No Matter How Loud I Shout: A Year in the Life of Juvenile Court


After being granted access by court, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Humes surveys the largely futile attempts of LA to deal with juvenile crime.
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No Matter How Loud I Shout: A Year in the Life of Juvenile Court

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After being granted access by court, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Humes surveys the largely futile attempts of LA to deal with juvenile crime.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
After being granted access by court order to a system that is usually closed to the public, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Humes (Buried Secrets) spent 1994 surveying the largely futile attempts of Los Angeles to deal with its juvenile crime. He concentrates here on a few who have not let themselves be overwhelmed by the deluge of defendants-80,000 cases are pending at any given time: Judge Roosevelt Dorn, who is also a clergyman; Deputy DA Peggy Beckstrand, who finally leaves the system to work on adult cases; Probation Officer Sharon Stegall, who tries to cope with the insurmountable burden of supervising 200 juveniles; Shery Gold, a public defender who also wants to move to adult courts. Humes follows closely the cases of seven young people who were caught up in the system, three of whom have been saved by it-maybe. First serial to Glamour and L.A. Magazine. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Humes investigates the Los Angeles Juvenile Court-the largest in the country-by telling the stories of five young offenders who have passed through its halls.
Brenda Coughlin
No Matter How Loud I Shout, a report on Los Angeles' juvenile courts by the Pulitzer-winning journalist Edward Humes, takes its title from a poem by one of the student-inmates Humes taught in his Juvenile Hall writing class: "Take a trip in my mind see all that I've seen, and you'd be called a beast, not a human being. Fuck it, 'cause there's not much I can do, there's no way out, my screams have no voice no matter how loud I shout." When Humes lets these kids speak -- as he often does in this book -- the story of the very young committing very serious crimes explains itself. Their words bring depth and sincerity to Humes' account, which is based on his year both in the courts and Juvenile Hall, and employs his remarkable access to judges, prosecutors and unpublished reports on juvenile crime in L.A.

Yet troubling aspects begin to creep in early. First, Humes makes it nearly three-quarters of the way through his account without saying anything decent about a public defender. Second, his language often has a brittle, cliched quality (he favors the term "gangbangers" and the adjective "hardened"). Hume's facts often seem dubiously overfamiliar as well. He writes that we are in "an age of unprecedented violent crime," and that the young are the core of the problem. Yet the murder rate has remained stable for the past 50 years, and only one-half of one percent of all juvenile arrests in 1994 were for violent crimes.

The main point Humes misses throughout this narrative -- he tells the story of seven young offenders' lives -- is the role of racial bias in the courts. Sure, we're offered a throw-away line from a public defender about the hopelessness, in this country, of being young, black and charged with murder. Yet Humes' essential take is that chaos and randomness reign. Chaos? Definitely. Randomness? In the land of Rodney King and O.J. Simpson, not very likely. --Salon

Kirkus Reviews
A convincingly reported, profoundly disturbing discussion of the Los Angeles juvenile court's multifarious failings, providing terrifying evidence of the underbudgeted system's inability to slow the explosion of juvenile crime or to make even a reasonable stab at rehabilitating troubled young offenders.

Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist Humes (Mississippi Mud,1994, etc.) spent a year attending hearings and trials and talking with the most dedicated lawyers, judges, and probation officers in L.A.'s juvenile justice system. He also taught a writing class in a tough wing of Central Juvenile Hall, where kids charged with the gravest offenses await the disposition of their cases. Most of these children come from broken homes, are affiliated with gangs, and have previous records for less severe crimes. Humes asserts that the system has failed them by not stepping in sooner to try to arrest their slide. Minor crimes are punished by probation, which is often administered by overworked officers uninclined to check the most basic information about their charges. In the courtroom, a juvenile is lucky if his swamped public defender has even glanced at his case file before a crucial hearing, much less prepared a defense strategy. Before his sentencing, one of Humes's students assembles testimonials to his rehabilitation in Juvenile Hall but is sentenced harshly anyway because his lawyer hasn't bothered to talk to him. A couple of the cases Humes follows are resolved happily when experimental reform programs straighten out gang members, but elsewhere hard- case felons get off on technicalities, and abused children who still might be reformable receive harsher sentences (in adult prisons) than seems socially useful.

Humes draws an alarming portrait of a judicial system in disarray. Must reading for law-and-order advocates as well as for those bleeding hearts whose worst suspicions will be confirmed here.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684811956
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 5/7/1997
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 474,898
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward Humes

EDWARD HUMES, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for specialized reporting, is the author of many critically acclaimed nonfiction books including, most recently, Eco Barons, Monkey Girl, Over Here, and School Of Dreams. He is currently writer-at-large for Los Angeles magazine and lives in California. Visit
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2008

    One of the Best to understand a mindless system

    Dont start this book if you have anything else to do. It will draw you in. I don't have a lot of time to read outside of school but this was good.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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