By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Psychology and Crime
Author: Holmes, Thomas
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Psychology and Crime" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

images generously made available by The Internet
Archive/Canadian Libraries)




        By G. Lowes Dickinson

        By G. Lowes Dickinson

        By G. Lowes Dickinson

        By One of Them

        By Thomas Holmes






_All rights reserved_


Sincerely do I hope that the issue of this little book may prove useful
in drawing the attention of the public to the mental and physical
condition of the unfortunates who form such a large proportion of our
prison population.

To our authorities the sad plight of this mass of smitten humanity is
well known. Year after year our Prison Commissioners, in presenting
their reports, have not failed to impress upon the State the great part
physical and mental afflictions play in the production of crime.

So far, the information given by the Prison Commissioners has
produced little or no effect; neither have their representations led
to any alteration in the treatment of unfortunate individuals whose
infirmities are in reality the root cause of their delinquency.

To the official information I add the result of my own prolonged
experience. This experience has imbued me with the conviction that the
present methods of dealing with suffering humanity are neither wise,
just, nor efficacious. I have seen the helplessness of so many that are
called criminals that, in writing these pages, I am animated with a
keen desire to hasten the day of sensible reform. Surely the day cannot
be far distant when the State will take mental and physical infirmities
into consideration when it has to deal with its erring children.

      Thomas Holmes.

 _Howard Association,
 Devonshire Chambers, Bishopsgate._


 CHAP.                            PAGE

   I Psychology and Crime              1

  II Physiology and Crime             13

 III Is there a Criminal Type?        34

  IV Epilepsy and Crime               48

   V Women and Crime                  63

  VI Prisons—Why they Fail!           71




I hope that no one will be prevented from reading this chapter by its
title, for let me say at once that I am not the least bit scientific.
Whatever I have to say will be expressed in very simple language, and
further, that in the writing of it I am animated with the desire of
conveying to thoughtful and non-scientific readers some of the personal
causes that lead individuals to commit actions that are deemed criminal.

Of the social and industrial causes of crime I shall be silent, for
whole volumes have been and can still be written on those subjects, and
though to me they are very inviting topics, I must within the compass
of this little book ignore them.

I shall of course speak “right on” and tell of what I have seen and
known during my many years’ experience of London’s criminals.

Indeed, I have no other qualification than this: that for twenty-five
years I have spent my days in London police courts, and my evenings
with discharged prisoners.

I may also add to these opportunities for study, frequent visits to
prisons, and confidential talks with prisoners.

It will, I think, be admitted that I have had privileged opportunities
for learning something, but by no means everything, of the
characteristics, mentality and personality of law-breakers.

Of a certainty, considering the extent of my opportunities, I must
have been dull if I had not learned much, or what is perhaps of more
importance, unlearned a great deal more about the personal causes of

I will therefore draw upon my own experience, feeling quite sure that
a non-scientific book, though small in size and free from pretensions,
will be a welcome addition to the long list of books that have been
written upon this interesting subject.

To me it is a most inviting subject, yet it is a singularly dangerous
one; for when any one undertakes to explain the working of another
man’s mind, and to give reasons for the other man’s actions, he assumes
a knowledge that he cannot possess, though he may honestly believe that
he possesses it. In reality he makes statements that cannot be proved,
but they are statements that cannot be disproved.

The list of scientific books on this subject is a long one, indeed it
is almost interminable. Many of these books are voluminous in size
and terrifying in title. Some of these, written by men of eminence,
have their uses, and may be considered standard works. Neither can
there be the slightest doubt that the accumulated experience, research
or opinions of thinking men have, and have very rightly, a title to
serious consideration.

But when any book professes to be a kind of mental “ready reckoner” for
judges, magistrates and others who are called upon to adjudicate upon
the guilt or innocence of individuals, and to apportion punishment, I
for one feel suspicious as to the value of that book for its specified

It is, no doubt, a comforting thought to many who have to sit in
judgment upon others, that they can have access to books written by
learned scientists that will afford them light and leading on the
mysteries of criminal psychology.

But is it possible to explore the innermost recesses of a criminal’s
mind, or to follow the workings of passion, instinct, mania or whim in
any selected prisoner?

With all respect I venture to say it is not possible. The pretension
to such knowledge is at once dangerous and misleading; and though many
things in a book of this description may be true and instructive, the
great bulk of it must be pure conjecture. So far as my experience
goes, no two criminals are alike; but while they vary as ordinary
people vary, they are far more careful than ordinary people to conceal
their thoughts, and, believe me, they are far more successful in their

As a matter of fact, the criminal, especially the habitual criminal,
lives in a world of self-repression. In prison he is not only shut up,
but he also shuts himself up. He gives nothing away to his would-be

He is cute enough to know what the investigator is after, and clever
enough to give answers that will please his questioner and confirm him
in judgments that he has already formed: though probably there is not
more than a grain of truth in the whole of the answers he will give. I
am led to these remarks by the fact that all round me as I write are
books that deal with the crime of the world, hundreds of them, and a
weird collection they form.

As I sit and look at them they fascinate me, almost cast a spell over
me. But when I rise from my desk, take one into my hand and read but a
single page, I am disillusioned.

For I realise that the writer knows no more of the true inwardness of
things appertaining to the criminal mind, than ordinary observant men
may know.

True, he can mystify us with scientific terms; he can talk about the
conscious and the subconscious, and many other speculative things. He
can give us measurements of the body and describe the exact angle at
which a criminal’s ears stand, and the angle at which his chin recedes.

But when from these he proceeds to reveal the recesses of the mind at
the back of the big ears, or the little chins, we feel that we are on
an equality with the writer, for we know as much upon the matter as
scientists or specialists can know.

Now these books have been written by all sorts of people: doctors of
law and of medicine, scientists, professors, governors and chaplains of
prisons, journalists and self-appointed specialists.

Mostly they come to us from the continent of Europe, where the various
schools of psychological thought contend for mastery.

The Lombrosian school tells us how to detect the criminal by his
physical conformation, or by the convolutions of his brain; but as the
brain cannot be dissected while the criminal lives, this method of
identification is of no practical use.

Another school will tell us how to detect the criminal by his behaviour
whilst undergoing interrogation or standing his trial, when, not only
his appearance, but his actions also are to be closely observed by
judge and jury.

Should the accused smooth the hair upon his head with his hand, it
is a sign of fear, for he feels a sensation at the roots of his hair
as though each particular hair was standing on its end. He therefore
involuntarily attempts to smooth it down. Now all this may be true, but
it conveys nothing, and to take it as a sign of guilt is childishly

A perfectly innocent person may have a greater sense of fear than the
most guilty criminal, for certainly the ultimate consequences of the
trial are to him of far greater importance, and more likely to produce
the sensation of fear. I have before me the latest addition to this
class of book, so far as England is concerned. It numbers no less than
five hundred pages, and each page contains at least four hundred words.

It comes to us from Austria, via America. Its translation into English
must have been a stupendous task, for the author has laid the world
under contribution, and given us selections from, and references to,
hundreds of books dealing with criminal psychology: the result being an
intensely interesting book.

Just how far the demeanour, actions and traits of foreign criminals may
furnish safe guidance in the judgment of English prisoners, neither
author nor translator tell us. But as the peculiarities of crime and
criminals are generally questions of latitude and longitude, climate,
environment, social condition and national temperament, so it seems
to me that the psychology and mannerism of criminals must differ
accordingly, and that the rules set up for guidance in one part of the
world may be quite inapplicable to another part.

The author tells us that this book is a “manual” for judges,
practitioners and students; for it deals not only with the psychology
of criminals or suspected criminals, but with that of judges,
magistrates, witnesses and police also. To every thoughtful layman I
would heartily recommend this book, for it is well worth reading and
pondering; but I would rigidly prevent all judges, magistrates and
jurymen having access to it. Why? Because it is their business and
prerogative to decide upon the guilt or innocence of the prisoner
according to the weight of the evidence, every detail of which demands
their concentrated attention if justice is to be done.

I can imagine nothing more disastrous to the administration of justice
than a course of study of what is called criminal psychology. Students
of human nature I would have them all to be, for such study is
essential and leads to nothing but good. But to issue “manuals” that
profess to instruct them upon the mysterious working of the human mind;
to teach them to weigh the relative worth of provincial mannerism and
individual characteristics; to tell the value of a look of the eyes,
the smile of the face, and the movement of the hands; to teach them to
notice all these things, and then by a process of inductive reasoning
to decide upon the guilt or innocence of the individual may be criminal
psychology, but it is rubbish none the less, and dangerous rubbish too!

Do the eminent writers of these books ever consider the effect likely
to be produced on the minds of judges, magistrates and jurors who may
read, believe and adopt their teaching?

Humbly, but very earnestly, I say that any magistrate, judge or juror
who is steeped in this kind of teaching is quite unfitted by his
supposed knowledge for the task he has in hand. For of all men, judges
require the open mind and the clean slate and with them there must be
no judgment formed apart from the evidence of fact. They of all men
must not be inflated with the idea that they can “read people”—can see
through them; that they, independently of evidence, can give a correct

Let us suppose that we compelled our magistrates, great and small, to
pass an examination in criminal psychology, using these “manuals” as
textbooks. I venture to say that a queer state of things would follow.
The action of magistrates would be dominated by their own individual
psychology, and their own psychology would be dominated by the effect
the “manual” had produced on their mind. The shallow man would be
assured of his competence and knowledge, and he would, to his own
satisfaction at least, know all about it. But the greater man would
hesitate; he would be in a quandary, on the horns of a dilemma, for he
would find that the formula of his “manual,” by which he was to form an
opinion as to the guilt of the prisoner, applied with equal force to
the innocence of the prisoner.

Let us suppose a case where three magistrates form a Bench, each
having been trained according to the “manual.” No. 1 is certain; No.
2 is diffident, and No. 3 is a dreamer and greatly interested in

A prisoner is before them on a disgraceful charge; he is innocent, and
has hitherto lived an irreproachable life. The prisoner protests his
innocence, but cannot control himself; he wipes his brow, he smooths
his hair, he clenches his fist, and his eyes flash fiercely.

Magistrate No. 1 notices all these things and says to himself: “The
prisoner has no self-control; he is in fear, he is passionate, he is
charged with a crime of passion, he is guilty!” But magistrate No. 2
also notices all these things and says to himself: “The prisoner is
indignant, he feels his position acutely, for he is a respectable man;
he fears the consequences the more because he is an innocent man; I am
for his acquittal, but I am not sure, for his bearing is compatible
with guilt or innocence.” Magistrate No. 3 has been eagerly looking for
some proof of subconsciousness, and not having discovered any, he is
uninterested in the mental equation that excites his colleagues.

Happy will that Bench be if it possesses a common-sensed old chairman
who has not graduated in criminal psychology: who is content to be
guided entirely by the actual evidence; and happy will it be for the
innocent prisoner too!

So far as I have read these “manuals,” and so far as my personal
experience goes—and it is not a short one—I have discovered no outward
and visible signs that indicate a prisoner’s guilt that may not at the
same time be taken as an indication of the prisoner’s innocence.

But supposing that our worthy magistrates, not being satisfied on
psychological grounds, or for other reasons, decide to commit the
prisoner for trial by judge and jury. Why, then, there will be curious
happenings if judge and jury, with prosecuting and defending counsel,
have been trained as per “manual.”

For the psychology of the various witnesses must be examined, declared
and rebutted. The mentality of the police must be exposed, dilated
upon, attacked and defended, and a clever lawyer would find ample scope
for his ability by probing and peering into the mind of his lordship
the judge. Really there would be no end to the possibilities, and a
pretty state of things would eventuate, for the jury, although having
previously given satisfactory proof that their minds were in good
working order, would before the end be reduced to a psychological state
bordering on imbecility, and would be rendered quite incapable of any
but a confused judgment.

No, I am not exaggerating, for one “manual” in my possession gives
instruction upon all these and hundreds of other useless points.

This may be considered as psychology run mad; nevertheless, it is
a state of things that is likely to come about if we are guided by
scientists, and the present trend is certainly in this direction.

Let me, therefore, before it is too late, register a protest against
the assumption that it is necessary for our judges and magistrates to
be trained in what is not and can never be an exact science: criminal

But let them be trained to weigh and assort actual evidence, for this
has hitherto been the glory of the English jurists. Institute we well
may some training for justices of the peace, and it would be well if
they were submitted to some examination that their capabilities for the
work might be tested; but to put books into their hands which profess
to explain the workings of a prisoner’s mind, and to reveal his hidden
thoughts, is a plan at once futile and dangerous.

While I am persuaded that it will be well for us if our judges,
magistrates and jurors are not requested to take honours in psychology,
I am still more firmly convinced that it will be a bad day for us when
science or evolution provides us with mental rays that will enable us
to explore the criminal mind. I would allow even the worst of men to
have something of his own, sacred to himself—some corner, even though
it be a dark one, into which he can retire with the certainty that no
one can follow him.

Punish him if we must! pity him we certainly should! control and reform
him if we can! But let us make no attempt to turn him inside out and
exhibit his mental organisation to curious people by a series of mental

For should that day come, it will be an evil one for some respectable
people, for the rays will be turned upon us, and not to our comfort!
Some very good people that I know will turn out disappointments, and
our faith in each other will vanish.

For one reason, and one reason only, I would like such rays to exist:
they would show us that there is little difference between the criminal
and the ordinary law-abiding citizen; and in reckoning the sum total of
good and evil in each I am not certain that the criminal would always
come off the worst.

But I am sure that we shall be in for lively times when we are able to
explore each other’s minds.

There is that fellow Brown, he is a mystery to me; I feel sure that he
is a rascal; I can’t imagine how he gets a living. He is a dangerous
man! I avail myself of the first opportunity and turn my rays upon him;
I rake him fore and aft, nothing escapes me, horrified though I am; I
find him worse than I expected, but I take my mental photograph and use
it too! I think it my duty to warn my friends against him. Brown hears
of it and meets me—result: physical, not psychological, reasons keep me
at home for a week.

Would the world be happier, would justice be better administered if
we acquired through science “manuals” or evolution powers of this
description? I think not! Better, I say, a hundred times better for us
to remain in our present state of ignorance, thinking the best of each
other, than for us to “probe in the bowels of unwelcome truth.”

But the study of criminal psychology has its place, or ought to have
its place, and an important place too, in our penal administration;
and our prisons, when they are properly conducted, will become at once
mental and physical observatories.

It is in this department of administration, not in courts of justice,
the criminal psychologist may pursue his investigations, exercise his
powers and develop his science without fear of doing any serious wrong.
Not that prison is of all places the best, but for the reason that in
prison material is always at hand for the purpose. But I shall deal
with this more fully in another chapter.



In this chapter I want to show that crime generally does not proceed
from sheer wickedness, or the desire to be criminal. I am anxious to
burn this into the brain and conscience of the nation. I would like our
authorities to accept it as an axiom! For then they would seek as far
as possible to understand our criminals, and getting knowledge of them,
they would deal differently with them. And dealing differently with
them would bring blessed results, for many of our prisons would become
useless; they would be untenanted!

I maintain that the most serious causes of crime are physiological, not
psychological. And though in all probability we shall remain impotent
with regard to psychological causes, there is not the slightest reason
why we should not learn a great deal more about, and do a great deal
to cure or prevent, the physiological causes of crime. Perhaps if I
were a scientist I would say pathological causes, but I use the word
“physiological” to denote all bodily conditions other than brain
disease. This, too, is of course physical, though we term it mental,
for the brain is matter as truly as it is mind. I am ashamed to
confess that I do not know where the physical ends and the mental
begins, neither can I tell at what point the pathological ends and the
psychological begins, for psychology is but extended physiology.

The body acts upon the mind, and the mind upon the body in so many,
and in such mysterious ways, that I cannot differentiate between them.
But of one thing I am quite certain, and it is this: that the best way
to learn something of a criminal’s mind is to ascertain everything
possible with regard to his body.

In prison this can easily be done, for in prison there is an abundance
of time, ample opportunity, and a sufficiency of means for this
interesting study. In one Continental prison this is done. There
the doctor, not the governor, is the most important personage. From
him I sometimes get very instructive communications. The author of
the “manual” quoted tells us “that it is his aim to present such a
psychology as will deal with all states of mind that might possibly be
involved in the determination and judgment of crime.” This is a large
order, for he promises an impossibility. I marvel at his temerity,
I am then struck by his audacity. But on consulting his index and
searching his five hundred pages I admire his prudence, for he never
attempts to keep his promise. I find no reference to the influence that
physical disease, affliction or deprivation exercises upon the mind.
Of epileptics he has nothing to say. He ignores afflictions! Of the
blind, the deaf and dumb he is apparently unaware; the cripple, the
hunchback, the maimed, the one-armed, the one-legged, the sufferers
from sunstroke, and the vast army whose lives have been spoiled through
physical accidents—of their psychology we are told nothing.

Yet every one knows, or might know, that their psychological condition
is absolutely dominated by their physical condition. In each of them
physical nature has been outraged, it has been assaulted; and Nature,
knowing no pity, hits back again with a vengeance.

We know, or we might if we cared to know, that these unfortunates,
having suffered loss, must receive compensation of some kind, and if
that compensation be not of a comforting and inspiring character,
including training, education, control and new favourable developments,
they become potential criminals. Their wits become sharpened to
deceive, their tempers violent, explosive and dangerous. Some one has
said, “I am my body.” While this may not be wholly true, there is still
a world of truth in the statement. So I again suggest that before we
try to grope in the dark recesses of the mind, we set to work to learn
more of the body, for that is an open book.

Believe me, it is given to very few to bear about with them a deformed,
mutilated or afflicted body without their minds becoming changed also.

Verily, the writers of our old fairy tales and our early novelists
were not very far wrong. Have any of my readers ever walked through
Parkhurst prison? It is a sort of convalescent home for criminals—a
sanatorium, if you will, in the Isle of Wight.

If you have not, then come with me in imagination! Never mind the
building, take no heed of the officials, let us concentrate our
attention on the prisoners, the criminals, for they are all undergoing
penal servitude.

You gasp! and well you may. You never saw such a strange, pitiful mass
of smitten humanity! Well! that is something to be thankful for.

“Do you want any specialist in psychology to reveal the working of
their queer minds?” “No,” you say, “their poor bodies reveal their
minds.” “But they are convicts.” “Oh, no,” you say, “surely they are

And patients they ought to be; but convicts the law declares them, and
convicts they will remain till their smitten bodies and poor minds part

I declare that this criminal psychology business makes me hot! It is
criminal physiology we should be after, not psychology.

But let us go back to Parkhurst, and talk the matter over.

In Parkhurst there is a daily average of over 750 convicts, of whom
nearly one-fourth are under hospital treatment.

The death-rate is high in spite of great medical care and healthy
environment, and in spite of the number of prisoners released on
account of their health.

The number of consumptives in 1909 was 34, of whom 14 were new
admissions and 13 others were noted as having disease of the lungs
previous to their reception; 3 prisoners died of this disease during
the year. But hear this—for I am quoting from an official report for

“The number classified as weak-minded at the end of the year was
117, but in addition 34 other convicts were attached to parties of
weak-minded for further mental observation.”

Now, add together the hospital patients, the consumptives, the
weak-minded and those suspected of mental weakness, subtract them from
the total 750 convicts; how many have we left? I don’t know, I have no
means of knowing. But we will suppose that one-half of them are neither
invalids nor weak-minded. March them out! let us look at them; one look
is enough, what have we seen? Blighted bodies! twisted bodies! and
mutilated bodies! retarded physical growth accompanied with undeveloped
minds. Bleared eyes and defective eyesight, epileptics and similar
sufferers, a motley, pitiful assemblage of unfortunate humanity, and
alas! hopeless humanity.

You say, “But these broken fellows cannot commit crime.” Can’t they?
here is a list of their crimes tabulated by the medical officer for
State purposes, but it refers to the weak-minded only: False pretences
3; receiving stolen property 3; larceny 18; burglary 7; house- or
shop-breaking 19; uttering counterfeit coin 1; threatening letters
4; threatening violence 1; robbery with violence 3; manslaughter 6;
wounding with intent 8; grievous bodily harm 2; attempted murder 1;
wilful murder 7; rape 5; arson 15; carnal knowledge of little girls 8;
cattle-maiming 1; placing obstruction on railway 2; unnatural offence
3; total 117.

“An awful list,” you say. “Yes, but it is an illuminating list!” Again
I quote: “During the year 35 convicts were certified as insane and sent
to asylums”; work that out in your minds, think of it! “Why,” you say,
“the State has been punishing them when they are not responsible; it
has been tabulating them as criminals when it ought to have restrained
them as patients!” True! for the State awarded an average of something
like seven years’ penal servitude to each of them for their last
sentence only. Now, what reasonable man wants to know more about the
psychology of these men than is apparent to any one who possesses eyes
and can use them?

But let us listen to the chaplain, and here I quote from his official

“The large number of ‘weak-minded’ cases located here adds considerably
to the strain imposed by prison work.

“Many of them are irritable and very exacting in their demands for
individual attention.

“We do our best to meet their requirements, and find that patience and
kindness go a long way in allaying their excitement. The work amongst
this class of prisoner is highly interesting, but I sincerely regret
that their prospects on discharge are no brighter.

“In many cases freedom simply means a relapse into crime, from sheer
inability to obtain or follow any ordinary occupation.

“It is surely time that some comprehensive scheme be started for
dealing with these unfortunate creatures.

“It is worthy of note that out of the 142 weak-minded prisoners
confined here in 1908-9, only 8 could be held responsible for their
lamentable state, their weak-minded condition being attributed to
over-indulgence in alcohol. ‘Unfortunate’ seems, therefore, a correct
description of this class of prisoner, who are really more deserving
of pity than punishment, and certainly call for special treatment on

“There are a considerable number of senile and debilitated convicts
here, many of whom have several convictions recorded against them. They
are absolutely unfitted for employment, and on release have to face one
of two alternatives—the workhouse or another period of imprisonment.
The great majority openly confess their preference for a penal
establishment, and I am convinced that a large number deliberately
commit a crime which will ensure their return to this prison.

“The State would save a considerable sum annually if such men could
be placed, under a medical certificate, on an old age pension list,
or boarded out in some home under proper supervision. It would be
interesting to watch an experiment tried with a few selected cases of
senile prisoners released on a conditional licence.

“This is a somewhat revolutionary suggestion, perhaps; but the problem
of dealing with habitual offenders who are incapable of work is worthy
of consideration, and needs solution.”

But I may be told that Parkhurst is an exceptional prison, and that it
is intended chiefly for weaklings.

This is quite true, but it is beside the question; for the inhabitants
of Parkhurst are convicts, men who have, as my list shows, committed
serious crime; that they have been gathered from other prisoners goes
to prove my point, viz., that physical causes which are evident demand
attention to an infinitely greater degree than speculative and obscure
causes that we cannot diagnose, and which, for all we know, may not

But what obtains at Parkhurst exists in every other prison, unless
it be a specialised prison such as Borstal in England, and Elmira in

Year after year in their annual report the Prison Commissioners tell
us, and they are never tired of telling us, that our prisons are filled
with the very poor, the very weak, the afflicted and the ignorant.

I could fill a volume with extracts from reports with such testimony;
governors, chaplains and medical officers with wearying monotony have
testified to the same effect.

Has not their accumulated evidence been published in Blue books? It
has; but it has suffered the fate to which all Blue books are doomed,
for it has been buried with the dead past. The Prison Commissioners
have taken infinite pains to ascertain the truth, and have not been
slow in declaring the truth so far as it has been revealed to them.

They tell us that for ten years they have in Pentonville prison
measured, weighed and medically examined all the young prisoners,
_i.e._, all those under twenty-one years of age who have undergone
sentences in that huge establishment.

Many thousands of such prisoners have passed through Pentonville during
those ten years, and a terrible procession of smitten humanity they
have presented.

Listen, my lords and gentlemen of both Houses! Heed! all Social
Reformers of every kind! Think of it, all you specialists who claim to
explore the criminal mind! “On an average they are two inches less in
height, and fourteen pounds less in weight than the average industrial
population of similar ages; 28 per cent. of them suffer from some
physical disease or deprivation,” and then the report goes on to add
“the highest proportion of reconvictions was amongst this class, being
no less than 40 per cent.”

I demand attention to this statement; nay, it demands and should compel
attention of itself.

This very bald statement of a stupendous fact ought to make us think.

Thousands, tens of thousands of young fellows, two inches below
their proper height, fourteen pounds less than their proper weight,
twenty-eight out of every hundred physically afflicted, and forty out
of every hundred reconvicted again and again!!

Who cares to trouble about their psychology? Not I! But I do care and
want others to care a great deal about their bodies, so I say let
psychology go hang! Let us concentrate on their bodies.

And my own observation, in prison and outside prison, confirms these
startling facts.

Hundreds of young fellows who have served short sentences of
imprisonment find their way to my house or to my office. I rarely find
a full-sized and well-developed fellow amongst them, for, mostly, they
are of the class described by the Prison Commissioners.

Round shoulders, flat chests and flat feet, poor teeth, sore eyes, are
ever noticeable, while not a few point me to their maimed hands or
other limbs and tell me of their illnesses.

I am heartily tired of meeting with such afflicted humanity that I
cannot help or assist in any useful way.

But I want no specialist or professor to read me their minds, for their
bodies are their minds.

These young fellows are not particularly wicked; they have no great
passion that dominates their lives. They are not anxious to do ill;
they have no great aspirations for good. If they were free agents,
which they are not, they would prefer good to evil. But being good
does not happen to fill their stomachs, but doing evil does, either in
prison or in the lodging-houses.

Now, I myself will venture into psychology, and I will voice their
opinions. “We are poor, weak and afflicted, but we are not to blame; no
one will give us work, for we have had no training; we cannot do hard
work, we are not big or strong enough; we do not want to be dishonest,
but we must live somehow. If we are caught we go to prison, where we
have food and lodgings and no hard work to do; and they are good to us
in prison.” This, I contend, is a fair statement of the condition and
temperament of thousands that we call criminals!

Is it a wonder, then, I would ask, that many of them find their way
into convict prisons, Portland, Parkhurst or Dartmoor, as their health

What about Borstal! I hear some one say. The doors of Borstal are
closed against them, for they are neither big enough, strong enough
nor healthy enough for Borstal, which demands, and receives, strong,
healthy young fellows only—no others need apply!

I have no doubt that the psychology of these fellows changes with the
flight of years and frequent imprisonments, and probably when they
arrive at forty years of age they will provide an interesting study for
clever professors of psychology, though I am inclined to believe that
even at that age their bodies will still be indexes to their mind, for
their weaknesses and abnormalities will be the more pronounced.

Now, all this does not mean that I wish it to be inferred that healthy
and well-developed men never commit crime, for that is far from true.
Some of the worst rogues and most dangerous criminals I have ever
met have been strong, handsome fellows, well over the average size
of fully developed men. There are, however, so far as my experience
has shown me, but few criminals of that description; though it is of
course certain that big men may commit crimes of any kind, and healthy,
handsome, educated men who persist in crime may well be subjects for
psychological research; but of that class I shall have more to say
in another chapter. For the present I am maintaining that physical
causes determine the character and lives of the bulk of our criminals;
that they are criminals not because they possess a dark, mysterious
psychology, or because they are of malice aforethought determined to be
criminals, but because they are either weak or afflicted.

In a word weakness, not wickedness, is the one general cause of crime.

These men form a stage army of criminals; they move from place to
place; they are classified and catalogued in prison after prison; they
are tossed from pillar to post; they are subjected to short terms of
useless imprisonment and then thrust into short terms of hopeless
liberty. What wonder that their physical condition gets worse! Or that
they ultimately attain to certified feeble-mindedness!

Many of them, as I have pointed out, eventually commit serious crimes;
and then a series of sentences to penal servitude await them, if happy
death does not claim them or lunatic asylums absorb them.

The great majority, however, pursue their wearying round of small
crimes and small imprisonments.

The State then discovers that, though they are not insane, not
absolutely feeble-minded, that there is something wrong with them, and
that they are, so to speak, “childish.”

So a half-way classification has been coined for them; they are, the
State declares, “unfit for prison discipline.” Unfit for prison! unfit
for asylums! unfit for liberty! unfit for social or industrial life!
unfit for anything!

They are in a parlous state, they commit crime, but they are not
criminals. Every year 400 new names are added to the list of these
unfortunates who are still regularly committed to prison, so the Prison
Commissioners tell us. Again I ask, what can it profit us to know more
of the psychology of these “criminals” than is apparent to any one with

I am almost ashamed of calling attention to this national disgrace,
I have done it so frequently; but I have called to deaf ears so far
as this country is concerned. But I have some comfort in knowing that
in one European country where my pamphlets on this question have
been very largely distributed, a large piece of uncultivated land has
been secured and a colony established for the permanent detention
and complete segregation of these helpless people. To Holland, then,
belongs the honour of being the first nation to make a merciful and
sensible provision for this unfortunate class.

But I would like to ask our authorities whether they ever read their
own Blue books! Whether they really do so, or carefully abstain from
doing so, I would like them to read carefully and consider seriously
the following extracts from the Prison Commissioners’ report for
1910-11, just issued. These extracts I give exactly in the same words
used by the different prison officials. They speak for themselves, and
all bear testimony to my contention that the physical condition of
thousands of our prisoners is the root cause of their criminality.


“Forty-seven prisoners of weak intellect (thirty-six males and eleven
females) were received during the year. Only the worst cases are here
referred to. This useless procedure (the committal and recommittal
of such people to prison) continues. No good purpose is served by
it, except that these people receive perhaps better food and better
treatment than they are accustomed to outside.

“They usually work well under supervision, and, except for occasional
offences against the regulations (rather in the nature of silly pranks)
they are fairly well behaved, orderly and respectful.”


“Forty-six prisoners on remand from police courts and petty sessions
were reported insane. Two were found ‘insane on arraignment,’ and five
‘guilty but insane.’

“No convicted prisoners were certified as insane at the prison.
Thirty-two were classed as feeble-minded, 403 prisoners under remand
were specially observed and examined as to their mental condition: 204
were remanded for this purpose.”


“The number of epileptics was 92. Out of 167 prisoners remanded for
mental observation, thirty-four males and ten females were found to be
insane, and dealt with by summary jurisdiction.

“When prisoners are suspected by the Liverpool police of being
weak-minded, they are remanded for mental observation, and on my
confirmatory report are discharged to the workhouse or care of friends.”


“It was found necessary to put 360 prisoners under mental observation,
either on reception, or after location, in the general prison. The
following are the details of 210 of the more marked and decided of
these cases of mental defect—

  Reported weak-minded                               66
  Certified as lunatics and removed to an asylum      9
  Epilepsy and allied conditions                     53
  Prisoners with a past history of threatened or
    attempted suicide                                15
  Temporary alcoholic excitement                     67

“Last year the number of weak-minded was sixty, and of certified
lunatics seven. It is interesting to observe how closely the figures
now given approximate to those of last year.”

Wormwood Scrubbs

“Twenty-six prisoners of markedly feeble mind were received (four of
them were each committed twice and one of the number three times during
the year), and the cases of thirty-five prisoners of this class were
brought to the notice of the police prior to their discharge from

“The chief defects noted were as follows—

  (_a_) Physical deficiency and deformities              126 per 1000
  (_b_) Mental deficiency                                 25  "   "
  (_c_) Affections of heart, lung, and principal organs  129  "   "
  (_d_) Visual defects                                    49  "   "
  (_e_) Auditory defects                                  14  "   "

“They were regularly inspected at work, and their training and general
well-being were closely supervised.”


“The very poor physique of the inmates on admission impresses one very
much more than is shown by the figures of comparison with any so-called
normal standards, as we do not separate our town and country inmates.
Our country inmates, as a rule, have better physique, and though not so
mentally quick are more hopeful cases when once a hold can be obtained
of them. Among the town inmates one finds two classes, one showing
signs of degeneration, as poor physique, narrow chest, short stature,
light weight associated with a low cunning and a peculiar restlessness
of their eyes, watching for every movement; and among these a high
arched palate is often noticed.”


“Although evil environment must of course take first place among the
causes of most of these youths’ downfall, I am becoming more and more
struck with the importance of physical unfitness as a determining

“From observations actually made among a large number of our older
receptions, I find that some 60 per cent. had tried (some many times)
to join either the Army or Navy. Only 15 per cent. of these had passed
‘fit.’ Many of the remaining 40 per cent., knowing that their physical
defects would unfit them, had not been to a recruiting-office, so that
presumably, but for physical inferiority we might have saved about
one-half of those sentenced to the Borstal system.”

 Note.—The above remarks become the more striking when it is borne in
 mind that Borstal receives the best and healthiest young prisoners.


“A new feature has been the formation of ‘An Aged Convicts’ Party’
consisting of old men of sixty-seven years of age and upwards; they
are located together, with special diet and privileges. A day room has
been provided, also a garden with a yard adjoining; they are expected
to do any light work they can undertake, without being tasked, and they
are allowed to read and converse together. They appear to appreciate
the relaxation of the ordinary prison discipline, and so far their
behaviour has been excellent.

“The number classified as weak-minded at the end of the year was 120,
but in addition there were twenty-seven convicts attached to the
parties of weak-minded for further mental observation.

_Classification of Weak-minded Convicts_

  (_a_) Congenital deficiency—
    1. With epilepsy                                  10
    2. Without epilepsy                               36

  (_b_) Imperfectly developed stage of insanity       26

  (_c_) Mental debility after attack of insanity      13

  (_d_) Senility                                       3

  (_e_) Alcoholic                                      9

  (_f_) Undefined                                     23
  Total                                              120

“The following is a list of crimes of the classified weak-minded, for
which they are undergoing their present sentences of penal servitude,
and the number convicted for each type of crime—

  False pretences                          1
  Receiving stolen property                2
  Larceny                                 24
  Burglary                                13
  Shopbreaking, housebreaking, etc.       19
  Blackmailing                             1
  Manslaughter                             5
  Inflicting grievous bodily harm          2
  Wounding with intent                     7
  Shooting with intent                     3
  Wilful murder                           10
  Rape                                     2
  Carnal knowledge of little girls         8
  Arson                                   17
  Horse-stealing                           3
  Killing sheep                            1
  Unnatural offence                        1
  Placing obstruction on railway           1

“A study of the criminal history of these 120 weak-minded convicts
shows that sixty-two committed their first crime before the age of
twenty years, and the total number of previous convictions standing
against these 120 convicts amounted, in the aggregate, to 91 penal
and 1,306 others. Forty convicts were certified insane: of these
twenty-four were removed to the Criminal Asylum at Parkhurst, five
to Broadmoor Asylum, seven to the County or Borough Asylums, one
recovered, and three detained in the Prison Infirmary. Please notice
how closely these figures approximate to the figures of the previous


  (_a_) The _bona fide_ working men in search of
  employment                                            17 per cent.

  (_b_) The casual labourer unwilling or unfit
  for continued work—the first to lose
  employment and the last to regain
  it as trade falls or rises                            31    "

  (_c_) The habitual vagrant and mendicant              41    "

  (_d_) Old and infirm persons “wandering to
  their own hurt,” crawling from ward
  to ward, entering the workhouse infirmary
  only when compelled to do
  so, living by begging, and constant
  trouble to the police and magistrates                 11    "

“Altogether 207 tramps were received during the above-stated period.”


“As in former years the number, especially of youths, imprisoned for
minor—I will not say trivial—offences has been considerable. What to do
with these lads is a problem of much difficulty, many are homeless and
friendless. Their parents are dead, or have forsaken their offspring;
living just anywhere or anyhow, one can only have for such a feeling of
profound pity.”


“The steadily increasing number of the vagrant and feeble-minded is a
subject urgently demanding special legislation. It is hopeless for any
Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society to attempt to do anything for these


“The weak-minded have been collected and reported in each case
according to Standing Order. Sixteen cases of insanity were also dealt

Can any words of mine add force to these terrible statements and
convincing figures? I think not! Can any master of the English language
add potency to them? I think not! so I let them stand in their bald
simplicity as a proof of my contention, and as an indictment of our
present methods for dealing with smitten and afflicted prisoners.



Is there a criminal type? After years of close observation, during
which I have formed many friendships with criminals, I can only answer
this question in the words that I have answered it before, and say
that, physically, I have not found any evidence to show that a criminal
type exists. In saying this I know that I shall run counter to the
teaching of a good many people, and probably run counter to public
opinion. For the criminal class and the criminal type have been written
about so largely, and talked about so frequently, that the majority
of people have come to the conclusion that our criminals come from a
particular order of society, and that the poorest; or that there exists
a type of people whose physical appearance gives outward and visible
signs that proclaim the inward criminal mind.

I believe both these ideas to be entirely wrong. I was confirmed in
my opinion last year when I visited many of the largest prisons in
the United States; for I found there, as I have found in England, a
complete absence among the prisoners of those physical and facial
peculiarities that we are taught to believe differentiate criminals
from ordinary citizens.

Speaking on this subject to the American Congress at Washington on
October 4, 1910, Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise, K.C.B., the esteemed
chairman of our Prison Commissioners, made the following statement—

“There is no criminal type. Nothing in the past has so retarded
progress as the conviction, deeply rooted and widespread, that the
criminal is a class by himself, different from all others, with a
tendency to crime, of which certain peculiarities of body are the
outward and visible signs.

“This superstition, for such I think it must be called, was, you know,
strengthened and encouraged by the findings of the Italian school.

“It is not based upon disinterested and exact investigation, and not
only has the progress of the science of criminal anthropology been
retarded by this conception, but it accounts for the unfavourable and
sceptical attitude which we still find in many places towards any
attempt to reform the criminal.

“It is my own belief that the assumed co-relation between the mental
and physical characteristics of a man is a superstition and fallacy.
I do not believe that a murderer can be revealed by his frontal
curve, or a thief by his bulging forehead or the shape of his nose.
In England, we have been at great pains during the last two or three
years to disprove, by scientific and exact investigations, this popular
conception of a criminal. We have personally examined three thousand
of our worst convicts, men sentenced to penal servitude and guilty
of every form of crime. With regard to each we have collected and
tabulated no less than ninety-six statements, that is, measurements,
family history, mental and bodily characteristics, etc. The tabulation
is now proceeding at the Biometric Laboratory, University College,
London, under the direction of Dr. Karl Pearson. The results will be
published shortly, and we are only able at present to say that so far
no evidence whatever has emerged from this investigation confirming the
existence of criminal types such as Lombroso and his disciples have

“And, in fact, both with regard to measurements and the presence of
physical anomalies in criminals, these statistics present a startling
conformity with similar statistics of the law-abiding. I thought it
might interest this assembly to know that this investigation has been

“Its results will be what most of us would have anticipated, but it
will be a scientific result, and will serve to break down the vulgar
superstition that criminals are a special type, and as such, in many
cases beyond the reach of reform.”

We await with some interest the declaration of results, but, too, I
feel confident that no evidence will be forthcoming to prove that
criminals can be detected by certain peculiarities of the head and
face. Low foreheads, square jaws, scowling eyes, big, wide ears, and
stubby beards do not denote criminality; receding foreheads, almost
absence of chin and weak eyes do not indicate it either.

Emphatically I say that all these peculiarities may be quite consistent
with honour and honesty, with industry and self-respect. Yet I am
persuaded that all these things would tell against the unhappy
prisoner, if he, although innocent, stood charged with serious crime.

And I am equally sure that if he were guilty, and the evidence proved
him guilty, that his peculiarities would add very considerably to the
length of his sentence. Sometimes a judge or magistrate will so far
forget his dignity and say, alluding to the prisoner’s appearance,
“I can see the sort of man you are.” And his sentence is measured

On the other hand, the basest criminality is quite consistent with a
well-shaped head, a well-developed body, a handsome face and a clear
skin. Some of the most persistent, dangerous and unscrupulous criminals
I have ever met have been fine, handsome men, accompanied either in the
dock or out of it with fine-looking women.

Indeed, dangerous criminals are all the more dangerous when possessed
of health and good looks. Yet I venture to say that health and beauty,
when charged with serious and repeated crime, gets off with a much
lighter sentence than affliction and ugliness! I have frequently
known stupid, half-witted and repulsive-looking criminals far more
severely dealt with than clever, dangerous rogues of more prepossessing

For the thick head does not interest us; the possessor does not excite
our sympathy in the least. Nevertheless “thick head” may be far less
guilty, far more worthy of compassion, and a much better fellow than
the good-looking but complete scoundrel who does interest us. But
his thick-headedness is against him; he is estimated and punished

When standing in front of some hundreds of prisoners, all clothed
in the depressing prison uniform, all exhibiting in their faces the
well-known and easily recognised prison pallor, they all look pretty
much alike, excepting those who suffer from deformities or physical
deprivations. But closer observation and personal contact very quickly
shows that the prisoners differ as much and as widely as ordinary
citizens differ.

Could we remove their prison clothing, dress them as ordinary citizens
dress, and mingle them with a mass of ordinary citizens, I venture to
say that no scientist would be able to detect the criminals by the
formation of their heads or the size of their ears. I do not maintain
that men who possess queer-shaped heads do not commit crime. This is
far from being the case. Unfortunately they do, and very serious crime
too; but I do maintain that the perpetration of crime was caused not
by the shape of their heads, but by causes that exist independently
of it. We have, of course, a very large number of degenerates, but
every degenerate does not possess an ill-formed head. Neither is every
degenerate a criminal. Many of them are happy enough, and innocent
enough when they can get enough to eat and places wherein to sleep.
But when deprived of these things they may steal, beg, sleep out, or
commit some other offence that brings them within the meshes of the
law, and become criminals. They become criminals not because they
possess criminal minds, but because there is no place for them in
our social and industrial life; because their necessities cannot be
supplied in any other way.

To classify such people as criminals is about as wise and just as
classifying babes as criminals! Though they form a considerable
proportion of our prison population, they are not to be detected by
their ill-shaped heads, for some that are declared to be feeble-minded
are quite up to the ordinary standard of beauty.

But there is another kind of degeneracy that cannot be mistaken,
because it can be easily ascertained and established. I now refer to
the physical measurements of prisoners. For many years it has been
noted both in Europe and America that juvenile prisoners are much
inferior in height, weight, muscular strength and capacity to the
average height, weight and strength of the industrial population of
similar age. Our own Prison Commissioners have for ten years conducted
an examination in Pentonville prison of all prisoners between the ages
of 16 years and 21 years. They have given us the results in words and
figures that compel thought. Once more I give their words: “They are
as a class two inches shorter and fourteen pounds lighter than the
average industrial population of similar ages, and 28 per cent. of
them suffer from some disease, affliction, or deprivation,” and the
Commissioners add that the highest proportion of reconvictions comes
from among them, being no less than 40 per cent.

As nearly 1400 of such prisoners pass through Pentonville every year,
and as, moreover, the examination extended over a series of years, it
will be admitted that the results may be taken as not only correct with
regard to Pentonville, but taken also as an accurate description of our
youthful prisoners generally, so far as large towns are concerned.

I am permitted to visit Pentonville and other prisons frequently for
the purpose of addressing the prisoners, so that I see prisoners in the
bulk, and I see many of them separately too.

I am persuaded that the findings of the medical authorities of that
particular prison give a pretty accurate description of prisoners
generally. Retarded growth, ill-nourished bodies and general weakness
have a thousand times more to do with crime than ill-shaped heads. Over
the causes of the latter we have no control, but over the causes that
lead to stunted and ill-nourished bodies we may have, and ought to
have, complete control.

But the great bulk of them have not criminal minds, and though a very
limited number of them show a tendency to deeds of passion or cruelty,
the vast majority find their way into prison simply because they are
helpless outside prison. They must eat, drink and sleep, and to
procure these things they follow the line of least resistance, and beg
or steal.

Their lack of stature, wisdom and muscle renders them incapable of
contending with their more robust fellows, for industrial life demands
either technical skill or robust health; having neither, they are
crowded out of every occupation.

Such men form a great proportion of our prisoners, but they present
a problem that the sociologist rather than the Psychologist is
called upon to solve, for they are the direct product of defective
social, economic, industrial, educational and domestic conditions. To
sociologists, then, I point out these things in the hope that more
attention will be given to them, for it will be an ill day for us if
the serious interest and attention of England is diverted from causes,
and concentrated on effects.

It does not of course follow that because a man is below the normal
height and weight that he is necessarily a weakling, for many little
men are marvels of virility and physique, possessing great brain power
and convincing personality. Of such men I have nothing to say excepting
that when one does become a criminal, he is likely to be a clever and
determined criminal. As I search my mind, and bring to my memory the
numerous criminals that I have associated with, I am conscious of
the fact that nearly all the clever, determined and successful were
small-sized men, light of step, quick of action, upright in carriage,
of good appearance. But they possessed plenty of vitality, their eyes
did not betray them, neither did their heads, ears or chins “give them

Four of the most complete burglars I ever knew were men of this stamp.
Three of them are now in prison, and though the fourth sometimes comes
to see me and produces evidence to show that he is getting a decent
living, I shall not be surprised if he too suddenly disappears. One
of the cleverest, coolest and most perfect criminals I ever knew was
of very small size, straight in body if crooked in mind. While I am
persuaded that physically there exists no such thing as a criminal
type, I am still more persuaded that socially there exists no such
thing as a “criminal class.”

Real crime exists altogether apart from bodily conformation or from
social standing. It may be said, and with truth, that the prison
population is largely recruited from the ranks of the poor. But it must
be borne in mind that the great mass of the people are poor, many of
them being very poor. The number of the rich or well-to-do is but small
compared with the number of poor.

It is quite natural, then, that the bulk of prisoners should come from
the class that overwhelmingly predominates. If the numbers of affluent
and the poor could be exactly ascertained, I believe that it would be
found that the poor do not contribute more than a proportionate share
of the country’s criminals.

Poverty itself is but rarely a decisive factor in the perpetration of
crime, though environment is. In poor countries crime is not rampant,
for Ireland, the poorest of the British Isles, shows a much lower
ratio of crime than England, Scotland or Wales. Even in the terrible
slums of London, where the poverty is intense, where misery and
suffering abound, where thousands of men and women are but a single
day in advance of starvation, where absolute destitution is always in
evidence, the number of real and confirmed criminals does not exceed
a fair proportion when the number of the inhabitants are taken into
consideration. I feel bound to say this much for the very poor in our
London slums. During many years’ close acquaintance, I have found
them to be as law-abiding and honest as any portion of the community
in proportion to numbers. When their environment and temptations are
considered, their rectitude, to me, is a matter of great wonder.

There are criminals amongst them, but after all they are the
exceptions, and the worst criminals that are amongst them are those who
have descended from higher social stations.

Man for man and woman for woman, my experience has taught me that
slum-dwellers are not below the average population in honesty and

I say this appears marvellous at first thought, but in reality it is
not so, for wealth and leisure are not unmixed blessings. Probably they
are as likely to produce criminals, or even more so, than poverty and
care. The criminal ranks, then, are by no means recruited from the poor
alone, for all classes and every station contribute their proportion.

To speak of the very poor as the “criminal classes” is wrong and
misleading. The term can only be applicable to the blighted, helpless
weaklings constantly in prison, who have neither wit, courage, nor
strength to conceive and carry out anything approaching organised
crime. These, it must be admitted, come largely from the poor, for they
are the product of poverty. The term might also be used with regard
to men and women who live by organised crime, and who mean to live by
crime: who, despising and refusing every respectable mode of life,
apply their talents, energy, courage, presence of mind, knowledge of
business, society and social custom to the one purpose of their lives.

To such men and women no other life has the slightest attraction.
Comfortable ease to them is monotonous, and to them honest persevering
endeavour, though successful, has no charms. Of this class the poor
furnish but few, but every station of life, not excluding the Church
and the universities, contributes more or less, for concerted crime
demands more knowledge than the poor possess.

Swindling, to be successful, must be done on a large scale, and
requires exact knowledge. Forgery demands skill and education.
Long firms, bogus company promoting and blackmailing require
characteristics and knowledge that the poor do not possess.
Jewel-thieves and pickpockets that operate at high-class functions have
not graduated in the slums, but in more respectable life. But these men
are real criminals, dangerous and persistent criminals; they plan and
scheme, pursue and wait for the accomplishment of a criminal object.
Decidedly they form a criminal class, yet, singular to say, they do not
largely come from what are termed the “criminal classes.”

I would like to pursue what I believe would prove a very interesting
inquiry, so I ask: In what way do the crimes of the poor and ignorant
differ from the crimes committed by those who have been educated and
once possessed social standing?

Briefly, leaving out murder, the crimes of the poor and ignorant are
burglaries, larcenies, assaults, felonies, wilful damage, vagabondage;
while to the educated swindling, conspiracy, long firms, bogus
companies, forgeries, and blackmailing may be attributed. If we compare
the two lists for one moment only, we see that the crimes of the
educated classes reveal malice aforethought, and betray criminal mind
and intention.

Impulsive or instinctive crimes, and crimes of passion, are more
numerous amongst the ignorant than the educated. But such crimes do
not betray a long-drawn-out criminal intention. The exigencies of
the moment, sudden passion or temptation, momentary folly and the
influence of drink account for most of the crimes committed by the
ignorant. But these things do not conduce in any marked degree to the
commission of crime by educated people; as I have said, their crime
is generally pre-planned, not instinctive! Probably the proportion
of criminals per number of men and women who comprise the different
stations of life is about the same for every rank, though I am sure
that the statement will be considered absolute heresy.

But it must be remembered that rich criminals are more likely to escape
detection, arrest and punishment than the criminals of the poor. They
are still more likely to plan numerous transactions that technically
do not come within the meshes of criminal law, but which morally are
as dishonest and rascally as any crime against property can possibly
be. The ethics of commercial life are more than strange, for a bogus
company promoter would probably be appalled should his son be charged
with forgery or burglary, or his daughter with obtaining goods by false
pretences. It is not, then, to be wondered at, that considering how
many educated men are engaged in ventures that are financially unsound
and morally bankrupt, that a number of them step over the line that
divides the domain of civil jurisdiction from the province of criminal

The real wonder is that a great many more do not take that step.

After all, it seems a wise arrangement for the sorrows, difficulties
and temptations of life to be evenly distributed amongst the rich
and the poor, the educated and the ignorant, though, to be sure, the
ignorant are more likely to get within the meshes of the law, not
because of their inherent criminality, but because of their ignorance
which does not enable them to be dishonest without suffering the
penalty. It is, I am sure, good for us that socially there exists
no criminal class. I am glad that probity and honesty of life are
not the monopoly of education and wealth, and I am also glad that if
criminals we must have, that the rich and educated should furnish a
proportionate share. The very poor have enough to bear and to suffer
without having exclusive right to the shame and suffering that always
attend discovered criminality. And it is well that no one section of
the community can lift up its hands and proclaim its innocence. But all
this leads me to say that there is no criminal class.



In the extracts that I have given from prison officials’ reports we
learn that a considerable number of epileptics are detained in prison
as criminals. During 1910-11 the figures for three prisons were as
follows: Liverpool 92; Wakefield 53; and Parkhurst 10. In three prisons
only we had, then, during one year 155 proved epileptics undergoing
imprisonment, ten of whom were sentenced to penal servitude. I call
particular attention to this matter, for it demands attention; 155
unfortunates, for whom out of sheer pity we ought to provide loving
care, were thrust into prison, tabulated as criminals, and compelled to
undergo the wearying monotony of prison life.

Undoubtedly epilepsy produces many serious crimes. This dread
affliction, half physical and half mental, can induce a state of mind
from which not only crimes of violence and of homicidal tendency may be
the result, but crimes of almost any character.

Mental stupor, and sometimes complete aberration, follows or precedes
epileptic seizures. Assaults, wilful damage, attempted murder,
attempted suicide, thefts, indecency and criminal assaults, as well
as murder itself, are quite likely to be committed. I have, in fact,
personally known such crimes committed, some of them repeatedly,
by well-known epileptics. I have been a frequent visitor in houses
where some member of the family was an epileptic. I had, perhaps, met
the sufferer in the cells, or the friends had been to consult the
magistrate, and I had called upon them in consequence. The public
generally have no idea of the extent to which epilepsy prevails. I have
no figures or statistics to give; I do not know whether or not it is on
the increase, though, if I had to give an opinion, I should say it was.

I know it is very common. I know an epileptic is one of the most woeful
objects on earth; I know the anxiety and sorrow of families who have
one such in their homes. I know that many, very many serious crimes
and a world of suffering might be saved if we had registration of, and
proper provision for epileptics.

The provision made for these unfortunates is miserably insufficient.
Their neglect by the State is a national scandal, but it is also a
public danger. People who can pay may have their epileptics cared
for. But the epileptics of the poor are cared for by short periods of
confinement in prison, workhouse or asylum. We have a right to ask for
some large, considerate and humane method of treating epileptics, for a
wise nation would protect them against themselves, and would protect
society against them; and would remove that dreadful anxiety that
depresses so many people who have an epileptic among them: the fear of
“something happening.”

One would think it impossible in these days for a man to be continually
sentenced to imprisonment because he suffers from epilepsy, yet such
is undoubtedly the case. I have no personal knowledge of the 155
epileptics detained in the three prisons I have quoted; but I have
personal knowledge and prolonged experience of many sufferers whom I
have seen sent to prison for offences committed in the throes of their
frightful affliction.

One of the finest fellows, physically, I have ever known was a hopeless
epileptic. He had served with distinction in a famous cavalry regiment
in India; he suffered from sunstroke, and as the affects were serious
and prolonged he was invalided from the Army. He recovered somewhat,
and married, but when children were born to him epilepsy developed. I
have seen the horror that ensued in his home: the fears of his wife,
the terror of his children, but I realised most of all the pitiful
condition of the man himself. Many times I have in his own home taken
part, at some risk to myself, in restraining him from violence, and
when sometimes our efforts have been unavailing, the police have been
called in, and I have seen him conveyed to the police station, and from
there to the police court. When in the dock, standing charged with
violence and assaults, I have seen a fit come upon him, when half a
dozen policemen would be required to straighten him out upon the floor
and to hold him till stupor supervened, when his spell of violence
would give way to insensibility and heavy, stertorous breathing.

I have seen his wife and children standing weeping in the court. Out
of sheer pity I have known a kind and wise magistrate sentence him to
six months’ imprisonment without hard labour: for he felt that for six
months at any rate the man, the wife and children would be protected.

None the less the poor fellow felt the indignity and cruelty of
his position, and whenever committed to prison he never failed to
communicate with the Home Secretary, and petition for release. In the
pigeon-holes of the Home Office I have no doubt many of this man’s
letters and appeals are carefully stored.

But unfortunately when epileptics marry the evil and suffering does
not end with them, for when children are born, they often prove very
strange beings.

I have watched the growth of such children; I have seen their strange
whims and their oft-times irresponsibility. I have known the girls
become hopelessly immoral and cleverly dishonest even at their school
age. One of the cleverest thieves I ever knew was a girl of fourteen,
whose father was an epileptic. She looked the picture of confiding
innocence, but she robbed and cheated all sorts of people: doctors and
clergymen were her special prey.

She was charged repeatedly; no reformatory would receive her, for she
was flagrantly immoral. At sixteen she was a drab and a sleeper-out; at
eighteen she became an inmate of a lunatic asylum, but at twenty her
life came mercifully to an end.

I have watched the progress of boys born to an epileptic mother or
father, and again, they are strange beings. I have not found them to be
the equal of girls in lying or dishonesty, but I have found them to be
idle and shiftless; incapable of giving sustained attention to study or
work; sometimes becoming drunkards and vagrants before the days of full
manhood were reached.

So far as my experience goes, I have not found that the children of an
epileptic suffer from “fits” or manifest seizures. They do not bear
on their bodies the cuts, wounds and bruises that are often found on
the bodies of those who do suffer, but I have found, and certainly my
experience does not stand alone, that they are often irresponsible
creatures possessing strange minds, clever in certain directions and
those directions not for good; capable of serious crime, but never
exhibiting any sorrow, fear or remorse when convicted of any offence.
They generally insist upon their absolute innocence, but go to prison
just as unconcernedly as they would go elsewhere.

Not very long ago a wealthy gentleman wrote to me about his daughter,
a beautiful and accomplished woman of twenty-two. He told me that she
had been in prison and was again in the hands of the police, charged
with fraud. His letter led to an interview; he candidly told me that
his daughter had been untruthful and dishonest for many years, but now
he was ashamed to say that she was grossly immoral.

He had been compelled to remove her from every educational
establishment in which she had been placed, for her lies and dishonesty
could not be tolerated. He had placed her with more than one private
governess, but while she made excellent progress with her studies, and
especially with music, even for liberal payment no one could be found
to give her a home and supervision beyond a very short period.

The grief and shame of both father and mother were apparent; their
daughter being in the hands of the police, they knew that I could not
save her; but they wanted some hope and some guidance for the future.
“Can nothing be done?” they repeatedly asked. I could give them but
little comfort; I dared not create hope, for I had learned during our
conversation that the mother herself suffered at intervals, sometimes
longer and sometimes shorter, from epileptic “fits.” In my heart I felt
sure that this was the real cause of the daughter’s strange behaviour;
I did not, however, add to their sorrow by telling them what I thought.

My experience of epileptics has been much larger than the ordinary run
of my life would lead any one to imagine, for outside my police court
and prison experience I have had frequent opportunities for gaining
knowledge and forming judgment. Probably few men have a more varied
post-bag than myself; rightly or wrongly, large numbers of people
believe that I can give them advice or help in family and other matters.

So all sorts of difficulties and sorrows are placed before me. But most
of my correspondents consult me about some member of their family who
is at once their despair and shame. Under such circumstances, I have
always been ready to give such guidance and comfort as was possible.
But being of inquiring mind, I always wanted to know the cause of the
evil and sorrow. So I made inquiries regarding family history, etc.,
and was often brought face to face with the fact that father or mother,
sometimes grandfather or grandmother, suffered from “fits.”

Some years ago, after writing in the daily press upon the dangers
of epilepsy, I received a large number of letters from friends of
epileptics. Every post brought me letters which came from various parts
of the country.

Most of my correspondents were in good financial positions, but their
letters formed pitiful reading. A more dolorous collection it would be
impossible to imagine. But they taught me a great deal, for I realised
that this terrible affliction prevailed to a greater extent than I
had dreamt of. I realised how respectable people cover and hide the
fact of epilepsy as long as possible, and that when the fact can be no
longer hidden they cower with shame, as if their sorrow was in itself
a disgrace and a scandal. I had ample confirmation in those dolorous
letters that not only pain, suffering, injury and hopelessness dwelt
in the home of an epileptic; but also that shame, crime, imprisonment,
strange actions and more than strange minds were some of the resultant
effects. I need not dilate upon the danger to the public when large
numbers of persons suffering from this malady are at liberty amongst
them, for epileptic seizures may occur at any place and at any time.
In a crowded street, or on a busy railway platform they might easily
be attended with disaster. To any one who thinks upon this matter
the danger will be apparent. But the dangers arising from the many
individuals who have inherited a dread birthright, because they are
born of epileptic parentage, are not so readily seen. None the less,
those dangers are real and tangible, and I verily believe that if the
truth could be ascertained regarding the large number of motiveless
crimes for which the perpetrators have not been brought to justice, it
would be found that very largely they were the outcome of epilepsy.

I take the following from the daily press of November 11, 1911—

 “Murderer’s Lost Memory

 “Unconscious of Crime for Four Days

 “Strange Defence.

 “Complete loss of memory was the unavailing defence at Nottingham
 yesterday, when Victor Chapman, a smart young ex-Lancer, was sentenced
 to death for the murder of Ralph Hill, whom he had shot in the

 “Giving evidence on his own behalf prisoner declared that from nine
 o’clock on the morning of the crime, till he found himself at Divine
 Service in gaol four days later, he had not the faintest recollection
 of what had happened to him. He denied that he had the slightest
 desire to harm Hill, or that he had threatened him. Prisoner further
 stated he had a similar seizure last Whitsuntide.

 “He left work at Nottingham at midday, and the next thing he
 remembered was looking at the Corn Exchange at Grimsby. He had no
 money, and walked back to Nottingham, reaching home three days later,
 exhausted and with bleeding feet.

 “Nor could he recollect that two days prior to the crime (as a witness
 had sworn) he went to the river side, fired a shot into the air,
 and declared that he was going to shoot Hill and his (prisoner’s)

 “Dr. Owen Taylor, police surgeon, said when arrested prisoner had a
 strange expression, and appeared utterly indifferent to everything
 going on around him. “He betrayed no excitement, and during the whole
 of the time witness questioned him he stared witness straight in the
 face with a fixed and vacant expression.”

 “Two days later his condition vastly improved, he answered more
 quickly and brightly, and knew that he was accused of murder.

 “Witness tested him in every possible way, but he had not the
 slightest remembrance of anything that happened on the fateful day.

 “Pressed by the Judge to give an opinion, witness said it was possible
 that while suffering from an epileptic seizure, prisoner did not know
 what he was doing.

 “The jury found prisoner guilty, and sentence of death was passed.”

Instances similar to the above can easily be multiplied, but I content
myself with one more case of recent date. The following appeared in the
daily press of November 15, 1911—

 “In charging the Grand Jury at the Stafford assizes yesterday,
 Mr. Justice Pickford referred to the case of Karl Kramer, who was
 arraigned for the triple murder at Kidsgrove. His Lordship pointed out
 that during the magisterial inquiry there seemed to be considerable
 doubt as to prisoner’s sanity, and the magistrates adjourned the case
 _sine die_. A verdict of “Wilful Murder” was returned against him
 by the Coroner’s Jury, and he did not think the jury would have any
 hesitation in finding that there was a prima facie case against the
 prisoner. When, later, Kramer was carried into court, he seemed in a
 state of collapse.

 “Sir Richard Brayn, Home Office expert, in his evidence, said he
 examined the prisoner in Stafford Gaol on September 28. Questions were
 put to him, but no response could be elicited. Kramer’s body and head
 were bent forward, and the only movement was a twitching of his right
 forefinger. He was in a state of rigidity the whole time.

 “He had examined Kramer several times since, and had applied a test as
 to his sensibility, but the results were entirely negative. He formed
 the opinion that the prisoner was quite incapable of exercising his
 mental faculties in any way.

 “Dr. Smith, medical officer at Stafford Prison, confirmed Sir Richard
 Brayn’s evidence.

 “The Judge: ‘I suppose you both looked carefully to see if the
 prisoner was shamming?’ ‘Oh, yes, I am entirely of the opinion that he
 was not shamming.’

 “Kramer was found to be insane, and was ordered to be detained during
 his Majesty’s Pleasure.”

In addition to epileptics and the insane there exists a number
of people, male and female, who present to those who know them a
more pitiful and hopeless problem than the altogether mad, for the
altogether mad are at any rate restrained and protected.

The men and women of whom I now speak suffer from some kind of mental
disease that has not yet been classified, but which prevails to a much
larger extent than the public is aware.

This disease does not prevent them following their ordinary
occupations. Indeed, many of them are regular and indomitable
workers, and it is probable that the great interest they have in
their occupations prevents them becoming certifiably insane. Such men
and women continue for years at their places of business or in their
situations, conducting their affairs in an efficient manner; to their
companions they appear quiet and decent people, though a little sombre.

But very different is the impression produced on those who
unfortunately know them at home! Released from the engrossing interest
of business, their mental and moral condition becomes apparent. Of all
the sorrow and misery that I have seen in the sorrowful world in which
I have lived and moved, I have seen no more woeful spectacle than the
sight they present—objects at once pathetic, terrifying and hopeless.
While all sorts of imaginings occupy their minds, some great delusion
seems to dominate them and to destroy every atom of home comfort. Place
them under authority, surround them with medical officers, question
them and cross-question them, examine them and re-examine them, watch
them unceasingly and they defy every member of the faculty to find
traces of insanity.

Under such circumstances they can control their thoughts and speech; to
a certain extent they can make the worst appear the better reason.

Only at liberty, when free of all control, is their condition made
manifest. Sometimes they appear to have a feeling that mentally all
is not quite right with them, but this feeling is but momentary, and
soon disappears in the overmastering belief in the altogether imaginary
wrongs they suffer at the hands of their friends.

I have known a not inconsiderable number of such men, and I have been
worried for years with the imaginary troubles of such women. Argument
is of no avail, no amount of proof convinces them of their error. Years
go on, during which they hug their delusion and terrify their families
and friends. Sometimes the delusion appears but a little harmless
eccentricity, nevertheless it dominates and damns the man’s domestic
life. At other times the grievance is more serious, often taking shape
in the belief of a faithful and devoted wife’s infidelity. The horror
and suffering in an otherwise good home, when this delusion is the
master-belief of a husband and father, cannot be portrayed, for it is
past the power of words. I have seen it again and again, and have felt
my impotence when I tried to comfort and protect the innocent wife, and
still more when I have tried to argue with and dissuade the husband.

The behaviour of such men is both maddening and heart-breaking;
sometimes it continues for years, and the home gradually becomes a
hopeless hell. Sometimes when a spell of passion and violence has been
particularly exhaustive, I have known it followed with a period of
almost stupor, forgetfulness and absolute irresponsibility. Crimes of
violence, suicide or attempted suicide sometimes result. In the latter
case the law has no scruple in doing what ought to have been done
years before, for then it proclaims the man’s irresponsibility. It is,
however, but cold comfort to the wife or friends to find the law, which
had refused to acknowledge the man’s irresponsibility while he lived,
so ready to proclaim it when he was dead, for the fact might with some
advantage have been discovered much sooner.

I have said that sometimes in a lucid moment the possibility of
becoming insane dawns upon them; when it does, their horror is great
and their suffering intense.

I have sat beside such men as they lay in bed, I have watched the
expression on their faces, and I have listened to heavy breathing,
for words they had none. I have seen them rise from bed in a state of
stupor and do some foolish or childish thing. I have been ignored as
if I were not present, and I have been made aware of the strange fact
that maddening excitement had been followed by the suspension of mental
faculties. I have known men in this condition wander from home into
the streets, where a special Providence seemed to care for them and
protect them from serious accident. Frequently men of this description
are arrested by the police and charged with violence or disorderly
conduct. Sometimes the magistrate, noticing their strange behaviour,
remands them and asks the medical officer at the prison to examine and
report upon them. Invariably the report is to the effect that the
prisoners have shown no indication of insanity. The detention during
remand is generally considered sufficient punishment, but an admonition
from the Bench on the evils of drink very often precedes the prisoner’s

Back to their homes they go, confirmed in their delusions and made
more bitter by their arrest and detention. Especially is this the case
when a long-suffering wife has herself appealed to the police for
protection. It is small wonder that some of these unfortunate men are
eventually executed for wife murder.



It is well known that even educated and well-to-do women are
sometimes afflicted with what, for want of a better word, I will call
“acquisitiveness,” though some people call it “kleptomania.” Under the
power of this mania, vice or habit women become positively helpless,
bringing disgrace upon their respectable friends, and ruin upon

A pitiful problem they present. People smile incredulously about them.
Judges and magistrates sometimes inform the culprits, and the public,
that they sit in court for the purpose of curing this habit, vice or
crime. And an admiring public always endorses, and acclaims the heavy
sentence of imprisonment awarded.

But neither judge nor magistrate can cure it, for a sentence of five
years’ penal servitude given by a judge is quite as futile as a
sentence of three months’ imprisonment given by a magistrate. Women of
this kind exist among the poor even as they do among the rich, and they
are just as responsible as acquisitive jackdaws. They steal, store up,
and hide all sorts of portable articles, and, like jackdaws, they make
no use of the articles stolen.

But their lives are drawn-out tragedies, for they, in spite of, or
because of numerous imprisonments, dwell long in the land. Not long
since, an old woman of eighty-one was again sent to three years’
penal servitude for what was termed “shoplifting.” She had stolen a
number of trifles from a well-known establishment. The old woman was
comparatively rich; she owned house property; she had some hundreds of
pounds standing to her credit in a bank, and she had also considerable
investments. When free of prison she lived alone. When the police
searched her rooms, some hundreds of articles were discovered hidden
away in all sorts of queer places. The old woman’s bed was made far
from comfortable by the presence of hair-brushes, combs, hand-glasses,
etc. In other places were ribbons, gloves, tooth-brushes, and bits of
cloth carefully stored. It was stated that there was no evidence to
prove that she had either used, sold or given away any of the articles,
or in any way made use of the things stolen.

Am I wrong in saying that prison was the wrong place for the old woman?
Ought not restraining and protecting care to have been provided for
her in some other place, and her means utilised to allow her suitable
comforts? But while there are numbers of similar women dragging out
their weary lives in prison, there are still a greater number in whom
the passion or habit of stealing is but a passing phase, and who pay
a heavy penalty for belonging to the female sex. I have in my mind a
large number of girls, ages varying from twelve to twenty years. Scores
of mothers have consulted me about such girls, and probably hundreds
still consult our magistrates. Many of those girls were disobedient and
apparently wicked. Some of them were inveterate thieves, and some, even
at fourteen, were addicted to vice. I have seen numbers of them charged
with stealing. But they never knew why they had stolen; some of them
did not even know what they had done with the stolen articles.

When in the dock or cells they behaved in a passive, bewildered way,
exhibiting no anxiety or concern. Many girls of this character became a
kind of charge to me, and I visited them and their parents repeatedly.

At home I found them strange creatures, upon whom good advice and
kind words produced no effect. Sometimes I have given advice to their
mothers; at other times I have paid for medical advice, which has
occasionally brought about the desired result.

But many of them I have seen charged again and again till they found
their way into reformatories or prison.

Now these girls were not thieves, although they had stolen. In most
of them there was no real vice, although they were to all appearance
vicious. But owing to sexual causes a state of body and mind existed
that rendered them incapable of sound judgment or self-control, and
liable at any time to yield to vicious impulses.

To associate girls of this description in rescue homes or reformatories
with the hardened and the wicked is a sure way to demoralisation. It
ought to be possible, in these enlightened days, to find some sensible
way of dealing with such children. What they require is the fatherly
doctor and the enlightened motherly matron; nourishing food, fresh
air, healthy exercise and innocent recreation combined may save many
of them. Failing these conditions these girls must and will become
criminals, or drabs, most probably both. But similar causes operate
with serious consequences on older women. Consider, if you please,
the life of a poor married woman in London. If she has no children,
she suffers untold physical and mental torture, if she has children
they come all too often. The constant fluctuations of her system, the
constant depression of mind, the same four little walls everlastingly
to look at, the same eternal anxiety as to the future, the trying and
continued worry with the children, the usual lack of sympathy from the
husband, and the same vile air to breathe over and over again make her
life almost unbearable.

Men who have a constant change of scene little know what gloomy
imaginings prey upon her; they little know what nameless terrors haunt
her. For months before a child is born many of these women are not
really rational. To make some provision for the coming “trouble” they
steal; but the inconsequence of their action is proved by the fact
that many of them steal things that are of no earthly use to them.

Of our London magistrates we are justly proud, and to me it is a matter
of profound thankfulness to know that any one of them will break the
letter of the law, if by so doing he can perform an act of mercy to an
unfortunate woman. But woman’s troubles are long dragged out. Early
womanhood and the time of motherhood being passed, there comes a more
trying physical and mental strain. At this time many seek relief by
taking drink. True, it is a mistake, but who can wonder at it? Again,
ill-health and nameless fears haunt the woman. Perhaps through it
all she is to be found daily at charing work, and, in moving about
the house in which she is working, temptations are presented to her,
temptations that in her then state of mind and body it is impossible
for her to resist.

So she steals, is prosecuted and sent to prison. I have a mental
picture-gallery full of such women. “An honester woman never walked!”
many a bewildered husband has said to me.

In spite of “acquisitiveness” and the prevalence of sexual disturbance,
it is comforting to find that the honesty of women has for some years
past become increasingly evident. It stands to their credit that while
they considerably outnumber men, their proportion of crime is less than
one-fourth of the whole. Were it not for the homeless and abandoned
women of the streets, who are so frequently convicted, the honesty and
sobriety of the women of England would be still more evident.

In London, one prison only is sufficient to meet all the demands that
women create for prison detention; and that one is maintained very
largely for the class of women who live upon the streets, the majority
of whom ought to be permanently detained. This low proportion of crime
among women is the more remarkable from the fact that for many years
past a large and increasing number of them have entered into the labour
market, and have been exposed to many (but not all) temptations to
which men are exposed.

I say this the more readily and cheerfully, because it has become quite
the fashion in certain quarters to describe the women of England as
increasingly drunken; a statement that cannot be possibly substantiated.

At any rate they are increasingly honest, and were it not for the
causes to which I have alluded, our prisons would be practically free
from women.

I know that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has a
necessary and an active existence, and I know that I can be overwhelmed
with their facts and figures; I also know that cruelty to a child is
one of the worst possible crimes; I know all this, but I know more
also, for I know that the great bulk of English mothers or matrons that
are committed to prison on this account are more fit for asylums and
mental treatment than they are for prison and penal discipline. They
demand pity instead of punishment, the doctor and the nurse instead of
the governor and the warder; medicine and fresh air instead of cellular

Most of them are poor, helpless creatures, weak of mind and weak of
body; quite incapable of looking after themselves, still more incapable
of caring for and training children. I have seen the dirt and misery
of many women, and the hopelessness of their lives long before they
were committed to prison. I have helped to renew their homes, and have
clothed the children while the feeble-minded mothers were in prison.
But when those mothers came back, bringing their helplessness and
irresponsibility with them, I have had the mortification of witnessing
those homes and children sink back again to the old conditions. For
neither warning nor imprisonment has the least effect upon such poor

But there is another class of women who are charged with this offence:
women that seem possessed with an incarnate spirit of cruelty; who
perpetrate fiendish cruelties upon children, or upon unfortunate
little serving-maids; cruelties that are certain to be discovered and
punished; cruelties that can neither bring pleasure nor profit if they
remain undiscovered. These cruelties are not the result of impulsive
passion, for they are long persisted in. They form, it would appear,
part and parcel of their ordinary life.

I want to say a word for these women! Does any one in their heart of
hearts doubt the madness of such women! If so, let me say that my
experience has taught me that they are as certainly mad as the veriest
madman locked in any lunatic asylum. I have known some of them, and I
have taken some measure of their madness.

Some day we shall have decent pity on the uncertified, unclassified but
the undoubtedly mad.

But that will be when we are able to distinguish between disease and

When that time comes, prison will no longer be the one and only
specific for the cure of poverty and feeble-mindedness, mania and
disease when criminal actions result from these afflictions. But
judging from present procedure, that day is still a long way off.



It is generally admitted that prison life, with its discipline and
punishments, very largely fails to reform or deter those that are
submitted to it.

The reasons are not far to seek. The very fact of a number of men, who
are prone to commit certain actions, being detained in prison, makes
it certain that many of them will again commit those actions when they
are again restored to liberty. For with liberty comes the temptation of
opportunity, and with opportunity the fall.

Moral strength cannot be developed in the absence of temptation, for
moral qualities must be free or die!

Prisons are at their best but unnatural places; for though the
machinery, discipline and even the spirit that animates the whole of
the officials be of the very best, still goodness, manhood, honesty and
sobriety cannot grow inside a prison wall.

Doubtless tens of thousands of good resolutions are formed in prison.
To many prisoners it seems impossible that they should repeat the
actions that brought about their imprisonment when once more they
are free. But they do repeat them, again and again. Prison life,
then, neither deters nor reforms. But it does other things: it
deadens, demoralises, or disgusts according to the temperament and
characteristics of the individual prisoner.

The fixed belief in the virtue and necessity of prison has had
disastrous consequences, for the State has hitherto considered it the
one great cure-all for law-breaking. It has till quite recently been
the first resource of the law, instead of its last resource, when
called upon to deal with its erring children.

Roughly, the men and women who inhabit our prisons may be classified
under five heads: First: the feeble-minded; second: the physical
weaklings; third: the vagrant; fourth: the casual offender; fifth: the
habitual offender. I believe that all our prisoners can be placed in
one or more of these divisions, though of course there are variations.
Should this be approximately the case, it is certain that a tremendous
difficulty arises when the discipline and routine of any one prison,
however well conducted, is made to serve for the whole of the classes.

This is where prisons fail, and must continue to fail if the present
methods are continued, for in our endeavours to administer equal
justice to all classes, we commit the greatest injustice; and in our
attempts to be merciful, we are cruel to many of our prisoners.

For the feeble-minded, the weaklings, the vagrants and the habituals,
prison has no terrors. To them it is at once a sanatorium and a
lodging-house, as necessary for their health and personal cleanliness
as quarantine is for those smitten of the plague.

To them the bath and the change of clothing, the clean cell, and the
regular food are comforts, even refinement. But to the casual offender
such things may be sickening and maddening beyond endurance.

To the former, the semi-idleness of prison, which makes no demand on
their physical and mental powers, is grateful and comforting. To the
man of industry, brain, imagination and culture this idle monotony
is exasperating to a degree, unless he be endowed with philosophical

The effect of prison discipline, then, is determined not by the rules
and routine of any particular prison, but by the temperament of the
individual under detention.

This failure to reform must not be attributed, then, to prison system
altogether, still less must it be attributed to any lack of sympathy
in the prison officials; but rather to the two facts, that prisons are
unnatural places, and that a prison population is made up of strange
and motley individuals, each differing widely from his fellows in
temperament and taste, in physical and mental capacity.

An educated and refined man, one who loves liberty and social life,
must of necessity find prison a terrible place. Should he be of a
nervous, imaginative or morbid temperament, he suffers the torments of
Hell. He knows in his heart that he has been a fool, probably he is
never tired of reminding himself of the fact; but he gets no comfort
from his knowledge, it adds no reasonableness to his disposition. He
reviews his life again and again, not with feelings of shame or sorrow,
but for the purpose of finding some excuse for himself or fixing some
blame upon others.

He is full of fear for the future, but he has no sorrow for the past;
he has no desire to undo the wrong he has done, no particular desire to
avoid such wrongs in the future.

He lives in a state of chronic irritation; he is morose or excitable
by turns. He does not find the officials sympathetic or courteous, for
they, too, are human, and even in prison like meets with like.

The sufferings of these men are intense. The iron enters into their
souls—and though their sufferings are largely self-created, they are
none the less real.

Ask such a man to give a description of prison life, and he will give
one worthy of Charles Reade.

But suppose we ask a different type of man to give us his opinion; he
may be equally well educated with the former, he may have served a
similar sentence in the same prison at the same time, none the less, he
will present us with a striking contrast.

He will tell you that the prison was dull and monotonous, but just what
he expected; that the food was unpleasant, till he got used to it;
that many things disgusted him in his early prison days, but he put
up with them. He kept all the rules, got all his “marks,” and obtained
full remission of sentence. In a word, he made the best of things.

He will tell you that he had no real work to do; that the officials
were all good to him, but they had their duty to perform, and that he
never insulted them. There was nothing of much interest going on, and
that in reality formed his punishment, for he had many interests in the
outside world.

Let me select another; this man may be considered an authority, for
although he is under sixty years of age, his sentences amount to
more than forty years. He knows Portland, Dartmoor, Parkhurst and,
of course, many local prisons. He has had as much as fifteen years
at a stretch, and as I understand he is again in prison, it is quite
possible that ultimately (unless Mr. Gladstone’s Preventive Detention
Act takes possession of him), the accumulation of his sentences may
outnumber the years of his life.

For he, too, got all his “marks” and has never failed to get three
months off every year served.

There is not an idle bone in his body; he is industrious, skilled and
intelligent; he loves liberty; to him the song of the birds and the
smiling of the flowers are pleasant; he is kind to dumb animals, and to
him children are a joy.

His health is not broken, his intelligence is not atrophied, he is
still alert and brisk—in fact, he is too much so. He knows all there
is to be known about prisons, and he knows the “ropes” too.

At liberty, he makes war upon society. In prison, he bows to the
inevitable and makes the best of things. He is, and always has been,
prepared to take the consequences, if caught, of his crime. But he has
never yet persuaded himself, or tried to persuade himself, that he is a

If again allowed liberty, he will cheerfully prepare for another
campaign, and hope for a “long run.” He weighs things up, for he is a
logician, and so many crimes are equal to so much detention.

I have many of this man’s letters from various prisons. I have details
of his daily life. He tells of being in hospital and of his better
food; he tells me that he is hoping for liberty and means to see me
again. But he never makes any complaint, neither does he complain at
liberty. Many hours have I spent with him discussing his life and
prospects, crime and prison, but no complaint about his treatment has
he ever uttered. Although habitually criminal, he considered himself
much above the bulk of prisoners, and he will tell, ingenuously
enough, that “prison is too good for most of them.” Yet he had carried
fire-arms and shot a policeman. He was not well educated, but he had
read a great deal while in prison, where he had picked up a smattering
of French.

He was a clever workman, and had developed a special branch of his
trade during his many detentions. As a prisoner he is perfect, as a
citizen he is atrocious and impossible.

If we ask the half-mad fellow who is constantly in prison for deeds
of violence to whom uncontrolled liberty means joy and life, we shall
be able to read his answer in his eyes; they tell us that revenge is
his great hope. But if we ask the aimless and hopeless wanderer who
has been certified again and again as “unfit for prison discipline,”
we find no evidence of passion, no sense of grievance and no signs to
indicate that prison was an undesirable place. Did not old “Cakebread”
go cheerfully to prison, although her detentions numbered over three

If we seek an opinion from tramps and vagrants, they, if honest, will
tell us that from time to time prison is a necessity to them; that if
they cannot obtain entrance for vagrancy, why, then they will break
somebody’s window and so make sure of prison comforts, for it is
“better than the workhouse.”

If we consult youthful ex-prisoners, _i.e._ juvenile-adults, of whom
unfortunately I know many, we get an altogether too favourable picture
of prison life.

Many of them do not hesitate to tell us that they can “do it on
their heads.” Though physically this may be an exaggeration, yet
the expression conveys a pretty accurate description of the effect
imprisonment has had upon them. Lest it be thought that I am satisfied
with prisons as they are at present, I will point out the reforms
which I consider necessary in our penal system and our prison

 1. There is too much indiscriminate and unnecessary gaoling;
     prisons should be the last resource, not, as too frequently
     happens, the first.

In England and Wales alone nearly 100,000 persons are committed to
prison every year because they cannot promptly pay fines that have been
imposed for minor offences.

I hold that every offender fined, if she or he possesses a settled
home, should be allowed adequate time to pay the fine. Probably this
would keep 40,000 first offenders out of prison every year, with a
corresponding reduction in the number of second offenders in the
following years.

What folly can equal the plan of bundling a decent man or youth into
the prison van, and putting all the machinery of prison into operation
because he cannot pay forthwith a few shillings!

 2. The old law of restitution and reparation must be revised. The
     First Offenders Act, now superseded by the Probation Act,
     was not an unmixed blessing, for, while it kept thousands of
     dishonest persons out of prison, it never convinced them of
     the serious nature of dishonesty. To use their own expression,
     “they were jolly well out of it”; consequently the wrong done to
     the individual was not impressed upon them. The law had been
     satisfied, to them nothing else mattered.

At the instigation of the Howard Association, Mr. Gladstone added a
clause to the Probation Act empowering courts of summary jurisdiction
to order restitution for goods or money stolen up to the value of £10.
But magistrates do not put this clause in force; yet such a clause is
not only just, but merciful.

Nothing can be worse for a young rogue than to know that he has stolen
a considerable sum of money, and spent it in wicked waste without
anything happening to him. Undoubtedly prison is bad for youths, for
a month soon goes, but during that time character, aspiration and
industry go also.

For the life of me I cannot see why orders for restitution should not
be made; neither can I see any objection to our numerous probation
officers having charge of these cases and collecting by instalments the
money ordered.

For nothing will so effectually bring home to dishonest youths the
enormity of the offences more than compulsion to pay back that which
they have stolen.

Restitution would also be the greatest punishment for adult offenders
in this direction.

For the forger, the burglar, the maker of counterfeit coins, the
manufacturer of spurious notes, and all clever, calculating and
persistent rogues other methods should be tried, for prison cannot
demoralise them.

But for a first offender, even though he be of years, who has committed
some breach of honesty, restitution seems the most effective way: the
only reasonable plan for the prevention of demoralisation and the
expense of prison.

Given, then, reasonable time for the payment of fines, a thorough
application of the Probation Act, and the establishment of compulsory
but limited restitution—given these, half our prisons may be closed.
Quite recently the governor of a large London prison declared that
one-fourth of the daily average of his prisoners ought not to be
in prison at all. I believe that statement to be below, not beyond
the truth. We can easily see that if our prison population were
reduced by one-half, great reforms would naturally follow in prison
administration. Practically there would be the same amount of work
to do in prison, for the various government departments would still
require the commodities that prison labour supplies.

Prisons would then become hives of industry instead of castles
of indolence, and prisoners would, of course, be given a much
larger financial interest in the work done. Under such conditions,
prisons, too, would naturally become pathological and psychological
observatories. With proper men, and proper time to make the
observations, prisons would reveal to us some of the dark wonders
incident to the strange mixture of humanity we thoughtlessly dub
criminal. When that happy day comes we shall be able to differentiate
between crime and disease; we shall no longer punish men for their
afflictions, but we shall treat them as patients in places other
than prisons. Look for a moment at that growing, ever-growing army
of people, the feeble-minded and irresponsibles—prisoners who are
perpetually haled in prison, and to whose ranks four hundred are added
every year. From prison to the streets, from the streets to the police
station, from the station to the police court, and from thence to
prison forms the vicious circle of their hopeless lives.

Certified as “unfit for prison discipline,” yet everlastingly in
prison; not fit for liberty, yet constantly thrust into liberty;
homeless, hopeless, friendless, battered from pillar to post, eyesores
to humanity, they tread the vicious circle. Some day we shall pity
them and care for them and give them, under control, as much childlike
happiness as they can appreciate—such work as they can do with simple
comforts and controlling discipline; but no useless liberty, no
opportunities of perpetuating their kind, no more of the vicious circle
and no more prison. And the tramps and the loafers, too, must be taken
in hand, and not with a gloved hand either, for prison is no place for
them. The month or six weeks is soon over. They have been cleansed,
they have recuperated. Then, heigho! for the hedgerows if it is summer,
the Embankment or shelters if it is winter.

Their vagrant days must end, and end in detention in some place where
the wholesome Pauline advice may be carried out—if they will not work,
neither shall they eat! but with no chance of a second generation.
And there is another class of whom I must speak, but I do so with
fear and trembling: I refer to the wild and gross women who live upon
our streets, and whose individual convictions number anything between
twenty and four hundred. Look! during the year 1906, 933 women, each of
whom had served more than ten imprisonments, were once more in Holloway

Some hundreds of them had been in that gaol more than twenty times
each! Many of them were known personally to me; for I had seen them in
the cells, and I had seen them at liberty; I had seen them drunk, and I
had seen them sober.

But whether sober or drunk, they are slaves of a gross, overmastering
passion elemental in its intensity—to them nothing else matters.

But the State says they are inebriates, and treats them as such. Yet
drink is but an incident in their lives and effect, and the cause of
their condition lies deeper, much deeper. Down through generations
some germs have come and have found an abiding-place in their bodies,
bearing fruition in their terrible and hopeless lives. Is an ordinary
prison a place for them? is one month’s, two months’ or six months’
detention of any avail in their case? I think not!

But ask the prison authorities, or consult the records, and you will
get an answer! Do the claims of humanity ask for no consideration?
has science nothing to say upon the matter? Are we to go on for
ever tinkering with a vital question, giving such women an endless
succession of short imprisonments which only serve the purpose of
renewing their health that their lives may be devoted to the most
fearful purpose to which any human being can be subjected?

But when all these unfortunate classes are properly cared for, we shall
still require prisons; but they must be specialised prisons, and our
officials must be properly qualified and equipped for their work.

The science of healing must play a more important part; the doctor must
be a student of mental as well as physical diseases.

When the days of short imprisonments are ended we shall probably
have a “receiving prison” to which the offenders will be sent on
conviction for “observation” and “classification,” and thence drafted
to different prisons suitable to their age, condition and ability.
For a plan of this description would bring the duties of governors,
doctors, chaplains and warders, within the sphere of possibility.
Failing this, strive as they may and do, we ask them to perform the
impossible. But in the prisons of the future, specialised as they will
be, classification will still have to play an important part; but
classification will be no longer governed by the number of convictions
a youth or adult has received but by the real character, temperament
and ability of the prisoner.

And in these prisons there will be work demanding the use of muscle or
fingers; there will be opportunities for the use of brains, and some
chance for the emotions of the heart to have play.

Consider for a moment the life of a man undergoing a five years’
sentence. It is one of deadening routine! With mechanical certitude his
actions are controlled and ordered: the same food in amount and kind at
the same time each day and served in the same manner.

The same amount of cell, the same amount of bed, no opportunities of
doing kindnesses, no opportunities for receiving kindnesses, his brain,
heart and muscles alike are kept stagnant. Yet he schools himself to
deceive, for he knows that if he plays the hypocrite long enough he
will reduce his sentence by fifteen months. Consequently he develops
a servile manner and a low cunning. Let any otherwise decent man live
this life for three years and nine months, always having before him
the one object—that of shortening his term—and I need not ask what the
psychological result will be.

Yes! this bribe to good behaviour must be abolished, even though
Captain Maconachie arise from his grave to defend it. And the prisons
of the future will know it not, for the prisoner’s release will be
determined by other conditions than mere mechanical obedience. And
with the passing of the “ticket-of-leave,” “police supervision”
is also passing; truly it is time that both were dead and buried.
Perhaps I may astonish some folk by stating that “police supervision,”
notwithstanding its impressive sound, was a farce absolute and complete.

An ex-convict had no fear of it. He could “report” himself by letter!
and I have never, though I have often inquired into such complaints,
found the statements about detective and police interference with the
employment of discharged prisoners justified; neither have I known any
“old lag” who found the supervision irksome in the least degree.

The conditions were too easily fulfilled; an occasional visit to the
police station, and then reporting by letter sufficed. But sometimes we
are apt to forget that even employers and the public have a right to
consideration equally with the discharged prisoners. Supposing, as not
infrequently happens, a dangerous rogue obtains a situation of trust
by the aid of forged character and references. What can the police do?
What ought they to do if honest? but I am quite certain any officer
that needlessly interfered with an ex-convict who was honestly trying
to obtain a livelihood would get scant mercy from his superiors. The
police and detective force know this quite well.

Mr. Gladstone’s Preventive Detention Act will do much to lighten the
labour of Scotland Yard. The pity is that it limits a sentence of
preventive detention to ten years; for at the expiration of this time,
whatever be the age, mental and physical condition or past record of
the prisoner sentenced under the Act, he must be discharged though he
be homeless, hopeless and friendless. He may, of course, be discharged
much earlier if circumstances warrant, especially if he has friends and
work to take up.

Now the men who qualify for the provisions of this Act are of two
classes. First: the determined and persistent criminal who lives by
crime, desires to live by crime, and to whom no other life has any

Against these men, after being adjudged by a jury to be habitual
criminals, we ought to be safeguarded even as we protect ourselves
against known madmen.

The second class are criminals because they are quite irresponsible—a
helpless class of individuals who have not the ability to maintain
themselves, who can do nothing useful unless under control. Most of
the men who comprise these two classes are of middle age, many of them
decidedly old. When their preventive detention expires they will be ten
years older. I question the mercy, as well as the justice of thrusting
these old men into useless liberty. Surely it would be better to detain
them under reasonable conditions, to let them quietly die out in the
hope that few will be found to take their places. And in the days to
come that most woefully afflicted human, the epileptic, will not wear
the criminal badge or the convict’s brand, and the hideous cruelty
inflicted on these unfortunates will be no longer perpetrated.

Their sorrows and their sufferings will make no vain appeal to our
pity and care, for we shall protect them and ourselves in a human and
scientific way; but not in prison! And when that time comes the horrid
term “criminal lunatic” will also disappear from our vocabulary, for
it is high time this classification was buried and numbered with the
monstrosities of the past.

I protest against this phrase and the consequences that attach to
it. Verily it passes the wit of men to conceive how any one can be a
criminal and a lunatic at one and the same time, for if he be the one
he cannot be the other. So Broadmoor will become the “State Asylum,”
and the cruel farce of putting undeniably insane people on their trial
will no longer be tolerated, for quietly and mercifully, after due
certification they will pass to the mental hospital with no brand of
criminality upon them. But I would ask: Are we to be for ever impotent
before disease of the brain? Are physical afflictions and deprivations
to remain for ever unconsidered when justice holds the scales, and when
punishment is decreed? I think not! nay, I am sure, for in the prisons
that are yet to be the paternal hand of the State, while exercising
a restraining power over its stricken children, will consider their
afflictions and limitations and have mercy upon them.

Then, blighted youth, blighted through poverty; disease, malformation
or accident will be no longer neglected even though it be criminally
inclined; then, the reproach that the State helps only those that can
help themselves will be wiped out; then, even in our prisons, the
weaklings will receive some portion of their due, and the days of
criminal neglect will be ended.


_Richard Clay & Sons, Limited, London and Bungay._

Transcriber’s Notes

Minor punctuation and printer errors repaired.

Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Psychology and Crime" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.