Posts Tagged ‘criminology’

“In keeping with these developments, probationers have been subject  to a growing range of penal controls. During the 1950s, probation involved the offender occasionally meeting with, and reporting to, his or her probation officer, and being bound by the general conditions of probation orders, as well as, no doubt, being subject to a variety of informal local controls. Today, however, many probationers, in addition to the purview and surveillance of a probation officer, and through the more specific and specialized community-correctional conditions of probation orders, encounter members of the Salvation Army and John Howard and Elizabeth Fry societies, as well as the numerous church, business, native, and other community groups and volunteers charged with penal processing. It is difficult to conceive that the growth of the Ministry of Correctional Services’ community satellites has not entailed the evolution of increasingly pervasive models of penal control.
Ominous tendencies are…evident in the case of community service orders. They, too, increase the range and intensity of formal conditions of probation. Yet the program has ideological appeal across the political spectrum. Within corrections, it enjoys the support of judges, correctional officials, and numerous private-sector groups who have become involved in the provision of community-service-order programs in Ontario. Much of the appeal of community service orders derives from their perceived reparative effects. But, as Axon has observed in her study of community service orders in Canada, what Community [Service] is, in fact, is unpaid work done by the offender in the community. Whether or not this unpaid labour constitutes reparation is another matter entirely.’

The appeal of community service orders – as with community corrections more generally – also derives from their emphasis on community. As Stanley Cohen has observed, the word ‘community’ is not only ‘rich in symbolic power, but it lacks any negative connotations.’ Different, competing, and even contradictory assumptions can be brought together under the ambiguous concept of community. Leaving aside the problematic issue of how ‘community’ should be define, the extent to which offenders are members of the community that benefits from their own unpaid labour is doubtful. Studies of community service orders in Ontario, and in Canada more generally, suggest that those subject to the program are often young, unemployed males, who are first-time offenders, do not belong to clubs or organizations, and have had ‘poor education with few prospects of obtaining anything but ‘dead end’ jobs” (Axon). What would be the benefit to these offenders, it seems, are better opportunities to become members of the community’s paid labour force, rather than being subjected to forced labour.

At the same time, one segment of the wider community has clearly benefited from, and been remunerated through, community service orders: private-sector groups have derived financial as well as ideological benefits from the development of programs. They pressured the Ministry of Correctional Services to develop community-service-order programs and to make contracts with them for operating the programs. Following from this, community service orders have more to provide jobs for those affiliated with the John Howard Society, the Elizabeth Fry Society, the Salvation Army, and other groups, than for offenders. In the process, the incomes of these groups increased. They and their quasi-civil service staff benefited from the perception that community service orders ‘helped humanize the correctional system while providing them with worthwhile jobs (Menzies). In a variety of ways, and similarly to the situation of community-service-order programs elsewhere, ‘in reality, the service which the offender gives is not to an abstract ‘community’ but rather to those agencies and individuals who are willing to be involved with offenders’. (Axon) Overall, community service orders strengthen the net of penal control not only by formally extending probation conditions, but also in expanding the range of non-state agencies becoming involved in – an financially dependent on – the exercise of control.”

– Maeve W. McMahon, The Persistent Prison? Rethinking Decarceration and Penal Reform. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992. pp. 120-122.


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“Old age rehabilitates criminals better than all programs, congress finds,” Globe and Mail. June 30, 1973. Page 12.

No one can say what will definitely work

By John Beaufoy, Globe and Mail Reporter
REGINA – About the only thing to come out of the Canadian Congress of Criminology and Corrections this week was the conclusion that nothing rehabilitates like old age.

With all the programs and all the experiments being tried across Canada, no one here was able to stand up and say, ‘This is the way to rehabilitate a criminal. This will work.’

Instead, six days of speeches, seminars, and learned papers have produced confusion in the minds of some delegates, adherence to rigid stances on the parts of others, and pleas for unity and co-ordination from almost everyone.

Which is not to say that the 600 people who wound up their conference here yesterday aren’t interested. After all, they’re professional. They make their living by working with society’s rejects – the men and women who’ve gone beyond ‘our’ limits.

But interest and dedication, many of the delegates admit, are not enough. What’s needed, they said, is a whole new approach to corrections.

So, a senator bangs his fist on the lectern and exhorts policy-makers not to build more prisons, while an official of the Canadian Penitentiary Service tells how many new institutions will be built in the next few years.

A professor criticizes the police, judiciary, corrections, parole and other after-care agencies for all operating independently, and the component parts respond that all they’re trying to do is their individual jobs. And, in fact, that’s what they’re doing.

The police arrest. The judge sentences. The prisons imprison. The parole board and the after-care agencies supervise and do what they can to bring the ex-offender back into the community. But it just doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on the offender.

And 80 per cent of those sentenced to federal institutions – serving terms of two years or more – have been in trouble before. Prison is just the end of a long winding road through juvenile court, training schools, probation and provincial jails.

‘They’ve been through the meatgrinder,’ says Paul Fuguy, Commissioner of Penitentiaries.

And, figures show, more Canadians are going through that meatgrinder every day and ending up in jail. The federal prison population has risen to about 9,000. A year ago it stood at 7,500.

Delegates here addressed themselves to the causes of this increase and its practical outcome – overcrowding in prisons, increased probation and parole case loads, more inmates to supervise with the same amount of staff, and less opportunity to attempt rehabilitation.

Institutional confinement even under the best of conditions is tension-producing, they comment. Crowd more people into the system, and there may be an increase in prison violence, more escapes, more parole violations.

This said, however, the same people contend there’s little they can do except try to cope with the people sent to them by the courts. The sheer volume of day-to-day work precludes their devising any new approaches to crime prevention, police discretion, or community – as opposed to judicial – disposition of offenders.

And, although there are indications that at some local levels that the various components are starting to work together, it’s not moving fast enough, according to John Braithwaite, Deputy Commissioner of Penitentiaries. 

‘We must cease this … warfare,’ he told the delegates. ‘We must strive to work better together.’

Without better communications, collaboration and co-operation between the police, judges, and corrections workers, the criminal justice system cannot become meaningful to the average Canadian, he said.

Yesterday provincial deputy ministers and their federal counterparts responsible for corrections met here to plan the agenda for the fall federal-provincial ministerial meeting on the subject.

The September meeting will be the first of its type since 1968. If that time-lag is startling, consider this: it wasn’t until October 1971 that the Canadian Penitentiary Service hired an information officer to tell its story.

‘The job,’ says Yvan Roy, ‘has proved challenging, but difficult. Spreading the word about prisons isn’t like announcing financial aid.’

His difficulty, like that of most people in the correctional field, seems to have been summed up by Mr. Braitwaite when he quoted King Solomon visiting his harem: ‘I have a vague idea of what is expected of me on this occasion, but I know not where to begin and I have grave doubts that I have either the stamina or the ability to fulfill my task.’

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“From the highway near Laval, Quebec, the Special
Correctional Unit looks too small and harmless to have
been the subject of so much controversy over the past
two or three years. Once inside this super-maximum
institution, you realize that the most alarming feature
of this much-publicized institution is its necessity. It is
appalling and difficult to believe that of all the forms
of life on this planet, the human species is the only one
that displays such an anti-social behaviour pattern towards
one another that makes it necessary to isolate
some of its members. 

Yet, the necessity has been apparent for many
years. The million-dollar riots in Kingston Penitentiary
and St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary, the brutal stabbings
of officers and inmates, the hostage-grabbing, and
the chain-reaction of sit-in demonstrations in our Canadian
prisons have indicated that the majority of the
participants were just followers of a small group of
trouble-makers in maximum security institutions. 

The hard-core group of inmates are the intractable,
hostile, violent, sometimes psychotic types who
are always looking for opportunities to disrupt the routine
of any institution in which they are confined. They
have demonstrated a refusal or inability to Co-operate
or adjust to a reasonable pattern of behaviour in other
institutions, and must be separated from the main body
of the inmate population. They include chronic offenders
against good order and discipline during incarceration,
who have failed to respond to correctional
training available in other settings. 

Finally–and with some understandable reluctance
– the Canadian Penitentiary Service accepted the fact
that a small group of inmates could not adjust to prison
life within the mainstream of a prison population. Close
and constant supervision under strict maximum security
conditions in a specialized institution was the only answer.

Before the first unit was put into operation in
Quebec, the Commissioner of Penitentiaries. – being an
incurable optimist – refused to accept the impossibility
of a change in the attitudes and behaviour of any person,
and he demanded that, above all, the dignity of the
human being be respected at all times. This, as it relates
to prisoners, may be accomplished only through special
training, which includes strict, consistent and fair discipline. 

Therefore, the purpose of the training programme
in the Special Correctional Unit is to effect a change in
the attitudes and behaviour of the inmates, to the end
t’at they may be enabled to return as quickly as possible to a normal maximum security setting, and unction
reasonably and profitably therein to their own
advantage and without hindrance to others. The improvement effected in attitude, conduct and ability to
perform within a regular programme should be such
that the inmate – on return to normal maximum community – will be imbued with sufficient interest and motivation
in regard to his future welfare that he will seek
to participate in the parts of the regular programme available to him. The objective is to correct tough
proper training and not merely to punish with no other end in view.

“The development and implementation of the
programme”, Mr. MacLeod told his Penitentiary Officers,
“shall be based on our respect for the dignity of
the human being, his duties and privileges, and the
duties and privileges of others. A basic principle of
organization shall be that the inmate is given adequate
assistance and is encouraged to use his own efforts to
co-operate within the programme and earn advancement
commensurate with his improvement with at loss
of time.”

Every inmate in the Special Correctional Unit
shall be treated according to his individual needs, and
– having been provided with the ways and means for
improvement – must thereafter be prepared to accept
responsibility for his own progress or lack of it. The
actions of one shall not be permitted to interfere with
the progress of others. The programme shall be designed
in a way that will cause it to appeal to the better
instincts of the human being, and to draw out the good
but latent aspirations that may be beneath the surface.
There shall be recognition of achievement and of the value of human progress towards a better way of life, with rewards being given only when they have been earned, and to be of a nature calculated in cases to further the attainment of the purpose of the Programme in an atmosphere of mutual understanding.

Mr. Paultre Ligonde, M.Ed., M.A. Criminologist on staff at the Special Correctional Unit, stated that this “was an opportunity for a human scientist to test objectively some hypotheses on ‘sensory deprivation
which were made before the opening of the

Special Correctional Unit. In the light of experiments on deprivation done in concentration camps, in some South America prisons, and more objectively in the research for
Eysenck, Zubeck, and the McGill deprivation studies, I believe that, in the most distressful situations, the application of therapeutic principles can alleviate the burden of situation. The technique of "therapeutic atmosphere” can then be easily verified.”


The correctional staff has therefore been exposed to intensive training in therapeutic attitudes during the three months preceding the arrival of the first inmates.
His training consisted, as I said earlier, in counselling, human relationship and criminology. The Superintendent and I were convinced that once the staff was fully
prepared in the technique, they would accept the inmates and would be accepted accordingly, and this constituted a therapy in itself. The institution being divided
into our sections, each section being headed by a guidance officer trained in counselling techniques and reality therapy, it is expected that the security staff will be
reminded of the motto every time and that they will
be expected to act in a therapeutic manner. 

This intensive staff training which we have mentioned above, plus the timetable of educational activities, are presently the core of a program which constitutes
therapy that differentiates the institution from other
situations. What was supposed to be a maximum security has proved to be developing gradually into a
treatment center. 

This formula has nothing revolutionary; already Maxwell Jones has exposed and applied the principles
COMMUNITY TREATMENT in a penitentiary
camp in Chino, California, and William Glasser has
proved in the Ventura School, the applicability of
REALITY THERAPY with delinquents. Both formulas
are being tried at Special Correctional Unit, and
the day will come when they will be fully applied. Our
sincere hope is that in the near future, the small community groups taking place at the three higher stages
of the S.C.U. correctional programme will be expanded
into the whole community meeting every week. Some
restrictions on the movement of inmates are gradually
disappearing and dialogue between staff and inmates,
through group discussions, formal and informal, are
taking place as a routine; audio visual aids and discussions are used to enhance communication in which the programme of the institution is discussed by inmates  and security staff without fear of reprimand and punishment. 

The Superintendent and the Chief Security Officer make it a date to participate in group meetings and whenever possible meet with inmates to clarify critical issues. One inmate who knows all the institutions of Canada said that it is the first time that he knows of any such things in penitentiaries. Superintendent R. Jourdain and Chief Security Officer B. Gauthier,
regularly visit every inmate even when in dissociation
for punishment or while belonging to the group of ‘non-adherents (those who refuse to participate in the programme have been four out of fity, and their refusal did not last longer than two weeks.) 

The inmate has the right to voice his opinion on 

what he thinks is good for the welfare of the community;
he can make suggestions. In fact, their suggestions
sometimes have proved to be clues as to what is wrong
with the system, and have helped preventing or avoiding
aggressive reactions on the part of inmates They know
that they will not be punished for telling the truth. They
will say what they know. Disciplinary reports are dealt
with on an individual basis and do not necessarily bring
with them any punishment to the supposedly wrong-doers. 

If the architecture of the institution could be
modified, it would be possible, and the staff is ready, to
reorganize the institution into four small communities
with more privileges for higher stages, in which REALITY
THERAPY could be easily applicable. The inmates
would learn with the support of trained and
understanding staff, to face the reality of the prison
situation for which society has not yet found any other

The prisoners themselves say that they are better
treated at the Special Correctional Unit than ever before
in any Canadian Penitentiary. They feel better; in fact
many of those who came to the institution with a medication
of tranquilizer decided to stop the medication to
the surprise of the hospital and the correctional staff.
Some of them made representation to spend the balance
of their sentence at the Special Correctional Unit.
The first group of inmates admitted in the institution on
January 22th were categorically opposed to being transferred
back to another institution as soon as they heard
of such a thing, even though they were ‘protection cases.’
They felt better protected against act of aggression of
other inmates and better understood by the staff. They
preferred the tranquility of the Special Correctional
Unit to the noise of the bar-door cells of the other

The programme consists of four progressive stages, with steady advancement through all stages, for retention
of an inmate in any one stage where lack of progress
is Observed or for movement back to any earlier stage
should this become necessary. 

The four stages of the programme are: 

Stage 1: Reception, assessment and orientation,
during which the inmate is interviewed by all staff
members in charge of each stage of the programme
and tests are administered as required. He receives
instruction in the function of the institution, what
is proposed for him and what is expected of him.
Contacts between staff and inmates is constant
and constructive. Training courses will be presented
in the basic elements of life in a normal
society, including matters relating to the common
good, public spirit and welfare, and the attributes
of good citizenship. Inmates shall be kept physic

ally active throughout the day as far as possible,
with regular periods of drill and physical exercise;
he shall be required to keep himself, his clothing,
cell and its contents clean and tidy at all times. 

Stage 2: is a continuation of the programme with
assignments to activities outside a restricted area,
prescribed reading and physical exercise, adult
education and work assignments to be carried out
on an individual basis, with limited outside work
in groups of not more than three. 

Stage 3: Work assignments shall be made with
consideration for the inmate’s future employment
outside the S.C.U., with continuation of directed
study and general adult education, limited recreation
and work on grounds at gardening. The
stress in Stage 3 is on the need to correct weaknesses
noted in previous stages. 

Stage 4: in many ways approaches the situation to
be found in maximum security settings, with assignments
to work with small groups on maintenance
and outside projects, pre-employment training
in industrial shop; trade and related theory;
and academic education. In Stage 4, the case of
each inmate is to be reviewed by the Classification
Board each month for consideration of transfer
back to maximum security institutions. 

All cells are to be equipped for broadcast of radio
programme, recordings and public addresses, the regular
issue ration scale of food is to be followed, and

visiting and correspondence is allowed. 

The Special Correctional Units do not maintain an atmosphere of coldness, hostility, and negative attitude and influence with an impenetrable barrier between staff and inmates. Staff assigned to an S.C.U. especially selected and receive intensive instruction.
The operation of the unit and the inmate training programme.

Are Special Correctional Units the answer? According to Mr. Ligonde’s concluding remarks in his article "From Super-maximum Security to Therapeutic Atmosphere”, it would be premature at this stage to draw any concrete conclusions. So far there have been no hangings, no stabbings, no suicidal attempt by any of the 50 inmates. Many are attending their school classes for the first time in their social life. Psychological tests do not show any mental deterioration, nor do personality tests indicate an
abnormality in reaction to the experience of living in the unit.

Only time and continuous effort on the part inmates and staff can determine if the Special Correctional Units prove to be something more than
“the end of the line" for a few unfortunate misfits among our species. In the meantime, the training programmes in other other institutions can make a greater impact in our prison populations who are positively motivated to take their rightful place among what we must ensure is the highest form of life in this universe.”

– “SPECIAL CORRECTIONAL UNIT: Barbaric Fortresses or Therapeutic Communities?” Federal Corrections, July-August-September 1968. Pages 10 to 12.

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“The incarceration rate and rising gender-based violence, paradoxically, track the growing levels of freedom and public activity among women. Compared with North American and Europe, the parts of Asia, Latin America, and Africa where globalization has had its most severe effects have also undergone significant social changes: Young women face unprecedented pressures in education and work, including migration from rural areas and poor countries for jobs, while the expectation remains that they will still care for their families and children.

But civil-rights advocates wonder why, in a world of expanding freedom and inclusion for women and girls, they are simultaneously being disproportionately dragged down by incarceration.

In poor communities around the world, criminalization and abuse go hand in hand. A girl growing up in a refugee camp might be pressured to exchange sexual favors to avoid homelessness. Perhaps supporting a child as a single mother means serving as a drug mule for an abusive boyfriend. As economic exploitation deepens, the line further blurs between victim and perpetrator, especially when women get picked up by police or framed for partners’ offenses,

At a recent conference hosted by the ICPR in London, where activists and scholars discussed the imprisonment experience for women and girls around the world, Teresa Njoroge of the Kenya-based NGO Clean Start, discussed her own experience in a women’s prison. As Njoroge lived among the inmates, she realized all had been systematically socially isolated, stripped of family ties, reduced to identification numbers: “I understood their hurt and pain, and I learned that crime is not what really brought these women to prison. Far from it. It started with a lack of education, whose supply and quality is not equal for all. It starts with a lack of economic opportunities, which pushes these women to the petty survival crimes. The broken health system, the broke criminal system, the broken social-justice system. If any of these poor women fall through any of these cracks, the bottom of that chasm is a prison.”

Women also suffer from a lack of social support before and after prison. According to Catherine Heard of ICPR’s World Prison Research Programme, women in prison “are often primary carers for one or more children or older family members. This surely suggests that the economic and social costs of imprisoning women will, in most cases, outweigh the supposed benefits.”

In the United States, for example, the mass incarceration of women is correlated highly with racial segregation, poverty, mental-health problems, and childhood abuse. Moreover, women are also disproportionately burdened by childcare responsibilities and so require targeted support to restore their family lives post-release.

Today rising imprisonment is the bleak upshot of women’s growing presence in the economy and in public life. But liberation should not lead to added risk of criminalization. Why should a sex worker be criminalized for struggling with economic hardship and exclusion from other avenues of employment? Why is a woman who steals to feed her family given a prison sentence instead of food assistance? Gender segregation across society imposes a criminalization tax on women simply pursuing the right to lead independent, self-sufficient lives.”

– Michelle Chen, “It’s a Worldwide Trend: More Women Are Being Imprisoned Than Ever Before.” The Nation. February 1, 2018.

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“Endeavouring to control the psychic storms and the physiological
cravings by external terror, is very much like trying to steer a ship from the outside;
it cannot be done. The mental self-searching restraints of believed religions
alone really influence hidden desires; even then the great passions will mostly
break through.

Meanwhile the successive attempts on the part of the State
to regulate those matters of private judgment and individual conscience, which
were once adjudicated upon purely theological grounds and authority,’ has
resulted in sequelae widely divergent from, and often directly contrary to, the
wishes of empirical law makers.

The first and most obvious was the endowment of blackmail.
The blackmailer is a variety of the human parasite, allied to all those others
of the tribe of Judas — those traitors, sneaks, and hypocrites who, in some circumstances,
may be employed by the State itself at a fixed salary, and in others may be
found lurking with its most loathed criminals, for speculative and illicit gains.
Particularly in an artificial and deliberate offence like blackmailing, Society suffers from the kind of criminals
it deserves
. Because oppressive puritanical laws serve as the potent
instruments of private revenge or selfish extortion,’ and a scandal-loving,
prurient public taste creates the “ culture ” which the parasite can
flourish in. (And, to continue the metaphor, how one bright beam of the
sunlight of truth would kill all these unclean things !) The law-makers and politicians,
as usual cheaply theorising about things, have assumed the victim of blackmail
to be innocent, and have placed frightful penalties in his hands to hurl upon
those who shall threaten him.

The blackmailer, being a practical person, knows the accused
to be generally guilty, or at any rate compromised, and that, consequently, he
will endure almost anything rather than figure in a police-court scandal. (Perhaps
nine times out of ten, but not always. Older people may recollect how a
distinguished statesman was once threatened, on which he instantly caused the
arrest of his traducer, who was afterwards convicted. Those few who follow and
study criminal cases may recall a remarkable incident where a young man, in the
open street, was accused of indecency, forthwith seized, and marched towards
the nearest police station. On the way, his captor suggested release upon
payment, but the “prisoner" calmly elected to stand in the dock. Presently
his assailants took fright and bolted, but were afterwards caught and sent to
penal servitude, the magistrate warmly commending the prosecutor. Had he,
however, been really an invert, the course of events might have been more
profitable to the blackmailers and much less satisfactory to the public

The greater his social position, and the higher his general
character and reputation — his sexual nature being really a question apart —
the more will he dread the odium of publicity; the safer will the sex
blackmailer feel.

And, on the whole it is to be feared with reason, these creatures
are extremely hard to catch;  the cases
that get into the newspapers represent only unsuccessful operations. Effective
deals are squared up secretly, and are never heard of, though many things are
pigeonholed at Scotland Yard — In fact a number of most villainous gangs are
always badly wanted by the State, whose laws these very criminals get their
living by.”

– George Ives, A History of Penal Methods: Criminals, Witches, Lunatics. London: Stanley Paul & Co., 1914. pp. 353-355.

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“A man is taken out of the police cells to the magistrate, who
is too horribly filthy even for the dock, and so is tried out in the open yard.
Only last summer a number of more or less degraded and verminous people were turned
out of the parks: the press rejoiced as if some reformative scheme had really
been evolved. Nobody knew, or cared, where they were driven to, but the human dust
was shaken up and shifted, as by a careless house-maid in a room; and fell down
somewhere else! And this measure is typical of all those negative and superficial
processes and “crusades“ which Herbert Spencer has so well compared to the mere
kicking in of a brass pot, on which it bulges out the other side ! We see again
the “moving on” system, which Dickens pictured with his master hand.
” ‘Where can I move to? ’ Jo cries out in desperation. ‘My instructions
don’t go to that,’ replies the constable. ’ My instructions are that this boy
is to move on ’ … and pointing generally to the setting sun, as a likely
place to move on to, the constable … walks away.“ ’

The State has acted just like its dull minion; has walked
away and left the problem lying — truly a master-piece of "brass pot”
policy! The State would not admit that there was a problem, it simply preached
“self-help” — the only sort of help it understood — and “save yourselves.”
This is the last cry in catastrophe! How should the weaker individual units solve
social questions the community recoiled from?

They did not, and in dumb response there spreads before our
eyes the battle-field of ruin. One winter’s night (Jan. 29, 1904), the [City of
London] officials found nearly two thousand wanderers, trudging the streets or
crouched in nooks and archways.’ And there is yet a colder habitation— all of
us know about the Morgue in Paris; many a time I speculated there, upon an
awful silent company collected: poor derelicts, who, in the sea of shams, had
foundered on that grim rock of reality. There ’ For instance, are some thirty
mortuaries in London; we do not talk about or show such things, but they are
there, like all else good and evil, in this vast centre of the works of man. Thence,
and from wards and workhouses, there come the nameless bodies for the hospitals,
whose histories and troubles none can know. Many so outcast in the hurrying world
as to have had no value till they died: only the searching knives of the dissecting
rooms proclaimed their kinship with humanity.

Yes, there is much to do. For we must grapple with four
potent crime-causes: want, waste, competition, and drink. These evils act, and
react, on each other. Poverty may be honest; wealth, once acquired, may be honourable;
but whenever poverty and wealth dwell side by side, crime is as sure and
certain to evolve as are the two parts of a seidlitz powder to effervesce and
fizz when they are poured together.

Competition is war, and worse — it is a fight within the nation-fold.
Drink degrades all. It may be said that these statements are truisms. I would
reply that they express the truth! Prison reform really means social reform; it
would be strange indeed if our regeneration came from the weak and wayward
inmates of our prisons. No, it is not the “failures” who will solve the
profound problems of civilization, but the best intellects of Europe and
America. All these long years we preached to the poor prisoners, bidding them
bear the burden and walk straight: we might have known that to be impossible! The
State alone, by strong and sustained efforts, can lift the load of long
neglectful years. A tremendous task: yes, even for the State, because it means
that we should bring to use, burn, cleanse, repair, put right, set in its place,
the litter and the deep decay of centuries.

“The evil that men do lives after them.“ And we inherit
from the inhuman past social as well as physical diseases, that men have made,
which never need have been. Thus those slave ships, conveying their living cargo,
carried the curse of “colour ” to America, setting up slavery and civil war,
leaving a problem which is yet unsolved. So the mean slum indifference allowed,
grows to a complex vested interest that may cost millions to posterity. These
are but large examples out of many.  None
need invoke religion to perceive that fathers’ sins are visited on children.
This is not (appreciably) a moral law, but a physical fact.

Besides that piled-up burden of taxation, which is expressed
in silver and in gold, there is a deeper, rnore destructive debt, which, like
the smoke-fog or miasma from corruption, rolls an impenetrable blight over
civilization. An old account, our forefathers incurred, but which stern Nature
sends in to the Nations, and will exact through glacier-grinding power, with
unremitted age-old interest. Of many items, but yet all expressed in that one word
which bars men out of Eden, and builds up a blind blank wall between us and
Utopia : and that one all-comprising word is, “Selfishness!”

We cannot indeed expect to alter human nature; but we can
alter the eliciting surroundings. That there are depths of wickedness in men,
we ought to know, since our civilization urges to effort, not to altruism. But
there is untold goodness in them too, which even competition has not killed.
All possibilities of love and hate lay hid and sleeping in the children’s souls
; what has Society invoked and stirred up into action? Decidedly the anti-social
qualities! Our life, as Herbert Spencer pointed out, involves the continual
searing of the sympathies. In practice we have penalized compassion, we have
imperilled generosity, we have exalted exploitation, we have rewarded gambling
and greed. And after this shall we rail at results?

But we must do something more than raise a jeremiad. If I
have dwelt so much upon social surroundings, it is because they underlie our
problem. To apply prison systems to the criminals, and leave at large the
terrible temptations which beset people struggling in competition, is, as it
were, to stop an uncleansed tooth. To treat the captured, yet neglect crime-causes,
is just as if, in an eruptive fever, we spent our efforts in anointing spots!
The surface rash is not the cause of illness, but an effect of the internal poison.
Likewise the prisoners are but outward signs of inward troubles which torment the

– George Ives, A History of Penal Methods: Criminals, Witches, Lunatics. London: Stanley Paul & Co., 1914. pp. 331-333

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“If there is any fact whose pathological character appears incontestable, that fact is crime. All criminologists are agreed on this point. Although they explain this pathology differently, they are unanimous in recognizing it. But let us see if this problem does not demand a more extended consideration.

… From the beginning of the [nineteenth] century, statistics enable us to follow the course of criminality. It has everywhere increased. In France the increase is nearly 300 per cent. There is, then, no phenomenon that presents more indisputably all the symptoms of normality, since it appears closely connected with the conditions of all collective life. … No doubt it is possible that crime itself will have abnormal forms, as, for example, when its rate is unusually high. This excess is, indeed, undoubtedly morbid in nature. What is normal, simply, is the existence of criminality, provided that it attains and does not exceed, for each social type, a certain level, which it is perhaps not impossible to fix in conformity with the preceding rules.

Here we are, then, in the presence of a conclusion in appearance quite pathological. Let us make no mistake. To classify crime among the phenomena of normal sociology is not to say merely that it is an inevitable, although regrettable phenomenon due to the incorrigible wickedness of men; it is to affirm that it is a factor in public health, an integral part of all healthy societies. This result is, at first glance, surprising enough to have puzzled even ourselves for a long time. Once this first surprise has been overcome, however, it is not difficult to find reasons explaining this normality and at the same time confirming it.

In the first place crime is normal because a society exempt from it is utterly impossible. Crime, we have shown elsewhere, consists of an act that offends certain very strong collective sentiments. In a society in which criminal acts are no longer committed, the sentiments they offend would have to be found without exception in all individual consciousness, and they must be found to exist with the same degree as sentiments contrary to them. Assuming that this condition could actually be realized, crime would not thereby disappear; it would only change its form, for the very cause which would thus dry up the sources of criminality would immediately open up new ones….

Imagine a society of saints, a perfect cloister of exemplary individuals. Crimes, properly so called, will there be unknown, but faults which appear venial to the layman will create there the same scandal that the ordinary offense does in ordinary consciousness. If, then, this society has the power to judge and punish, it will define these acts as criminal and will treat them as such. For the same reason, the perfect and upright man judges his smaller failings with a severity that the majority reserve for acts more truly in the nature of an offense. Formerly, acts of violence against persons were more frequent than they are today, because respect for individual dignity was less strong. As this has increased, these crimes have become more rare; and also, many acts violating this sentiment have been introduced into the penal law which were not included there in primitive times.

In order to exhaust all the hypotheses logically possible, it will perhaps be asked why this unanimity does not extend to all collective sentiments without exception. Why should not even the most feeble sentiment gather enough energy to prevent all dissent? The moral consciousness of the society would be present in its entirety in all the individuals, with a vitality sufficient to prevent all acts offending it–the purely conventional faults as well as the crimes. But a uniformity so universal and absolute is utterly impossible; for the immediate physical milieu in which each one of us is placed, the hereditary antecedents, and the social influences vary from one individual to the next, and consequently diversify consciousness. It is impossible for all to be alike, if oniy because each one has his own organism and that these organisms occupy different areas in space. That is why even among the lower peoples, .where individual originality is very little developed, it nevertheless does exist.

Thus, since there cannot be a society in which the individuals do not differ more or less from the collective type, it is also inevitable that, among these divergences, there are some with a criminal character. What confers this charcter upon them is not the intrinsic quality of a given act but that definition which the collective conscience lends them. If the collective conscience is stronger, if it has enough authority practically to suppress these divergences, it will also be more sensitive, more exacting, and, reacting against the slightest deviations with the energy it otherwise displays only against more considerable infractions, it will attribute to them the same gravity as formerly to crimes. In other words, it will designate them as criminal.

Crime is, then, necessary; it is bound up with the fundamental conditions of all social life and by that very fact it is useful, because these conditions of which it is a part are themselves indispensable to the normal evolution of morality and law….”

– Emile Durkheim, “The Normality of Crime,” in The Rules of Sociological Method

Edited with an Introduction
Steven Lukes. Translated by W. D. Halls. New York: The Free Press, 1982. Originally published 1895.

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