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Crime and Criminals

Nature volume 57, pages 7576 | Download Citation

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Abstract

DR. CHRISTISON has been attracted to a subject full of difficult problems, but he makes no very practical contribution to their solution. He is a student in the school of Lombroso, and has been at some pains to investigate the psychological aspects of the criminal. The cases he presents are, many of them, interesting enough; but beyond proving the fact that the types of offenders are much the same all the world over, they serve no particular purpose, and they are certainly not sufficient to justify the main point of his book—that our existing penal methods are a failure. He has been helped to this conclusion, moreover, by the single experience of the United States where, in his own words, —crimes are now nearly five times as numerous as forty years ago.” The criminal statistics of other countries, notably of England and Belgium, can happily show different figures, judging by the numbers incarcerated now and in previous years, the only trustworthy test indeed. Dr. Christison seems inclined to lay too much stress upon prison systems as affecting the increase and decrease of crime. Where they are manifestly bad, as it is to be feared they are in a very large proportion of cases in the United States, they may manufacture criminals. For example, there is no more fruitful source of crime than the indiscriminate association of prisoners of all classes and categories which is still very general in American prisons. For one Elmira, with its ultra-tenderness for the dishonest, there are hundreds of county gaols where no sort of care is taken to separate the inmates, whether young or old, innocent or guilty; and it is where this separation has been most strictly enforced, as with us, that crime has most appreciably diminished.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/057075b0

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