Sincerely do I hope that the issue of this little book may prove useful in drawing the attention of the public to the mental and physical condition of the unfortunates who form such a large proportion of our prison population.
To our authorities the sad plight of this mass of smitten humanity is well known. Year after year our Prison Commissioners, in presenting their reports, have not failed to impress upon the State the great part physical and mental afflictions play in the production of crime.
So far, the information given by the Prison Commissioners has produced little or no effect; neither have their representations led to any alteration in the treatment of unfortunate individuals whose infirmities are in reality the root cause of their delinquency.
To the official information I add the result of my own prolonged experience. This experience has imbued me with the conviction that the present methods of dealing with suffering humanity are neither wise, just, nor efficacious. I have seen the helplessness of so many that are called criminals that, in writing these pages, I am animated with a keen desire to hasten the day of sensible reform. Surely the day cannot be far distant when the State will take mental and physical infirmities into consideration when it has to deal with its erring children.
Devonshire Chambers, Bishopsgate.
IS THERE A CRIMINAL TYPE?
After years of close observation, during which I have formed many friendships with criminals, I can only answer this question in the words that I have answered it before, and say that, physically, I have not found any evidence to show that a criminal type exists. In saying this I know that I shall run counter to the teaching of a good many people, and probably run counter to public opinion. For the criminal class and the criminal type have been written about so largely, and talked about so frequently, that the majority of people have come to the conclusion that our criminals come from a particular order of society, and that the poorest; or that there exists a type of people whose physical appearance gives outward and visible signs that proclaim the inward criminal mind.
I believe both these ideas to be entirely wrong. I was confirmed in my opinion last year when I visited many of the largest prisons in the United States; for I found there, as I have found in England, a complete absence among the prisoners of those physical and facial peculiarities that we are taught to believe differentiate criminals from ordinary citizens.
Speaking on this subject to the American Congress at Washington on October 4, 1910, Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise, K.C.B., the esteemed chairman of our Prison Commissioners, made the following statement—
“There is no criminal type. Nothing in the past has so retarded progress as the conviction, deeply rooted and widespread, that the criminal is a class by himself, different from all others, with a tendency to crime, of which certain peculiarities of body are the outward and visible signs.
“This superstition, for such I think it must be called, was, you know, strengthened and encouraged by the findings of the Italian school.