Criminal Sociology
by Enrico Ferri
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advocates of severity, and those whom I will call the
"laxativists,'' virtually think (apart from a few platonic
statements) only of punishments as remedies of offences, we on the
other hand believe that punishments are merely secondary
instruments of social self-defence, and remedies ought to be
adapted to the actual factors of the offence. And since the
social factors are most capable of modification, so we say with
Prins that "for social evils we require social cures.''

M. Tarde, then, was not quite accurate in his remark that my
conviction as to the very slight efficacy of punishments is a mere
consequence of my ideas on the anthropological and physical
character of crime, and that, "on the contrary, the
preponderating importance which he has assigned to the social
causes logically debars him from accepting this conclusion.'' As
a matter of fact, punishment regarded as a psychological motive so
far as it is a legal deterrent, and as a physical motive so far as
it implies the confinement of the person condemned, would more
naturally belong, in abstract logic, to the biological and
physical theory of crime. Whereas it is precisely because I
recognise the influence of social environment, in addition, that
experimental logic convinces me that punishment is not an
efficacious remedy of crime, unless forces are applied beforehand
to neutralise, or at any rate to counteract, the social factors of

And if this is not a new conclusion, as one of our critics
observes by way of reproach—as though it were not one of the
characteristics of truth to repeat itself persistently, however
much it may be forgotten or even opposed—we must nevertheless
remark that it is now repeated with a mass of new observations and
definite applications, which give it a force unknown to mere
logical deductions.

The classical school has concerned itself simply with mitigation
of punishment as compared with mediaeval excess; and for this
reason, because every age has its own mission, it could not also
concern itself with the prevention of crimes, which is far more
useful and efficacious. A few isolated thinkers, it is true,
wrote a few bold and far-reaching pages on preventive methods in
opposition to the numerous volumes on punishment; but their words
had no effect upon criminalists and legislators, because science
had not yet undertaken the positive and methodical observation of
the natural factors of crime.

I will confine myself to a few examples, in order to show that
amongst practical men, as amongst public officials and
legislators, the illusion that punishments are the true panacea of
crime is always predominant.

Practical men declare that "the prohibitive penal law ought to be
regarded as the first and most important of preventive laws.''
The prefets in their circulars, being concerned about the
increase of crime, put forward the most vigilant and severe
repression as a sovereign remedy. A counsellor of the French Cour
de Cassation writes that "in a worthy system of social police
there is no better guarantee for order and safety than
intimidation.'' The Keeper of the Seals, in his report on French
penal statistics for 1876, speaking of the continued increase of
indecent assaults, comes to the conclusion that "in any case,
only firm and energetic repression can avail against a lamentable
increase of crimes against morality.'' And more recently another
Keeper of the Seals ended his report on the statistics of 1826 to
1880 by observing that "the growth of crime can only be opposed
by an incessantly vigorous repression.'' M. Tarde agreed with
this conclusion, saying that "if crimes are only, as has been
said, railway accidents of a society travelling at full speed, it
must not be forgotten that, the faster the train, the stronger
must be the brake . . . and it is certain that such a state of
affairs demands an increase or a new departure of repression and

It may be admitted that our conclusion is not a novelty; but, as
Stuart Mill said, there are two ways of effecting useful
innovations, to discover what was not known before, or else to
repeat with new demonstrations the truths which had been

And this illusion as to the influence of punishments is so
widespread that it is well to inquire into its historic and
psychological arguments; for, as Spencer says, in order to decide
as to the value of an idea, it is useful to examine its genealogy.

We may pass by the foundation of primitive vengeance, which from
the age of private combats passed into the spirit and form of the
earliest penal laws, and still subsists as a more or less
unconscious and enfeebled residuum in modern society. We may also
pass by the hereditary effect of the traditions of mediaeval
severity, which excite an instinctive sympathy for stern
punishment in connection with every crime.

But one of the main reasons of this tendency is an error of
psychological perspective, whereby men have forgotten the profound
differences of the ideas, habits, and sentiments of the various
social strata, concerning which I have spoken above. Through this
forgetfulness the honest and instructed classes confound their own
idea of the penal law, and the impression it makes upon them, with
the idea and the impression of the social classes from which the
majority of criminals are recruited. This has been remarked upon
by Beccaria, Carmignani, and Holtzendorff amongst the classical
criminalists, and by Lombroso and others of the new school who
have studied the slang and literature of criminals, which are
their psychological mirror. Again, it is forgotten that for the
higher classes, apart from their physical and moral repugnance
against crime, which is the most powerful repelling force, there
is the fear of public opinion, almost unknown amongst the classes
which have stopped short at a lower stage of human

For the higher classes one example may suffice. It is the fact
observed upon by Mr. Spencer, that gambling debts and Stock
Exchange bargains are scrupulously discharged, though for them
there is neither penal obligation nor evidence in writing. And it
may be added that imprisonment for debt never promoted the
fulfilment of contracts, nor has its abolition discouraged it.

As for the lower classes, one visit to a prison suffices. There,
if you ask a prisoner why the punishment did not deter him from
the crime, you generally get no answer, because he has never
thought about it. Or else he replies, as I have often found, that
"if you were afraid of hurting yourself when you went to work,
you would give up working.'' These indeed are what one would
expect to be the feelings prevailing amongst the lower social
strata, to whom honest sentiments and ideas, which for us are
traditional and organic, come very late—just as Mr. Stanley
observed that the people in Central Africa are only now beginning
to employ stone guns, which in past ages were used in Europe.

Another fallacy which helps to strengthen confidence in
punishments is that the effect of exceptional and summary laws is
treated on the same basis as that of the ordinary codes, slow and
uncertain in their procedure, which saps all their force by the
chance of immunity, and the interval between the unlawful act and
its legal consequence.

Lombroso and Tarde, indeed, have confronted me with
historic examples of vigorous and even savage repressions, whereby
it was possible to stamp out some epidemic crime. But these
examples are not conclusive, for I have shown that, as soon as
these exceptional repressions were at an end, as, for instance,
after the death of Pope Sixtus V., brigandage and other crimes
were persistently renewed. But my main rejoinder is this, that
these exceptional repressions depend upon the jus belli; and
therefore cannot enter into the ordinary and constant methods of
penal administration. This may not have the effect of an
extraordinary repression, secured by a somewhat unscrupulous
promptitude, which strikes innocent and guilty alike; and thus it
is impossible to treat as equal, or even to compare, the influence
of methods which are essentially different.

Another false comparison is drawn between the effective force of
various punishments, and their potentiality is confounded, whereas
it is necessary to distinguish the punishment of the written code
from that of the judge, and still more from that carried into
execution. In fact it is only natural that punishment should more
or less terrify the criminal who has been judged and is about to
be condemned; but this in no way proves its efficacy, which should
have been displayed by the menace of the law in guarding the
prisoner against the crime. Even with the death penalty, there
are many instances of condemned persons who, through congenital
insensibility, submit to it cynically. Moreover, for such as have
been overwhelmed with terror when the moment of execution arrived,
the utmost that this fact can prove is that they are so
constituted as to give themselves up completely to the impression
of the moment, without the energy to resist it. In other words,
so long as the punishment is distant and uncertain, they were not
terrified, but having always yielded to the impression of the
moment, they yielded to the criminal impulse.

For other punishments, also, it is known that punitive methods,
even when not contrary to the law, as they sometimes are in Italy,
are always less stern than simple folk imagine when they read the
codes and the sentences. And criminals naturally judge of
punishments by their own experience, that is to say, in accordance
with their practical application, and not with the more or less
candid threats of the lawmaker.

If we add to vindictive feeling, historic traditions, oblivion of
bio-psychic differences of the social strata, the confounding of
exceptional laws and ordinary punishments, and of the varying
effective force of punishment, the attitude of the public mind and
the natural tendency of criminalists to think only of their two
syllogistic symbols of crime and punishment—if we further add the
easy-going idea of the multitude, that the inscribing of a law in
the statute-book is a sufficient remedy for social diseases, we
can readily understand how this exaggerated and illusory
confidence in punishment is so persistent, and crops up in every
theoretical or practical discussion, in spite of the strong
refutation which is daily afforded by facts and psychological

All human actions, like the actions of animals, are developed
between the two opposite poles of pleasure and pain, by the
attraction of the former and the repulsion of the latter. And
punishment, which is one of the social forms of pain, is always a
direct motive in human conduct, as it is also an indirect guide,
by virtue of its being a sanction of justice, unconsciously
strengthening respect for the law. But still this psychological
truth, whilst it demonstrates the natural character of punishment,
and the consequent absurdity of abolishing it as absolutely void
of efficacy, does not destroy our conclusion as to the slight
efficacy of punishment as a counteraction of crime.

We have only to distinguish between punishment as a natural
sanction and punishment as a social sanction in order to see how
the really great power of natural punishment almost entirely
disappears in social punishment, which in all our systems is but a
sorry caricature.

The mute but inexorable reaction of nature against every action
which infringes her laws, and the grievous consequences which
inevitably follow for the man who has infringed them, constitute a
repression of the most efficacious kind, wherein every man,
especially in the earlier years of his life, receives daily and
never to be forgotten lessons. This is the discipline of natural
consequence, which is a genuine educational method, long since
pointed out by Rousseau, and developed by Spencer and Bain.

But in this natural and spontaneous form, the punishment derives
its whole force from the inevitable character of the consequences.
And it is one of the few observations of practical psychology
which have been made and repeated by the classical students
of crime, that in punishment, and especially the punishment of
death, the certainty is more effectual than the severity. And I
will add that even a small uncertainty takes away from a pain
which we fear, much of its repelling force, whereas even a great
uncertainty does not destroy the attraction of a pleasure which we
are hoping for.

Here, then, we have a primary and potent cause of the slight
efficacy of legal punishments, in the picturing of the many
chances of escape. First there is the chance of not being
detected, which is the most powerful spring of all contemplated
crime: then the chance, in case of detection, that the evidence
will not be strong enough, that the judges will be merciful, or
will be deceived, that judgment may be averted amidst the
intricacies of the trial, that clemency may either reverse or
mitigate the sentence. These are so many psychological causes
which, conflicting with the natural fear of unpleasant
consequences, weaken the repellent force of legal punishment,
whilst they are unknown to natural punishment.

There is also another psychological condition which, undermining
even the force of natural punishment, almost entirely destroys the
power of social punishment; and that is improvidence. We see, in
fact, that even the most certain natural consequences are defied,
and lose most of their power to guard an improvident man from
anti-natural and dangerous actions. Now in regard to legal
punishment, even apart from passionate impulse, it is known that
criminals, occasional and other, are specially improvident, in
common with savages and children. This weakness is
conspicuous enough in the lower and less instructed classes, but
amongst criminals it is a genuine characteristic of psychological

Now, whilst a very slight force is sufficient to produce very
great and constant effects, when it acts in harmony with natural
tendency and environment, every process, on the other hand, which
is opposed to the natural tendencies of man, or which does not
follow them closely, encounters a resistance which triumphs in the
last resort.

Everyday life gives us many examples. The university student,
when he gambles, risks on a single card the last remnant of his
allowance, and prepares for himself a thousand privations. Miners
and workmen at dangerous trades refuse to take warning by the
sight of comrades whom they have seen dying or repeatedly attacked
by disease. M. Despine related that, during the cholera of 1866,
at Bilbao, there were some who set up an imitation of the disease
in order to obtain charitable relief, though in several cases
death ensued. M. Fayet, in an essay on the statistics of accused
persons in France, extending over twenty years, remarked that
specific and proportionately greater criminality was displayed by
notaries and bailiffs, who knew better than any one else the
punishments fixed by law. And in the statistics of capital
punishment at Ferrara, during nine centuries, I discovered the
significant fact that there is a succession of notaries executed
for forgery, frequently at very short intervals, in the same town.
This attests the truth of the observation made by Montesquieu and
Beccaria, as against the deterrent power of the death
penalty, for men grow accustomed to the sight; and this again is
confirmed by the fact mentioned by Mr. Roberts, a gaol chaplain,
and M. Berenger, a magistrate, that several condemned men had
previously been present at executions, and by another fact
mentioned by Despine and Angelucci, that in the same town, and
often in the same place, in which executions had been carried out,
murders are often committed on the same day.

A man does not change his identity; and no penal code, whether
mild or severe, can change his natural and invincible tendencies,
such as inclination to pleasure and persistent hope of impunity.

Let us also observe that, as Mill said, the permanent efficacy of
any measure in the spheres of politics, economy, and
administration, is always inversely proportional to its force and
suddenness. Now punishment does not stand the test even of this
sociological law, for in its essence it is only the primitive
reaction of force against force. It is true that, as Beccaria
said, the classical school has always aimed at rendering social
reaction against crime less violent; but that is not enough.
Henceforward, if we are to adapt ourselves to psychological and
sociological laws, the development of our defensive administration
must tend to render this social reaction less direct. If the
struggle for existence is always to remain the supreme law of
living creatures, yet it is not necessary that it should always be
developed in the violent forms of primitive humanity. On the
contrary, one of the results of social progress is to make the
struggle for existence less violent and less direct.

In the same way, the continuous struggle between society and
criminals, instead of being a physical and social force, directly
opposed to a physical individual force, should rather become an
indirect system of psychical forces. Penal law in society has the
same qualities as education in the family and pedagogy in schools.
All the three were once dominated by the idea of taming human
passions by force; the rod was supreme. In course of time it was
perceived that this produced unexpected results, such as violence
and hypocrisy, and then men thought fit to modify their
punishments. But in our own days schoolmasters see the advantage
of relying solely on the free play of tendencies and bio-
psychological laws. Similarly the defensive function of society,
as Romagnosi said, in place of being a physical and repressive
system, ought to be a moral and preventive system, based on the
natural laws of biology, psychology, and sociology.

Force is always a bad remedy for force. In the Middle Ages, when
punishments were brutal, crimes were equally savage; and society,
in demoralising rivalry with the atrocity of criminals, laboured
in a vicious circle. Now, in the lower social grades, the brutal
man, who often resorts to violence, is in his turn frequently the
victim of violence; so that, amongst criminals, a scar is somewhat
of a professional distinction.

To sum up, our doctrine as to the efficacy of punishments does not
consist, as some critics too sparing of their arguments have
maintained, in an absolute negation, but rather and especially in
objecting to the traditional prejudice that punishments are
the best and most effectual remedies of crime.

What we say is this. Punishment by itself, as a means of
repression, possesses a negative rather than a positive value; not
only because it has not the same influence on all anthropological
types of criminals, but also because its use is rather to preclude
the serious mischief which would result from impunity than to
convert, as some imagine that it can, an anti-social into a social
being. But impunity would lead to a demoralisation of the popular
conscience in regard to crimes and offences, to an increase of the
profound lack of foresight in criminals, and to the removal of the
present impediment to fresh crimes during the term of

It is the same with education, the modifying power of which is
commonly exaggerated. Education, though it has an enduring
influence on children, and is therefore more effectual than
punishment, is far more serviceable in eliminating anti-social
tendencies, whereof we all possess the germs, than in any supposed
creation of social tendencies and forces which were not present
from birth.

Thus, whilst the consequences of impunity and lack of education
are serious and mischievous, still this does not prove conversely
that punishment and education have in reality so positive an
influence as is commonly attributed to them.

It is precisely on the ground of this negative, yet real efficacy
of punishments, especially whilst they are being carried out,
that, whilst we appreciate the mitigation of punitive discipline
which has been achieved by the classical school, we
believe, on the other hand, that their abbreviation of the term of
punishments is altogether mistaken and dangerous. We admit that
punishment ought not to be an arbitrary and inhuman torture, and
for this reason we have no sympathy with the system of solitary
confinement, now so much in fashion with the classical jurists and
prison authorities, precisely because it is inhuman, as well as
unwise and needlessly expensive.

It is a psychological absurdity and a social danger, which
nevertheless underlies the new Italian penal code, that punishment
ought to consist more and more in a short isolation of the
prisoner. For, setting aside the well-known results of short
punishments, such as corruption and recidivism, it is evident that
in this way punishment is deprived of its main element of negative
efficiency against crime, as well as of its effect in preventing
crime during the incarceration of the criminal.


Since punishments, instead of being the simple panacea of crime
which popular opinion, encouraged by the opinions of classical
writers on crime and of legislators, imagine them, are very
limited in their deterrent influence, it is natural that the
criminal sociologist should look for other means of social defence
in the actual study of crimes and of their natural origin.

We are taught by the everyday experience of the family, the
school, associations of men and women, and the history of social
life, that in order to lessen the danger of outbreaks of passion
it is more useful to take them in their origin, and in flank, than
to meet them when they have gathered force.

Bentham relates that in England the delays caused by hard-drinking
couriers, who used to be heavily fined without any good result,
were obviated by combining passenger traffic with the postal
service. Employers of labour secure industry and the most
productive work far more easily by offering a share of the
realised profits than by a system of fines. In the German
universities, academic jealousies and intolerance have been in
great measure overcome by paying the professors in proportion to
the number of their pupils, so that the Faculties find it to their
interest to engage and encourage the best professors, in order to
attract as many students as possible. Thus the activity and zeal
of professors, magistrates, and officials would be stimulated if
their remuneration depended not only on the automatic test of
seniority, but also on the progress displayed by publications,
sentences not reversed, settlements not cancelled, and the like.
It is better to regulate the disturbing restlessness of children
by timely diversions rather than by attempting to repress them in
a manner injurious to their physical and moral health. So in
lunatic asylums and prisons, work is a better means of order and
discipline than chains and castigation. In brief, we obtain more
from men by consulting their self-respect and interests than by
threats and restraint

If the counteraction of punishment must inevitably be opposed to
criminal activity, still it is more conducive to social order to
prevent or diminish this activity by means of an indirect and more
effective force.

In the economic sphere, it has been observed that when a staple
product fails, recourse is had to less esteemed substitutes, in
order to supply the natural wants of mankind. So in the criminal
sphere, as we are convinced by experience that punishments are
almost devoid of deterrent effect, we must have recourse to the
best available substitutes for the purpose of social defence.

These methods of indirect defence I have called penal
substitutes. But whereas the food substitutes are as a rule only
secondary products, brought into temporary use, penal substitutes
should become the main instruments of the function of social
defence, for which punishments will come to be secondary means,
albeit permanent. For in this connection we must not forget the
law of criminal saturation, which in every social environment
makes a minimum of crime inevitable, on account of the natural
factors inseparable from individual and social imperfection.
Punishments in one form or another will always be, for this
minimum, the ultimate though not very profitable remedy against
outbreaks of criminal activity.

These penal substitutes, when they have once been established in
the conscience and methods of legislators, through the teaching of
criminal sociology, will be the recognised form of treatment for
the social factors of crime. And they will also be more
possible and practical than that universal social metamorphosis,
direct and uncompromising, insisted on by generous but impatient
reformers, who scorn these substitutes as palliatives because
humanitarian enthusiasm causes them to forget that social
organisms, like animal organisms, can be only partially and
gradually transformed.

The idea of these penal substitutes amounts, in short, to this.
The legislator, observing the origins, conditions, and effects of
individual and collective activity, comes to recognise their
psychological and sociological laws, whereby he will be able to
obtain a mastery over many of the factors of crime, and especially
over the social factors, and thus secure an indirect but more
certain influence over the development of crime. That is to say,
in all legislative, political, economic, administrative, and penal
arrangements, from the greatest institutions to the smallest
details, the social organism will be so adjusted that human
activity, instead of being continually and unprofitably menaced
with repression, will be insensibly directed into non-criminal
channels, leaving free scope for energy and the satisfaction of
individual needs, under conditions least exposed to violent
disturbance or occasions of law-breaking.

It is just this fundamental idea of penal substitutes which shows
how necessary it is that the sociologist and legislator should
have such a preparation in biology and psychology as Mr. Spencer
justly insisted on in his "Introduction to Social Science.'' And
it is the fundamental idea rather than the substitutes themselves
that we should bear in mind if we would realise their
theoretical and practical value as part of a system of criminal

As for the efficacy of any particular penal substitute, I readily
admit, in some sense at least, the partial criticisms which have
been passed upon them. Apart from such as simply say that they do
not believe in the use of alternatives to punishment, and such as
confine themselves to the futile question whether this theory
belongs to criminal science or to police administration, a
majority of criminal sociologists have now definitely accepted the
doctrine of penal substitutes. This theory is accepted, not as an
absolute panacea of crime, but, as I have always stated it, in the
sense of a combination of measures analogous to penal repression;
in place of trusting solely to repression for the defence of
society against crime.

Let us take note of a few examples.

I. In the Economic Sphere.—Free Trade (apart from the
temporary necessity of protecting a particular manufacturing or
agricultural industry), by preventing famines and exceptional high
prices of and taxes on food, eliminates many crimes and offences,
especially against property.—Unrestricted emigration is a safety-
valve, especially for a country in which this phenomenon, assuming
large proportions, carries off many persons who are easily driven
to crime by wretchedness, or by their unbalanced energy. Thus the
number of recidivists has diminished in Ireland, not by virtue of
her prison systems, but by emigration, which reached forty-six per
cent. of released prisoners. In Italy, also, there has been a
decrease of crime since 1880, owing to other causes, such
as mild winters and plentiful harvests, but also through a vast
increase of emigration.—Smuggling, which for centuries resisted
extremely harsh punishments, such as amputation of the hand, and
even death, and which still resists prison and the fire-arms of
the revenue officers, is suppressed by the lowering of the import
tariff, as M. Villerme has shown in the case of France. So
that everyday facts justify the system of Adam Smith, who said
that the law which punished smuggling, after creating the
temptation, and which increased the punishment when it increased
the temptation, was opposed to all justice; whilst Bentham, on the
contrary, departing from his maxim that the punishment ought to be
dreaded more strongly than the offence attracted, called for the
stern repression of smuggling.—The system of taxation which
touches wealth and visible resources instead of the prime
necessaries of life, and which is proportional to the taxpayer's
income, diminishes the systematic frauds which no punishment
availed to stop, and it will also abolish the arbitrary and
exaggerated fiscal traditions which have been the cause of
rebellions and outrages. In fact, Fregier describes the
criminal industries which are called into existence by octrois,
and which will disappear with the abolition of these absurd and
unjust duties. And whilst M. Allard demonstrated that a decrease
of taxes on necessaries would have beneficial effects, not only in
economic affairs but also in respect of commercial frauds, the
Report on French Criminal Statistics for 1872 calmly continued to
call for more severe repression of such frauds. To this M.
Mercier replied that if the cause—that is to say,
disproportionate taxes—were not removed, it would be impossible
to prevent the effects.—Immunity from taxation for the minimum
necessary to existence, by preventing distraint, and the
consequent diminution of small properties, which means the
increase of the very poor, will obviate many crimes, as we see
from the agrarian conditions in Ireland. Thus there is a demand
in Italy for the inalienability of small properties, as in America
under the Homestead Exemption Law.—Public works, during famine
and hard winters, check the increase of crimes against property,
the person, and public order. For instance, during the scarcity
of 1853-5 in France, there was no such enormous increase of theft
as during the famine of 1847, simply because the Government set up
vast relief works in the winter months.

The taxes and other indirect restrictions on the production and
sale of alcohol are far more efficacious than our more or less
enormous gaols. The question of pronounced and chronic
drunkenness has increased in gravity, owing to its effect upon the
physical and moral health of the people.

In France the average consumption of wine, estimated at 62 litres
(13.64 gallons) per head in 1829, exceeded 100 litres in 1869; and
in Paris the average of 120 litres in 1819-30, reached 227 litres
in 1881. The average yearly consumption of alcohol in France rose
from .93 in 1829 to 3.24 in 1872, and 3.9 in 1885, the rates in a
few towns being still higher. The total manufacture of alcohol in
France (95 per cent. of which is consumed in the form of
drink) rose from 479,680 hectolitres in 1843 to 1,309,565 in 1879,
and 2,004,000 in 1887. Simultaneously, we have seen that there
was an increase of crimes and offences in France, suicides in
particular having increased from 1,542 in 1829 to 8,202 in 1887.

Moreover I have shown by a special table (Archivio di
Psichiatria) that in France, despite a certain inevitable
variation from year to year, there is a manifest correspondence of
increase and decrease between the number of homicides, assaults,
and malicious wounding, and the more or less abundant vintage,
especially in the years of extraordinary variations, whether of
failure of the vintage (1853-5, 1859, 1867, 1873, 1878-80),
attended by a remarkable diminution of crime (assaults and
wounding), or of abundant vintages (1850, 1856-8, 1862-3, 1865,
1868, 1874-5) attended by an increase of crime.

I was also the first to show that in the vintage months there is
an increase of occasional crimes and offences against the person,
owing to that connection between drink and crime which had already
been remarked upon by M. Pierquin amongst others, and illustrated
by the newspaper reporters on the days which follow Sundays and

But apart from their natural variation, the connection between
drink and crime is definitely established. Every day we have the
confirmation of Morel's statement, that "alcoholism has produced
a demoralised and brutalised class of wretched beings,
characterised by an early depravation of instincts, and by
indulgence in the most immoral and dangerous actions.'' It is
useless to quote again in this place the data of psycho-
pathology and legal medicine, or those of prison statistics
relating to imprisoned drunkards, or to tavern brawls as the
proved causes of crime.

Nevertheless it is a fact that the relation of cause and effect
between drink and crime has recently been denied, with the aid of
arguments based upon statistics. M. Tammeo opened the discussion
by observing that the countries of Europe and the provinces of
Italy distinguished by the largest consumption of alcohol, show
lower ratios under the worst crimes of violence. He gave to his
remark a relative and limited value, for he only denied that the
abuse of liquor was the most active cause of crime. After him M.
Fournier de Flaix, maintaining the same proposition with the same
statistical arguments, and admitting that "alcohol is a special
scourge for the individual who indulges in it,'' yet concluded
that "alcoholism is not a scourge which menaces the European
race.'' And he repeated that the nations which consumed the
greatest quantity of alcohol show a slighter frequency of crime,
especially against the person. Lastly M. Colajanni enlarged upon
the same proposition, using the statistical data so fully set out
by M. Kummer, and drew a still more positive conclusion, that
"there is a lack of constancy, regularity, and universality in
the relations, coincidence, and sequence, as between alcoholism
and crime and suicide; so that it is impossible to establish any
statistical relation of cause and effect between these

Passing over the grave errors of fact in M. Colajanni's brochure,
I will only observe that this proposition is a pure
misapprehension of statistical logic.

If we once admit (and unfortunately it cannot be denied) the bad
influence of alcohol on bodily and mental health, in the form of
spirits as well as of wine—as to which it is not correct to say
that the southern departments are not consumers of alcohol—it
cannot be maintained that alcohol, which is physically and morally
injurious to individuals, is not hurtful to nations, which are but
aggregates of individuals.

There is an easy answer to the statistical arguments. (1) A
symmetrical and continuous agreement of figures is never found in
any collection of statistics, for in all that concerns a society
the intervention of individual, physical, and social causes is
inevitable. (2) A negative conclusion from these partial and
natural disagreements (for it is especially true in biology and
sociology that every rule has its exceptions, due to intervening
causes) would only be justified if it had been maintained that
alcoholism is the sole and exclusive cause of crime. But as this
has never been asserted by anybody, all the statistical arguments
of Fournier and Colajanni are based on a misapprehension. And
unfortunately they do not destroy the link of causality between
drink and crime. This connection is occasional, in assaults,
wounding, and homicide in acute alcoholism. It is habitual, in
the case of chronic alcoholism, as in crimes against property, the
person, morality, and public officers. And this in spite of the
relatively low figures, though lower than the facts warrant,
contained in the general statements, apart from special and
scientific inquiries into alcoholism as a direct and manifest
cause of crime and suicide.

I wrote as early as 1881 that alcoholism, prior to its becoming a
cause, is the effect of wretched social conditions in the poorer
classes; and that to the one-sided simplicity of economic causes
it is necessary to add certain bio-psychical conditions and
conditions of physical environment, which go far to determine the
geographical distribution of spirit-alcoholism (chronic and more
serious, in northern countries and provinces) and wine-alcoholism
(acute and less deep-seated, in the countries and provinces of the

It was therefore natural that indirect measures against alcoholism
should have been resorted to long ago, such as the raising of the
tax on alcoholic drinks, and the lowering of that on wholesome
beverages, such as coffee, tea, and beer; strict limitation of the
number of licenses; increased responsibility of license-holders
before the law, as in America; the expulsion of tipsy members from
workmen's societies; the provision of cheap and wholesome
amusements; the testing of wines and spirits for adulteration;
better organised and combined temperance societies; the
circulation of tracts on the injurious effects of alcohol; the
abolition of certain festivals which tended rather to
demoralisation than to health; discouragement of the custom of
paying wages on Saturday; the establishment of voluntary
temperance homes, as in America, England, and Switzerland.

North America, England, Sweden and Norway, France, Belgium,
Holland, and Switzerland have applied remedies against drunkenness
(to the length of a State monopoly of drink in Switzerland); but
with too much zeal for public revenue, and, under the pretext of
public health, almost exclusively framed with a view to duties on
manufacture, distribution, and consumption. Yet these duties are
quite inadequate by themselves, and may even tend to the injury of
the physical and moral health of the nation, the increase of
price, leading to frauds and adulteration.

Penal laws against drunkenness, naturally resorted to in all
countries, are far from being effectual. There is so far no
system of direct and indirect measures against alcoholism, duly
co-ordinated, beyond taxation and punishment. And we perceive, as
for instance in France, in spite of the repressive law introduced
by my distinguished friend Senator Roussel (January, 1873), and in
spite of the extremely high duties, which were doubled in 1872 and
1880, that alcoholism persists with a terrible and fatal increase.
So it is, more or less, in every country still, in spite of duties
and punishments.

The irregularity of wages, and the deceitful vigour imparted by
the first recourse to alcohol, the poverty and excessive toil of
the working classes, insufficiency of food, inherited habits, and
the lack of efficacious preventive measures, are influences which
prevent the working man from resisting this scourge; and no fiscal
or repressive law, acting solely by direct compulsion, will ever
be able to paralyse these natural tendencies, which can only be
weakened by indirect measures. On the other hand, when we
remember that habitual intoxication, so common in mediaeval days
amongst the nobles and townsfolk, has grown less and less frequent
in those classes (aided by the introduction and rapid diffusion of
coffee since the time of Louis XIV.), it is possible to hope that
the improvement of economic, intellectual, and moral conditions
amongst the populace will gradually succeed in modifying this
terrible plague of drink, which cannot be cured all at once.

To continue our illustrations of penal substitutes, we see that
the substitution of metallic money for a paper medium decreases
the number of forgers, who on the contrary had defied penal
servitude for life. False money is more easily detected than a
spurious note.[14]—Money dealers and dealers in precious stones
have done more than any punishment to check the crime of usury, as
was shown in the case of Spain, after her American conquests;
whereas mediaeval punishments never prevented the recrudescence
of usury in one form or another. Popular and Agricultural Credit
Banks, which are practically within the reach of all, are more
efficacious against usury in our own days than the special
repressive laws enacted once more in Germany and Austria, under
the influence of the old illusion.—With the diminution of
interest on the public funds the stream of capital has been
diverted into commerce, manufactures, and agriculture, thus
warding off stagnation, with the bankruptcies, forgeries,
frauds, &c., which result therefrom.—The adjustment of salaries
to the needs of public officials, and to general economic
conditions, stems the tide of corruption and embezzlement, which
were partly due to their concealed poverty.—Limited hours of duty
for the responsible services on which the safety of the public
depends, as for instance in railway stations, are far more
serviceable in preventing accidents than the useless punishment of
those who are guilty of manslaughter.—High-roads, railways, and
tramways disperse predatory bands in rural districts, just as wide
streets and large and airy dwellings, with public lighting and the
destruction of slums, prevent robbery with violence, concealment
of stolen goods, and indecent assaults.—Inspection of workshops
and shorter hours for children's labour, with their
superintendence of married women, may be a check on indecent
assaults, which penal servitude does not prevent.—Cheap workmen's
dwellings, and general sanitary measures for houses both in urban
and rural districts, care being taken not to crowd them with poor
families, tend to physical health, as well as to prevent many
forms of immorality.—Co-operative and mutual societies, provident
societies and insurance against old age, funds for sick and infirm
workmen, employers' liability for accidents during work, from
machinery or otherwise; popular savings' banks, charity
organisation societies and the like, obviate a large number of
offences against property and the person much better than a penal
code.—I have maintained in the Italian Parliament that the reform
of religious charities, which in Italy represent funds to
the amount of two milliards, might lead to the prevention of
crime.—Measures for the discouragement of mendacity and vagrancy,
above all agricultural colonies, as in Holland, Belgium, Germany,
and Austria, would be the best penal substitute for the very
frequent offences committed by vagabonds. Thus it may be
concluded that a prudent social legislation, not stopping short at
mere superficial and perfunctory reforms, might constitute a
genuine code of penal substitutes, which could be set against the
mass of criminal impulses engendered by the wretched conditions of
the most numerous classes of society.

[14] Coiners and forgers of notes constitute .09 per cent. of the
total of condemned persons in France, and .04 per cent. in
Belgium; but they reach .4 per cent. in Italy, on account of the
greater circulation of banknotes.

II. In the Political Sphere.—For the prevention of political
crime, such as assassination, rebellion, conspiracies, civil war,
arbitrary repression and prevention by the police are powerless;
there is no other means than harmony between the Government and
the national aspirations. Italy has been a conspicuous example of
this, for under the rule of the foreigner, neither the scaffold
nor the galleys could hinder political outrages, which have
disappeared with national independence. So with Ireland and
Russia. Germany, which believed that it could stamp out socialism
by exceptional penal laws, discovered its mistake.—For so-called
press offences (which are either ordinary offences committed by
the aid of the press, or are not offences at all), nothing but
freedom of opinion can render attacks and provocations of a
political type less frequent.—Respect for the law spreads through
a nation by the example on the part of the governing classes and
authorities of constant respect for the rights of
individuals and associations, far better than by policemen and
prisons.—Electoral reform adapted to the condition of a country
is the only remedy against electoral offences.—Similarly, in
addition to the economic reforms already indicated, political and
parliamentary reforms are much more serviceable than the penal
code in preventing many offences of a social and political type,
provided that a more real harmony has been established between a
country and its lawful representation, and that the latter is
freed from the occasions and the forms which lead to its abuse, by
removing technical questions from injurious political influences,
and giving the people a more direct authority over public affairs,
including the referendum.—Finally, that great mass of crimes,
isolated or epidemic, evolved by unsatisfied needs and the neglect
of separate divisions of a country, which differ in climate, race,
traditions, language, customs, and interests, would be largely
eliminated if we were to dispense with the vague folly of
political symmetry and bureaucratic centralisation, and in their
place to adapt the laws to the special features of the respective
localities. National unity in no way depends upon legislative and
administrative uniformity, which is merely its unhealthy
exaggeration. It is indeed inevitable that laws, which in our day
merely represent a mode of contact between the most varied moral,
social and economic conditions of different localities, should
always be inadequate to social needs—too restricted and slow in
action for one part of the country, too sweeping and premature for
another part, just as the average convict's garb is too
long for those who are short, and too short for those who are
tall. Administrative federation with political unity (e pluribus
unum) would furnish us with an aggregate of penal substitutes,
restoring to each part of the social organism that freedom of
movement and development which is a universal law of biology and
sociology—for an organism is but a federation too lightly
appreciated by the advocates of an artificial uniformity, such as
ends by conflicting with unity itself.

III. In the Scientific Sphere.—The development of science,
which creates fresh instruments of crime, such as fire-arms, the
press, photography, lithography, new poisons, dynamite,
electricity, hypnotism, and so forth, sooner or later provides the
antidote also, which is more efficacious than penal repression.—
The press, anthropometric photography of prisoners, telegraphy,
railways, are powerful auxiliaries against crime.—Dissection and
the progress of toxicology have decreased the number of poisoning
cases; and experience has already proved that "Marsh's
preparation'' has rendered poisoning by arsenic, once so common,
comparatively rare.—A similar process has recently been suggested
as a means of detection in cases of forgery, for when documents
are exposed to iodine vapour, effaced or altered writing is
restored.—Women doctors will diminish the opportunities of
immorality.—The free expression of opinion will do more to
prevent its possible dangers than trials of a more or less
scandalous kind.—Piracy, which was not extirpated by
punishments which are now obsolete, is disappearing under the
effects of steam navigation.—The spread of Malthusian ideas
prevents abortion and infanticides.[15]—Systematic bookkeeping,
by its clearness and simplicity, obviates many frauds and
embezzlements, which were encouraged by the old complicated
methods.—Cheques, by avoiding the necessity of frequent
conveyance of money, do more to prevent theft than punishments can
do.—The credentials given by some banks to their clerks, whose
duty it is to witness the signature of the actual debtor, prevent
the falsification of bills.—Certain bankers have adopted the
practice of taking an instantaneous photograph of every one
presenting cheques for large amounts.—Safes, bolts, and alarm-
bells, are a great security against thieves. —As a
preventive of murder in railway carriages, it has been found that
alarm signals and methods of securing the carriage-doors from the
inside, are more effectual than penal codes.

[15] No doubt there may be a difference of opinion on this subject
in France, where public opinion is too much exercised over the
problem of depopulation. I agree with M. Varigny ("La Theorie
du Nombre,'' Revue des Deux Mondes, Dec. 15, 1890) that the
population of a country is not the sole, or even the principal
consideration. Apart from physical characteristics (race),
intellectual and moral qualities, and the productiveness of the
soil on which M. Varigny dwells, we must take into account, as it
seems to me, the unquestionable law by virtue of which the
struggle for existence, amongst individuals as amongst nations,
becomes gradually less vehement and direct. War, which is an
everyday matter with savages, grows constantly more rare and
difficult. The varying social and international conscience of
civilised humanity is not to be neglected, and it must be reckoned
with as a positive factor in considering the destiny of nations.
Men continue to speak of the perils of war (in which numbers stand
for a great deal, but are not the exclusive element) as though the
social conscience of our own day were still the same as that of
the Middle Ages. In several respects, on the other hand, the
thinner population of France is one cause of its wealth, and
therefore of its power. Germany has a more numerous, but also a
poorer population. And I do not believe that the actual power of
nations, on which their future depends, consists in loading a
people with arms after enfeebling it by military expenditure,
which from the year 1880 has indicated a distinct epidemic mania
on the continent of Europe.

IV. In the Legislative and Administrative Sphere.—Wise
testamentary legislation prevents murders through the impatient
greed of next-of-kin, as in France during a former age, with what
was known as "succession powder.''—A law to facilitate the
securing of paternal assent for the marriage of children (as
suggested by Herschel in his "Theory of Probabilities'') in
countries which require the assent of both parents, and for
affiliation and breach of promise of marriage, with provision for
children born out of wedlock, are excellent as against
concubinage, infanticide, abortion, exposure of infants, indecent
assaults, and murders by women abandoned after seduction. On this
head Bentham said that concubinage regulated by civil laws would
be less mischievous than that which the law does not recognise but
cannot prevent.—Cheap and easy law is a preventive of crimes and
offences against public order, the person and property, as I have
already said.—The ancient Italian institution of Advocate of the
Poor, if substituted for the present illusory assistance by the
courts, would prevent many acts of revenge. So also would a
strict and speedy indemnity for the victims of other men's crimes,
intrusted to a public minister when the injured person is not able
to resort to the law; for as I have maintained, with the approval
of sundry criminal sociologists, civil responsibility for crime
ought to be as much a social obligation as penal
responsibility, and not a mere private concern.—Simplification of
the law would prevent a large number of frauds, contraventions,
&c., for, apart from the metaphysical and ironical assertion that
ignorance of the law excuses no man, it is certain that our forest
of codes, laws, decrees, regulations and so forth, leads to
endless misapprehensions and mistakes, and therefore to
contraventions and offences.—Commercial laws on the civil
responsibility of directors, on bankruptcy proceedings and the
registration of shareholders, on bankrupts' discharges, on
industrial and other exchanges, would do more than penal servitude
to prevent fraudulent bankruptcy.—Courts of honour, recognised
and regulated by law, would obviate duels without having recourse
to more or less serious punishments.—A well organised system of
conveyancing checks forgery and fraud, just as registration
offices have almost abolished the palming and repudiation of
children, which were so common in mediaeval times. Deputy
Michelin, in order to discourage bigamy, proposed in 1886 to
institute in the registers of births for every commune a special
column for the civil standing of each individual, so that any one
who contemplated marriage would have to produce a certificate from
this register, and thus would be unable to conceal a previous
marriage which had not been dissolved by death or divorce.—The
form of indictment by word of mouth in penal procedure has
prevented many calumnies and false charges.—Foundling and orphan
homes, or, still better, some less old-fashioned substitute, such
as lying-in hospitals and home attendance for young
mothers, might do much to prevent infanticide and abortion, which
are not checked by the severest punishment.—Prisoners' aid
societies, especially for the young, might be useful as penal
substitutes, although much less so than is generally alleged, with
plenty of eloquence and little practical work. There is always
this strong objection to them, that we ought to succour workmen
who continue honest in spite of their wretchedness before those
who have been in prison; and again, in place of bestowing
patronage on released prisoners without distinction, many of whom
are incorrigible, we ought to select the occasional criminals and
criminals of passion, who alone are capable of amendment; and
assisting them we should avoid anything like police formalities.
As a matter of fact it appears that, even in England, where these
societies are most active, their intervention, like all direct
charity, is too far below the needs of those for whom provision is

V. In the Sphere of Education.—It has been proved that mere
book education, whilst it is useful in rendering certain gross
frauds more difficult, in extending a knowledge of the laws, and
above all in diminishing improvidence, so characteristic of the
occasional criminal, is far from being the panacea of crime which
people imagined when they found in the criminal statistics a large
proportion of illiterate prisoners. It must also be said that
schools which are not closely inspected are frequently hotbeds of
immorality. It is necessary, therefore, to rely on the influence
of a wider education, limited though this may be in its
turn. I do not mean a mechanical instruction in moral maxims,
appealing to the intelligence without reaching the feelings, but
rather of the examples afforded by every kind of social
institution, by the government and the press, by the school of the
stage and of public entertainments.—It would be well, however, to
abolish certain vulgar and sensual entertainments, and to
substitute for them wholesome amusements and exercises, public
baths, properly superintended, and so built as to render private
meetings impossible, cheap theatres, and so forth. Thus the
prohibition of cruel spectacles, and the suppression of gambling
houses, are excellent penal substitutes.—The experimental method
in the teaching of children, which applies the laws of physio-
psychology, according to the physical and moral type of each
pupil, and by giving him less of archaeology, and more knowledge
serviceable in actual life, by the mental discipline of the
natural sciences, which alone can develop in him a sense of the
actual, such as our classical schools only enfeeble, would adapt
men better for the struggle of existence, whilst diminishing the
number of those left without occupation, who are the candidates of
crime.—Many of the causes of crime would be nipped in the bud by
checking degeneration through physical education of the young, as
well as by preventing demoralisation by means of the education of
abandoned children, at such institutions as the workhouse, ragged
and industrial schools, so well developed in England—or, still
better, by the boarding out of children, so as to avoid over-
crowding.—One class of inducements to crime would be
eliminated by restrictions imposed on scandalous publications
which concern themselves exclusively with crime, having no other
object than to trade upon the most brutal passions, and which are
allowed to exist under an abstract conception of liberty, save
that the responsible conductors are punished when the evil has
been done.—Similarly there ought to be some restriction upon the
right of admission to police-courts and assizes, where our women
hustle each other as the Roman women of the decline scrambled to
be present at the imperial circus-shows, and where our young men
and our hardened criminals receive lessons in the art of
committing crimes with greater smartness and precaution.

The instances which I have given, and which might be multiplied
into a preventive code as long as the penal code, prove to
demonstration how large a part is played by social factors in the
genesis of crime, and especially of occasional crime. But they
prove still more clearly that the legislator, by modifying these
causes, can influence the development of crime within limits
imposed by the competition of other anthropological and physical
factors. Quetelet was right, therefore, when he said in this
connection, "Since the crimes committed every year seem to be the
necessity of our social organisation, and their number cannot be
diminished if the causes to which they are due cannot be modified
in a preventive sense, it behoves legislators to recognise these
causes, and to eliminate them as far as possible. They must frame
the budget of crime as they frame that of the national
revenue and expenditure.''

It must nevertheless be borne in mind that all this will have to
be done apart from the penal code; for it is true, however
strange, that history, statistics, and direct observation of
criminal phenomena prove that penal laws are the least effectual
in preventing crime, whilst the strongest influence is exercised
by laws of the economic, political, and administrative order.

In conclusion, the legislator should be convinced by the teaching
of scientific observation that social reforms are much more
serviceable than the penal code in preventing an inundation of
crime. The legislator, on whom it devolves to preserve the health
of the social organism, ought to imitate the physician, who
preserves the health of the individual by the aid of experimental
science, resorts as little as possible, and only in extreme cases,
to the more forcible methods of surgery, has a limited confidence
in the problematic efficiency of medicines, and relies rather on
the trustworthy processes of hygienic science. Only then will he
be able to avoid the dangerous fallacy, ever popular and full of
life, which Signor Vacca, Keeper of the Seals, expressed in these
words: "The less we have recourse to preventive measures, the
more severe ought our repression to be.'' Which is like saying
that when a convalescent has no soup to pick up his strength, we
ought to administer a drastic drug.

It is precisely on this point that the practical, rather than the
merely theoretical, differences between the positive and the
classical schools of penal law become evident. Whilst we believe
that social reforms and other measures suggested by a study
of the natural factors of crime are most effective in preventing
crime, legislators, employing the a priori method of the
classical school, have for many years past been discussing
proposed penal codes, whilst they permit criminality to make
steady progress. It is another case of Dum Romae consulitur,
Saguntum expugnatur.

And when the legislators find their Byzantine discussions on the
"juridical entities'' of crime and punishment broken in upon by a
recrudescence of crime, or by a serious manifestation of some
phenomenon of social pathology, then all they can do in their
perplexity and astonishment is to pass some new repressive law,
which for a moment stills the outcry of public opinion, and remits
the matter once more from the acute to the chronic phase.

The positive theory of penal substitutes, apart from any
particular example, aims precisely at furnishing a mental
discipline for legislators, and bringing home to them the duty of
constant reinforcements of social prevention, no matter how
difficult it may be, before the evil comes to a head, and forces
them too late to a course of repression which is as easy as it is
fallacious. No doubt it is vexatious and difficult, even in
private life, to be perpetually living up to rules of health; and
it is easier, if more dangerous, to forget them, and to fly, when
the mischief declares itself, to drugs which are too frequently
deceptive; but it is just the want of forethought, both public and
private, which it is so important to overcome. And as hygienic
science was not possible as a theory or as a practice until after
the experimental observations and physio-pathology on the
causes of disease, especially of epidemic and infectious diseases,
together with the discoveries of M. Pasteur, who created
bacteriology; so social hygiene as against crime was only possible
as a theory, and will not be so as a practice, till the diffusion
of the facts of biology and criminal sociology relating to the
natural causes of crime, especially of occasional crime.

The great thing is to be convinced that, for social defence
against crime, as for the moral elevation of the masses of men,
the least measure of progress with reforms which prevent crime is
a hundred times more useful and profitable than the publication of
an entire penal code.

When a minister introduces a law, for instance, on railways,
customs duties, wages, taxation, companies, civil or commercial
institutions, there are few who think of the effect which these
laws will have on the criminality of the nation, for it is
imagined that sufficient has been done in this respect by means of
reforms in the penal code. In the social organism, on the other
hand, as in individuals, there is an inevitable solidarity, though
frequently concealed, between the most distant and different

It is just from these laws of social physiology and pathology that
we derive the notion of penal substitutes, which at the same time
we must not dissociate from the law of criminal saturation. For
if it is true that by modifying the social factors we can produce
an effect on the development of crime, and especially of
occasional crime, it is also true, unfortunately, that in every
social environment there is always a minimum of inevitable
criminality, due to the influence of the other factors, biological
and physical. Otherwise we might easily fall into the opposite
and equally fallacious illusion of thinking that we could
absolutely suppress all crimes and offences. For it is easy to
reach on one side the empiric idea of penal terrorism, and on the
other side the hasty and one-sided conclusion that to abolish some
particular institution would get rid of its abuses. The fact is
that we must consider before all things whether it is not a less
evil to put up with institutions, however inconvenient, and to
reform them, than to forfeit all the advantages which they afford.
And it must above all be borne in mind that as society cannot
exist without law, so law cannot exist without offences against
the law. The struggle for existence may be fought by honest or
economic activity, or by dishonest and criminal activity. The
whole problem is to reduce to a minimum the more or less criminal
rufflings and shocks, yet without disturbing "social order,''
amidst the indifference or servility of a spiritless people, or
resorting to policemen and prisons on every slight occasion.

These general observations on penal substitutes in connection with
the law of criminal saturation are a sufficient answer to the two
chief objections raised even by such as agree with me in theory.

It has been urged, in effect, that some of the penal substitutes
which I have enumerated have already been applied, without
preventing crime; and again, that there were some institutions
which it would be absurd to abolish because the removal of a
prohibition would also remove the contravention.

The aim of penal substitutes is not to render all crimes and
offences impossible, but only to reduce them to the least possible
number in any particular physical and social environment. There
are crimes of piracy to this day, but the use of steam in
navigation has, none the less, been more effectual than all the
penal codes. Murders still occur, though very rarely, on the
railways; but it is none the less true that the substitution of
the railways and tramways for the old diligences and stage coaches
has decimated highway robberies, with or without murder. Divorce
does not eliminate wife-murder as a consequence of adultery, but
it diminishes its frequency. Similarly, after the protection
which is afforded to abandoned children, we shall not be able to
close the tribunals through the absence of crimes and offences,
but it is certain that the supply of these will be notably

As for the second objection, I was careful to say, in regard to
existing institutions, that we must naturally consider whether the
evil arising from violating them or that which would be due to
their suppression is the greater. But my main contention is that
by reforming these institutions we can do more to prevent crime
than by leaving them as they happen to be, or at most granting
them the fallacious protection of one or two articles in the penal

I will myself add a criticism of the theory of penal substitutes,
and it is that they are difficult of application. We have only to
think of the immense force of inertia in the habits, traditions
and interests which have to be overcome before we can secure the
application, not of all, but of any one of the penal
substitutes which I have enumerated. And some of these are not
simple, or based on a single principle, but comprise an assemblage
of co-ordinated reforms, like the prevention of drunkenness, the
protection of abandoned children, the accessibility of justice,
and so forth.

But if legislators must take into account the actual conditions of
the people, and adapt themselves to conditions of time and place,
it is the business of science to indicate the goal, however
distant and difficult to reach. The first condition of attaining
legislative and social reforms is that they should impress
themselves beforehand on the public conscience; and this is not
possible if science, in spite of transitory difficulties, does not
resolutely open up the road which has to be travelled, without any
compromise with eclecticism, which means for science what
hybridism means for organic life.

Two other objections may be made on the ground of principle to
what has been said. The first is that this system of penal
substitutes is only the familiar process of prevention of crime.
The second is that the criminal expert need not concern himself
with it, since prevention is only a question of good government,
which has nothing to do with the study of crimes and punishments.

My answer to the second objection is that the importance of taking
measures to prevent crime has certainly been dwelt upon,
especially from the time of Montesquieu and Beccaria, but it has
been only by way of platonic and isolated declaration, with
no such systematic development as might have given them practical
application, based on experimental observations. Moreover, this
prevention has always been held as subsidiary to repression,
whereas we have arrived at the positive conclusion that
prevention, instead of being a mere secondary aid, should
henceforth become the primary defensive function of society, since
repression has but an infinitesimal influence upon criminality.

Furthermore, it is important to observe the profound distinction
between ordinary prevention and penal substitutes; or in other
words, between prevention by police and prevention by society.
The former merely seeks to prevent crime when its germ is already
developed and active, and it nearly always employs methods of
direct coercion, which, being themselves repressive in their
character, are often inefficacious, even if they do not provoke
additional offences. Social prevention, on the other hand, begins
with the original sources of crime, attacking its biological,
physical, and social factors, by methods which are wholly
indirect, and which rest upon the free play of psychological and
sociological laws.

Science, as well as the making of laws, has hitherto been too much
influenced by a preference for repression, or at least for
administrative police prevention. "There have been authoritative
works and learned folios,'' says Ellero, "which dealt not only
with punishment, but also with torture; there has been none
dealing with the provision of means for providing an alternative
to punishment.''

After the general observations of Montesquieu, Filangieri,
Beccaria, and more recently Tissot, on the influence of religion,
climate, soil, and the form of government, upon the penal system
rather than the prevention of crime, the authors who studied
prevention with wider and more systematic views (excluding the
criminal sociologists who have more or less taken the positive
point of view), are Bentham, Romagnosi, Barbacovi, Carmignani,
Ellero, Lombroso, and a few Englishmen, who, without making much
of the theory, have made many practical suggestions of preventive
reform. But even these writers either confine themselves to
general synthetic considerations, like Romagnosi and Carmignani,
or else, entering the domain of facts, and even accepting the idea
of social prevention, have made too little of those physio-
psychological laws as the natural factors of crime, which alone
can furnish a method of regulating human activity. And, when all
is said and done, they have clung to punishment as the chief
method of prevention.

Hence their teaching and their propositions have had no weight
with legislators, for these latter had not been convinced, as only
the criminal sociologist could convince them, that punishments are
far from having the deterrent force commonly attributed to them,
and that crime is not the outcome of free will, but rather a
natural phenomenon which can only disappear or diminish when its
natural factors are eliminated.

The legislators for their part have not only neglected the
definite teaching of these authors with more than ordinary
insight, but they have also enacted what are really penal
substitutes in a clumsy and unscientific manner.

We have thus studied the data of criminal statistics in their
theoretical and practical relations with criminal sociology, and
come to the conclusion that, since crime is a natural phenomenon,
determined by factors of three kinds, it answers on that account
to a law of criminal saturation, whereby the physical and social
environment, aided by individual tendencies, hereditary or
acquired, and by occasional impulses, necessarily determine the
extent of crime in every age and country, both in quantity and
quality. That is to say, the criminality of a nation is
influenced in the natural sphere by the bio-psychical conditions
of individuals and their physical environment, and, in the social
sphere, by economic, political, administrative and civil
conditions of laws, far more than by the penal code.

Nevertheless the execution of punishment, though it is the less
important part of the function of social defence, which should be
carried out in harmony with the other functions of society, is
always the last and inevitable auxiliary.

And this entirely agrees with the universal law of evolution, in
virtue of which, amidst the variation of animal and social
organisms, antecedent forms are not wholly eliminated, but
continue as the basis of the forms which succeed them. So that if
the future evolution of the social administration of defence
against crime is to consist in the development of the primitive
forms of direct physical coercion into the higher forms of
indirect psychical discipline of human activity, this will
not imply that the primitive forms must entirely disappear,
especially for the gravest crimes, which, in the biological and
psychological conditions of those who commit them, take us back to
the primitive epochs and forms of individual and social violence.

I end with a modification of an old comparison which has been much
abused. Crime has been compared to an impetuous torrent which
ought to be enclosed between the dykes of punishment, lest
civilised society should be submerged. I do not deny that
punishments are the dykes of crime, but I assert that they are
dykes of no great strength or utility. All nations know by sad
and chronic experience that their dykes cannot save them from
inundations; and so our statistics teach us that punishments have
but an infinitesimal power against the force of criminality, when
its germs are fully developed.

But as we can best protect ourselves against inundations by
obeying the laws of hydrostatics and hydrodynamics, by timbering
the banks near the source of the stream, and by due rectilineation
or excavation along its course and near its mouth, so, in order to
defend ourselves against crimes, it is best to observe the laws of
psychology and sociology, and to avail ourselves of social
substitutes, which are far more efficacious than whole arsenals of
repressive measures.



The data of criminal anthropology and statistics, and the positive
theory of responsibility which flows from them, although they have
been systematised only by the positive school, are nevertheless
too constantly in evidence not to have made their way into courts
and parliaments.

I have already spoken of penal jurisprudence in its relations with
criminal sociology, and may now cite a few examples of the more or
less direct and avowed influence of the new data on penal

The legislators of to-day, vaguely impressed by statistical and
biological, ethnographical and anthropological data, and still
imbued with the old prejudice of social and political
artificiality, were at first hurried into a regular mania for
legislation, under which every newly observed social phenomenon
seemed to demand a special law, regulation, or article in the
penal code. Then, as Spencer has said in one of his most
brilliant essays, the citizen finds himself in an inextricable
network of laws, decrees, regulations and codes, which surround
him, support him, fetter and bind him, even before his birth and
after his death. For those whom M. Bordier calls
the gardeners and trussmakers of society, forgetting the natural
character of social phenomena, picture society as so much paste,
to which the cook may give any form he pleases, whether pie-crust,
dumpling, or tart.

Hence we see on all sides, side by side with dogma in the
classical sciences of law, economy, and politics, empiricism in
the laws themselves. And that is why the practical defects and
constant impotence of repression in penal justice are the most
eloquent arguments of the experimental school, which extends and
strengthens its own theoretical inductions by the practical
reforms which it suggests.

A first example of the influence more directly exercised by the
new ideas in penal legislation is furnished by the proposal
already realised in the penal laws of Holland, Italy, &c., of two
parallel systems of punishment by detention—one for the graver
and more dangerous crimes, and the other, "simple detention,'' or
custodia honesta ("as a first-class misdemeanant''), for
contraventions, involuntary offences, and crimes not inspired by
the baser passions.

Similarly, the enumeration contained in certain codes, as in
Spain, and in the old Mancini draft of a penal code in Italy, of
the main aggravating and extenuating circumstances common to all
crimes and offences, such as the antecedents of the accused,
venial or inexcusable passion, repentance and confession of a
crime, extent of injury or the like, is only an elementary and
empiric form of the biological and psychological classification of

Thus also the foundation of asylums for the detention of lunatic
criminals, in spite of their being acquitted of moral
responsibility; the more and more vigorous, but often too
empirical measures against the progressive increase of recidivism;
the proposed repressive measures as alternatives to short terms of
detention; the reaction against the exaggerations of cellular
confinement, which I regard as one of the aberrations of the
nineteenth century, are all manifest proofs of the more or less
avowed and logical influence of the data of criminal biology and
sociology on contemporary penal legislation.

These practical reforms, which, when grafted on the old trunk of
the classical theories of crime and punishment, are mere arbitrary
and misplaced expedients, really represent, when they are
logically co-ordinated and completed, the new system of social
defence against crime, which is based on the scientific data
and inductions of the positive school, and which it is therefore
necessary for us to trace out from its foundations.


In the first place, whilst the positive theories largely reduce
the practical importance of the penal code, yet they do more to
increase the importance of the rules of penal procedure, which are
intended to give practical and daily effect to penal measures, for
the defence of society against criminals. For, as I maintained in
the Italian Parliament, if the penal code is a code for evil-
doers, that of penal procedure is a code for honest people,
who are placed on their trial but not yet found guilty.

This is all the more true because, if it is possible to have penal
codes whose machinery of psychological coercion is planted on a
platonic platform of penitentiary systems written out fair in
their symmetrical clauses, but still non-existent, as is the case
in Italy, this is not possible in regard to penal procedure. The
regulations of the code of "instruction'' must of necessity be
carried out by a judicial routine. The penal code may remain a
dead letter, as, for instance, when it says that punishment by
detention is to be inflicted in prisons constructed with cells;
for, happily, the cells necessary in Italy for fifty or sixty
thousand prisoners (or in France for thirty or forty thousand) are
too expensive to admit of the observance of these articles of the
penal code—which nevertheless have cost so many academic
discussions as to the best penitentiary system: "Auburn,''
"Philadelphian,'' "Irish,'' or "progressive.'' In the
organisation of justice, on the other hand, every legal regulation
has its immediate application, and therefore reforms of procedure
produce immediate and visible results.

It may be added that, if the slight deterrent influence which it
is possible for punishment to exercise depends, with its
adaptation to various types of criminals, on the certitude and
promptitude of its application, the others depend precisely and
solely on the organisation of the police, and of penal procedure.

Passing over special and technical reforms which even the
classical experts in crime demand in the systems of procedure, and
often rather on behalf of the criminals than on behalf of society,
we may connect the positive innovations in judicial procedure with
these two general principles:—(1) the equal recognition of the
rights and guarantees of the prisoner to be tried and of the
society which tries him; and (2) the legal sentence, whereof the
object is not to define the indeterminable moral culpability of
the prisoner, nor the impersonal applicability of an article in
the penal code to the crime under consideration; but the
application of the law which is most appropriate to the
perpetrator of the crime, according to his more or less anti-
social characteristics, both physiological and psychological.

From Beccaria onward, penal law developed by reaction against the
excessive and arbitrary severity of the Middle Ages—a reaction
which led to a progressive decrease of punishments. Similarly
official penal procedure in the nineteenth century has been, and
continues to be, a reaction against the mediaeval abuses of the
inquisitorial system, in the sense of a progressive increase of
individual guarantees against the domination of society.

As we considered it necessary in the interests of social self-
defence, in the case of criminal law, to combat the individualist
excesses of the classical school, so in regard to penal procedure,
whilst admitting the irrevocable guarantees of individual liberty,
secured under the old system, we think it necessary to restore the
equilibrium between individual and social rights, which has been
disturbed by the many exaggerations of the classical
theories, as we will now proceed to show by a few examples.

The presumption of innocence, and therewith the more general rule,
"in dubio pro reo,'' is certainly based on an actual truth, and
is doubtless obligatory during the progress of the trial.
Undetected criminals are fortunately a very small minority as
compared with honest people; and we must consequently regard every
man who is placed on his trial as innocent until the contrary has
been proved.

But when proof to the contrary is evident, as, for instance, in
the case of a flagrant crime, or of confession confirmed by other
elements in the trial, it seems fit that the presumption should
cease in view of absolute fact; and especially when we have to do
with habitual criminals.

Even the criminals of this class whom I have questioned recognise
a presumption of the opposite kind. "They have convicted me,''
said an habitual thief, "because they knew I might have done it,
without any proof; and they were in the right. You will never be
convicted, because you never stole; and if we happen to be
innocent once in a way, that must be set against the other times
when we are not discovered.'' And the ironical smile of several
of these prisoners, condemned on circumstantial evidence, reminded
me of a provision which was once proposed in the Italian penal
code, under which a person surprised in the attempt to commit a
crime, if it was not known what precise form his crime would have
taken, was to be found guilty of a less serious offence. This
might be good for an occasional criminal, or a criminal of
passion, but would be absurd and dangerous for habitual criminals
and old offenders.

The exaggerations of the presumption "in dubio pro reo'' are due
to a sort of mummification and degeneracy of the legal maxims,
whereby propositions based upon observation and generalisation
from existing facts continue in force and are mechanically applied
after the facts have changed or ceased to exist.

What reason can there be for extending provisional freedom,
pending an appeal, to one who has already been found guilty and
liable to punishment for a crime or offence, under sentence of a
court of first instance? To presume the innocence of every one
during the first trial is reasonable; but to persist in a
presumption which has been destroyed by facts, after a first
condemnation, would be incomprehensible if it were not a
manifestly exaggerated outcome of classical and individualist
theories, which can only see a "victim of authority'' in every
accused person, and in every condemned person also.

Another point is that of acquittal in case of an equality of
votes, especially where born and habitual criminals are concerned.
I think it would be much more reasonable to restore the verdict of
"not proven,'' which the Romans admitted under the form of "non
liquet,'' as an alternative to "absolvo'' and "condemno,'' and

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