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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83

Laws for the Reformation and Protection of Children in the State of New York

page 22

Laws for the Reformation and Protection of Children in the State of New York.

Amongst the valuable Amendments in the Penal Code of the State of New York, passed in 1884, are the following, several of which would be found very serviceable by the Managers of Reformatory and Preventive Institutions of Great Britain, if embodied into the new Bill, which it is expected will be introduced as a result of the recent Report of the Royal Commission:—

"Whenever in any legal proceeding it becomes necessary to determine the age of a child, the child may be produced for personal inspection, to enable the magistrate, court, or jury to determine the age thereby; and the court or magistrate may direct an examination by one or more physicians, whoso opinions shall also be competent evidence upon the question of age.

"Any person other than a duly incorporated institution, who receives, boards, or keeps more than two foundlings, abandoned or homeless children under the age of twelve years, not his relatives, apprentices, pupils, or wards, without legal commitment, or without having first obtained a license in writing so to do from a member of the State Board of Charities, or from the Mayor or Board of Health of the city or town wherein such children are received, boarded or kept, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Such license must specify the name and age of the child, and the name and residence of the person so undertaking its care, and shall be revocable at will by the authority granting it. It shall be lawful for the officers of any incorporated society for the prevention of cruelty to children, at all reasonable times to enter and inspect the premises wherein such child is so boarded, received or kept.

"A person who admits to or allows to remain in any dance-house, concert saloon, theatre, museum, or in any place where wines or spirituous or malt liquors are sold or given away, or in any place of entertainment injurious to health or morals, owned, kept, or managed by him in whole or in part, any child actually or apparently under the age of sixteen years, unless accompanied by its parent or guardian, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Any person who shall suffer or permit any such child to play any game of skill or chance in any such place, or in any place adjacent thereto, or to be or remain therein, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

"Any magistrate having criminal jurisdiction may commit temporarily to an institution authorized by law to receive children on final commitment, and to have compensation therefor from the city or county authorities, any child under the age of sixteen years who is held for trial on a criminal charge; and may in like manner, so commit any such child held as a witness to appear on the trial of any criminal case; which institution shall thereupon receive the same and be entitled to the like compensation proportionally therefor as on final commitment, but subject to the order of the court as to the time of detention and discharge of the child. Any such child convicted of any misdemeanor shall be finally committed to some such institution, and not to any prison, or jail, or penitentiary, longer than is necessary for its transfer thereto. No child under restraint or conviction, actually or apparently under the age of sixteen years shall be placed in any prison or place of confinement, or in any court room or any vehicle for transportation in company with adults charged with or convicted of crime, except in the presence of a proper official.

"A person who employs, or causes to be employed, or who exhibits, uses, or has in his custody for the purpose of exhibiting or employing any child apparently or actually under the age of sixteen years, or who, having the care, custody, or control of such a child as parent, relative, guardian, employer, or otherwise, sells, lets out, gives away or in any way procures or consents to the employment or exhibition of such a child either,
1.As a rope or wire walker, dancer, gymnast, contortionist rider or acrobat; or,
2.In begging or receiving alms, or in any mendicant occupation; or,
3.In peddling, singing or playing upon a musical instrument, or in a theatrical exhibition, or in any wandering occupation, or,
4.In any indecent or immoral exhibition or practice; or,
5.In any practice or exhibition dangerous or injurious to the life, limb, health, or morals of the child;

Is guilty of a misdemeanor. But this section does not apply to the employment of any child as a singer or musician in a church, school, or academy, or in teaching page 23 or learning the science or practice of music, or as a musician in any concert with the written consent of the Mayor of the city, or the President of the Board of Trustees of the village where such concert takes place.

"A person who manufactures, or causes to be manufactured, or sells, or keeps for sale, or offers, or gives, or disposes of, any instrument or weapon of the kind usually known as slung-shot, billy, sand-club or metal knuckles, or who, in any city in this State, without the written consent of a police magistrate, sells or gives any pistol or other firearm to any person under the age of eighteen years, is guilty of a misdemeanor."

Section 282 of the Penal Code as now amended is very stringent. It protects girls under sixteen, and under certain circumstances young women under twenty-five years of age from immorality.