In ordering a preteen vandal from Western Massachusetts to get a job, a juvenile court judge opened himself up to some obvious criticism — as did three state Appeals Court judges when they upheld the ruling. A boy known as Avram in court filings was found responsible at age 11 for $1,000 in damage to his neighbors’ homes in Easthampton, and was given a year to make restitution. He didn’t, so Juvenile Court Judge James G. Collins ordered him to find employment so he could pay. A three-judge appeals panel agreed, urging in an opinion by Judge William J. Meade that Avram try such things as obtaining a paper route or babysitting.
The weakness in these recommendations is that newspapers today generally are delivered by adults on motorized routes, rather than kids on bikes, and that few parents would trust their young children to a sitter who’s facing delinquency charges. The boy’s lawyer pushed the point further, noting that most forms of labor are illegal for 12-year-olds under state law. Yet despite all that, the judges are right, and a legalistic insistence that Avram couldn’t possibly work off his offense would do him — and the juvenile justice system — more harm than good.