Vanderbilt Law Review


Hans Zeisel

First Page



Society will not be able to solve the crime problem before it has solved the problems of the ghettos. Such an undertaking is a big task, on which society thus far has worked with little diligence.Even if efforts are increased beyond their present level, the task will take a long time. Nevertheless, the question must be ad-dressed, and the statistics point precisely to where the endeavor must begin. Crime typically starts early in life, therefore, radical efforts should be made to reach these crime-prone youths before their life style is fixed. One particular statistic illuminates the problem and suggests a point of access. In the New York City school system the average daily truancy rate in the alternative high schools was thirty-six percent for the school year 1980-1981.'Thus, the first and most essential step in a dual approach to crime is to reach these youths before they become habitual truants. Of course, this effort must begin at a much earlier age than it does today, and the teachers in the public school systems must act as admired role models for their pupils.The ultimate question, however, is not whether these reforms in the ghettos can be effectuated; rather, the real issue is whether society is willing to make the necessary commitments to improve not only the criminal justice system itself, but also the societal conditions from which most criminal activity grows. Once society is serious about solving the crime problem, the obstacles to true reform will be reduced to only the ordinary difficulties inherent in any worthwhile endeavor.

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