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postponement of his case, got before a milder jus-
tice, and received a sentence of three or four years.
A few years ago I read in the same paper of two
sentences in England, one of a youth sentenced
to seven years' imprisonment for stealing a butter-
knife, one of a drunken brute sentenced to three
months' imprisonment for gouging out his wife's
eye ! These discrepancies are continually taking
place in what we euphemistically call the " admin-
istration of justice." Indeed, the defenders of this
system frankly concede that it is impossible to
measure the real guilt of the act punished ; only
the overt act, only its effect on society, can be mea-
sured.^ But to punish a man, not for the wrong
of which he is guilty, but for the harm which he
has done, is not to exercise retributive justice. Jus-
tice adjusts the penalty to the sin ; such a system
adjusts the penalty to the injury ; and the differ-
ence between these two systems is the difference
between justice and revenge. What we call the

1 The Philosophy of Crime and Punishment : Address before
the National Prison Association of the United States, September,
1890, by Dr. W. T. Harris, p. 5.


administration of justice is the administration of
social revenge, mitigated by varying degrees of hu-
manity and mercy.

As this system is radically wrong in the spirit
which animates it, so it is radically wrong in the
purpose which it endeavors to accomplish. The
object of punishment is not the protection of so-
ciety from the criminal classes. This is a purely
selfish purpose, and a purely selfish purpose is
never beneficent and rarely accomplishes its end.
We do not protect society by endeavoring to pro-
tect society. Killing criminals, punishing crimi-
nals, shutting criminals up in prison, frightening
criminals, have all been tried and have all proved
failures. The notion that the end of punishment
is the protection of society from the criminal
classes assumes that there always are to be crimi-
nal classes from which we are to protect ourselves.
Not far from my home in the West, thirty odd
years ago, there had been what was known as Lost
Creek. This creek emptied itself over the prairie,
making a great marsh, and so long as the marsh
remained the whole neighborhood was infested
with malaria and typhoid fevers. It finally oc-
curred to some wise men to drain the swamp. The
creek was drained into the Wabash River, and the
disease ceased. The object of our punitive system
should be, not to protect society from the criminal
classes, but to drain the swamp ; to stop the mul-
tiplication of criminals ; to reform the criminals
created by our bad social system, and to protect

criminals: enemies of social order. 311

ourselves only from tlie small remnant which is
then left.

And the deterrent power of fear is not the
proper means for accomplishing the ends of pun-
ishment. We have broken criminals on the wheel,
boiled and buried them alive, flayed thein, hanged
them, imprisoned them, and still the criminal
classes grow more rapidly than population grows.
We have invited the public to witness these hor-
rible sights ; the boys have jeered at the offenders
in the stocks ; the roughs have gathered from the
purlieus of the city to glorify the criminal expi-
ating his crime upon the scaffold ; and both have
gone from the scene with their sensibilities hard-
ened, their vicious tendencies intensified, incited to
crime, not deterred from it. We have at last be-
come practically satisfied that this is true, and no
longer administer penalties in public. The pillory
is abolished, the Delaware whipping-post is set up
in the prison yard, the public are excluded from
the executions. Even in our school-rooms the boy
is no lonofer floo^o'ed before all the scholars. Pub-
lie penalty does not deter ; it does not decrease
crime : it instigates, duplicates, multiplies crime.

Our penal systems should be animated by a
different spirit ; they should seek a different end :
they should employ a different means. The spirit
should be that of love ; the object should be the re-
formation of the offender ; and while fear must some-
times be employed, it will be subsidiary to the
higher and more potent motives of hope and love.


In brief, we are to bring to the problem, How
shall we deal with our criminal population? the
spirit of Jesus Christ : we are to seek his ends and
we are to employ his methods. His spirit was that
of love ; his end was the cure of the wrong-doer ;
his method was the inspiration of worthy aspira-
tions and righteous purposes in the wrong-doer's

It hardly needs to be said that Christ treats sin
as a moral disease which he has come to cure.
" They that be whole," he says, " need not a phy-
sician, but they that are sick." ^ It ought never
to be forgotten, as it sometimes has been, that he
immediately adds, thus interpreting the figure, " I
am not come to call the righteous but sinners to
repentance." He recognizes the reality and terri-
bleness of sin ; he treats it as something which
separates the soul from God and calls for repent-
ance, and, if unrepented of, issues in death. But
the sinner is the object of his pity, not of his
wrath. He warns, but never threatens. Even
his invective against the Pharisees, perhaps tlie
most terrible invective in literature, ends in a la-
ment : " O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would
I have gathered thee together as a hen gathereth
her chickens under her wings, and ye would not ! "
He never punishes ; he never exults in prospective
punishment. His ministry is not punitive ; it is

It is true that there is a difference between sin

1 Matt. ix. 12, 13.


and crime ; but this difference enforces upon us
the truth that we should deal with crime as the
Master dealt with sin. Sin is the violation of
God's law ; crime is the violation of man's law.
The crime may not be a sin ; it may even be a
virtue. Daniel's refusal to worshijD the image set
up on Babylon's plain was a crime, but it was not
a sin. To give aid to a fugitive slave in 1850 was
a crime ; to refuse him aid was a sin. But crimes
are not worse than sins ; all that is evil in the
crime is the sin. Philosophically, there is no rea-
son why crime and sin should be treated in a
different spirit, on a different princij^le, or by
different methods. Christ's philosophy of sin as a
disease is now recognized and adopted by the scien-
tific students of criminology as the true philosophy
of crime. The cranial and cerebral characteristics
of the criminal classes set them apart by them-
selves. They are physiologically and phrenologi-
cally different from their fellows. " Forty per
cent, of all the convicts are invalids more or less,
and that percentage is largely increased in the
professional thief class," ^ says Dr. G. Wilson.
Semi-imbecility is a prevalent characteristic among
juvenile criminals. Expert students in this branch
of the subject discover characteristic criminal fea-
tures in receding foreheads, the size of the lower
jaw, the large development of the external ear, the
shape of the nose, the number and nature of the
wrinkles, anomalies of the hair, characteristics of
1 Quoted by H. Eliis in The Criminal, p. 34.


the eyes. " A handsome face," says Havelock
Ellis, "is a thing rarely seen in a prison, and
never in a prisoner who has been a law-breaker
from childhood." ^ If it is difficult to draw the
line between the physical and the moral, it is
impossible to draw such a line between the intel-
lectual and the moral. The law endeavors in vain
to define accurately the distinction between moral
and intellectual insanity. Few criminals are really
intelligent ; a large j^roportion of them are stupid.
Where there is intelligence it is generally confined
within a very narrow scope. " It is a mistake,"
says Dr. Wey, of Elmira, " to suppose that the
criminal is naturally bright. If bright, it is usu-
ally in a narrow line, and self-repeating. Like
the cunning of the fox, his smartness generally
disjilays itself in furthering his schemes of per-
sonal gratification and comfort." ^ Often the career
of crime is due to excessive vanity, emotional in-
stability, or a passion absolutely inexplicable and
inscrutable ; sometimes the criminal presents the
appearance of being under the control of some
superior power. One of the great French alienists
is of opinion that demoniacal possession is the best
explanation to-day of certain forms of otherwise
inexplicable crime.^ But the commonest cause of

^ H. Ellis, The Criminal, p. 80. Chapters iii. and iv. of this
volume may be studied to advantage by the g-eneral reader. Tliey
establish beyond all question the fact that habitual criminality is
closely connected with malformation.

2 Idem., -p. 134.

* See my chapter on demoniacal possession in Life of Christy


all is a weak will ; an apparent inability to persist
in continuous work against obstacles or discour-
agements, or to resist the evil influences exerted
by a stronger nature. In any scientific study of
this subject, the student must further remember
the early influences to which the criminal has been
subjected. Fifty per cent, of the inmates of the
Elmira Reformatory have either grown up with-
out any home, or in homes that were as bad as
none. There are no adequate statistics to indi-
cate how large a proportion of criminals have
grown up in vitiated physical surroundings, with
bad food and bad air accentuating and intensify-
ing evil qualities inherited from criminal ances-
tors. In 1888, 4,800,472 lodgings were furnished
to homeless men and women in cheap lodging-
houses and in the station-houses of New York
city. With few exceptions, these lodging-houses
breed vice and crime. " It is undeniable," says
Superintendent Byrnes, " that the lodging-houses

ch. xiii. p. 168. Esquirol is the French alienist referred to. " In
the course of an interesting conversation which the writer had with
the late Dr. Forbes Winslow, the latter expressed his conviction
that a large proportion of the patients in our lunatic asylums are
cases of possession, and not of madness. He distinguished the
demoniac by a strange duality, and by the fact that, when tem-
porarily released from the oppression of the demon, he is often
able to describe the force which seizes upon his limbs, and com-
pels him to acts or words of shame against his will." G. H.
Peraber, Earth's Earliest Ages, Am. ed., Armstrong, 188.5, p. 261.
See, also, an interesting and suggestive treatment of the subject in
Demon Possession and Allied Themes, by John L. Nevins, D. D.,
for forty years a missionary in China. Fleming & Revell Co.


of the city have a powerful tendency to produce,
foster, and increase crime. ... In nine cases out
of ten — I am quite confident this proportion is
not too large — he (the stranger who drifts into
such a lodging-house) turns out a thief or a
burglar, if, indeed, he does not sooner or later
become a murderer. Thousands of instances of
this kind occur every year." ^

Let it be granted that a certain proportion of
criminals deliberately choose a criminal career,
because they erroneously suppose that it is easier
to steal money than to earn it ; and that the only
way to protect society against them is to prove to
them by practical experience that stealing does
not pay. Is it not evidently unphilosophical and
unscientific to base our whole punitive system
upon the false assumption that the majority of
criminals are of this description ? There is a prac-
tically uniform testimony by students of this sub-
ject that the majority of criminals fall into crime
through either inheritance, evil education, evil
companionship, or an abnormal physical and in-
tellectual as well as moral organization. Disease
of body, of intellect, of emotions of will, disease
inherited through successive generations and ag-
gravated by vicious social conditions, all combine
to make the criminal class what it is. Humanity
as well as wisdom indicates the duty of society, —
first, to remove as far as possible the causes which

^ Address by the Rev. Henry L. Myrick on " The Study of
Crime," 1893, American Institute of Civics.


tend to generate criminals, and, secondly, to set in
operation as vigorously as possible causes which
will tend to cure them,^ — to give them saner
emotions, a better intelligence, a stronger will;
to counteract the influences of bad heredity and
bad environment ; to develop habits of virtue and
industry, at first under coercion, but as rapidly as
possible under the inspiration of self-respect, am-
bition, and hope.

Since he who advocates substituting a remedial
for a punitive system is constantly charged with
sentimentalism, with proposing to cure crime by
"cakes and ale," it is perhaps necessary to stop
for a moment to disavow this charge. Sentiment-
alism is not curative. There is nothing remedial
in sending the criminal baskets of flowers. '' It
is well known," says Havelock Ellis, " that when
a woman has murdered her husband, it is by no
means unusual for a number of letters to be sent
to her, before the issue of the trial is known, con-
taining offers of marriage." ^ Such morbid ro-
mancing as this is the farthest possible remove
from the spirit of Christ, who never put a halo
of romance around the wrong-doer ; he pardoned
guilt, but never palliated it. The compassion
which is to deal with criminals must be strong
before it is tender. He who is oblivious of moral

^ See an address by Carroll D. Wrig-ht on " The Relation of
Economic Conditions to the Causes of Crime," Report of National
Prison Association, 1892, especially p. 140.

2 H. Ellis, The Criminal, pp. 286, 287.


distinctions can never create in the criminal the
conscience which perceives them. Punishment
there must be, and sometimes severe punishment ;
but the spirit which administers it must be, not
the spirit of revenge, euphemistically called retri-
butive justice, but the spirit of love seeking re-
demption. It must be exactly the opposite of the
spirit which Carlyle represents in his '' Essay on
Model Prisons." ^ Against the creed of Carlyle I
put the affirmation that fear never cured stupidity.
On the contrary, its tendency always is to stupefy ;
its only value is to restrain temporarily the wrong-
doer until other and higher motives can be brought
to bear upon him.

The spirit which is to animate the punitive
system has been well expressed in a sentence by
the question once asked at a prison reform con-
gress, " Would not Jesus Christ have made a
superb prison warden?" It will seek for its
object, not to protect society from criminals, not

1 " To drill twelve hundred scoundrels by the ' method of
kindness,' and of abolishing- your very tread-wheel, — how eould
any commander rejoice to have such a work cut out for him '?
You had but to look in the faces of these twelve hundred and
despair, for the most part, of ever ' commanding' ' them at all.
Miserable, distorted blockheads, the g-enerality ; ape-faces, imp-
faces, angry dog'-faces, heavy, sullen ox-faces ; degraded under-
foot, perverse creatures ; sons of indocility ; g-reedy, mutinous
darkness, and, in one word, of stupidity, which is the g^eneral
mother of such. . . . These abject, ape, wolf, ox, imp, and other
diabolic-animal specimens of humanity, — who of the very g"ods
eould ever have commanded them by love ? A collar roiind the
neck and a eartwhip flourished over the back." — T. Carlyle,
Latter-Day Pamphlets, p. 47.


to inflict on criminals the vengeance of society, but
simply, solely, only, to reform tliem. Keformation
is to be the exclusive object of the punitive sys-
tem, reformation, not of the individual only, though
primarily that, but that also of the class to which
he belongs. Incidentally this reformation will sat-
isfy retributive justice in the only way in which
it can be satisfied ; for that instinct, though it
may be glutted by revenge, is never satisfied by
revenge. It is implanted in the human soul, to
enable us to inflict pain for a reformatory purpose,
and is satisfied — truly, nobly, divinely satisfied —
only by the reformation of the wrong-doer. Inci-
dentally, reformation furnishes the only adequate
protection to society. But this protection cannot
be furnished if society administers its penal system
with this selfish end in view. Society can serve
itself well only as it is unselfishly seeking to serve

It would carry me too far from my subject,
which is simply the interpretation of Christ's teach-
ings and their application to current questions,
were I to attempt to show in detail what methods
of penal administration this Christian principle
would involve ; and indeed to do this would re-
quire an expert knowledge which no one who has
not a life familiarity with punitive sj^stems can
possess. It must suffice to say in general terms
that society has neither the right nor the capacity
to administer justice ; that is, to determine what
amount of suffering properly belongs to a given


offense, and then to inflict it. It has the right
and the capacity to administer redemption ; that
is, to put clearly before itself, as its sole object,
the cure of crime, and to pursue this object in
the spirit of a strong love, and by processes of
discipline, education, and inspiration. I may, how-
ever, illustrate what this principle would involve
by some instances gathered from modern punitive

Neither fine nor imprisonment should ordinarily
be the first penalty for juvenile offenders. The
State of Massachusetts has adopted what is called
the Probation System.^ State agents are ap-
pointed, and every complaint against a boy or
girl under the age of seventeen must be laid in
writing before one of these agents, who then be-
comes a kind of guardian of the accused. He
investigates the case. If in his judgment the boy
may safely be returned to his home, in the faith
that a simple admonition from the bench will pre-
vent the recurrence of the offense, this course is
pursued. If there is no home, or if in his judg-
ment the home influences will be evil or inade-
quate, the offender is put under the immediate
supervision of the agent, who finds some home for
him. If this is impi'acticable, or if the nature of

1 Twenty-fifth Annual Report of the Commissioner of Prisons of
Massachusetts for the year ending Sept. 30, 1895, January, 1896,
pp. 252-258 ; Tallack, Penological and Preventive Principles,
pp. 299-303 ; lieport of New York Prison Association for 1894,
pp. 136-144; a paper on the ''Massachusetts System of Probai
tion," by Hannah M. Todd, Probation Officer.


the offenses or the offender is such that more offi-
cial discipline is required, then he may be sent to
a reformatory school. In point of fact, only about
one fifth of these wards of the State are sent into
other homes than their own, and only one ninth
to the State School and the Reformatories. This
method has been in operation since 1870, with
successful results, and in 1880 the system was so
extended as to include, in certain cases, adult as
well as juvenile offenders.

In cases of imprisonment the whole purpose of
the prison authorities, from the entrance of the
criminal into the prison, should be his refor-
mation. The intermingling of criminals in a
common room or a common yard, in the jail, is
condemned by all authorities, and is perpetuated
only because of public indifference. The classifi-
cation of prisoners, according to the nature of the
men or their offenses, is sometimes attempted, but
not with great success. There is certainly much
to be said in favor of the separate cellular confine-
ment, at least for a time. Under this system, the
prisoner is put into a cell by himself, shut off from
all intercourse with, and sight of, prison compan-
ions ; he carries on his industry in the cell, receives
there the visits of the chaplain, and is allowed,
under careful restriction, visits either from offi-
cials or friends. Thus the deadly influence of
absolutely solitary confinement is prevented, but
with this mitigation the prisoner is in compara-
tive solitude, compelled, as it were, to reflect on


his jjast life and his present condition. The effect
of such separate confinement is much like that of
a bath, and from it he emerges, at least, less sub-
ject to the contaminating influence of other crimi-
nals, and less likely to exert a contaminating
influence upon them.

The industries of the prison should all be ad-
justed with reference, not to making money, but
to making men.^ The contract system, by which
the labor of the prison is rented out to contractors
who hire the work of the prisoners for what they
can make out of it, is utterly and irredeemably
bad. 2 It interferes with the discipline of the
prison ; it puts the prisoner under two masters ;
it makes his labor purely servile ; and when he

^ " We are indebted to Pope Clement XI. for having- first suc-
cessfully introduced labor into prison discipline. In 1704 he
established St. Michael's prison for boys and young men, in Rome,
in which he caused to be erected both workshops and school-
rooms, and which he termed a ' House of Correction.' Over
the entrance, and upon the walls of the prison, he placed those
oft-quoted inscriptions containing sentiments upon which we have
been unable to improve as expressions of the true aim of prison
discipline : ' For the reformation and education of criminal
youths, to the effect that those who when idle had been injurious
to the state might, when better instructed and trained, become
useful to it ; ' also, ' It is of little use to restrain criminals by
punishment unless you reform them by education.' But, for
over a century after Pope Clement began his good work in St.
Michael's prison, little was accomplished in other parts of the
world towards the betterment of prisoners." — J. F. Scott, of Mas-
sachusetts State Reformatory, in Proceedings Annual Prison As-
sociation National Congress, St Paul, June, 1894, p. 60.

■^ See Report of National Prison Association, 1884, pp. 138, 144;
1888, pp. 58, 63, 242.

criminals: enemies of social order. 323

comes out from prison he hates industry even
more than he hated it when he entered. It is a
matter of small consequence whether the prison
pays its expenses or not ; what is of consequence
is, that the prisoners should go out at the end of
their confinement, not to prey upon the community
again, but to add to its wealth by their honest in-
dustry. It can hardly be necessary to add that
the religious exercises and the night schools, which
should be connected with every prison, should have
the same object in view, — the reformation of the

But all these measures are subordinate to the
fundamental principle involved in the indetermi-
nate sentence. Under the ordinary punitive sys-
tem, the judge before whom the prisoner is tried
determines the amount of penalty to be inflicted
upon him according to the nature of the offense
which he has committed, though under most of our
modern systems the prisoner may reduce the term
of his sentence by good behavior. Under the
system of the indeterminate sentence, the judge
does not determine the amount of penalty ; that
amount has no direct relation to the offense. The
judge and jury simply determine whether tbe man
has committed an offense against society. That
being determined, the offender is sent to prison,
and another tribunal in connection wdth the prison
determines bow long the confinement shall con-
tinue. It determines this question, not by con-
sidering the offense which has been committed,


but by considering the question whether he is
likely ever to commit another. In other words,
the criminal is sent to a prison, as a lunatic is
sent to an asylum or a sick man to a hospital, to
remain until cured. Under this system, when the
prison tribunal is satisfied that the man can earn
an honest livelihood, and is fully resolved to earn an
honest livelihood, and has probably strength of

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Online LibraryLyman AbbottChristianaity and social problems → online text (page 21 of 25)