Enrico Ferri.

Criminal Sociology online

. (page 1 of 20)
Online LibraryEnrico FerriCriminal Sociology → online text (page 1 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Scanned with OmniPage Professional OCR software
donated by Caere Corporation, 1-800-535-7226.
Contact Mike Lough




The following pages are a translation of that portion of Professor
Ferri's volume on Criminal Sociology which is immediately
concerned with the practical problems of criminality. The Report
of the Government committee appointed to inquire into the
treatment of habitual drunkards, the Report of the committee of
inquiry into the best means of identifying habitual criminals, the
revision of the English criminal returns, the Reports of
committees appointed to inquire into the administration of prisons
and the best methods of dealing with habitual offenders, vagrants,
beggars, inebriate and juvenile delinquents, are all evidence of
the fact that the formidable problem of crime is again pressing
its way to the front and demanding re-examination at the hands of
the present generation. The real dimensions of the question, as
Professor Ferri points out, are partially hidden by the
superficial interpretations which are so often placed upon the
returns relating to crime. If the population of prisons or
penitentiaries should happen to be declining, this is immediately
interpreted to mean that crime is on the decrease. And
yet a cursory examination of the facts is sufficient to show that
a decrease in the prison population is merely the result of
shorter sentences and the substitution of fines or other similar
penalties for imprisonment. If the list of offences for trial
before a judge and jury should exhibit any symptoms of diminution,
this circumstance is immediately seized upon as a proof that the
criminal population is declining, and yet the diminution may
merely arise from the fact that large numbers of cases which used
to be tried before a jury are now dealt with summarily by a
magistrate. In other words, what we witness is a change of
judicial procedure, but not necessarily a decrease of crime.
Again, when it is pointed out that the number of persons for trial
for indictable offences in England and Wales amounted to 53,044 in
1874-8 and 56,472 in 1889-93, we are at a loss to see what colour
these figures give to the statement that there has been a real and
substantial decrease of crime. The increase, it is true, may not
be keeping pace with the growth of the general population, but, as
an eminent judge recently stated from the bench, this is to be
accounted for by the fact that the public is every year becoming
more lenient and more unwilling to prosecute. But an increase of
leniency, however excellent in itself, is not to be confounded
with a decrease of crime. In the study of social phenomena our
paramount duty is to look at facts and not appearances.

But whether criminality is keeping pace with the growth of
population or not it is a problem of great magnitude all
the same, and it will not be solved, as Professor Ferri points
out, by a mere resort to punishments of greater rigour and
severity. On this matter he is at one with the Scotch
departmental committee appointed to inquire into the best means of
dealing with habitual offenders, vagrants, and juveniles. As far
as the suppression of vagrancy is concerned the members of the
committee are unanimously of opinion that ``the severest
enactments of the general law are futile, and that the best
results have been obtained by the milder provisions of more recent
statutes.'' They also speak of the ``utter inadequacy of the
present system in all the variety of detail which it offers to
deter the habitual offender from a course of life which devolves
the cost of his maintenance on the prison and the poorhouse when
he is not preying directly on the public.'' The committee state
that they have had testimony from a large number of witnesses
supporting the view that ``long sentences of imprisonment effect
no good result,'' and they arrive at the conclusion that to double
the present sentences would not diminish the number of habitual
offenders. In this conclusion they are at one with the views of
the Royal Commission on Penal Servitude, which acquiesced in the
objection to the penal servitude system on the ground that it
``not only fails to reform offenders, but in the case of the less
hardened criminals and especially first offenders produces a
deteriorating effect.'' A similar opinion was recently expressed
by the Prisons Committee presided over by Mr. Herbert Gladstone.
As soon as punishment reaches a point at which it makes
men worse than they were before, it becomes useless as an
instrument of reformation or social defence.

The proper method of arriving at a more or less satisfactory
solution of the criminal problem is to inquire into the causes
which are producing the criminal population, and to institute
remedies based upon the results of such an inquiry. Professor
Ferri's volume has this object in view. The first chanter, on the
data of Criminal Anthropology, is an inquiry into the individual
conditions which tend to produce criminal habits of mind and
action. The second chapter, on the data of criminal statistics,
is an examination of the adverse social conditions which tend to
drive certain sections of the population into crime. It is
Professor Ferri's contention that the volume of crime will not be
materially diminished by codes of criminal law however skilfully
they may be constructed, but by an amelioration of the adverse
individual and social conditions of the community as a whole.
Crime is a product of these adverse conditions, and the only
effective way of grappling with it is to do away as far as
possible with the causes from which it springs. Although criminal
codes can do comparatively little towards the reduction of crime,
they are absolutely essential for the protection of society.
Accordingly, the last chapter, on Practical Reforms, is intended
to show how criminal law and prison administration may be made
more effective for purposes of social defence.

W. D. M.



Origin of Criminal Sociology, - Origin of Criminal Anthropology,
- Methods of Criminal Anthropology, - Relation between Criminal
Anthropology and Criminal Sociology, - Criminal Anthropology
studies the organic and mental constitution of the criminal, -
The criminal skull and brain, - Criminal physiognomy, - Physical
insensibility among criminals, - Criminal heredity, - Criminal
psychology, - Moral insensibility among criminals, - The
criminal mind. II. The data of criminal anthropology only
applies to the habitual or congenital criminal, - The occasional
and habitual criminal, - Comparison between the criminal and
non-criminal skull, - Anomalies in the criminal skull, - The
habitual criminal, - The crimes of habitual criminals, - The
criminal type confined to habitual criminals, - The proportion
of habitual criminals in the criminal population, - Forms of
habitual criminality, - Forms of occasional criminality, -
Classification of criminals, - Criminal lunatics, - Moral
insanity, - Born criminals, - Criminals by acquired habit,
- Criminal precocity, - Nature of juvenile crime, - Relapsed
criminals, - Precocity and relapse among criminals,
- Criminals of passion, - Occasional criminals, - Differences
between the occasional and the born criminal, - Criminal types shade
into each other, - Numbers of several classes of criminals, -
Value of a proper classification of criminals, - A fourfold



Value of criminal statistics, - The three factors of crime, -
Anthropological factors, - Physical factors, - Social factors,
- Crime a product of complex conditions, - Social conditions
do not explain crime, - Effects of temperature on crime, -
Crime a result of biological as well as social conditions, - The
measures to be taken against crime are of two kinds, preventive
and eliminative, - The fluctuations of crime chiefly produced by
social causes, - Steadiness of the graver forms of crime, -
Effect of judicial procedure on criminal statistics, - Crimes
against the person are high when crimes against property are low,
- Is crime increasing or decreasing? - Official optimism in
criminal statistics, - Density of population and crime, -
Conditions on which the fluctuations of crime depend, -
Quetelet's law of the mechanical regularity of crime, - The
effect of environment on crime, - The effect of punishment on
crime, - The value of punishment is over-estimated, -
Statistical proofs of this, - Biological and sociological
proofs, - Crime is diminished by prevention not by repression,
- Legislators and administrators rely too much on repression,
- The basis of the belief in punishment, - Natural and legal
punishment, - The discipline of consequences, - The
uncertainty of legal punishment, - Want of foresight among
criminals, - Penal codes cannot alter invincible tendencies,
- Force is no remedy, - Negative value of punishment.
II. Substitutes for punishment, - The elimination of the causes
of crime, - Economic remedies for crime, - Drink and crime,
- Drunkenness an effect of bad social conditions, - Taxation
of drink, - Laws against drink, - Social amelioration a
substitute for penal law, -
Social legislation and crime, - Political amelioration as a
preventive of crime, - Decentralisation a preventive, -
Legal and administrative preventives, - Prisoners' Aid
Societies, - Education and crime, - Popular entertainments
and crime, - Physical education as a remedy for crime, - To
diminish crime its causes must be eliminated, - The aim and
scope of penal substitutes, - Difficulty of applying penal
substitutes, - Difference between social and police prevention,
- Limited efficacy of punishment, - Summary of conclusions.



Criminal sociology and penal legislation, - Classification
of punishments, - The reform of criminal procedure, - The
two principles of judicial procedure, - Principles
determining the nature of the sentence, - Present principles of
penal procedure a reaction against mediaeval abuses, - The
``presumption of innocence,'' - The verdict of ``Not Proven,''
- The right of appeal, - A second trial, - Reparation to
the victims of crime, - Need for a Ministry of Justice, -
Public and private prosecutors, - The growing tendency to drop
criminal charges, - The tendency to minimise the official
returns of crime, - Roman penal law, - Revision of judicial
errors, - Reparation to persons wrongly convicted, -
Provision of funds for this purpose, - Reparation to persons
wrongly prosecuted, - Many criminal offences should be tried as
civil offences, - The object of a criminal trial. II. The
crime and the criminal, - The stages of a criminal trial, -
The evidence, - Anthropological evidence, - The utilisation
of hypnotism, - Psychological and psycho-pathological evidence,
- The credibility of witnesses, - Expert evidence, - An
advocate of the poor, - The judge and his qualifications, -
Civil and criminal judges should be distinct functionaries,
- The student of law should study criminals, - Training of
police and prison officers, - The status of the criminal judge,
- The authority of the judge. III. The jury, - Origin
of the jury, - Advantages of the jury, - Defects of the
jury, - The jury as a protection to liberty, - The jury and
criminal law, - Juries untrained and irresponsible, -
Numbers fatal to wisdom, - Defects of judges, - Difference
between the English and Continental jury, - Social evolution
and the jury, - The jury compared to the electorate, - How
to utilise the jury. IV. Existing prison systems a failure,
- Defects of existing penal systems, - The abuse of short
sentences, - The growth of recidivism, - Garofalo's scheme
of punishments, - Von Liszt's scheme of punishments, - The
basis of a rational system of punishment, - The indeterminate
sentence, - Flogging, - The indefinite sentence for habitual
offenders, - Van Hamel's proposals as to sentences, - The
liberation of prisoners on an indefinite sentence, - The
supervision of punishment, - Conditional release, - Good
conduct test in prisons, - Police supervision, -
Indemnification of the victims Of crime, - The duty of the
State towards the victims of crime, - Defensive measures must
be adapted to the different classes of criminals, - Uniformity
of punishment, - The prison staff, - Classification of
prisoners, - Prison labour. V. Asylums for criminal
lunatics, - The treatment of insane criminals, - Crime and
madness, - Classification of asylums for criminal lunatics,
- The treatment of born criminals, - The death penalty,
- Extension of the death penalty, - Inadequacy of the death
penalty, - Imprisonment for life, - Transportation, -
Labour settlements, - Establishments for habitual criminals,
- Criminal heredity, - Incorrigible offenders, -
Cumulative sentences, - Uncorrected or incorrigible criminals,
- Cellular prisons, - Solitary confinement, - The
progressive system of imprisonment, - The evils of cellular
imprisonment, - The cell does not secure separation, -
Costliness of the cellular system, - Labour under the cellular
system, - Open-air work the best for prisoners, - The
treatment of habitual criminals, - The treatment of occasional
criminals, - The treatment of young offenders, -
Futility of short sentences, - Substitutes for short sentences,
- Compulsory work without imprisonment, - Conditional
sentences, - Conditional sentences in Belgium, - Conditional
sentences in the United States, - Objections to conditional
sentences, - When the conditional sentence is legitimate, -
The treatment of criminals of passion, - Conclusion.



During the past twelve or fourteen years Italy has poured forth a
stream of new ideas on the subject of crime and criminals; and
only the short-sightedness of her enemies or the vanity of her
flatterers can fail to recognise in this stream something more
than the outcome of individual labours.

A new departure in science is a simple phenomenon of nature,
determined in its origin and progress, like all such phenomena, by
conditions of time and place. Attention must be drawn to these
conditions at the outset, for it is only by accurately defining
them that the scientific conscience of the student of sociology is
developed and confirmed.

The experimental philosophy of the latter half of our century,
combined with human biology and psychology, and with the natural
study of human society, had already produced an intellectual
atmosphere decidedly favourable to a practical inquiry into the
criminal manifestations of individual and social life.

To these general conditions must be added the plain and everyday
contrast between the metaphysical perfection of criminal law and
the progressive increase of crime, as well as the contrast between
legal theories of crime and the study of the mental
characteristics of a large number of criminals.

From this point onwards, nothing could be more natural than the
rise of a new school, whose object was to make an experimental
study of social pathology in respect of its criminal symptoms, in
order to bring theories of crime and punishment into harmony with
everyday facts. This is the positive school of criminal law,
whereof the fundamental purpose is to study the natural genesis of
criminality in the criminal, and in the physical and social
conditions of his life, so as to apply the most effectual remedies
to the various causes of crime.

Thus we are not concerned merely with the construction of a theory
of anthropology or psychology, or a system of criminal statistics,
nor merely with the setting of abstract legal theories against
other theories which are still more abstract. Our task is to show
that the basis of every theory concerning the self-defence of the
community against evil-doers must be the observation of the
individual and of society in their criminal activity. In one
word, our task is to construct a criminal sociology.

For, as it seems to me, all that general sociology can do is to
furnish the more ordinary and universal inferences concerning the
life of communities; and upon this canvas the several sciences of
sociology are delineated by the specialised observation of each
distinct order of social facts. In this manner we may
construct a political sociology, an economic sociology, a legal
sociology, by studying the special laws of normal or social
activity amongst human beings, after previously studying the more
general laws of individual and collective existence. And thus we
may construct a criminal sociology, by studying, with such an aim
and by such a method, the abnormal and anti-social actions of
human beings - or, in other words, by studying crime and criminals.

Neither the Romans, great exponents as they were of the civil law,
nor the practical spirits of the Middle Ages, had been able to lay
down a philosophic system of criminal law. It was Beccaria,
influenced far more by sentiment than by scientific precision, who
gave a great impetus to the doctrine of crimes and punishments by
summarising the ideas and sentiments of his age.[1] Out of the
various germs contained in his generous initiative there has been
developed, to his well-deserved credit, the classical school of
criminal law.

[1] Desjardins, in the Introduction to his ``Cahiers des Etats
Generaux en 1789 et la Legislation Criminelle,'' Paris,
1883, gives a good description of the state of public opinion in
that age. He speaks also of the charges which were brought
against the advocates of the new doctrines concerning crime, that
they upset the moral and social order of things. Nowadays,
charges against the experimental school are cited from these same
advocates; for the revolutionary of yesterday is very often the
conservative of to-day.

This school had, and still has, a practical purpose, namely, to
diminish all punishments, and to abolish a certain number, by a
magnanimous reaction of humanity against the arbitrary harshness
of mediaeval times. It had also, and still has, a method of its
own, namely, to study crime from its first principles, as
an abstract entity dependent upon law.

Here and there since the time of Beccaria another stream of theory
has made itself manifest. Thus there is the correctional school,
which Roeder brought into special prominence not many years ago.
But though it flourished in Germany, less in Italy and France, and
somewhat more in Spain, it had no long existence as an independent
school, for it was only too easily confuted by the close sequence
of inexorable facts. Moreover, it could do no more than oppose a
few humanitarian arguments on the reformation of offenders to the
traditional arguments of the theories of jurisprudence, of
absolute and relative justice, of intimidation, utility, and the

No doubt the principle that punishment ought to have a reforming
effect upon the criminal survives as a rudimentary organ in nearly
all the schools which concern themselves with crime. But this is
only a secondary principle, and as it were the indirect object of
punishment; and besides, the observations of anthropology,
psychology, and criminal statistics have finally disposed of it,
having established the fact that, under any system of punishment,
with the most severe or the most indulgent methods, there are
always certain types of criminals, representing a large number of
individuals, in regard to whom amendment is simply impossible, or
very transitory, on account of their organic and moral
degeneration. Nor must we forget that, since the natural roots of
crime spring not only from the individual organism, but also, in
large measure, from its physical and social environment,
correction of the individual is not sufficient to prevent
relapse if we do not also, to the best of our ability, reform the
social environment. The utility and the duty of reformation none
the less survive, even for the positive school, whenever it is
possible, and for certain classes of criminals; but, as a
fundamental principle of a scientific theory, it has passed away.

Hitherto, then, the classical school stands alone, with varying
shades of opinion, but one and distinct as a method, and as a body
of principles and consequences. And whilst it has achieved its
aim in the most recent penal codes, with a great, and too
frequently an excessive diminution of punishments, so in respect
of theory, in Italy, Germany, and France it has crowned its work
with a series of masterpieces amongst which I will only mention
Carrara's ``Programme of Criminal Law.'' As the author tells us
in one of his later editions, from the a priori principle
that ``crime is a fact dependent upon law, an infraction rather
than an action,'' he deduced - and that by the sheer force of an
admirable logic - a complete symmetrical scheme of legal and
abstract consequences, wherein judges are compelled, whether they
like it or not, to determine the position of every criminal who
comes before them.

But now the classical school, which sprang from the marvellous
little work of Beccaria, has completed its historic cycle. It has
yielded all it could, and writers of the present day who still
cling to it can only recast the old material. The youngest of
them, indeed, are condemned to a sort of Byzantine discussion of
scholastic formulas, and to a sterile process of scientific

And meantime, outside our universities and academies, criminality
continues to grow, and the punishments hitherto inflicted, though
they can neither protect nor indemnify the honest, succeed in
corrupting and degrading evil-doers. And whilst our treatises and
codes (which are too often mere treatises cut up into segments)
lose themselves in the fog of their legal abstractions, we feel
more strongly every day, in police courts and at assizes, the
necessity for those biological and sociological studies of crime
and criminals which, when logically directed, can throw light as
nothing else can upon the administration of
the penal law.



The experimental school of criminal sociology took its original
title from its studies of anthropology; it is still commonly
regarded as little more than a ``criminal anthropology school.''
And though this title no longer corresponds with the development
of the school, which also takes into account and investigates the
data of psychology, statistics, and sociology, it is none the less
true that the most characteristic impetus of the new scientific
movement was due to anthropological studies. This was
conspicuously the case when Lombroso, giving a scientific form to
sundry scattered and fragmentary observations upon criminals,
added fresh life to them by a collection of inquiries which were
not only original but also governed by a distinct idea, and
established the new science of criminal anthropology.

It is possible, of course, to discover a very early origin for
criminal anthropology, as for general anthropology; for, as Pascal
said, man has always been the most wonderful object of study to
himself. For observations on physiognomy in particular we may go
as far backwards as to Plato, and his comparisons of the human
face and character with those of the brutes, or even to
Aristotle, who still earlier observed the physical and
psychological correspondence between the passions of men and their
facial expression. And after the mediaeval gropings in
chiromancy, metoscopy, podomancy and so forth, one comes to the
seventeenth century studies in physiognomy by the Jesuit
Niquetius, by Cortes, Cardanus, De la Chambre, Della Porta, &c.,
who were precursors of Gall, Spurzheim, and Lavater on one side,
and, on the other, of the modern scientific study of the emotions,
with their expression in face and gesture, conducted by Camper,
Bell, Engel, Burgess, Duchenne, Gratiolet, Piderit, Mantegazza,
Schaffhausen, Schack, Heiment, and above all by Darwin.

With regard to the special observation of criminals, over and
above the limited statements of the old physiognomists and
phrenologists, Lauvergne (1841) in France and Attomyr (1842) in
Germany had accurately applied the theories of Gall to the
examination of convicts; and their works, in spite of certain
exaggerations of phrenology, are still a valuable treasury of
observations in anthropology. In Italy, De Rolandis (1835) had
published his observations on a deceased criminal; in America,
Sampson (1846) had traced the connection between criminality and
cerebral organisation; in Germany, Camper (1854) published a study
on the physiognomy of murderers; and Ave Lallemant (1858-62)
produced a long work on criminals, from the psychological point of

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryEnrico FerriCriminal Sociology → online text (page 1 of 20)