The piece "How to Help Delinquents Help Themselves" {Close to Home, Oct. 18} could have been subtitled "From the people who brought you deinstitutionalization."

Deinstitutionalization has been a nationwide disaster. Hundreds of thousands of mental patients have been dumped into the "community," where their civil liberty to be exploited, raped, robbed, mistreated and not treated at all has been protected.

The writers propose that the 17-year-old "Derricks" of Oak Hill also be released into the "community," where they will receive "values clarification." What is needed instead is the securing of Oak Hill. To use hyperbole, let the fences of Oak Hill be raised. There has to be a credible structure strong enough to withstand the violent tantrums of immature teen-agers, whose omnipotence and narcissism have never been adequately confronted.

Once the rules are respected, and only when the rules are respected, then the counselors and therapists can come to guide these troubled and traumatized youngsters through their necessary voyages into the emotional catharsis of depression, tears, rage, guilt, etc. Only then can the emotional abscess be lanced, can there be an internalization of rules, can there be identification with a caring role model -- similar to how the authority figure in the movie "An Officer and a Gentleman," played by Louis Gossett Jr., turned around the emotionally deprived delinquent played by Richard Gere.

The writers do not seem to realize that limits are a form of love. Instead of giving in to these youngsters' quest for "freedom," limits need to be set as part of a therapeutic institutional program that stresses that true freedom involves freedom from violent and self-destructive impulsiveness, from the undisciplined sealing over of the emotions with drugs and from needing danger, excitement and specialness to deal with that numbing boredom that defends against unpleasant and painful emotions.

I hope Judge Ricardo Urbina will seek out the appropriate psychiatric input as he struggles with a juvenile delinquency problem that is growing more acute and dangerous -- despite the writers' optimistic statistics. CHARLES GOLDBERG Silver Spring