employed as probation officers in domestic relations cases, particularly those of non-support. The Commission is convinced after studying the work of both men and women officers that in general the male officer is more successful in dealing with the non-supporting husband on probation. The woman officer is often very effective in advising and helping the wife or the mother who not infrequently is also to blame for the desertion of the husband and for the domestic ructions. In the Domestic Relations Courts in New York city, women probation officers who formerly handled most of the cases have been largely replaced by men to the betterment of the system. Women officers have, however, been retained to meet and advise with the many women who come into the court as complainants and also, of course, to handle all cases of women who are placed on probation.
In the City Court of Buffalo and also in the Erie county probation office women probation officers have been employed for the first time during the past year. In both offices they effectively assist the male probation officers in the domestic relations cases by visiting in the homes and advising and helping the wives and children. Many of these domestic relations cases are so difficult of solution that the help of both a man and woman probation officer is advantageous. Women, perhaps, better than men, are able to get to the bottom of the domestic difficulty and assist in bringing about a reconciliation, in suitable cases.
THE DANGERS OF PROBATION WRONGLY USED In the searching analysis and constructive criticism of probation presented by Governor Charles S. Whitman at the annual State Conference of Probation Officers at Albany last November, the Governor, while endorsing the principle and rejoicing in its growth and success, pointed out certain dangers which all concerned in the extension and use of the probation system would do well to heed. l'rging the need for firmness and decision in handling all offenders against the law, he said:
“ The whole object of the treatment of an offender, whether by probation or institution, is to build up in him orderly, lawabiding habits. How can we expect him to hold himself well in hand, to live up to his promises, to be consistent, if the State itself in dealing with him fails to show these qualities? If the State, as represented in its courts, shows flabbiness, uncertainty, indecision, in common parlance, bluffing' in its dealings with probationers, how can we expect them to be
free from these qualities in their dealings with us?” The Governor condemned emphatically, as we all should, any possible misuse of probation through favoritism. He said,
“Nothing tends to bring the probation system into disrepute so quickly as any inclination on the part of the court
to use it as a cloak to speak plainly, for favoritism." The misuse of probation on the part of courts and judges whose motives are above suspicion, but whose judgment or knowledge
of the cases is not above criticism, was pointed out as quite as serious an evil as the deliberate misuse of the system, probably because a far commoner evil.
Much depends upon the efficient work of the probation officer, but quite as much upon the right selection of cases by the judge. In this connection the Governor said:
" It is impossible for the probation system to be thoroughly efficient and to fully protect the interests of the community unless the courts do their part with careful discrimination and with consistency and decision. There are certain classes of persons who obviously are not suitable for probation. It is a travesty to place hardened and convicted offenders upon probation, when there is no indication of any probability of change in their behavior."
One of the most serious dangers to probation is non-enforcement of its terms and conditions and in the failure to return probationers to court who do not live up to those conditions. In regard to this vital matter the Governor said:
" It is not desirable indeed that every technical violation of the terms of an offender's release should be dealt with summarily and result in his commitment to a reformatory or penal institution. The circumstances of the violation, the fact as to whether it is exceptional or habitual, the spirit of the probationer, his attitude toward the community, all should be taken into consideration; but when it is evident that he has failed to take probation seriously, when there is nothing in his conduct to really justify the belief that he is refraining from ways of life which will result in further offenses then it is essential if the probation system is to continue to possess the confidence of the community that the probation officer should report these facts to the court and that the court should act upon them with firmness and decision.”'
With the rapid growth of probation evils are likely to spring up, against which we must be on our guard. No greater service can be done the system than the pointing out of its defects and the
dangers to which it is subject, with sympathy and appreciation, as was done by Governor Whitman.
LEGISLATION No legislation changing the probation laws of the State was enacted by the Legislature of 1915. The following laws were enacted and are mentioned as more or less affecting the work of the probation officers and judges of the State.
Chapter 531, amending the Inferior Criminal Courts Act of New York City, providing for the separation of the Children's Court from the Court of Special Sessions with five justices instead of four to be appointed by the mayor from among the justices of the Court of Special Sessions; combining the first and second divisions of the Magistrates Courts under one chief magistrate and one board; retaining all probation officers and judges serving and providing for several new positions as follows: A chief probation officer and deputy chief probation officers for the Magistrates’ Courts; a chief probation officer and deputy chief probation officers for the Children's Court. These provisions have meant the reorganization and centralization of the probation work in these courts. The bill also gives the magistrates the jurisdiction of the justices of the Court of Special Sessions to try certain misdemeanors and provides for a municipal term for the exclusive trial of cases involving violations of the rules or regulations of any city department
Chapter 286, amending the Tenement House Law of New York City so as to allow females convicted of prostitution in tenement houses to be placed on probation upon their first offense, when not convicted of keeping or maintaining a disorderly house.
Chapter 480, providing that a child brought before a court, under section 486 of the Penal Law, if appearing to the magistrate to be feeble-minded, may be caused to be examined by two physicians and on the written statement that the child is feeble-minded, the magistrate may commit such child to an institution for the feebleminded, to be there detained until discharged by the board of managers.
Chapter 211, requiring all judges in Westchester county (except the judges of city courts), to report the names and principal circumstances in the cases of all delinquent children, about to be committed to any institutions, to the superintendent of the poor of the county; requiring the superintendent of the poor to investigate each case so reported and to report thereon with suggestions to the judge.
Chapter 228, establishing local boards of child welfare empowered to grant allowances to widows.
Chapter 579, establishing a parole commission in New York City to parole prisoners from all institutions under the jurisdiction of the department of correction. (An account of the law is given under the heading, “Parole and Probation.")
The Commission supported the bill introduced on behalf of the State Commission of Prisons by Senator Halliday and Assemblyman Law, providing that the State Probation Commission be given supervision over the work of the parole officers of State institutions. The provisions of the bill did not in any way interfere with the appointment and control of the parole officers by the board of parole and the respective State institutions. It simply made it the duty of this Commission to study and collect data regarding the parole work of the State and its needs and to seek to improve and extend it, especially with a view toward securing greater co-ordination of the parole with probation work. It would give the Commission the same relation to the parole officers as we now have toward probation officers.
The bill met with some opposition and failed of passage without reaching a vote in either branch of the Legislature.
The Commission has been willing to undertake this additional work and responsibility, believing it would be of benefit to the parole work of the State which is far from being as effective or as well co-ordinated as it should be.
The Commission opposed several bills which we believed would be injurious to the probation work of the State and they each failed of passage.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION The Commission, through a special committee, prepared and actively supported two proposed amendments to the Constitution, both of which were introduced and effectively advocated by Com