DECEMBER 17, 1953
NEW YORK, Wednesday—The Chief Justice of the Court of Special Sessions in the City of New York has written a report for the year 1953 which I think should be read all over the country for undoubtedly the same situations which Judge Irving Ben Cooper describes exist in other parts of the United States. It seems to me that he has been courageous and wise in informing the community of the great and urgent needs of his court.
In the introduction he says: "In my 1951 annual report under caption 'The Dilemma of Sentencing,' I called attention to some of the frustrations felt by justices of the court when, for lack of reasonable pre-sentence investigations due to an understaffed Probation Department without other allied professional skills, they are quite often driven to sentence acts rather than persons.
"In the degree that punishment 'fits' the offender, it will 'fit' the crime. But when a justice is beset by fear that a sentence he is about to impose cannot in the nature of things be apposite, his professional sense is outraged. What he wants to know is what kind of an institution or community, with what resources and what hazards for moral recovery, he is committing him. It is not impossible for a sentence to be a greater injustice than the criminal act: equivalent to putting a child with a common cold into a smallpox ward for treatment."
This statement shows that the judge is handicapped by lack of a properly trained probation staff and this is, of course, felt perhaps more in courts dealing with families and children.
The Citizens Committee for Children of New York City, Inc., published a report this year in which it stressed the needs of the domestic relations courts and pointed out the destructive effects on children of unqualified judges, untrained probation officers, or too few probation officers.
In putting out this report, I think the citizens' committee did for the domestic relations court what Judge Cooper has done for the General Sessions Court in writing his report. Judge Cooper has taken courageous and imaginative action, but it will do no good unless the public understands what the judge is trying to say.
The juvenile delinquent today reflects the society in which he is growing up and his action is usually the sign of some frustration "in a society a significant segment of whose order is increasingly money based, commercially operated and class stratified."
This report written by Judge Cooper and what Dr. Menninger would tell us of his work should be read together, I think, by the citizens of the United States.