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APRIL 15, 1927 r ** r

Breasting the Crime Wave

George W. Kirchivey

Whither Social Work?

By Arthur Evans Wood

Country leeth

The Negro in Detroit

Nurse and Social Worker Partners

What Makes Children Grow?

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From a drawing by A. Boyd Houghton for the London
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known English artists of his time, was commissioned to draw
a series of characteristic American scenes and for one of
them he hit upon the famous "gaol" of New York City.


e law







April 15

Volume LVIII
No. 2

Breasting the Crime Wave


WRITING a year ago on the prevailing hys-
teria with respect to the prevalence of crime
in the United States, I advised caution in
accepting it as an authentic movement of
the public mind. The crime-wave over
which the excitement raged was mainly an illusion. Our
extravagant crime-rate was an old story made to look new
by a more reckless use of fabricated statistics. Every decade
since the Civil War had witnessed one or more of these
paroxysms of bewilderment and rage over the crime situa-
tion only to see them subside without leaving a trace. It
was not unreasonable to apprehend that the alarmists of the
present decade would be equally ineffectual. Perhaps,
when the account is made up and the balance cast, it will
appear that they were. But in the meantime something else
has happened. The legal profession has had a bad dream
and is waking up.

President now Chief Justice Taft was not the first to
call the attention of the bar to the abuses of our administra-
tion of criminal justice, but it is certain that his ringing
condemnation of that system delivered in Chicago in 1909
put new life into an old and half-forgotten indictment.
His language, characterizing our criminal law and its ad-
ministration as "a disgrace to our civilization," may have
been a bit strong but strong words are needed to rouse the
bar to a sense of its responsibility in this matter. For the
criminal branch is the step-child of the law. The game is
an unpleasant one and the financial rewards are meagre.
The consequence is that few lawyers of standing will have
anything to do with it and that the profession as a whole
knows and cares as little as does the man in the street as to
what goes on in the criminal courts. If any change is made
by the legislature in the antiquated system of procedure
that obtains, it is usually dictated by criminal lawyers in
the interest of their actual or prospective clients. The crim-

inal court has ceased to be what it never was in fact but
what popular imagination has pictured it to be a tribunal
for the disinterested search for truth, and has become a
forum for the display of the wits of opposing counsel in
which justice is flouted except by the impotent judge on
the bench and the devil takes the hindmost. This too,
like Chief Justice Taft's characterization, is a hard saying
but it is near enough to the truth to let it stand.

If the apathy of the bar was disturbed by fulminations
such as these, its purpose was still without form and void.
But it was soon to be furnished with a spear-head and to
be instructed how to use it. In the year 1910 a group of
eminent lawyers, professors of law, psychiatrists and stu-
dents of criminology gathered in the city of Chicago and,
under the leadership of Dean John H. Wigmore of the
law school of the Northwestern University, organized the
American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology and
began the publication of its Journal. This notable achieve-
ment, which brought modern criminological science to the
support of the nascent movement for penal reform, was
promptly followed by the publication of translations of the
leading works of European criminologists.

In the first year of its existence the Institute began the
formulation of a program for the reform of criminal
procedure and by 1920 it had practically completed this
task. Meanwhile it had labored incessantly to stimulate in
the legal profession a real interest in this matter and it
was in this year (1920) that its efforts were tardily crowned
with success by the creation of a Section of Criminal Law
in the American Bar Association. The half dozen years
that have since elapsed have been devoted to the education
of the bar in the principles and practice of the administra-
tion of criminal justice.

It would be infinitely comforting to regard this develop-
ment as a triumph of reason, pure and undefiled, but that

7 o


April 15, 7927!

w ,uld be to forget the "crime-wave," which was already
;, full tide. The debate in the St. Louis meeting of the
imerican Bar Association at which the Criminal Law Sec-
ion was set up showed clearly that the prevailing panic
over the crime situation played no small role in the attain-
ment of that reasonable result. Certainly it was the crime-
wave and nothing else that determined the action of the
Association a year later in creating a special Committee on
Law Enforcement. This committee "investigated" the crime
situation in the United States and at the next annual meet-
ing of the Association held in San Francisco in 1922, made
what ex-Governor Hadley of Missouri characterizes^ as
"startling disclosures as to the enforcement of our criminal
law," such disclosures, in fact, as were already current in
the sensational literature of the day. The final report of this
committee made the following year at the Minneapolis
meeting of the Association reaffirmed its conviction that
something should be done about crime, but judiciously
referred the puzzling question, what should be done, to a
permanent commission of the Association.

BUT this does not exhaust the initiative of the bar.
Possibly what will prove to have been the most notable
achievement of the Association was an incidental result of
an effort to secure an authoritative restatement of the whole
body of American law. For this important purpose it
harnessed the law schools of the country to its car by setting
up a new body composed for the most part of legal scholars
under the description of the American Law Institute, organ-
ized in 1923. A committee of this body, comprising ex-
Governor Herbert S. Hadley, now chancellor of Wash-
ington University in St. Louis, with half-a-dozen eminent
legal authorities, including Dean William E. Mikell of the
Law School of the University of Pennsylvania and Pro-
fessor Edwin R. Keedy of the same institution, is now
engaged in making a thorough study of the law governing
our system of criminal justice and has already made a ten-
tative report embodying its views as to needed reforms in
criminal procedure.

Leaving the bar to its formidable task of making the
law a more efficient instrument of criminal justice, we may
now turn to the efforts of our public-spirited or^our hectic
citizenship to deal with the enemy. The term "enemy" is
here deliberately employed in its military sense, for the
civic effort is generally pictured as a species of guerilla
warfare against the criminal classes. Appropriately enough,
the first community to organize itself for this purpose was
the city of Chicago, and the Chicago Crime Commission
which came into being in 1919 has become the model or
prototvpe of similar organizations in many American cities.
At this date there are about a dozen of these local organ-
izations in being, widh several others about to be, the most
important of them, after the Chicago Commission, being
the Cleveland Association for Criminal Justice (1922) and
the Baltimore Justice Commission (1923)-

As all these local community organizations have identical
aims and employ substantially similar methods, they may
for purposes of description be treated together. Broadly
speaking, while the legal agencies are primarily if not ex-
clusively concerned with the state of the law governing the
punishment of crime and particularly with the procedural
law, the civic organizations under consideration take the
law as it stands and concern themselves with its enforce-
ment. Their aim is efficient administration of the police,

the committing magistrate, the prosecuting attorney, the
courts. To secure this end they scrutinize every step of the
criminal process from the report of a crime to the punish-
ment or discharge of the offender and spread the report of
their findings before the public. They proceed on th
assumption that if a crime goes unpunished someone charged
with a public duty has failed to perform that duty and
they trust the public to do the rest. This procedure ha*
been described as "putting the fear of God" into the police
or into the prosecuting attorney or into the trial judge, as
the case may be. Apparently the magic works to somi
extent. At least all of the organizations of this type that
issue regular reports show a speeding up of the process fron
arrest to trial, an increasing percentage of convictions am
punishments and, with curious aberrations, a diminishinj
crime rate. In no case reported is the improvement grea
but in most cases it is more than nominal.

I trust that I shall not be regarded as cynical if I advi*
caution in trusting these reports or in drawing the infer
ences which they suggest. There is no way of checkinj
them up. In some of them I have complete confidence
Others, I have reason to believe, are wholly untrustworthy
The assumption that the decline in the crime rate which the;
assert is due to the moderate improvement in administrativ
efficiency above set forth can be verified only by a com
parative study of the movement of crime in a considerabl
number of other similar communities. The police report
of many of our larger cities make similar claims.

BUT there is an aspect of the local crime commission whic
gives me graver concern. The immediate occasion for thi
creation of the Chicago Commission was the indignation e>
cited among business men by a long series of bank and pa>
roll robberies culminating in a robbery with a murder o
unusual atrocity. The Commission, fathered by the Chicag
Association of Commerce, was and still is a business men
organization with only the general aim of crime suppressior
The Cleveland Association for Criminal Justice, on th
other hand, was avowedly organized to carry into effect th
recommendations of the body of experts, directed by Dea
Roscoe Pound and Professor Felix Frankfurter of th
Harvard Law School, who had conducted the famous Clevi
land Survey during the preceding year. This, the fir;
thorough and complete study of the way in which crimin:
justice operates in a great American city, had uncovered ir

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