Document 4: Richard Tuthill to Cora Bussey Hillis,1 December 1903, Cora Bussey Hillis Collection, Ms. 72, Box 1, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.

Introduction

       Richard Tuthill was one of the major judges in Cook County, Illinois and was heavily invested in the juvenile court movement. His enthusiasm for the reform is evident from this letter to Hillis expounding on the reasons why states needed juvenile court laws and why the state, acting in loco parentis, was justified in asserting their right to handle juveniles differently.

Circuit Court of Illinois.
Cook County,
Judge Richard S. Tuthill,

In Chambers, CHICAGO 12/1/03

 

Mrs. Cora B. Hillis,

State Regent for Iowa,

National Congress of Mothers.

My dear Mrs. Hillis:--

       In answer to your request I will say that the plans outlined in the juvenile court law are simply an application of common sense rules, recognizing that all children are in need of parental care; we recognize this truth in cases in our own families.  All wise parents endeavor to give their children proper consideration, for they recognize the fact that without this care they would inevitably, especially in great cities, go to ruin.  Thousands of children found in our streets have not such parental care and are speedily going wrong, to ruin, for the want of it.  The state stands in “loco Parentis” to all children, and where a child is found, who, for any reason has become delinquent for the want of proper parental care, the state should enter upon the discharge of its duty and give the child such care.

       Heretofore, the state has only given the policeman with his club, police cells, jails and prisons to children who, before they knew what crime really was have committed some act, which in an adult would be a crime, and punishes them for it and throws them into constant companionship of maturer criminals where their delinquency speedily develops into criminality.

       I think three-fourths, at least, of the criminals, during my nearly seventeen years of experience in the Circuit and Criminal Courts that have come before me, have been youths who have developed, by the lack of this parental care, into mature and deliberate criminals.

       Under the juvenile court law, children under sixteen years of age are not to be treated or considered as criminals and the purpose of the law is to give to them such parental care, through probation officers (men and women), as will place them in the right course.

       I think the success of the work has been remarkable, although we lack facilities for doing it.  What we need are homes and schools in the country to which children can be sent.  By homes, I mean cottages presided over by a house father and a house-mother, and the schools, by good teachers where the children can learn something of family life; manual training work shops, barns with all manner of live stock in them, and farms where they may be taught horticulture, as well as agriculture and where they can be kept from one to three years.

       It has been demonstrated that with such care and treatment, even those children who have been indicted and convicted of crime can be, ninety per cent of them, reclaimed and transformed into good citizens.

       Experience has demonstrated that unless those children are cared for and given the needed parental care, it will not be many years before the state will have to care for them in its’ prisons at unremunerative labor.

       I maintain that it is far better to build such homes and schools than to build prisons and penitentiaries.

       This movement for giving parental care to children has spread all over our state and I think men and women who have considered the subject agree that it is not only our moral and religious but our patriotic duty to provide this care for these little ones.

       If only all the good people could be informed as to what should be done for these children and public sentiment could be awakened, I believe it would be the greatest step forward toward the prevention of criminality that was ever taken.

       I will come to Des Moines, under your auspices, as requested and address the members of the Legislature, as desired, for Fifty Dollars, paying my own expenses.

                                                                        Very truly yours,

                                                                                    (signed) R. S. Tuthill

Dictated.

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