CHILDREN IN JAIL by Thomas J. Cottle


Email this review


Following a flimsy introduction in which he states that less than twenty percent of incarcerated juveniles have committed a violent crime, Cottle presents taped interviews with seven kids serving time on the inside. One story is more gruesome than the next--homosexual abuse, medical neglect, and the sensory disorientation of solitary confinement are common--and two kids actually end up dead shortly after they're released. Throughout, Cottle refers to the under-eighteen offenders as ""children,"" a controversial designation in itself. Moreover, his lump-in-the-throat book goes counter to the sentiment for less permissiveness without taking it into account. He sees Bobble Dijon, Fernall Hoover, Angela Wittenberg, and Johnny O'Dea as pathetic victims all. As to the kids' reaction to their jail experiences, the most distressing is their ready acceptance of their condition. ""I'll be back,"" Angela Wittenberg says matter-of-factly. A handsome black boy seeing no job down the road tells Cottle, ""I'm crying 'cause I ain't got no future."" Cottle is mum about alternatives to this destructive and futile system, and, more important, says nothing about the push to lower the legal definition of a minor to sixteen and toss the rest in with adult prison populations. Cottle instead complains about kids robbed of their identity and individuality by prison statistics. It seems to be his purpose to restore the faces of the seven profiled here, and this he does; all seven are treated with the utmost sympathy. Otherwise, this is a marginal contribution to images of the malfunctioning juvenile justice mill.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1977
Publisher: Beacon