Crime and Its Causes by William Douglas Morrison


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Page 2

But even a course of systematic instruction in the principles of
conduct, no matter by what sanctions these principles are inculcated,
will not avail much unless they are to some extent practised in the
home. And this will never be the case so long as women are demoralised
by the hard conditions of industrial life, and unfitted for the duties
of motherhood before beginning to undertake them.

In addition to this, no State will ever get rid of the criminal
problem unless its population is composed of healthy and vigorous
citizens. Very often crime is but the offspring of degeneracy and
disease. A diseased and degenerate population, no matter how
favourably circumstanced in other respects, will always produce a
plentiful crop of criminals. Stunted and decrepit faculties, whether
physical or mental, either vitiate the character, or unfit the
combatant for the battle of life. In both cases the result is in
general the same, namely, a career of crime.

As to the best method of dealing with the actual criminal, the first
thing to be done is to know what sort of a person you are dealing
with. He must be carefully studied at first hand. At present too much
attention is bestowed on theoretical discussions respecting the
various kinds of crime and punishment, while hardly any account is
taken of the persons who commit the crime and require the punishment.
Yet this is the most important point of all; the other is trivial in
comparison with it. If crime is to be dealt with in a rational manner
and not on mere _a priori_ grounds, our minds must be enlightened on
such questions as the following: What is the Criminal? What are the
chief causes which have made him such? How are these causes to be got
rid of or neutralised? What is the effect of this or that kind of
punishment? These are the momentous problems; in comparison with
these, all fine-spun definitions respecting the difference between one
crime and another are mere dust in the balance. There can be little
doubt that a neglect of those considerations on the part of many
magistrates and judges, is at the root of the capricious sentences so
often passed upon criminals. The effects of this neglect result in the
passing of sentences of too great severity on first offenders and the
young; and of too much leniency on hardened and habitual criminals.
Leniency, says Grotius, should be exercised with discernment,
otherwise it is not a virtue, but a weakness and a scandal.

When imprisonment has to be resorted to, it must be made a genuine
punishment if it is to exercise any effect as a deterrent. The moment
a prison is made a comfortable place to live in, it becomes useless as
a safeguard against the criminal classes. This is a fundamental
principle. But punishment, although an essential part of imprisonment,
is not its only purpose. Imprisonment should also be a preparation for
liberty. If a convicted man is as unfit for social life at the
expiration of his sentence as he was at the commencement of it, the
prison has only accomplished half its work; it has satisfied the
feeling of public vengeance, but it has failed to transform the
offender into a useful citizen. How to prepare the offender for
liberty is, I admit, a task of supreme difficulty; in some oases,
probably, an impossible task. For work of this character what is
wanted above all is an enlightened staff. Mere machines are useless;
men unacquainted with civil life and its conditions are useless. It is
from civil life the prisoner is taken; it is to civil life he has to
return, and unless he is under the care of men who have an intimate
knowledge of civil life, he will not have the same prospect of being
fitted into it when he has once more to face the world.

In the preparation of this volume I have carefully examined the most
recent ideas of English and Continental writers (especially the
Italians) on the subject of crime. The opinions it contains are based
on an experience of fourteen years in Orders most of which have been
spent in prison work. In revising the proofs I have received valuable
assistance from Mr. J. Morrison.





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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 28th Feb 2020, 13:11