Crime and Its Causes
by William Douglas Morrison
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Has the criminal any bodily and mental characteristics which differentiate him from the ordinary man? Does he differ from his fellows in height and weight? Does he possess a peculiar conformation of skull and brain? Is he anomalous in face and feature, in intellect, in will, in feeling? Is he, in short, an individual separated from the rest of humanity by any set or combination of qualities which clearly mark him off as an abnormal being? As these matters are at present exciting considerable attention, let us now look at the criminal from a purely biological point of view.

A good deal of diversity of opinion exists among competent authorities respecting the stature of criminals. Lombroso says that Italian criminals are above the average height; Knecht says German criminals do not differ in this respect from other men; Marro says the stature of criminals is variable; Thomson and Wilson say that criminals are inferior in point of stature to the average man. Whatever may be the case on the Continent, there can be little doubt that as far as the United Kingdom is concerned, the height of the criminal class is lower than that of the ordinary citizen. In Scotland the average height of the ordinary population is (559) 67.30 inches; the average height of the criminal population, as given by Dr. Bruce Thomson, is (324) 66.95 inches. According to Dr. Beddoe, the average height of the London artizan population is (318) 66.72 inches; the average height of the London criminal (300) 54.70 inches; the average height of Liverpool criminals, according to Danson, is (1117) 66.39 inches. Danson's figures point to the fact that there is hardly any difference in height between the criminal classes of Liverpool and the artizan population of London It has, however, to be borne in mind that the population of the North of England, being largely of Scandinavian descent, is taller than the population of the South of England. The height of Liverpool criminals should be compared with the average height of the Scotch, to whom they are more nearly allied by race. If this is done, it will be seen that they fall considerably short of the normal stature.

The difference between the height of the criminal population and that of the most favoured classes is more remarkable still. According to Dr. Roberts' tables, the average height of the latter is 69.06 inches; the London criminal is only 64.70 inches. There is thus a difference of from four to five inches between the most highly favoured classes and the London criminal class. The difference between the criminal class and the merely well-to-do is not quite so great. Selecting Mr. Galton's Health Exhibition measurements as a test of the stature of the well-to-do classes, the results come out as follows:—Health Exhibition measurements, 67.9 inches; London criminals, 64.70 inches. The criminal is thus between two and three inches inferior in height to the well-to-do portion of the community. In fact, the height of the London criminal is very nearly the same as that of the East-End Jew. According to Mr. Jacobs, in a paper communicated to the Journal of the Anthropological Institute, the average stature of the East-End Jew is 64.3 inches; his co-religionist in the West-End is 67.5 inches. We may accordingly take it as the outcome of these measurements that the criminal population of Great Britain is inferior in point of stature to the ordinary population.

From stature we shall pass to weight. Lombroso and Marro say that the weight of Italian criminals is superior to the weight of the average Italian citizen. On the other hand, the weight of London criminals is almost the same as that of London artizans, but inferior to the weight of the artizan population in the large English towns taken as a whole. Average weight of London criminals (300) 136 pounds; average weight of London artizan (318) 137 pounds; average weight of artizans in large towns generally, 138 pounds. The London criminal is considerably inferior in weight to the well-to-do classes, as will be seen from Mr. Galton's Health Exhibition statistics. Average weight, Health Exhibition, 143 pounds; average weight, most favoured class (Roberts), 152 pounds. These figures show that the criminal class in London is seven pounds lighter than the well-to-do, and sixteen pounds lighter than the most favoured section of the population.

Hardly any investigations have been made in this country respecting the skulls of criminals, and the inquiries of continental investigators have so far led to very conflicting results. It is a contention of Lombroso's that the skulls of criminals exhibit a larger proportion of asymmetrical peculiarities than the skulls of other men. On this point Lombroso is supported by Manouvrier. But Topinard, an anthropologist of great eminence, is of the opposite opinion. He carefully examined the same series of skulls as been examined by Manouvrier—the skulls of murders—and he discovered no marked difference between these and other skulls. Heger, a Belgian anthropologist says that the skulls of delinquents do not differ from the skulls of the race to which the delinquent belongs. In fact, till more exactitude is introduced into the methods of skull measurement, all deduction based upon an examination of the criminal skull must be regarded as untrustworthy. A striking instance of this was witnessed at the proceedings of the Paris Congress of Criminal Anthropology held in 1889. When the skull of Charlotte Corday, who killed the revolutionist Marat, was subjected to examination, Lombroso declared that it was a truly criminal type of skull; Topinard, on the other hand, gave it as his opinion that it was a typical female skull. On this point Topinard was supported by Benedict.[34] As long as such divergencies of view exist among anthropologists it is impossible to place much stress upon inquiries relative to the conformation of the criminal skull. Before a beginning can be made with inquiries of this character, there must be some fundamental basis of agreement among investigators as to what is to be accounted asymmetrical in skull measurements and what is not. Even then it will have to be remembered, before coming to conclusions, that no skull is perfectly symmetrical—every one showing some variation from the ideal type. When the extent of this variation has been absolutely demonstrated to be greater in the case of criminals than among other sections of the community, we shall then be approaching solid ground. At present we must wait for further light before anything can be said with certainty with respect to the criminal skull.

[34] See Revista Internacional de Anthropologia Criminal y Ciencias Medico-Legales, Marzo e April de 1890.

Just as little is known at present about the brain of criminals as about the skull. Some years ago Professor Benedict startled the world by stating that he had discovered the seat of crime in the convolutions of the brain. He found a certain number of anomalies in the convolutions of the frontal lobes, and he came to the conclusion that crime was connected with the existence of these anomalies. But he had omitted to examine the frontal convolutions of honest people. When this was done by other investigators, it was found that the brain convolutions of normal men presented just as many anomalies, some investigators (Dr. Giacomini) said even more than the brains of criminals. According to Dr. Bardeleben, there is no such thing as a normal type of brain. Weight of brain is a much simpler question than brain type, but so far it is impossible to say whether the criminal brain is heavier or lighter than the ordinary brain. The solution of this comparatively simple point is beset by a certain number of obstacles. It is not enough, Dr. Binswanger tells us, to weigh the brains of criminals and the brains of ordinary persons and then strike an average of the results. The height and weight of the persons whose brains are averaged are essential to the formation of accurate conclusions; till these important factors are taken into account, all deductions based upon weight of brain only rest upon an unsure foundation.

But supposing we had a trustworthy body of facts bearing upon the weight and structure of the criminal brain, we should still require to know much more of brain functions in general before satisfactory conclusions could be drawn from these facts. We know something, it is true, of the physiological functions at certain cerebral regions, but as yet nothing is known of the localisation of any particular mental faculty, whether criminal or otherwise. A conclusive proof that the study of the brain, as an organ of thought, is still in its infancy, is found in the fact that the fundamental question is still unsolved, whether the whole brain is to be considered one in all its parts, so far as the performance of psychic functions is concerned, or whether these functions are localised in certain definite centres. Till these fundamental difficulties are cleared away, the presence of anomalies in certain convolutions of the brain will not prove very much one way or the other.[35]

[35] A masterly article on the "Localisation of Brain Functions" will be found in Wundt's Philosophische Studien Sechster Band, 1. Heft Zur Frage der Localisation der Grosshirnfunctionen, Von W. Wundt. Compare also The Croonian Lectures on Cerebral Localisation, by David Ferrier. London: 1890.

An examination of the criminal face has so far led to no definite and assured results. In the imagination of artists the criminal is almost always credited with the possession of a retreating forehead. As a matter of fact, Dr. Marro, one of the most eminent representatives of the anthropological school, assures us that this is not the case. After comparing the foreheads of 539 delinquents with the foreheads of 100 ordinary men, he found that criminals had a smaller percentage of retreating foreheads than the average man.[36] He also found that projecting eyebrows, another trait which is supposed to be a criminal peculiarity, were almost as common among ordinary people as among offenders against the law. Projecting ears is another peculiarity which is often associated with the idea of a criminal. But Dr. Lannois states that after a careful examination of the ears of 43 young offenders, he found them as free from anomalies as the ears of other people.[37]

[36] Marro, I Caratteri dei Delinquenti, p. 157.

[37] Archives d'anthropologie criminelle Livraison, 10.

As it is the Italians who have studied these matters most exhaustively, it is mainly to them we must go for information. In a little book on the skeleton and the form of the nose, Dr. Salvator Ottolenghi comes to the somewhat curious result that the bones of the criminal nose offer many anomalies of a pre-human or bestial character; but the nose itself is straight and long, or, in other words, just as highly developed as the noses of ordinary men. Careful inquiries have been undertaken by criminal anthropologists into the colour of the hair, the length of the arms, the colour of the skin, tattooing, sensitiveness to pain among the criminal population, but these laborious investigations have so far led to few solid conclusions. According to Lombroso, insensibility to pain is a marked characteristic of the typical criminal.[38] "Individuals," he says, "who possess this quality consider themselves as privileged, and they despise delicate and sensitive persons. It is a pleasure to such hardened men to torment others whom they look upon as inferior beings." On this point M. Joly is at variance with Lombroso. "I asked," he says, "at the central hospital, the Sante, where all persons who become seriously ill in the prisons of the Seine are looked after, if this disvulnerability had ever been noticed. I was told that far from that, prisoners were always found very sensitive to pain ... Honest people, industrious workmen, the fathers of families treated at the Charite or the Hotel-Dieu (Paris hospitals), undergo operations with much more fortitude than the sick prisoners of the Sante."[39] On this point, therefore, as on so many others, we are still without a sufficient body of evidence, and must, meanwhile, suspend our judgment.

[38] L'Homme Criminel, 324.

[39] Le Crime, 193.

Let us now consider the criminal's physiognomy. In this connection it must be borne in mind that a prolonged period of imprisonment will change the face of any man, whether he is a criminal or not. Political offenders who have undergone a sentence of penal servitude, and who may be men of the highest character, acquire the prison look and never altogether get rid of it. If a man spends a certain number of years sharing the life, the food, the occupations of five or six hundred other men, if he mixes with them and with no one else, he will inevitably come to resemble them in face and feature. A remarkable illustration of this fact has recently been brought to light by the Photographic Society of Geneva. "From photographs of seventy-eight old couples, and of as many adult brothers and sisters, it was found that twenty-four of the former resembled each other much more strongly than as many of the latter who were thought most like one another."[40] It would, therefore, seem that the action of unconscious imitation, arising from constant contact, is capable of producing a remarkable change in the features, the acquired expression frequently tending to obliterate inherited family resemblances. According to Piderit, physiognomy is to be considered as a mimetic expression which has become habitual. The criminal type of face, so conspicuous in old offenders, is in many cases merely a prison type; it is not congenital; men who do not originally have it almost always acquire it after a prolonged period of penal servitude.

[40] Daily News, June 12, 1890.

But apart from the prison type of countenance, it is highly probable that a distinct criminal type also exists. Certain professions generate distinctive castes of feature, as, for instance, the Army and the Church. This distinctiveness is not confined to features alone, it diffuses itself over the whole man; it is observable in manner, in gesture, in bearing, in demeanour, and is constantly breaking out in a variety of unexpected ways. In like manner the habitual criminal acquires the habits of his class. Crime is his profession; it is also the profession of all his associates. The constant practice of this profession results in the acquisition of a certain demeanour, a certain aspect, gait, and general appearance, in many instances too subtle to define, but, at the same time, plain and palpable to an expert.

The slang of criminals is also explicable on the same principle. Every trade and calling has its technical terms. The meaning of these terms is hidden from the rest of the world, but the origin of their existence is not difficult to explain. The jargon of the criminal arises from the same causes and is constructed on exactly the same principles as the technical words and phrases of the man of science. When a man of science is compelled to make frequent use of a phrase, he generally gets rid of it by inventing some technical word; it is precisely the same with criminals. With them technical words are used instead of phrases, and short words instead of long ones in all matters where criminal interests are intimately concerned, and on all topics which are habitually the subjects of conversation among the criminal classes. The language of the Stock Exchange with its Bulls, Bears, Contangos, and other short and comprehensive expressions for various kinds of stocks, is on all fours with the slang of criminals, and it is not necessary to resort to atavism in order to explain it. It arises to supply professional needs, and criminal argot springs up from exactly the same cause.

Summing up our inquiries respecting the criminal type we arrive, in the first place, at the general conclusion, that so far as it has a real existence it is not born with a man, but originates either in the prison, and is then merely a prison type, or in criminal habits of life, and is then a truly criminal type. As a matter of fact, the two types are in most cases blended together, the prison type with its hard, impassive rigidity of feature being superadded to the gait, gesture and demeanour of the habitual criminal. In combination these two types form a professional type and constitute what Dr. Bruce Thomson[41] has called "a physique distinctly characteristic of the criminal class." It is not, however, a type which admits of accurate description, and its practical utility is impaired by the fact that certain of its features are sometimes visible in men who have never been convicted of crime. The position of the case, with respect to the criminal type, may be best described by saying that an experienced detective officer will be sure in nine cases out of ten that he has got hold of a criminal by profession, but in the tenth case he will probably make a mistake. In other words, face, manner and demeanor are no infallible index of character or habits of life.

[41] Journal of Mental Science, vol. xvi.

When crime is not an inherited taint, but merely an acquired habit, this fact has an important practical bearing upon the proper method of dealing with it. Acquired habits, we are now being taught by Professor Weismann, are incapable of being transmitted to posterity, and Mr. Galton is of the same opinion.[42] This is not the place to elaborate the theory of inheritance, as understood by those writers; its essence, however, is that we only inherit the natural faculties of our forebears, and not those faculties which they have acquired by practice and experience. The son of a rope-dancer does not inherit his father's faculties for rope-dancing, nor the son of an orator his father's ready aptitude for public speech, nor the son of a designer his father's acquired skill in the making of designs. All that the son inherits is the natural faculties of the parent, but no more. Hence it follows that the son of a thief, on the supposition that thieving comes by habit and practice, does not by natural inheritance acquire the parent's criminal propensity. As far as his natural faculties are concerned he starts life free from the vicious habits of his parent, and should he in turn become a thief, as sometimes happens, it is not because he has inherited his father's thievish habits, but because he has himself acquired them. It is imitation, not instinct, which transforms him into a thief; and if he is removed from the influence of evil example he will have almost as small a chance of falling into a criminal life as any other member of the community. It will not be quite so small, because no public institution, however well conducted, can ever exercise so moralising an effect as a good home, but it will be much smaller than if he grew up to maturity under the pernicious surroundings of a criminal home.

[42] Die Continuitaet des Keimplasma als Grundlage einer Theorie der Vererbung. A. Weismann. Jena, 1885. Natural Inheritance. F. Galton.

If we do not inherit the acquired faculties and habits of our parents, it is unfortunately too true that we inherit their diseases and the connection between disease and crime is a fact which cannot be denied. In many cases it is perfectly true that persons suffering from disease or physical degeneracy do not become criminals, in most cases they do not; at the same time a larger proportion of such persons fall into a lawless life than is the case with people who are free from inherited infirmities. The undoubted tendency of physical infirmity is to disturb the temper, to weaken the will, and generally to disorganise the mental equilibrium. Such a tendency, when it becomes very pronounced, leads its unhappy possessor to perpetrate offenses against his fellow-men, or, in other words, to commit crime. In a recent communication to a German periodical, Herr Sichart, director of prisons in the kingdom of Wurtemburg, has shown that a very high percentage of criminals are the descendants of degenerate parents. Herr Sichart's inquiries extended over several years and included 1,714 prisoners. Of this number 16 per cent. were descended from drunken parents; 6 per cent. from families in which there was madness; 4 per cent. from families addicted to suicide; 1 per cent. from families in which there was epilepsy. In all, 27 per cent. of the offenders, examined by Herr Sichart were descended from families in which there was degeneracy. According to these figures more than one fourth of the German prison population have received a defective organisation from their ancestry, which manifests itself in a life of crime.

In France and Italy the same state of things prevails. Dr. Corre is of opinion that a very large proportion of persons convicted of bad conduct in the French military service are distinctly degenerate either in body or mind. Dr. Virgilio says that in Italy 32 per cent. of the criminal population have inherited criminal tendencies from their parents. In England there is no direct means of testing the amount of degeneracy among the criminal classes, but, in all likelihood, it is quite as great as elsewhere. According to the report of the Medical Inspector of convict prisons for 1888-9, the annual number of deaths from natural causes, among the convict population, is from 10 to 12 per 1000. Let us compare those figures with the death rate of the general population as recorded in the Registrar-General's report for 1888. The annual death rate from all causes of the general population, between the ages of 15 and 45, is about 7 per 1000. I have selected the period of life between 15 and 45 for the reason that it corresponds most closely with the average age of criminals. If deaths from accident are excluded from the mortality returns of the general population, it will be found that the rate of mortality among criminals, in convict prisons, is from one third to one half higher than the rate of mortality among the rest of the community of a similar age. If the rate of mortality of the criminal population is so high inside convict prisons, where the health of the inmates is so carefully attended to, what must it be among the criminal classes when in a state of liberty? Independently of the premature deaths brought on by irregularity of life, it is certain that a high proportion of criminals bear within them the seeds of inherited disorders, and it is these disorders which largely account for the high rate of mortality amongst them when in prison.

The high percentage of disease and degeneracy among the English criminal population may be seen in other ways. The population in the local gaols in 1888-9, between the ages of 21 and 40, constituted 54 per cent. of the total prison population, whilst the same class between the ages of 40 and CO formed only 20 per cent. of the prison population. One half of this drop in the percentage of prisoners between 40 and 60 may be accounted for by the decreased percentage of persons between these two ages in the general population. The other half can only be accounted for by the extent to which premature decay and death rage among criminals who have passed their fortieth year. In other words, the number of criminals alive after forty is much smaller than the number of normal men alive after that age.

A direct proof of the extent of degeneracy in the shape of insanity among persons convicted of murder can be found in the Judicial Statistics. The number of persons convicted of wilful murder, not including manslaughter or non-capital homicides, from 1879 to 1888 amounted to 441. Out of this total 143 or 32 per cent. were found insane. Of the 299 condemned to death, no less than 145, or nearly one half, had their sentences commuted, many of them on the ground of mental infirmity. The whole of these figures decisively prove that between 40 and 50 per cent. of the convictions for wilful murder are cases in which the murderers were either insane or mentally infirm. Murder cases are almost the only ones respecting which the antecedents of the offender are seriously inquired into. But when this inquiry does take place the vast amount of degeneracy among criminals at once becomes apparent.

Passing from the mental condition of murderers, let us now take into consideration the mental state of criminals generally. Beginning with the senses, it may be said that very little stress can be laid on the experiments conducted by the Anthropological School as to peculiarities in the sense of smell, taste, sight, and so on, discovered among criminals. In all these inquiries it is so easy for the subject to deceive the investigator, and he has often so direct an interest in doing it that all results in this department must be accepted with the utmost caution. Wherever investigations necessitate the acceptance upon trust of statements made by criminals, their scientific value descends to the lowest level. As this must be largely the case with respect to the senses of hearing, taste, smell, etc., it is almost impossible to reach assured conclusions.

It is different in inquiries respecting the intellect. Here the investigator is able to judge for himself. According to Dr. Ogle, 86.5 per cent. of the general population were able to read and write in the years 1881-4, and as this represents an increase of 10 per cent. since the passing of the Elementary Education Act, it is probably not far from the mark to say that at the present time almost 90 per cent. of the English population can read and write. In other words, only 10 per cent. of the population is wholly ignorant. In the local prisons on the other hand, no less than 25 per cent. of the prisoners can neither read nor write, and 72 per cent. can only read or read and write imperfectly. The vast difference in the proportion of uninstructed among the prison, as compared with the general population, is not to be explained by the defective early training of the former. This explanation only covers a portion of the ground: the other portion is covered by the fact that a certain number of criminals are almost incapable of acquiring instruction. The memory and the reasoning powers of such persons are so utterly feeble that attempts to school them is a waste of time.[43] Deficiencies in memory, imagination, reason, are three undoubted characteristics of the ordinary criminal intellect. Of course, there are very many criminals in which all these qualities are present, and whose defects lie in another direction, but taken as a whole the criminal is unquestionably less gifted intellectually than the rest of the community.

Respecting the emotions of criminals, it is much more difficult to speak, and much more easy to fall into error. The only thing that can be said of them for certain, is, that they do not, as a rule, possess the same keenness of feeling as the ordinary man. Some Italian writers make much of the religiosity of delinquents; such a sentiment may be common among offenders in Italy; it is certainly rare among the same class in Great Britain. The cellular system puts an effective stop to any thing like active hostility to religion; but it is a mistake to argue from this that the criminal is addicted to the exercise of religious sentiments. The family sentiment is also feebly developed; the exceptions to this rule form a small fraction of the criminal population.

[43] In Christiania the number of children who cannot learn amounts in the elementary schools to 4 per 1000. See Reformatory and Refuge Journal for August, 1890.

The will in criminals, when it is not impaired by disease, is, in the main, dominated by a boundless egoism. Let us first consider those whose wills are impaired by disease. Among drunkards and the degenerate generally the power of sustained volition is often as good as gone. Nothing can be more pitiful or hopeless than the position of wretched beings in a condition such as this. Often animated by good resolutions, often anxious to do what is right, often possessing a sense of moral responsibility, these unhappy creatures plunge again and again into vice and crime. In some cases of this description the will is practically annihilated; in others it is under the dominion of momentary caprice; in others again it has no power of concentration, or it is the victim of sudden hurricanes of feeling which drive everything before them. Persons afflicted in this way, when not drunkards, are generally convicted for crimes of violence, such as assault, manslaughter, murder. They experience real sentiments of remorse, but neither remorse nor penitence enables them to grapple with their evil star. The will is stricken with disease, and the man is dashed hither and thither, a helpless wreck on the sea of life.[44]

[44] Cf. Ribot, Les Maladies de la Volonte, 1887.

Let us now consider the class of criminals whose wills are not diseased, but are, on the other hand, dominated by a boundless egoism. Of such criminals it may be said that there is no essential difference between them and immoral men. Egoism, selfishness, a lack of consideration for the rights and feelings of others, are the dominant principles in the life of both. The dividing line between the two types consists in this, that the egoism of the immoral man is bounded by the criminal law; but the egoism of the criminal is bounded by no law either without him or within. It does not follow from this that the criminal is without a sense of duty or a dread of legal punishment. In most cases he possesses both in a more or less developed form. But his immense egoism so completely overpowers both his sense of duty and his fear of punishment that it demands gratification at whatever cost. He sees what he ought to do; he knows how he ought to act; he is perfectly alive to the consequences of transgression, but these motives are not strong enough to induce him to alter his ways of life.

On summing up the results of this inquiry into criminal biology we arrive at the following conclusions. In the first place, it cannot be proved that the criminal has any distinct physical conformation, whether anatomical or morphological; and, in the second place, it cannot be proved that there is any inevitable alliance between anomalies of physical structure and a criminal mode of life. But it can be shown that criminals, taken as a whole, exhibit a higher proportion of physical anomalies, and a higher percentage of physical degeneracy than the rest of the community. With respect to the mental condition of criminals, it cannot be established that it is, on the whole, a condition of insanity, or even verging on insanity. But it can be established that the bulk of the criminal classes are of a humbly developed mental organisation. Whether we call this low state of mental development, atavism, or degeneracy is, to a large extent, a matter of words; the fact of its wide-spread existence among criminals is the important point.

The results of this inquiry also show that degeneracy among criminals is sometimes inherited and sometimes acquired. It is inherited when the criminal is descended from insane, drunken, epileptic, scrofulous parents; it is often acquired when the criminal adopts and deliberately persists in a life of crime. The closeness of the connection between degeneracy and crime is, to a considerable extent, determined by social conditions. A degenerate person, who has to earn his own livelihood, is much more likely to become a criminal than another degenerate person who has not. Almost all forms of degeneracy render a man more or less unsuited for the common work of life; it is not easy for such a man to obtain employment; in certain forms of degeneracy it becomes almost impossible. A person in this unfortunate position often becomes a criminal, not because he has strong anti-social instincts, but because he cannot get work. Physically, he is unfit for work, and he takes to crime as an alternative.

Another important result is the close connection between madness and crimes of blood. We have seen that almost one third of the cases of conviction for wilful murder are cases in which the murderer is found to be insane. And this does not represent the full proportion of murderers afflicted mentally; a considerable percentage of those sentenced to death have this sentence commuted on mental grounds. In Germany, from 26 to 28 per cent. of criminals suffering from mental weakness escape the observation of the court in this important particular, and the same state of things unquestionably exists in the United Kingdom. The actual percentage of criminals who suffer from mental disorders in the prisons of Europe is probably much greater than is generally supposed. At the present time a knowledge of insanity is no part of the ordinary medical curriculum. "With respect to this malady the great majority of medical men are themselves in the position of laymen. They have not studied it. It was not included in their examinations."[45] Till this state of things is altered we shall never exactly know the intimacy of the connection between nervous disorders and crime.

[45] Sanity and Insanity. C. Mercier, p. XII.



In a previous chapter the deterrent action of punishment on the criminal population has been pointed out. It now remains for us to consider the nature of punishment, and the methods by which punishment should be carried out. What is punishment as applied to crime? According to Kant it is an act of retribution; it consists in inflicting upon the criminal the same injury as he has inflicted on his victim. It is an application by society of the principle of "jus talionis." Such a definition of punishment does not harmonise with the facts. We cannot punish the slanderer by slandering him in turn; and in punishing the murderer, it is impossible to torture him in the same way as he has probably tortured his victim. According to the theory of retribution, punishment becomes an end in itself; it is quite unrelated to the benefits it may confer on the person who is punished, or on the community which punishes him.

The difficulties surrounding the theory of retribution have led to other definitions of punishment. Punishment, it is said, is not inflicted on the offender as a retribution for his misdeeds, it is inflicted for the purpose of protecting society against its enemies. Such a view leaves moral considerations entirely out of account; it leaves no room for the just indignation of the public at the spectacle of crime. It is defective in other ways. For instance, a criminal has a particular animosity against some single individual; it may be he murders this person, or does him grievous bodily harm. Such an offender has no similar animosity against any one else; as far as the rest of the community is concerned he is perfectly harmless. On the supposition that punishment is only intended to protect society against the criminal, a man of this description would escape punishment altogether. Or supposing a man (and this often happens), after committing some serious crime for which he is sent to penal servitude, sincerely and bitterly repented of it, and would be, if released, a perfectly harmless member of the community, such a man, according to the theory we are now discussing, should be released at once. The certainty that the public conscience would tolerate no such step shows that punishment has a wider object than the mere attainment of social security.

Punishment is only a means say some; its real end is the reformation of the offender. The practical application of such a principle would lead to very astonishing results. It is perfectly well known that there is no more incorrigible set of offenders than habitual vagrants and drunkards. And on the other hand, the most easily reformed of all offenders is often some person who has committed a serious crime under circumstances which could not possibly recur. According to the theory that reformation is the only end of punishment, petty offenders would be shut up all their lives, while the perpetrator of a grave crime would soon be set free. An absurd result of this kind is fatal to the pretention that punishment is merely a means and not also an end.

Is it the end of punishment to act as a deterrent? We are often told from the judicial bench that a man receives a certain sentence as a warning and example to others. If such is the end of punishment it lamentably fails in its purpose, for in a number of cases it neither deters the offender nor the class from which the offender springs. It was under the influence of this idea that criminals used to be hanged in public, but experience failed to show that these ghastly exhibitions had much deterrent effect on the community. Besides, it is rather ridiculous to say, I do not punish you for the crime you have committed, I punish you as a warning to others. In these circumstances the effect of punishment is not to be upon the person punished, but upon a third party who has not fallen into crime. Unless the punishment is just in itself, society has no right to inflict it in the hope of scaring others from criminal courses. Justice administered in this spirit, turns the convicted offender into a whipping boy; the punishment ceases to be related to the offence, and is merely related to the effect it will have on a certain circle of spectators.

In our view, punishment ought to be regarded as at once an expiation and a discipline, or, in other words, an expiatory discipline. This definition includes all that is valuable in the theories just reviewed, and excludes all that is imperfect in them. The criminal is an offender against the fundamental order of society in somewhat the same way as a disobedient child is an offender against the centre of authority in the home or the school. The punishment inflicted on the child may take the form of revenge, or it may take the form of retribution, or it may take the form of deterrence, but it undoubtedly takes its highest form when it combines expiation with discipline. Punishment of this nature still remains punitive as it ought to do, but it is at the same time a kind of punishment from which something may be learned. It does not merely consist in inflicting pain, although the presence of this element is essential to its efficacy; it consists rather in inflicting pain in such a way as will tend to discipline and reform the character. Such a conception of punishment excludes the barbarous element of vengeance; it is based upon the civilised ideas of justice and humanity, or rather upon the sentiment of justice alone, for justice is never truly just except when its tendency is also to humanise.

"Sine caritate justicia Vindicationi similis."

From the theory of punishment let us now turn to its methods. The most severe of these is the penalty of death. A great deal has been said and written both for and against the retention of this form of punishment. To set forth the arguments on both sides in a fair and adequate manner would require a volume; it must, therefore, suffice to say that in the field of controversy the contest between the opposing parties is a fairly even one. In fact, looking at the matter from a purely polemical point of view, the advocates of the death penalty have probably the best of it. It has, however, to be remembered that such questions are not solved by battalions of abstract arguments, but by the slow, silent, invisible action of public sentiment. The way in which this impalpable sentiment is moving on the question of the death penalty may be seen, first, in the manner in which crime after crime during the present century has been excluded from the supreme sentence of the law, and secondly, in the steady diminution of capital executions throughout the civilised world. If the present drift of feeling continues for another generation or two it is not at all improbable, in spite of temporary reactions here and there, that the question of capital punishment will have solved itself.

Another form of punishment is transportation. As far as Great Britain is concerned, transportation possesses only a historic interest. No one is now sent out of the country for offences against the law. Experience showed that penal colonies were a failure, and that the truly criminal could be more effectively dealt with at home. Within recent years the French have resorted to the system of transportation; but, according to several eminent French authorities, the penal settlement in New Caledonia is hardly justifying the anticipations of its founders.

Penal servitude has taken the place of transportation in Great Britain. Every person sentenced to a term of five years and over undergoes what is called penal servitude. The sentence is divided into three stages. In the first stage the offender passes nine months of his sentence in one of the local prisons in solitary confinement. In the next stage he is allowed to work in association with other prisoners; and in the last stage he is conditionally released before his sentence has actually expired. If a prisoner conducts himself well, if he shows that he is industrious, he will be released at the expiration of about three fourths of his sentence. If, on the other hand, he is idle and ill-conducted, he will have to serve the full term.

During the first nine months of his confinement the convict sentenced to penal servitude is treated in exactly the same way as a person sentenced to a month's imprisonment; the only difference being that he is provided with better food. During the period of detention in a Public Work's Prison the convict may, if well-conducted, pass through five progressive stages; each of these stages confers some privileges which the one below it does not possess. The first stage of all is called the Probation Class. In this, as well as in every succeeding class, a man's industry is measured by a process called the Mark system. This system is somewhat similar to the method adopted for rewarding industry in our public schools. In those schools a boy's diligence is recognised by his receiving so many marks per day, and he would be an ideal pupil who received the maximum number of marks. In convict prisons, on the other hand, the maximum number of marks, which is eight per day, can easily be earned by any person willing to do an average day's work. If a convict earns the maximum number of marks per day for three months he is promoted at the end of that time out of the Probation Class into a higher stage called the Third Class. He must remain in the third class for at least a year; while in this class he is permitted to receive a visit and to write and receive a letter every six months. He is also rewarded at the rate of a penny for every 20 marks, which enables him to earn twelve shillings in the course of the year.

After the expiration of one year in the Third Class the prisoner, if he has regularly earned eight marks a day, is advanced to the Second Class. In this stage he can receive a visit and write and receive a letter every four months. He is allowed a little choice in the selection of his breakfast; the value attached to his marks is also increased, and he is able in the Second Class to earn 18 shillings a year. At the termination of a year, if a prisoner continues his habits of industry, he is promoted to the First Class. Persons whose education is defective are not permitted to enter the First Class, unless they have also made progress in schooling. In the First Class a man is allowed to receive a visit and to write and receive a letter every three months. He is also given additional privileges in the choice of food. In the First Class he can earn 30 shillings a year.

Above the First Class is a Special Class composed of men whose conduct has been specially exemplary. Men may be admitted into this class 12 months before their liberation; they may also be placed in positions of trust and responsibility in connection with the prison, and are able to earn a gratuity amounting to six pounds. Such men are, as a matter of course, liberated at the expiration of three fourths of their sentence, which means that a term of five years' penal servitude is reduced to somewhat under four years.

For female convicts all these rules are modified and mitigated. Isolation is not so strictly enforced; a female may be liberated at the expiration of two thirds of her sentence; she may also earn four pounds instead of three, which is the highest sum men can receive, except the limited number in the Special Class. Corresponding to the Special Class of male convicts, there is among the females what is called a Refuge Class. Well-conducted women undergoing their first term of penal servitude are placed in this class, and nine months before the date on which they are due for discharge on ordinary licence, that is to say, nine months before they have finished two thirds of their sentence, they are released from prison and placed in some Home for females. Two Homes which receive prisoners of this class are the Elizabeth Fry Refuge and the London Preventive and Reformatory Institution. These Homes receive ten shillings a week for the care of each inmate confided to them by the State, and the time spent there is used as a gradual course of preparation for the re-entrance of these unfortunate people into ordinary life. According to this method females, after a prolonged period of imprisonment, are not thrown all of a sudden upon the world; they re-enter it by slow and imperceptible stages, and are thus enabled to commence life afresh under hopeful and salutary conditions.

Male convicts on their release from penal servitude are, if they desire it, assisted to obtain employment by Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies. The way in which assistance is rendered by the Royal Society, Charing Cross, which may be considered as a type of most of these societies, is as follows:—

"The convicts on their discharge are accompanied to the office of the Society by a warder in plain clothes. They are there received by the Secretary and the member of the Committee who, according to a fixed rota, attends daily for this purpose. The first step is to give them a plentiful breakfast of white bread, bacon and hot coffee. When this is finished they are invited to come forward and state their hopes and intentions as to the future. Full particulars of the nature of the crime, the sentence, and the antecedents of the convict have been previously received from the prison, and this information is, of course, of the greatest value as a guide to dealing with the particular case. After friendly discussion with the convict at one or more interviews, and further inquiry, if need be, by the officers of the Society, the course to be taken in each case is decided upon and carried out as soon as possible, either by the officers of the Society or through other agency. In cases of emigration and other cases where it is advisable, the gratuities received from Government are supplemented by donations from the funds of the Society; and, if not already supplied by the prison authorities, a respectable suit of clothes of a character fitted for the work on which the recipient is to be employed is provided.

"The cases of men or women who elect to remain in or near the Metropolis are usually dealt with directly by members of the Committee and officers of the Society; others prefer to seek work for themselves; but, meanwhile, respectable lodgings are provided till work is obtained. Others who prefer a sea life are sent to the care of agents until ships can be found for them—a few selected cases are sent abroad." In the case of persons proceeding to seek work at a distance from London, the Royal Society communicates with Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies in the country, and these Societies take such cases in hand.

Another admirable Society for dealing with discharged convicts is the St Giles' Mission, Brook St. Holborn. This Society provides a home for the person whose sentence has expired; it is managed by a man (Mr. Wheatley) possessed of an unsurpassed knowledge of the work; and it is year by year rendering effective service to the convict population. Some idea of the work accomplished by Societies such as those just mentioned may be gathered from the fact that about two thirds of the discharged convicts are annually passing through their hands; the other third declining or not requiring assistance by such methods. What is wanted to perfect the working of the institutions we are now describing is increased public support; even now the Royal Society was able to state in one of its reports, "that no discharged convict, who is physically capable and willing to work, has any excuse for relapsing into crime."

This brief sketch of the manner in which a sentence of penal servitude is carried into effect will afford some idea of the nature of this method of punishment. We shall now proceed to describe another mode of dealing with offenders against the fundamental order of society. In addition to convict establishments there exists throughout the United Kingdom a large number of places of confinement called Local Prisons. In England and Wales there are about sixty Local Prisons; in Scotland there are about twenty; in Ireland there are about eighteen. In Scotland and Ireland persons sentenced to a few days' imprisonment are often confined in police cells, in England all convicted offenders serve their sentence, however short, in a regular Local Prison.

Before 1877 the Local Prisons of England and Scotland were under the control and administration of the County Magistrates, and almost every county had then its own prison. One of the chief defects of this system was the multiplication of prisons; one of its chief virtues was that local power kept alive local interest in a way which is impossible with highly centralised machinery. Where prisons are small and numerous, as was to some extent the case under the old system, it is difficult to conduct them so economically; on the other hand, the herding of great masses of criminals together in huge establishments is not without corresponding evils. It is now being pointed out by specialists on the Continent and in America that huge prisons destroy the individuality of the prisoner; his own personality is lost amid the hundreds who surround him; he sinks into the position of a mere unit, and is obliged to be treated as such by the officials in charge of him. Under such a system it becomes almost impossible to individualise prisoners; there is no time for it; as a result, the influence of reformative agencies descends to a minimum and only the punitive side of justice comes home to the offender. At one time the value of Reformatory Schools was seriously impaired by herding too many lads together under one roof; it is now seen that the success of these institutions is marred by making them too large; it is accepted as an established maxim that the smaller the school the better the results. The same principle holds true with respect to prisons.

When the County Magistrates were deprived of their powers by the last government of Lord Beaconsfield, these powers were in England vested in the Home Secretary; in Scotland they were latterly vested in the Secretary for Scotland; in Ireland they are vested in the Chief Secretary. Under each of these Parliamentary heads there is a body called the Prison Commissioners or Prison Board. These Commissioners are centred in London for England; in Edinburgh for Scotland; in Dublin for Ireland. Under them is a body of Prison Inspectors, and last of all there comes the actual working staff of the Local Prisons, consisting of warders, schoolmasters, clerks, governors, chaplains, and doctors.

Wherein does the Local Prison system as worked by this staff differ from the system in operation in convict prisons? Perhaps the difference will be best expressed by saying that work in association is the centre of the convict system, while work in solitude is the central idea of the Local Prison system. This definition is not absolutely correct, for convicts, as we have seen, are subjected to nine months' solitary confinement at the outset of their sentence, and in some Local Prisons a certain amount of work in common is performed, but, taken as a whole, work in common is the central principle of the one; work in solitude the central principle of the other.

Work in solitude means that the prisoner is shut up in an apartment by himself which is called his cell. Each cell is provided with an adequate supply of air and light, and is heated in the winter up to a sufficiently high temperature for health and comfort. The cell contains a bed and other personal requisites; it also contains a copy of the prison rules. Before the prisoner is finally allocated to a certain cell he is seen by all the superior officers of the prison. His state of health is inquired into, so as to determine the nature of his work, and if he is not too old to learn, and has received a sentence of sufficient length to make it worth while instructing him, his educational capabilities are specially tested. The seclusion of the cell is varied by a short service in the prison chapel every morning and an hour's exercise in the forenoon. It is further varied in the case of young boys by daily attendance at the prison school.

The cellular system is an application of the old monastic system to the treatment of criminals. The first cellular prison was built in Rome by Pope Clement XI. at the commencement of the eighteenth century; its design was taken from a monastery. The idea passed from Rome to the Puritans of Pennsylvania; and it has now taken root in all parts of the civilised world. The believers in the cellular system say that it prevents prisoners from contaminating each other; it prevents the hardened criminal from getting hold of the comparative novice; according to this system, although the offender is in a prison, the only persons he is permitted to speak to are those whose lives are free from crime. A prison system which has the negative value of hindering men from becoming worse is worthy of high consideration, and if the chief object of imprisonment is the punishment of criminals the cellular system will not be easily surpassed. On the other hand, if the purpose of imprisonment is not only to punish but also to prepare the offender for the duties of society, the system of solitary confinement will not effectually accomplish this task. On this point let me refer to the words of M. Prins, the eminent Director General of Belgian prisons: "Can we teach a man sociability," he says, "by giving him a cell only, that is to say, the opposite of social life, by taking away from him the very appearance of moral discipline; by regulating from morning till night the smallest details of his day, all his movements and all his thoughts? Is not this to place him outside the conditions of existence, and to unteach him that liberty for which we pretend he is being prepared?... Assuredly, let us not forget that prisons contain incorrigible and corrupt recidivists, the residuum of large towns who must undoubtedly be isolated from other men; but they also contain offenders resembling in great part men of their own class living outside.... If it was a question of making these men good scholars, good workmen, good soldiers, should we accept the method of prolonged cellular isolation? And how can that which is condemned by the experience of ordinary life become useful on the day some tribunal pronounces a sentence of imprisonment? The physiological and moral inconveniences of prolonged solitude are evident in other ways; and attempts are made to combat them by great humanity in external things. So much is this the case, that for fear of being cruel to the good, the bad are also pampered by an exaggerated philanthropy which reaches absurd heights."

A compromise between the absolute seclusion of the cellular system, and the system of free association, is now being advocated by some students of prison discipline. Prisoners, it is contended, should be carefully classified according to their previous character and the nature of their offence, and also according to the disposition they manifest in prison. Prisoners sentenced to a term of imprisonment ranging from three months to two years should during the first three months remain in solitary confinement for purposes of observation as to diligence and character. At the end of that period a man, if he showed fitness for it, would be placed in association during his working hours, and in his cell during the remainder of the day. In this way his social instincts would not be so completely stifled as they are at present; he would not be so entirely left to the vacuity of his own mind; he would not be so readily led to the indulgence of disgusting vices ruinous to body and mind. In countries where prisons are on a large scale such a system as this might easily be adopted, and it would, if properly managed, be productive of beneficial results. In small prisons it would be applicable on a limited scale, the smallness of the prison population preventing proper classification.

But all prison systems, however excellent in theory, are comparatively useless unless conducted in an enlightened spirit by competent and sagacious officials. The best of systems if worked, as sometimes happens, by a mere martinet, with no horizon beyond insisting on the letter of official regulations, will be productive of no good whatever, and, on the other hand, an indifferent system will achieve excellent results with a competent person at the head of it. This was admirably pointed out by the head of the Danish Prison Department at the Stockholm Prison Congress. "Give me," he said, "the best possible regulations and a bad director, and you will have no success. But give me a good director, and, even with mediocre regulations, I will answer for it that everything will go on marvellously." In a recent handbook on prison management by Herr Krohne, an eminent prison director in the German service, the qualifications requisite for successful prison work are clearly laid down.

The successful management of a prison, he says, "demands special knowledge and ability. This knowledge should first of all consist in a comprehensive general education, so that the head of a prison may be able to form a competent opinion in all those branches of knowledge which bear upon the punishment of crime. He thus stands on a footing of equality with his subordinates. If he is deficient in this knowledge he will not be able to carry out the sentences of the law efficiently, and the maintenance of his official authority will be encumbered with difficulties. He must also possess an understanding of the economic and social causes of crime as well as of its individual causes. An understanding of its economic and social causes supposes that he should be acquainted with the principles of sociology and political economy; an understanding of its individual causes supposes that he should know something of psychology. The historical, philosophic, and legal aspects of criminal jurisprudence as well as its formal contents ought not to be unknown ground. In the domain of prison science he should be thoroughly at home. He ought to be acquainted with the historical development of punishment by imprisonment, as well as with the nature of the various prison systems in existence among modern civilised communities. He ought to have a clear understanding of the aim and object of imprisonment, and be thoroughly cognisant of the legal and administrative arrangements by which it is effected, more especially those of his own State. He should possess a competent knowledge of all matters and regulations bearing upon prison administration, so that his own arrangements may be based upon a ripened judgment.

"This knowledge in the head of a prison should show itself in his manner of dealing with prisoners. This task demands a high degree of pedagogic skill, and a force of character which is able, easily and quickly, to bend the will of others to his own. He should also possess the power of setting every branch of the administration to rights whenever anything happens to have gone wrong. He must have a quick eye for all that is being done; he must see everything; he must hear everything; nothing should escape him; and still he ought to leave independence and initiative to every officer in his own department. He should respect and bear with the individual characteristics of every officer, especially the superior officers, so that they may be able to perform their duties with pleasure. In this way all officers will be able to do their work in his spirit rather than according to his orders. In order to succeed in this, the head of a prison should consult with the other officials on all important matters; a daily conference is best for this purpose. He should hear and weigh their opinions even when the ultimate decision rests entirely in his hands. Above all he must understand how to keep peace among the officials, so that through their harmonious co-operation the objects of a prison may be more certainly attained.

"A good prison chief," Herr Krohne continues, "is not matured or educated, but discovered. On this account, the selection of persons ought not to be narrowed down to any definite class or profession. Experience has shown that able prison governors have been drawn from all callings; from the law, from public offices, from the army, from medicine, from the Church, from trade, from agriculture, from merchants and manufacturers. From each of these occupations a man may bring knowledge and ability which makes him suitable for the position. His preparatory studies will teach him much, but he will learn most from actual practice, and he will never finish learning, however experienced he may become. But the root of the matter which can never be taught is a heart for the miserable; a determination in spite of failures and disappointments to despair of no man and nothing."[46]

[46] Lehrbuch der Gefaengnishunde von K. Krohne Strafanstalts-director, pp. 534-6.

Italy up to the present time is almost the only country in which prison officers receive any preliminary training for their duties. As a result of this, it not infrequently happens, as Mr. Clay has shown, that an inexperienced person suddenly placed in absolute charge of a number of prisoners will in a few days destroy almost all the reformative work of months and perhaps years. The late Baron von Holtzendorff was of a similar opinion, holding that one man can in a short time undo the work of ten. So much has this been felt, that Dr. von Jageman and several other eminent prison authorities on the Continent maintain that no man should be placed in charge of prisoners till he has had some previous training in the nature of his duties. It has been truly pointed out that the value of imprisonment depends to an enormous extent on the qualifications of the person placed in immediate charge of the convicted men. Others are with them occasionally, he is with them all day long, and unless he comes to his task with a full knowledge of the delicate and difficult nature of the duties he has to perform, he will probably exercise a mischievous and irritating influence on the prisoners committed to his charge. On the other hand, a well-instructed officer can work wonders in the way of good, while insisting with inflexible firmness on the rules of discipline, he is able at the same time by tact and kindliness to diffuse a moralising atmosphere around him. Some men can do this by instinct, but the majority require to be taught; it is therefore most essential that every person entrusted with the control of prisoners should have some previous theoretical instruction in his duties. After all, those who can do most real good to prisoners are the warders immediately in charge of them. Visits from persons outside who take an interest in the outcast and fallen, are, according to French experience, comparatively worthless.[47] These visits are well meant, but they are not paid by the class of people to which the prisoner as a rule belongs; the gulf between the visitor and the visited is too great for the establishment of that inner sympathy on which the permanent success of moralising efforts so greatly depends, and it is easy for such a visitor to do more harm than good. On the other hand, if you have a competent and well-instructed class of warders, if you have these men trained to regard their duties from an elevated point of view, you possess in them a body of men who are not separated from prisoners by impassable barriers; you have comparatively little in the way of social antecedents to estrange the prisoner from the person in charge of him: such being the case it is easy for the two men to understand each other, and is, therefore a relatively simple matter for the one to influence the other for good.

[47] Revue des Deux-Mondes, Avril, 15, 1887.

What is to be done with offenders when their term of punishment has expired? This is a question which modern society finds it exceedingly difficult to solve. What is the use of punishing a delinquent for offences against the law if, the moment his sentence is completed, he is sent back again into the surroundings which led to his fall. So long as his surroundings are the same, his acts will be the same, unless his mind has passed through a revolution during detention in gaol. The latter event, it must be admitted, sometimes does happen, although it is not easy in these days to get the world to believe it. And when it does happen it is marvellous to see how men, through their own unaided efforts, will redeem their character and wipe out the blot upon their life. But many offenders pass through little or no change of mind, and unless delivered from their surroundings they will continue to fall. Here, however, comes in the difficulty. Many of these people love their surroundings; they have no desire to change; a life of squalor among squalid companions is not distasteful to them; on the contrary, they will refuse to leave old haunts no matter what inducements are offered them elsewhere. It is hardly possible to do anything with these offenders, and they unfortunately constitute at least one fourth of the criminal population. Such persons return again and again to prisons; and the manager of an important Prisoners' Aid Society in a great northern city, says, that to aid them "is a mere waste of money, if not an encouragement to vice."[48] How to deal with persons of this description is a most tantalising problem. More vigorous methods of punishment are sometimes advocated as the proper manner of deterring these habitual and incorrigible offenders, but if we consider the constitution and antecedents of most of them, it becomes perfectly certain that such means will not effect the end in view. As a matter of fact, most of them are not adapted to the conditions of existence which prevail in a free society. Some of them might have passed through life fairly well in a more primitive stage of social development, as, for example, in the days of slavery or serfdom, but they are manifestly out of place in an age of unrestricted freedom, when a man may work or remain idle just as he chooses. A society based upon the principle of individual liberty is a society of which the members are supposed to be gifted with the virtues of prudence, industry, and self-control; virtues of this nature are indeed essential to the existence of such a form of society. Unfortunately, a certain portion of its members do not possess them even in an elementary degree, and no amount of seclusion in prison will ever confer these qualities upon them. Imprisonment, to be followed by liberty, however rigorous it is made, is accordingly no solution of the difficulty; the only effective way of dealing with the incorrigible vagrant, drunkard, and thief, is by some system of permanent seclusion in a penal colony. All men are not fitted for freedom, and so long as society acts on the supposition that they are, it will never get rid of the incorrigible criminal.

[48] At a recent meeting of the Statistical Society, Mr. Murray Browne gave some interesting information respecting the work of Prisoners' Aid Societies among habitual offenders. "A question," he said, "had been addressed to all Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies asking what was their experience with regard to prisoners who had been four times arrested but not sentenced to penal servitude, and had been arrested during a given period, say a year. How many of them has turned out (a) satisfactory, (b) unsatisfactory, (c) re-convicted? Detailed replies were received from fifteen different societies, not all working in the same way, or with the same machinery, giving a total of 253 such cases. Of these only 95 were reported as satisfactory, 55 were reported as unsatisfactory, 66 were re-convicted, 37 being unknown or unaccounted for."

It has also to be remembered that a considerable proportion of incorrigible offenders are not only mentally but also physically unfitted to earn their living in a free community. Almost always without a trade, and very often the children of diseased and degenerate parents, the only kind of work which they can turn to is rude manual labour, and this is exactly the kind of work they have not the requisite physical strength to perform. It is only in skilled trades that the physically weak have a chance at all, and if a feeble person is not a skilled artisan he will, unless possessed of superior mental gifts, find it rather a hard matter to earn a comfortable livelihood. Should it be the case that such a person is below the average in body and mind, to earn a livelihood becomes almost an impossibility. Now, this is exactly the position of many habitual criminals, and more especially of that large class of them which is being continually convicted and reconvicted of petty offences. What can be said of them, except to repeat that they are unfit to take a part in working the modern industrial machine; what can be done with them except to seclude them in such a way that they will be no longer able to injure those who can work it.

Outside the ranks of the incorrigible and incapable there exists a large class of offenders who are perfectly able to earn a honest living in the world. In many cases it happens that such men require no assistance on their liberation from prison; they can resume work immediately their sentence has expired. All that is needed is to send them back to the district they were tried in, and this is what is always done if a man cannot reach his destination by mid-day on the morning of his liberation. But in a certain number of cases discharged prisoners require more than this; they require tools, or clothes, or property redeemed from pledge, or a lodging, or to be sent a long distance home, or to be emigrated. In each and all of these cases, persons who are not incorrigible criminals are assisted to the best of their ability and the extent of their funds by Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies. One or more of these admirable institutions is attached to every Local Prison, and every year a vast amount of quiet, conscientious work is performed. These societies are voluntary agencies formed for the relief of discharged prisoners. Their funds are derived partly from private subscriptions and donations, partly from ancient bequests, and partly from a small sum annually voted by Parliament. They are conducted on the most economic principles, the gentlemen who form the committee or who act as secretaries and treasurers being mostly magistrates and men of substance, who gladly give their time and services for nothing. The only person who has to be paid is an agent whose duty it is to see that the recommendations of the committee with respect to assisting the discharged prisoners are carried into effect.

A glance at the work of one of these societies will be the best way of forming a conception of their usefulness as a whole. For this purpose let us select the Surrey and South London Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society. In the prison in which the work of this excellent society is conducted, 17 per cent. of the prison population applied for aid in 1887, and 10 per cent. were assisted, the 7 per cent. refused assistance were habitual offenders, and had often been previously helped. Of the number assisted, consisting of 969 persons, 54 were sent to sea, 2 were assisted to emigrate, 913 were assisted in the way of redemption of tools, purchase of stock, purchase of clothing, and so on. In 1888, 929 persons were assisted, 54 were sent to sea, 4 were helped to emigrate, and 871 aided in other ways. In 1889, assistance was rendered in 1009 cases of these 36 were sent to sea, and 973 otherwise aided. The average cost per head of sending cases to sea is three pounds, fourteen shillings; the average cost in other cases is half a guinea.

What is being done by the Surrey Society is only a sample of the assistance rendered to discharged prisoners all over England. It ought also to be stated that some of these Aid Societies undertake to look after the destitute families of persons committed to prison, and cases innumerable might be mentioned in which prisoners' wives and children have been assisted and kept out of the workhouse until the release of the bread-winner. Other societies again provide permanent homes for destitute offenders on their discharge from prison. All that is required of persons making use of those homes is, that they shall earn as much as will cover a portion of the expense of providing them with food and shelter. For this purpose work is always provided for them, or if they prefer it, they may find occupation outside and make the home a sort of temporary resting-place. It is hardly necessary to add that Prisoners' Aid Societies could effect much more if they were better supported by the public. The organisation is there; the men to work it are there; the only impediment to their labours is a lack of funds. If the possession of adequate funds enabled all the Prisoners' Aid Societies to establish Homes for discharged prisoners, those institutions might be made of the greatest service to the cause of justice generally. It would then be easy to get a return from them of the number of persons whose criminal life was due to sheer indolence, and magistrates would have far less hesitation in dealing with them than they do now. At the present time, it is sometimes difficult to know whether an offender is willing to work if he had the opportunity, but the existence of prisoners' homes would soon solve the question. Reference to a man's record in one of these institutions would at once place the magistrate in full possession of the facts, and he would be able to give judgment with a knowledge of the offender he does not now possess. In this way many cruel mistakes might be avoided; and, on the other hand, many hardened offenders dealt with in a more effective manner.

The difficulty sometimes encountered by discharged prisoners in finding employment, as well as many other evils inseparable from imprisonment, has, in recent years, led an increasing number of jurists to the conclusion that every other method of punishment should, when the case at all admits of it, be exhausted before the gaol is resorted to. "The very first principle of enlightened penology," says Mayhew, "is to endeavour to keep people out of prison as long as possible, rather than thrust them into it for the most trivial offences." In many instances it is quite sufficient punishment for a first offender in a petty case to be publicly rebuked in the police court. Such a rebuke preceded, as it generally is, by a night's confinement in the police cells, is just as effective as a deterrent and far less likely to do permanent harm than a sentence of imprisonment. It was something of this kind which Bacon had in view, when he says, respecting criminal courts: "Let there be power also to inflict a note or mark; such, I mean, as shall not extend to actual punishment, but may end either in admonition only, or in a light disgrace; punishing the offender as it were with a blush."[49] A certain amount of progress has been made of late in this direction, but there is still ample room for more. On the other hand, experience has shown that light punishments are of no avail against habitual offenders. For the last few years this system has been in operation in the borough of Liverpool, with the result that the number of known thieves apprehended for indictable crimes has almost doubled within a comparatively short period. According to the Chief Constable's Report, the numbers were, in—

1885 1886 1887 1888 1889 377 470 533 596 731

These figures show that habitual criminals will not be deterred by light sentences, but rather emboldened in their sinister career.

[49] De Augmentis VIII. Aphorism 40.




Form suggested by Herr Krohne to be filled up by the police or other agency respecting prisoners for trial.

1. BIRTH. Place? County? Country? Date? Legitimate? or illegitimate?

2. UPBRINGING. By parents? By others? In a public institution?

3. SCHOOLING. School attendance, regular or not? Knowledge, Extent of? Confirmed, or not? Religious belief?

4. OCCUPATION. What trade? Served Apprenticeship, or not?

5. MILITARY TRAINING. Whether served? and where?

6. IMPRISONMENTS. How many? In Local Prisons? In Penal Servitude? Other Punishments?

7. PARENTAGE. Name? Abode? Occupation? Alive or Dead? Cause of death? Suicide? Temperate, or not? Imprisoned, or not? Were Parents related?

8. BROTHERS AND SISTERS. Name? Age? Abode? Occupation? How many dead? and of what diseases? Suicide? Imprisoned, or not? Temperate, or not?

9. MEANS OF LIVING. With or Without? Destitute? A Pauper? A Beggar?

10. INDIVIDUAL CHARACTERISTICS. Character? Temperament? Mental Capacity? Habits? Drunken or other? Indolent?

11. MENTAL AND BODILY STATE. (a) Fits or Convulsions in Childhood, Epilepsy, St. Vitus Dance, or other nervous diseases? Insanity? Scrofula? Tuberculosis? (b) Mental and bodily state of near relations same as above?

12. MARRIED. Maiden name of wife? Imprisoned? If Children; How many? Age, and state of Health? How many dead? Of what Disease? Any imprisoned? The Home good, or bad?


Growth of Reformatory and Industrial School Population in England and Scotland.

Industrial Schools Day Year Reformatory (Including Truant Industrial Schools. Schools). Schools.

1859 3,276 1860 3,702 1861 4,133 1862 4,283 1863 4,302 1864 4,286 1,668 1865 4,508 1,952 1866 4,798 2,462 1867 5,110 3,802 1868 5,320 5,562 1869 5,480 6,974 1870 5,433 8,280 1871 5,419 9,421 1872 5,575 10,185 1873 5,621 11,012 1874 5,688 11,409 1875 5,615 11,776 1876 5,634 12,555 1877 5,935 13,494 1878 5,963 14,106 1879 5,975 14,847 287 1880 5,927 15,136 1,005 1881 6,738 16,955 1,493 1882 6,601 17,614 1,692 1883 6,557 18,780 2,083 1884 6,360 19,483 1,876 1885 6,241 20,250 2,324 1886 6,272 20,668 2,444 1887 6,127 20,940 2,622 1888 5,984 21,426 2,783 1889 5,940 21,059 3,197


Return showing the number of Prisoners committed to the Local Prisons of England and Wales in each Month of the Year ended 31st March, 1890.

Month. Males. Females. Total.

1889. April 10,701 3,401 14,102 May 11,777 4,123 15,900 June 9,977 3,717 13,694 July 11,499 4,171 15,670 August 10,894 3,965 14,859 September 11,113 4,088 15,201 October 11,670 4,245 15,915 November 10,615 3,777 14,392 December 9,154 3,157 12,311 1890. January 9,993 3,154 13,147 February 8,990 3,037 12,027 March 10,052 3,196 13,248 - Total 126,435 44,031 170,466


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