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States of Delinquency

States of Delinquency: Race and Science in the Making of California's Juvenile Justice System

Miroslava Chávez-García
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 314
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  • Book Info
    States of Delinquency
    Book Description:

    This unique analysis of the rise of the juvenile justice system from the nineteenth to twentieth centuries uses one of the harshest states-California-as a case study for examining racism in the treatment of incarcerated young people of color. Using rich new untapped archives,States of Delinquencyis the first book to explore the experiences of young Mexican Americans, African Americans, and ethnic Euro-Americans in California correctional facilities including Whittier State School for Boys and the Preston School of Industry. Miroslava Chávez-García examines the ideologies and practices used by state institutions as they began to replace families and communities in punishing youth, and explores the application of science and pseudo-scientific research in the disproportionate classification of youths of color as degenerate. She also shows how these boys and girls, and their families, resisted increasingly harsh treatment and various kinds of abuse, including sterilization.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95155-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    In the last three decades, the proportion of Latino and African American males eighteen years of age and under in the juvenile justice system has climbed remarkably in relation to white or Euro-American males. This is true particularly for young males residing in some of the most populous states, including New York, Texas, and California. Statistics from around the country indicate that youths of color comprise 38 percent of the population, yet they make up a whopping 72 percent of incarcerated juveniles. Advocacy groups such as the W. Haywood Burns Institute report that, at all stages of contact with the...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Building Juvenile Justice Institutions in California
    (pp. 18-47)

    In 1891, Arthur C., an eleven-year-old Mexican American boy from San Francisco, found himself at Whittier State School, a newly established reformatory in Southern California designed to house delinquent and dependent youths between the ages of ten and eighteen. Under California law, delinquents were those convicted of a crime or those who had, in other ways, violated middle-class norms of society, whereas dependents were those who lacked parental supervision and support, and were in “danger” of leading “an idle and immoral life.”¹ Like many parents, Arthur’s father, Henry C., had committed his son to the reformatory on a charge of...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Fred C. Nelles: Innovative Reformer, Conservative Eugenicist
    (pp. 48-78)

    A preeminent leader in California’s emerging juvenile justice system in the early twentieth century, Fred C. Nelles distinguished himself nationally and internationally for his work as Superintendent of Whittier State School from 1912 to 1927 (Figure 1). Through the use of the latest science and scientific research into the causes of juvenile delinquency, Nelles helped craft innovative policies and practices aimed at unraveling juvenile crime that, at the same time, proved pernicious to those on the margins of society, namely, Mexican, Mexican American, and African American youths. With the support of influential politicians, scientific experts, and members of the public,...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Mildred S. Covert: Eugenics Fieldworker, Racial Pathologist
    (pp. 79-111)

    In 1921, Mildred S. Covert, a fieldworker from the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) working for the California Bureau of Juvenile Research (CJBR), a research unit located at Whittier State School, sat down to have an interview with Pedro C., a fifteen-year-old Mexican American boy sentenced to the reformatory for truancy and incorrigibility (Figure 2). The exchange followed a series of intelligence tests that the boy had completed recently at the CBJR and failed miserably. The goal of her meeting with Pedro was to investigate his personal and family history as well as his home and neighborhood environments in order to...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Cristobal, Fred, Tony, and Albert M.: Specimens in Scientific Research and Race Betterment
    (pp. 112-150)

    In the late 1910s, Cristobal, Fred, Tony, and Albert M., Mexican American brothers between the ages of fifteen and nine, found themselves in frequent trouble with the law for skipping school and carrying out petty thefts in the community of Redlands, a town near the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California. After repeated offenses, the officer representing the juvenile court of San Bernardino County placed the older boys, Cristobal and Tony, in the Detention Home, a modern day juvenile hall, expecting that it would straighten them out. On the contrary, the boys refused to follow the rules and ran away,...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Otto H. Close: Promising Leader, Complacent Bureaucrat
    (pp. 151-181)

    In 1920, Otto H. Close, a principal at San Juan High School in Sacramento, California, pondered a difficult decision: whether to leave his post and accept a job as superintendent at the beleaguered Preston School of Industry in Ione, a state reformatory for males between the ages of eight and twenty-one, situated about 40 miles southeast of Sacramento. After a sustained series of crises in leadership in the late 1910s and years of mismanagement and overcrowding at Preston, state officials tapped Whittier State School Superintendent Fred C. Nelles in 1920 to find the school a suitable leader. After interviewing many...

  11. CHAPTER 6 The Legacy of Benny Moreno and Edward Leiva: “Defective Delinquents” or Tragic Heroes?
    (pp. 182-211)

    On the morning of August 11, 1939, Don C. Napper, a guard at Whittier State School, made a gruesome discovery in the solitary confinement unit of the Lost Privilege Cottage: Benny Moreno’s lifeless body hanging from a leather belt. Moreno, a thirteen-year-old Mexican American boy, was in solitary for escaping from the institution the day before. School officials guessed that he had committed suicide sometime in the early hours of the morning. Eleven months later, Edward Leiva, a seventeen-year-old Mexican American ward, also in solitary, committed suicide as well. This time, the boy used torn bedsheets, which he had braided...

  12. Epilogue: Recovering Youths’ Voices
    (pp. 212-218)

    In 2009, five years after the Fred C. Nelles Correctional Facility (formerly Whittier State School for Boys) closed after more than a century in operation, I had the good fortune of meeting Frank Aguirre, a sixty-nine-year-old Mexican American man and former inmate of Whittier State School. I met Frank through Mike Sprague, a newspaper reporter from theWhittier News,the local daily in Whittier, California, after he had learned of my interest in the institution. Frank, it seemed, had been in contact with Sprague about the state’s future plans for the defunct reform school, a topic the reporter was covering...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 219-260)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 261-274)
  15. Index
    (pp. 275-290)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-293)