Many people have asked me what connection the Department of Justice has with a conference on unemployment concerning out-of-school youths in urban areas. You may be wondering too. The reason is: Today, the Department of Justice, through the Bureau of Prisons, is providing institutional care and treatment for more than five thousand juvenile and youthful offenders. In fact, the Bureau of Prisons is now devoting nine of its thirty-one institutions to the ever-increasing number of young men, twenty-two and under, who are being turned over to us from the federal courts.

And the connection between these young men and your discussions are very relevant because the majority, prior to their apprehension, were out of school and out of work. In a recent special study of 350 of these men, only two could be regarded as skilled workers and only 54 as semi-skilled. Almost without exception, the study showed that these young men failed in school. Despite the fact that most claimed to have an eighth-grade education, 35 percent were found to be functionally illiterate.

Contrary to some opinion, these young men in the main had not failed in school because of their lack of learning ability. The intelligence levels of most of them were within normal range. These youths are typical of the school dropouts about whom we are concerned. Most were problem cases from their early school years. They were truant more often than other students. Their parents were not concerned about their academic achievements and many of them moved from school to school without ever making a satisfactory adjustment. We are doing everything we can to prepare these young people for the labor market upon their release. We are seeking new methods to make the transition from prison to community life more effective.

Even so, it is becoming more and more evident that even substantially increasing the effectiveness of our control and treatment efforts would not solve the problem.

For example, some 70 percent of all the prisoners in our custody have been committed previously. It is essential that we continue to take all possible steps to enforce the law vigorously and that we keep hardened prisoners from contaminating other young people. We recognize also that many young offenders may be redirected toward constructive activities through successful treatment efforts. However, these programs deal with the end results of delinquency—not the sources. We must broaden our attack and focus as much energy in the future on prevention as we have on control and treatment in the past. We must find ways to prevent spending more money for more institutions for more juveniles. And, unless something is done, this is what will happen. I cannot believe we will allow ourselves to meet this challenge in this way.

The effects of widespread changes in the social and economic life of our society has had a tremendous impact on the unskilled and poorly trained youth living in the slum areas of our large cities. These are the young people who now contribute most to the growing ranks of juvenile delinquency and youth crime and ultimately to adult criminal careers.

Where aspirations outstrip opportunities, law-abiding society becomes the victim. Attitudes of contempt toward the law are forged in this crucible and form the inner core of the beliefs of organized adult crimes. To cope with these sources of criminality requires a broad concentrated effort to narrow the gap between legitimate aspirations of our deprived youths and the opportunities available to them. It means motivating and creating access to resources which will provide them opportunities to prepare for and pursue productive law-abiding careers.

Such a task exceeds the unaided capacities of individual families or even local communities. It requires a coordinated approach between different levels of government. The problem of delinquency today, we believe, is a problem of employment and education opportunities for preparation and achievement, as well as a problem of moral discipline and control. The failure to motivate and train all of our youths contributes to the growing problem of delinquency.

We cannot afford to ignore these signs of trouble. We cannot afford to ignore the rising social and economic costs. Instead, we must deal with the sources of the problem…The efforts of law enforcement and treatment agencies must be developed as a vital part of a large-scale preventative effort to channel the enterprise of our youths in all sectors of our society into equally useful and constructive activities. And this, with your help we must do.