Criminal Sociology. Enrico Ferri 1905
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 view.
But the science of criminal anthropology, more strictly speaking, only begins with the observations of English gaol surgeons and other learned men, such as Forbes Winslow (1854), Mayhew (1860), Thomson (1870), Wilson (1870), Nicolson (1872), Maudsley (1873), and with the very notable work of Despine (1868), which indeed gave rise to the inquiries of Thomson, and which, in spite of its lack of synthetic treatment and systematic unity, is still, taken in conjunction with the work of Ave Lallemant, the most important inquiry in the psychological domain anterior to the work of Lombroso.
Nevertheless, it was only with the first edition of “The Criminal” (1876) that criminal anthropology asserted itself as an independent science, distinct from the main trunk of general anthropology, itself quite recent in its origin, having come into existence with the works of Daubenton, Blumenbach, Soemmering, Camper, White, and Pritchard.
The work of Lombroso set out with two original faults: the mistake of having given undue importance, at any rate apparently, to the data of craniology and anthropometry, rather than to those of psychology; and, secondly, that of having mixed up, in the first two editions, all criminals in a single class. In later editions these defects were eliminated, Lombroso having adopted the observation which I made in the first instance, as to the various anthropological categories of criminals. This does not prevent certain critics of criminal anthropology from repeating, with a strange monotony, the venerable objections as to the “impossibility of distinguishing a criminal from an honest man by the shape of his skull,” or of “measuring human responsibility in accordance with different craniological types.”
But these original faults in no way obscure the two following noteworthy facts–that within a few years after the publication of “The Criminal” there were published, in Italy and elsewhere, a whole library of studies in criminal anthropology, and that a new school has been established, having a distinct method and scientific developments, which are no longer to be looked for in the classical school of criminal law.
What, then, is criminal anthropology? And of what nature are its fundamental data, which lead us up to the general conclusions of criminal sociology?
If general anthropology is, according to the definition of M. de Quatrefages, the natural history of man, as zoology is the natural history of animals, criminal anthropology is but the study of a single variety of mankind. In other words, it is the natural history of the criminal man.
Criminal anthropology studies the criminal man in his organic and psychical constitution, and in his life as related to his physical and social environment–just as anthropology has done for man in general, and for the various races of mankind. So that, as already said, whilst the classical observers of crime study various offences in their abstract character, on the assumption that the criminal, apart from particular cases which are evident and appreciable, is a man of the ordinary type, under normal conditions of intelligence and feeling, the anthropological observers of crime, on the other hand, study the criminal first of all by means of direct observations, in anatomical and physiological laboratories, in prisons and madhouses, organically and physically, comparing him with the typical characteristics of the normal man, as well as with those of the mad and the degenerate.
Before recounting the general data of criminal anthropology, it is necessary to lay particular stress upon a remark which I made in the original edition of this work, but which our opponents have too frequently ignored.
We must carefully discriminate between the technical value of anthropological data concerning the criminal man and their scientific function in criminal sociology.
For the student of criminal anthropology, who builds up the natural history of the criminal, every characteristic has an anatomical, or a physiological, or a psychological value in itself, apart from the sociological conclusions which it may be possible to draw from it. The technical inquiry into these bio- psychical characteristics is the special work of this new science of criminal anthropology.
Now these data, which are the conclusions of the anthropologist, are but starting-points for the criminal sociologist, from which he has to reach his legal and social conclusions. Criminal anthropology is to criminal sociology, in its scientific function, what the biological sciences, in description and experimentation, are to clinical practice.
In other words, the criminal sociologist is not in duty bound to conduct for himself the inquiries of criminal anthropology, just as the clinical operator is not bound to be a physiologist or an anatomist. No doubt the direct observation of criminals is a very serviceable study, even for the criminal sociologist; but the only duty of the latter is to base his legal and social inferences upon the positive data of criminal anthropology for the biological aspects of crime, and upon statistical data for the influences of physical and social environment, instead of contenting himself with mere abstract legal syllogisms.
On the other hand it is clear that sundry questions which have a direct bearing upon criminal anthropology–as, for instance, in regard to some particular biological characteristic, or to its evolutionary significance–have no immediate obligation or value for criminal sociology, which employs only the fundamental and most indubitable data of criminal anthropology. So that it is but a clumsy way of propounding the question to ask, as it is too frequently asked: “What connection can there be between the cephalic index, or the transverse measurement of a murderer’s jaw, and his responsibility for the crime which he has committed?” The scientific function of the anthropological data is a very different thing, and the only legitimate question which sociology can put to anthropology is this:–“Is the criminal, and in what respects is he, a normal or an abnormal man? And if he is, or when he is abnormal, whence is the abnormality derived? Is it congenital or contracted, capable or incapable of rectification?”
This is all; and yet it is sufficient to enable the student of crime to arrive at positive conclusions concerning the measures which society can take in order to defend itself against crime; whilst he can draw other conclusions from criminal statistics.
As for the principal data hitherto established by criminal anthropology, whilst we must refer the reader for detailed information to the works of specialists, we may repeat that this new science studies the criminal in his organic and in his psychical constitution, for these are the two inseparable aspects of human existence.
A beginning has naturally been made with the organic study of the criminal, both anatomical and physiological, since we must study the organ before the function, and the physical before the moral. This, however, has given rise to a host of misconceptions and one- sided criticisms, which have not yet ceased; for criminal anthropology has been charged, by such as consider only the most conspicuous data with narrowing crime down to the mere result of conformations of the skull or convolutions of the brain. The fact is that purely morphological observations are but preliminary steps to the histological and physiological study of the brain, and of the body as a whole.
As for craniology, especially in regard to the two distinct and characteristic types of criminals–murderers and thieves, an incontestable inferiority has been noted in the shape of the head, by comparison with normal men, together with a greater frequency of hereditary and pathological departures from the normal type. Similarly an examination of the brains of criminals, whilst it reveals in them an inferiority of form and histological type, gives also, in a great majority of cases, indications of disease which were frequently undetected in their lifetime. Thus M. Dally, who for twenty years past has displayed exceptional acumen in problems of this kind, said that “all the criminals who had been subjected to autopsy (after execution) gave evidence of cerebral injury.”
Observations of the physiognomy of criminals, which no one will undervalue who has studied criminals in their lifetime, with adequate knowledge, as well as other physical inquiries, external and internal, have shown the existence of remarkable types, from the greater frequency of the tattooed man to exceptionally abnormal conditions of the frame and the organs, dating from birth, together with many forms of contracted disease.
Finally, inquiries of a physiological nature into the reflex action of the body, and especially into general and specific sensibility, and sensibility to pain, and into reflex action under external agencies, conducted with the aid of instruments which record the results, have shown abnormal conditions, all tending to physical insensibility, deep-seated and more or less absolute, but incontestably different in kind from that which obtains amongst the average men of the same social classes.
These are organic conditions, it must be at once affirmed, which account as nothing else can for the undeniable fact of the hereditary transmission of tendencies to crime, as well as of predisposition to insanity, to suicide, and to other forms of degeneration.
The second division of criminal anthropology, which is by far the more important, with a more direct influence upon criminal sociology, is the psychological study of the criminal. This recognition of its greater importance does not prevent our critics from concentrating their attack upon the organic characterisation of criminals, in oblivion of the psychological characterisation, which even in Lombroso’s book occupies the larger part of the text.
Criminal psychology presents us with the characteristics which may be called specially descriptive, such as the slang, the handwriting, the secret symbols, the literature and art of the criminal; and on the other hand it makes known to us the characteristics which, in combination with organic abnormality, account for the development of crime in the individual. And these characteristics are grouped in two psychical and fundamental abnormalities, namely, moral insensibility and want of foresight.
Moral insensibility, which is decidedly more congenital than
contracted, is either total or partial, and is displayed in criminals who inflict personal injuries, as much as in others, with a variety of symptoms which I have recorded elsewhere, and which are eventually reduced to these conditions of the moral sense in a large number of criminals–a lack of repugnance to the idea and execution of the offence, previous to its commission, and the absence of remorse after committing it.
Outside of these conditions of the moral sense, which is no special sentiment, but an expression of the entire moral constitution of the individual, as the temperament is of his physiological constitution, other sentiments, of selfishness or even of unselfishness, are not wanting in the majority of criminals. Hence arise many illusions for superficial observers of criminal life. But these latter sentiments are either excessive, as hate, cupidity, vanity and the like, and are thus stimulants to crime, or else, as with religion, love, honour, loyalty, and so on, they cease to be forces antagonistic to crime, because they have no foundation in a normal moral sense.
From this fundamental inferiority of sentiment there follows an inferiority of intelligence, which, however, does not exclude certain forms of craftiness, though it tends to inability to foresee the consequences of crime, far in excess of what is observed in the average members of the classes of society to which the several criminals belong.
Thus the psychology of the criminal is summed up in a defective resistance to criminal tendencies and temptations, due to that ill-balanced impulsiveness which characterises children and savages.
I have long been convinced, by my study of works on criminal anthropology, but especially by direct and continuous observation from a physiological or a psychological point of view of a large number of criminals, whether mad or of normal intelligence, that the data of criminal anthropology are not entirely applicable, in their complete and essential form, to all who commit crimes. They are to be confined to a certain number, who may be called congenital, incorrigible, and habitual criminals. But apart from these there is a class of occasional criminals, who do not exhibit, or who exhibit in slighter degrees, the anatomical, physiological, and psychological characteristics which constitute the type described by Lombroso as “the criminal man.”
Before further defining these two main classes of criminals, in their natural and descriptive characterisation, I must add a positive demonstration, which can be attested under two distinct forms–(1) by the results of anthropological observation of criminals, and (2) by statistics of relapse, and of the manifestations of crime which anthropologists have hitherto chiefly studied.
As for organic anomalies, as I cannot here treat the whole matter in detail, I will simply reproduce from my study of homicide a summary of results for a single category of these anomalies, which a methodical observation of every class of criminals will carry further and render more precise, as Lombroso has already shown (see the fourth edition of his work, 1889, p. 273).
That is to say, men with normal skulls were three times as numerous amongst soldiers as they were amongst criminals; of men with a noteworthy number of anomalies occurring together (three or four), there were three times as many amongst criminals as amongst soldiers; and there was not one soldier amongst those who showed an extraordinary number (five or more).
This proves to demonstration not only the greater frequency of anomalous skulls (and the same is true of physiognomical, physiological, and psychological anomalies) amongst criminals, but also that amongst these criminals between fifty and sixty per cent. show very few anomalies, whilst about one-third of the whole number present a remarkable combination, and one-tenth are normal in this respect.
Amongst the statistical data exhibiting the primary characteristics of the majority of criminals, the data connected with relapsed criminals are especially conspicuous. Though relapses, like first offences, are partly due to social conditions, they also have a manifest biological cause, since, under the operation of the same penal system, there are some liberated prisoners who relapse and some who do not.
The statistics of relapse are unfortunately very difficult to collect, on account of differences in the legislation of different countries, and in the preparation of records, which, even under the more general adoption of anthropometrical identification, rarely succeed in preventing the use of fresh names by professional criminals. So that we may still say, in the words of one who is a very good judge in this matter, M. Yvernes, not only that “the Prisons Congress of London (1872) was compelled to leave various problems undecided for lack of documentary evidence, and especially the question of relapsed criminals,” but also that to this day (1879), “we find varying results in different countries, the exact significance of which is not apparent.”
I have, however, published an essay on international statistics of relapsed criminals, from which I drew the following general conclusion: that even in prison statistics, which often give higher totals of relapsed cases than are given by judicial statistics, because they are more personal, and therefore less uncertain, we never obtain the full number of relapses, though the totals given vary from country to country, from district to district, and from prison to prison. It would be impossible to state accurately what proportion the numbers given bear to the actual number; but I am justified in saying, from all the materials which I have collected and compared in the aforesaid essay, that the number of relapses in Europe is generally between 50 and 60 per cent., and certainly rather above than below this limit. Whilst the Italian statistics, for instance, give 14 per cent. of relapses amongst prisoners sentenced to penal servitude, I found by experience 37 per cent; out of 346 who admitted to me that they had relapsed; and, amongst those who had been sentenced to simple imprisonment, I found 60 per cent. out of 363, in place of the 33 per cent. recorded in the prison statistics. The difference may be due to the particular conditions of the prisons which I visited; but in any case it establishes the inadequacy of the official figures dealing with relapse.
After this statement of a general fact, which proves, as Lombroso and Espinas said, that “the relapsed criminal is the rule rather than the exception,” we can proceed to set down the special proportions of relapse for each particular crime, so as to obtain an indication of the forms of crime which are most frequently resorted to by habitual criminals.
For Italy I have found that the highest percentages of relapse are afforded by persons convicted of theft and petty larceny, forgery, rape, manslaughter, conspiracy, and, at the correctional courts, vagrancy and mendacity. The lowest percentages are amongst those convicted of assault and bodily harm, murders, and infanticide.
For France, where legal statistics are remarkably adapted for the most minute inquiry, I have drawn up the following table of statistics from the lists of persons convicted at the assize courts and correctional tribunals, taking an average of the years 1877-81, which is not sensibly affected by the results of succeeding years.
It will be seen that the average of relapses for crimes against the person is higher than the average for the most serious cases of murderous and indecent assault, which are clearly an outcome of the most anti-social tendencies (such as parricide, murder, rape, inflicting bodily harm on parents, &c.). Thus homicide and fatal wounding, though relapse is very frequent in these cases, still display a less abnormal and more occasional character by their lower position in the table, as shown in the cases of infanticide, concealment of birth, and abandonment of infants. As for the very frequent occurrence of relapse in special crimes, such as assaults on officials and resistance to authority, which rarely come before the assize courts–though even there they tend to support the higher numbers in the tribunals–these are offences which may also be committed by criminals of every kind, and which, moreover, depend in some measure on the social factor of police organisation, and frequently on the psycho-pathological state of particular individuals.
The somewhat rare occurrence of relapse in such a grave type of murder as poisoning is noteworthy. But this is only an effect of the special psychology of these criminals, as I have explained elsewhere.
Amongst crimes against property, the most frequent relapses are found in the case of thieves (not including thefts and breaches of trust by domestic servants, which thus, proving their more occasional character, confirm the agreement of statistics with criminal psychology). The same thing is observed in regard to forgers of commercial documents and to fraudulent bankrupts, who are partly drawn into crime under the stress of personal or general crises. And the infrequency of relapse amongst postal employees condemned for embezzlement, and amongst customs officers who have been guilty of smuggling, is only a further confirmation of the inducement to crime by the opportunities met with in each case, rather than by personal tendencies.
Amongst minor offences, apart from that evasion of supervision which is no more than a legal condition, there are, both in France and in Italy, very frequent cases of relapse by vagabonds and mendicants, which is a consequence of social environment, as well as of the feeble organisation of the individuals. Other relapses above the average, included amongst these offences, constitute a sort of accessory criminality, existing side by side with the habitual criminality of thieves, murderers, and the like, such as drunkenness, attacks on public functionaries, infractions of the regulations of domicile, &c.
In thefts and resistance to authorities, relapse is less frequent here than in the assize courts, for in the majority of these minor offences, in their general forms, there is a greater number of occasional offences, as is also the case with bankruptcies, defamation, abuse, rural offences, &c., which demonstrate their more occasional character by their very low figures.
Hence the statistics of general and specific relapse indirectly confirm the fact that criminals, as a whole, have no uniform anthropological type; and that the bio-psychical types and anomalies belong more especially to the category of habitual criminals and those born into the criminal class, who, after all, are the only ones hitherto studied by criminal anthropologists.
What, then, is the numerical proportion of habitual criminals to the aggregate number of criminals?
In the absence of direct inquiry, it is possible to get at this proportion indirectly, from facts of two kinds. In the first place, a study of the works on criminal anthropology supplies us with an approximate figure, since the biological characteristics united in individuals, in sufficient number to create a criminal type, are met with in between forty and fifty per cent. of the total.
And this conclusion may be confirmed by other data of criminal statistics.
Whilst the statistics of relapse give us a very limited number of crimes and offences committed by born and habitual criminals, science and criminal legislation give us a far more extended classification.
Ellero reckoned in the penal code of the German Empire 203 crimes and offences; and I find that the Italian code of 1859 enumerates about 180, the new code about 200, and the French penal code about 150. Thus the kind of crimes of habitual criminals would only be about one-tenth of the complete legal classification of crimes and offences.
It is easy indeed to suppose that born and habitual criminals do not generally commit political crimes and offences, nor offences connected with the press, nor against freedom of worship, nor in corruption of public functionaries, nor misuse of title or authority; nor calumny, making false attestations or false reports; nor adultery, incest, or abduction of minors; nor infanticide, abortion, or palming of children; nor betrayal of professional secrets; nor bankruptcy offences, nor damage to property, nor violation of domicile, nor illegal arrests, nor duels, nor defamation, nor abuse. I say generally; for, as there are occasional criminals who commit the offences characteristic of habitual criminality, such as homicides, robberies, rapes, &c., so there are born criminals who sometimes commit crimes out of their ordinary course.
It is now necessary to add a few statistical data in respect of the classification of crime, which I take, like the others, from the essay already mentioned.
That is to say, habitual criminality would be represented, in Italy, by about 40 per cent. of the total number of condemned persons, and by somewhat less in France and Belgium. This would be accounted for in Belgium by the exclusion of vagrancy; but the difference is virtually due to the greater frequency in Italy of certain crimes, such as homicide, highway robbery with violence, and conspiracies.
Further, it is apparent that in all these countries the types of habitual criminality, with the exception of thefts and vagrancy, are in greater proportion at the assizes, on account of their serious character.
The actual totals, however, are larger at the tribunals, for as, in the scale of animal life, the greatest fecundity belongs to the lower and smaller forms, so in the criminal scale, the less serious offences (such as simple theft, swindling, vagrancy, &c.) are the more numerous. Thus, out of the total of 38 per cent. in Italy, 32 belong to the tribunals and 6 to the assizes; out of 35 per cent in France, 33 belong to the tribunals and 2 to the assizes; and out of 30 per cent. in Belgium, 29 belong to the tribunals and 1 to the assizes. This also is partly accounted for by legislative distinctions as to the respective jurisdictions of these courts.
As to the particulars of the totals, it is found that thefts are the most numerous types in Italy (20 per cent.), in France (24 per cent.), in Belgium (23 per cent.), and in Prussia (37 per cent., including breaches of trust).
After theft, the most numerous in Italy are vagrancy (5 per cent.), homicides (4 per cent.), swindling (3 per cent.), forgery (.9 per cent.), rape (.4 per cent.), conspiracy (.4 per cent.), and incendiarism (.2 per cent.).
In France and Belgium we find the same relative frequency of vagrancy and swindling; but homicide, incendiarism, and conspiracy are less frequent, whilst rape is more common in France (.5 per cent.) and in Belgium (1 per cent.).
Such then are the most frequent forms of habitual criminality in the generality of condemned persons; and it will be useful now to contrast the more frequent forms of occasional criminality. For Italy the only judicial statistics which are valuable for detailed inquiry are those of 1863, 1869-72. For France, every volume of the admirable series of criminal statistics may be utilised.
It will be seen that the frequency of these occasional crimes and offences in Italy and in France is very variable, though assaults and wounding, resistance to authorities, damage, defamation and abuse, are the most numerous in both countries.
The proportion of each offence to the total also varies considerably, not only through a difference of legislation between Italy and France in regard to poaching, drunkenness, frauds on refreshment-house keepers, and so forth, but also by reason of the different condition of individuals and of society in the two countries. Thus assaults and wounding, which in Italy comprise 23 per cent. of the total of convictions, reach in France no more than 14 per cent., whilst resistance to the authorities, &c., which are 4 per cent. in Italy, touch 9 per cent in France. Sexual crimes and offences (as we saw in the case of rape), such as abortion, adultery, indecent assaults, and incitement to immorality, which in Italy present very small and negligible figures, are more frequent in France. Whilst the illegal carrying of arms, threats, false witness, escape from detention, violations of domicile, calumny, are of greater frequency in Italy than in France, the contrary is true of bankruptcy offences, political and press crimes and offences, on account of a manifest difference of the moral, economic, and social conditions of the two countries, which are plainly discernible behind these apparently dry figures.
In addition to this demonstration, we have given anthropological and statistical proofs of the fundamental distinction between habitual and occasional criminals, which had been pointed out by many observers, but which had hitherto remained a simple assertion without manifest consequences.
This same distinction ought to be not only the basis of all sociological theory concerning crime, but also a point of departure for other distinctions more precise and complete, which I set forth in my previous studies on criminals, and which were subsequently reproduced, with more or less of assent, by all criminal sociologists.
In the first place, it is necessary to distinguish, amongst habitual criminals, those who present a conspicuous and clinical form of mental aberration, which accounts for their anti-social activity.
In the second place, amongst habitual criminals who are not of unsound mind, however little the inmates of prisons may have been observed with adequate ideas and experience, there is a clear indication of a class of individuals, physically or mentally abnormal, induced to crime by inborn tendencies, which are manifest from their birth, and accompanied by symptoms of extreme moral insensibility. Side by side with these, another class challenges attention, of individuals who have also been criminals from childhood, and who continue to be so, but who are in a special degree a product of physical and social environment, which has persistently driven them into the criminal life, by their abandonment before and after the first offence, and which, especially in the great towns, is very often forced upon them by the actual incitement of their parents.
Amongst occasional criminals, again, a special category is created by a kind of exaggeration of the characteristics, mainly psychological, of the type itself. In the case of all occasional criminals, the crime is brought about rather by the effects of environment than by the active tendencies of the individual; but whilst in most of these individuals the deciding cause is only a circumstance affecting all alike, with a few it is an exceptional constraint of passion, a sort of psychological tempest, which drives them into crime.
Thus, then, the entire body of criminals may be classed in five categories, which as early as 1880 I described as criminal madmen, born criminals, criminals by contracted habits, occasional criminals, and criminals of passion.
As already observed, criminal anthropology will not finally establish itself until it has been developed by biological, psychological, and statistical monographs on each of these categories, in such a manner as to present their anthropological characteristics with greater precision than they have hitherto attained. So far, observers continue to give us the same characteristics for a large aggregate of criminals, classifying them according to the form of their crime rather than according to their bio-social type. In Lombroso’s work, for instance, or in that of Marro (and to some extent even in my work on homicide), the characteristics are stated for a total, or for legal categories of criminals, such as murderers, thieves, forgers, and so on, which include born criminals, occasional and habitual criminals, and madmen. The result is a certain measure of inconsistency, according to the predominance of one type or the other in the aggregate of criminals under observation. This also contributes to render the conclusions of criminal anthropology less evident.
Nevertheless, we may sum up the inquiries which have been made up to the present time; and in particular we may now point out the general characteristics of the five classes of criminals, in accordance with my personal experience in the observation of criminals. It is to be hoped that successive observations of a more methodical kind will gradually reinforce the accuracy of this classification of symptoms.
In the first place, it is evident that in a classification not exclusively biological, if it is to form the anthropological basis of criminal sociology, criminals of unsound mind must in all fairness be included.
The usual objection, recently repeated by M. Joly (“Le Crime,” p. 62), which holds the term “criminal madness” to be self- contradictory, since a madman is not morally responsible, and therefore cannot be a criminal, is not conclusive. We maintain that responsibility to society, the only responsibility common to all criminals, exists also for criminals of unsound mind.
Nor, again, is it correct to say, with M. Bianchi, that mad criminals should be referred to psychiatry, and not to criminal anthropology; for, though psychiatry is concerned with mad criminals in a psycho-pathological sense, this does not prevent criminal anthropology and sociology from also concerning themselves with the same subjects, in order to constitute the natural history of the criminal, and to suggest remedies in the interest of society.
As for criminals of unsound mind, it is necessary to begin by placing in a separate category such as cannot, after the studies of Lombroso and the Italian school of psychiatry, be distinguished from the born criminals properly so-called. These are the persons tainted with a form of insanity which is known under various names, from the “moral insanity” of Pritchard to the “reasoning madness” of Verga. Moral insanity, illustrated by the works of Mendel, Legrand du Saulle, Maudsley, Krafft-Ebing, Savage, Hugues, Hollander, Tamburini, Bonvecchiato, which, with the lack or atrophy of the moral or social sense, and of APPARENT soundness of mind, is properly speaking only the essential psychological condition of the born criminal.
Beyond these morally insane people, who are very rare–for, as Krafft-Ebing and Lombroso have pointed out, they are found more frequently in prisons than in mad-houses–there is the unhappily large body of persons tainted by a common and clinical form of mental alienation, all of whom are apt to become criminal.
The whole of these criminals of unsound mind cannot be included in a single category; and such, indeed, is the opinion expressed by Lombroso, in the second volume of the fourth edition of his work, after his descriptive analysis of the chief forms of mental alienation. As a matter of fact, not only are the organic, and especially the psychological, characteristics of criminal madmen sometimes identical with and sometimes opposed to those of born and occasional criminals, but these very characteristics vary considerably between the different forms of mental alienation, in spite of the identity of the crime committed.
It is further to be observed, in respect of criminal madmen, that this category also includes all the intermediary types between complete madness and a rational condition, who remain in what Maudsley has called the “middle zone.” The most frequent varieties in the criminality of these partially insane persons, or “mattoides,” are the perpetrators of attacks upon statesmen, who are generally men with a grievance, irascible men, writers of insane documents, and the like, such as Passanante, Guiteau, and Maclean.
In the same category are those who commit terrible crimes without motive, and who nevertheless, according to the complacent psychology of the classical school, would be credited with a maximum of moral soundness.
Again, there are the necrophiles, like Sergeant Bertrand, Verzeni, Menesclou, and very probably the undetected “Jack the Ripper” of London, who are tainted with a form of sexual psychopathy. Yet again there are such as are tainted with hereditary madness, and especially the epileptics and epileptoids, who may also be assigned to the class of born criminals, according to the plausible hypothesis of Lombroso as to the fundamental identity of congenital criminality, moral madness, and epilepsy. I have always found in my own experience that outrageous murders, not to be explained according to the ordinary psychology of criminals, are accompanied by psychical epilepsy, or larvea.
Born or instinctive criminals are those who most frequently present the organic and psychological characteristics established by criminal anthropology. These are either savage or brutal men, or crafty and idle, who draw no distinction between homicide, robbery or other kinds of crime, and honest industry. “They are criminals just as others are good workingmen,” says Fregier; and, as Romagnosi put it, actual punishment affects them much less than the menace of punishment, or does not affect them at all, since they regard imprisonment as a natural risk of their occupation, as masons regard the fall of a roof, or as miners regard fire-damp. “They do not suffer in prison. They are like a painter in his studio, dreaming of their next masterpiece. They are on good terms with their gaolers, and even know how to make themselves useful.”
The born criminals and the occasional criminals constitute the majority of the characteristic and diverse types of homicide and thief. Prison governors call them “gaol-birds.” They pass on from the police to the judge and to the prison, and from the prison to the police and to the judge, with a regularity which has not yet impaired the faith of law-makers in the efficacy of punishment as a cure for crime.
No doubt the idea of a born criminal is a direct challenge to the traditional belief that the conduct of every man is the outcome of his free will, or at most of his lack of education rather than of his original physio-psychical constitution. But, in the first place, even public opinion, when not prejudiced in favour of the so-called consequences of irresponsibility, recognises in many familiar and everyday cases that there are criminals who, without being mad, are still not as ordinary men; and the reporters call them “human tigers,” “brutes,” and the like. And in the second place, the scientific proofs of these hereditary tendencies to crime, even apart from the clinical forms of mental alienation, are now so numerous that it is useless to insist upon them further.
The third class is that of the criminals whom, after my prison experience, I have called criminals by contracted habit. These are they who, not presenting the anthropological characteristics of the born criminals, or presenting them but slightly, commit their first crime most commonly in youth, or even in childhood– almost invariably a crime against property, and far more through moral weakness, induced by circumstances and a corrupting environment, than through inborn and active tendencies. After this, as M. Joly observes, either they are led on by the impunity of their first offences, or, more decisively, prison associations debilitate and corrupt them, morally and physically, the cell degrades them, alcoholism renders them stupid and subject to impulse, and they continually fall back into crime, and become chronically prone to it. And society, which thus abandons them, before and after they leave their prison, to wretchedness, idleness, and temptations, gives them no assistance in their struggle to gain an honest livelihood, even when it does not thrust them back into crime by harassing police regulations, which prevent them from finding or keeping honest employment.
Of those criminals who begin by being occasional criminals, and end, after progressive degeneration, by exhibiting the features of the born criminals, Thomas More said, “What is this but to make thieves for the pleasure of hanging them?” And it is just this class of criminals whom measures of social prevention might reduce to a minimum, for by abolishing the causes we abolish the effects.
Apart from their organic and psychological characteristics, innate or acquired, there are two bio-sociological symptoms which seem to me to be common, though for distinct reasons, to born criminals and habitual criminals. I mean precocity and relapse. The occasional crime and the crime of passion do not, as a rule, occur before manhood, and rarely or never lead to relapse.
Here are a few figures concerning precocity, derived from international prison statistics:–
More recent figures show that the yearly average in France, for 1876-80, out of 4,374 persons brought to trial, was 1 per cent. under sixteen years of age, and 17 per cent. between sixteen and twenty-one; whilst in 1886 the same percentages were .60 and 14. Out of 146,217 accused before the tribunals there were 4 per cent. under sixteen, and 14 per cent. between sixteen and twenty- one. Out of 25,135 females there were 4 per cent. under sixteen, and 11 per cent. between sixteen and twenty-one; whilst in 1886 the percentages were 3 and 14 of males, 2.5 and 14 of females.
In Prussia, of persons accused of crimes and offences in 1860-70, 4 per cent. were under eighteen years.
In Germany, of persons condemned in 1886, 3 per cent. were between twelve and fifteen, 6 per cent. between fifteen and eighteen, and 16 per cent. between eighteen and twenty-one years.
In Italy, out of 5,189 persons condemned at the assizes in 1887, 3 per cent. were between fourteen and eighteen, and 12 per cent. between eighteen and twenty-one. Out of 65,624 tried before the tribunals, 1.2 per cent. were under fourteen, 5 per cent. were between fourteen and eighteen, and 13 per cent. between eighteen and twenty-one. There is a continual increase of precocious criminals in Italy. Prisoners condemned at the assizes under the age of twenty-one stood at 15 per cent. from 1880 to 1887, whilst those of a similar age who were tried before the tribunals rose from 17 to 20 per cent.
To these numerical data may be added others of a qualificative character, showing that precocity is most frequent in respect of the natural crimes and offences which are usually observed amongst born and habitual criminals.
In France the younger prisoners in 1882 had been sentenced in the following proportions:–
These figures, showing a greater frequency amongst females of precocious crimes against the person, and amongst males against property, are approximately repeated in Switzerland, where young prisoners in 1870-74 had been sentenced in these proportions:–
The judicial statistics of France and Italy give these proportions:–
The French statistics for the tribunals–no complete Italian statistics being available, are as follows:–
FRANCE–1886. CORRECTIONAL TRIBUNALS.
Here we have a statistical demonstration of a more frequent precocity, amongst various forms of criminality, in respect of inborn tendencies (murder and homicide, rape, incendiarism, specific thefts), or in respect of tendencies contracted by habit (simple theft, mendacity, vagrancy).
Also this characteristic of precocity is accompanied by that of relapse, which accordingly we have seen to be more frequent in the same forms of natural criminality, and which we can now tabulate in respect of its persistency in these born and habitual criminals.
It has been well said that the large number of relapsed persons who are brought to trial year after year proves that thieves ply their trade as a regular calling; the thief who has once tasted prison life is sure to return to it. And again, there are very few cases in which a man or a woman who has turned thief ceases to be one. Whatever the reason may be, as a matter of fact the thief is rarely or never reformed. When you can turn an old thief into an honest worker, you may turn an old fox into a house dog.
We must, however, read these testimonies of practical men, which could easily be multiplied, in the light of our distinction between incorrigible criminals, who are so from their birth, and such as are made incorrigible by the effect of their prison and social environment. The former could scarcely be reduced in number, whilst the latter could be considerably diminished by the penal alternatives of which I will speak later.
The following statistics of relapse are quoted from Yvernes, “La Recidive en Europe” (Paris, 1874):–
In Prussia (1878-82), 17 per cent. had relapsed once, 16 per cent. twice, 16 per cent. three times, 13 per cent. four times, 10 per cent five times, and 28 per cent. six times or oftener.
At the Prisons Congress of Stockholm the following figures were given for Scotland. Out of a total of forty-nine relapsed prisoners, 16 per cent. had relapsed once, 13 per cent. twice or three times, 6 per cent. four or five times, 6 per cent. from six to ten times, 5 per cent. from ten to twenty times, 4 per cent. from twenty to fifty times, and 1 per cent. more than fifty times.
At the meeting of the Social Science Congress, held at Liverpool, in 1876, Mr. Nugent stated that upwards of 4,107 women had relapsed four times or oftener, and that many of them were classed as incorrigible, having been convicted twenty; forty, or fifty times, whilst one had been convicted 130 times.
The judicial statistics of Italy for 1887 give the following results:–
I have found from my inquiries amongst 346 condemned to penal servitude and 353 prisoners from the correctional tribunals the following percentages:–
Chronic relapse is naturally less frequent in the case of those condemned to long terms; but it is a conspicuous symptom of individual and social pathology in the two classes of born and habitual criminals.
Lombroso, in the second volume of his work on “The Criminal,” denies that precocity and relapse are characteristics distinguishing born and habitual from occasional criminals. But it is only a question of terms. He considers that born and habitual criminals confine themselves almost exclusively to serious crime, and occasional criminals to minor offences. And as the figures which I have given show that precocity and relapse are even more frequent for minor offences than for crimes, he thinks that they contradict instead of confirming my conclusions.
The mere seriousness of an act cannot by any means divide the categories of criminals; for homicide as well as theft, assault and battery as well as forgery, may be committed, though in different psychological and social conditions, as easily by born and habitual criminals as by occasional criminals and criminals of passion.
Moreover, the figures which I have given show that precocity and relapse are more frequent in the forms of criminality which, apart from their gravity, are the common practices of born and habitual criminals, such as murder, homicide, robbery, rape, &c., whilst they are far more uncommon, even if they can be said to be observed at all, in the case of the crimes and offences usually committed by occasional criminals, such as infanticide, and certain of the offences mentioned above.
It remains to say something of the occasional criminals, and the criminals of passion.
The latter are but a variety of the occasional criminals, but their characteristics are so specific that they may be very readily distinguished. In fact Lombroso, in his second edition, supplementing the observations of Despine and Bittinger, separated them from other criminals, and classified them according to their symptoms. I need only summarise his observations.
In the first place, the criminals who constitute the strongly marked class of criminals by irresistible impulse are very rare, and their crimes are almost invariably against the person. Thus, out of 71 criminals of passion inquired into by Lombroso, 69 were homicides, 6 had in addition been convicted of theft, 3 of incendiarism, and 1 of rape.
It may be shown that they number about 5 per cent. of crimes against the person.
They are as a rule persons of previous good behaviour, sanguine or nervous by temperament, of excessive sensibility, unlike born or habitual criminals, and they are often of a neurotic or epileptoid temperament, of which their crimes may be, strictly speaking, an unrecognised consequence.
Frequently they transgress in their youth, especially in the case of women, under stress of a passion which suddenly spurns constraint, like anger, or outraged love, or injured honour. They are highly emotional before, during, or after the crime, which they do not commit treacherously, but openly, and often by ill- chosen methods, the first that present themselves. Now and then, however, one encounters criminals of passion who premeditate a crime, and carry it out treacherously, either by reason of their colder and less impulsive temperament, or as the outcome of preconceived ideas or a widespread sentiment, in cases where we have to do with a popular form of lawlessness, such as the vendetta.
This is why the test of premeditation has no absolute value in criminal psychology, as a distinction between the born criminal and the criminal of passion; for premeditation depends especially on the temperament of the individual, and is exemplified in crimes committed by both anthropological types.
Amongst other symptoms of the criminal of passion, there is also the precise motive which leads to a crime complete in itself, and never as a means of attaining another criminal purpose.
These offenders immediately acknowledge their crime, with unassumed remorse, frequently so keen that they instantly commit, or attempt to commit suicide. When convicted–as they seldom are by a jury–they are always repentant prisoners, and amend their lives, or do not become degraded, so that in this way they encourage superficial observers to affirm as a general fact, and one possible in all circumstances, that ameliorative effect of imprisonment which is really a mere illusion in the case of the far more numerous classes of born and habitual criminals.
In these same offenders we very rarely observe, if at all, the organic anomalies which create a criminal type. And even the psychological characteristics are much slighter in countries where certain crimes of passion are endemic, almost ranking amongst the customs of the community, like the homicides which occur in Corsica and Sardinia for the vindication of honour, or the political assassinations in Russia and Ireland.
The last class is that of occasional criminals, who without any inborn and active tendency to crime lapse into crime at an early age through the temptation of their personal condition, and of their physical and social environment, and who do not lapse into it, or do not relapse, if these temptations disappear.
Thus they commit those crimes and offences which do not indicate natural criminality, or else crimes and offences against person or property, but under personal and social conditions altogether different from those in which they are committed by born and habitual criminals.
There is no doubt that, even with the occasional criminal, some of the causes which lead him into crime belong to the anthropological class; for external causes would not suffice without individual predispositions. For instance, during a scarcity or a hard winter, not all of those who experience privation have recourse to theft, but some prefer to endure want, however undeserved, without ceasing to be honest, whilst others are at the utmost driven to beg their food; and amongst those who yield to the suggestion of crime, some stop short at simple theft, whilst others go as far as robbery with violence.
But the true difference between the born and the occasional criminal is that, with the former, the external cause is less operative than the internal tendency, because this tendency possesses, as it were, a centrifugal force, driving the individual to commit crime, whilst, for the occasional criminal, it is rather a case of feeble power of resistance against external causes, to which most of the inducement to crime is due.
The casual provocation of crime in the born criminal is generally the outcome of an instinct or tendency already existing, and far more of a pretext than an occasion of crime. With the occasional criminal, on the other hand, it is the casual provocation which matures, no doubt in a favouring soil, the growth of criminal tendencies not previously developed.
For this reason Lombroso calls the occasional criminals “criminaloids,” in order to show precisely that they have a distinctly abnormal constitution, though in a less degree than the born criminals, just as we have the metal and the metalloid, the epileptic and the epileptoid.
And this, again, is the reason why Lombroso’s criticisms on my description of occasional criminals are lacking in force. He says, as Benedikt said at the Congress at Rome, that all criminals are criminals by birth, so that there is no such thing as an occasional criminal, in the sense of a NORMAL individual casually launched into crime. But I have not, any more than Garofalo, drawn such a picture of the occasional criminal, for as a matter of fact I have said precisely the opposite, as indeed Lombroso himself acknowledges a little further on (ii. 422), namely, that between the born and the occasional criminal there is only a difference of degree and modality, as in all the criminal classes.
To cite a few details of criminal psychology, it may be stated that of the two physiological conditions of crime, moral insensibility and improvidence, occasional crime is especially due to the latter, and inborn and habitual crime to the former. With the born criminal it is, above all, the lack or the weakness of moral sense which fails to withstand crime, whereas with the occasional criminal the moral sense is almost normal, but inability to realise beforehand the consequences of his act causes him to yield to external influences.
Every man, however pure and honest he may be, is conscious now and then of a transitory notion of some dishonest or criminal action. But with the honest man, exactly because he is physically and morally normal, this notion of crime, which simultaneously summons up the idea of its grievous consequences, glances off the surface of the normal conscience, and is a mere flash without the thunder. With the man who is less normal and has less forethought, the notion dwells, resists the weak repulsion of a not too vigorous moral sense, and finally prevails; for, as Victor Hugo says, “Face to face with duty, to hesitate is to be lost.”
The criminal of passion is one who is strong enough to resist ordinary temptations of no exceptional force, to which the occasional criminal would yield, but who does not resist psychological storms which indeed are sometimes actually irresistible.
The forms of occasional criminality, which are determined by these ordinary temptations, are also determined by age, sex, poverty, worldly influences, influences of moral environment, alcoholism, personal surroundings, and imitation. Tarde has ably demonstrated the persistent influence of these conditions on the actions of men.
In this connection, Lombroso has drawn a clear distinction between two varieties of occasional criminals: the “pseudo-criminals,” or normal human beings who commit involuntary offences, or offences which do not spring from perversity, and do not hurt society, though they are punishable by law, and “criminaloids,” who commit ordinary offences, but differ from true criminals for the reasons already given.
A final observation is necessary in regard to this anthropological classification of criminals, and it meets various objections raised by our syllogistic critics. The difference existing amongst the five categories is only one of degree, and depends upon their organic and psychological types, and upon the influence of physical and social environment.
In every natural classification the differences between various groups and varieties are never anything but relative. This deprives them of none of their theoretical and practical importance, and so it is with this anthropological classification of criminals.
It follows that, as in natural history we advance by degrees and shades from the inorganic to the organic creation, life beginning in the mineral domain with the laws of crystallisation, so in criminal anthropology we pass by degrees and shades from the mad to the born criminal, through the links of moral madmen and epileptics; and from the born criminal to the occasional, through the link of the habitual criminal, who begins by being an occasional criminal, and ends by acquiring and transmitting to his children the characteristics of the born criminal. And finally, we pass from the occasional criminal to the criminal of passion, who is but a species of the other, and who further, with his neurotic and epileptoid temperament, not infrequently approximates to the criminal of unsound mind.
Thus in our everyday life, as in science, we very often find intermediate types, for complete and unmixed types are always the most uncommon. And whilst legislators and judges, in their complacent psychology, exact and establish marked lines of cleavage between the sane and the insane criminal, experts in psychiatry and anthropology are often constrained to place a prisoner somewhere between the mad and the born criminal, or between the occasional criminal and the normal man.
But it is evident that even when a criminal cannot be classed precisely in one or the other category, and stands between the two, this is in itself a sufficiently definite classification, especially from a sociological point of view. There is consequently no weight in the objection of those who, basing their argument on an abstract and nebulous idea of the criminal in general, and judging him merely according to the crime which has been committed, without knowing his personal characteristics and the circumstances of his environment, affirm that criminal anthropology cannot classify all who are detained and accused.
In my experience, however, as a counsel and as an observer, I have never had any difficulty in classifying all persons detained or condemned for crimes and offences, by relying upon organic, and especially upon psychological symptoms.
Thus, as Garofalo recently said, whilst the accepted criminal science recognises only two terms, the offence and the punishment, criminal sociology on the other hand recognises three: the crime, the criminal, and the means best calculated for social self- defence. And it may be concluded that up to this time, science, legislation, and, in a minor degree, but without any scientific method, the administration of justice, have judged and punished crime in the person of the criminal, but that hereafter it will be necessary to judge the criminal as well as the crime.
After these general observations on the anthropological classes of criminals, it might seem necessary to establish their respective numerical proportions. But as there is no absolute separation between one and another, and as the frequency of the several criminal types varies according to the crimes or offences, natural or otherwise, against persons or property, no precise account can be rendered of the criminal world as a whole.
By way of approximation, however, it may be said in the first place that the classes of mad criminals and criminals of passion are the least numerous, and represent something like 5 or 10 per cent. of the total.
On the other hand, we have seen that born and habitual criminals are about 40 or 50 per cent.; so that the occasional criminals would also be between 40 and 50 per cent.
These are figures which naturally vary according to the different groups of crime and of criminals which come under observation, and which cannot be more accurately determined without a series of special studies in criminal anthropology, as I said when answering the objections which have been raised against the methods of this novel science.
It remains for us, before concluding our first chapter, to establish a fact of great scientific and practical value. This is that, after the anthropological classification which I have maintained for some ten years past, all who have been devoting themselves to the subject of crime as regarded from a biological and social standpoint have recognised the need for a classification less simple than that of habitual and occasional criminals, and which will be more or less complex according to the criterion which may be adopted.
In the first place, the necessity is generally recognised of abandoning the old arbitrary and algebraic type in favour of a classification which shall correspond more accurately with the facts of the case. This classification, originating in observations made within the prison walls, I have extended in the domain of criminal sociology, wherein it is now established as a fundamental criterion of legislative measures which must be taken as a protection against criminals, as well as a criterion of their responsibility.
Secondly, the classifications of criminals hitherto given are not essentially and integrally distinct. It has been seen, as a matter of fact, that all the classifications which have been set forth amount to a recognition of four types, the born, the insane, the occasional criminals, and the criminals of passion; and this again resolves itself into the simple and primitive distinction between occasional and instinctive criminals. The category of criminals by contracted habit would not be accepted by all observers, but it corresponds too closely to our daily experience to stand in need of further proof. And on the other hand I must frankly decline to accept the authority of those who put forward classifications more or less symmetrical without having made a direct study of criminals; for the experimental method does not admit systems based on mere imagination, or on vague recollections of criminal trials, or on argumentative constructions built up from the systems of others.
As a matter of fact, apart from the differences of nomenclature, it is evident that the partial discrepancies in this anthropological classification of criminals are due in some measure to the different points of view taken by observers. For instance, the classification of Lacassagne, Joly, Krauss, Badik, and Marro rest upon a purely descriptive criterion of the organic or psychological characteristics of criminals. The classifications of Liszt, Medem, and Minzloff, on the other hand, depend solely upon the curative and defensive influence of punishment; and those of Foehring and Starke upon certain special points of view, such as the assistance of released prisoners, on their tendency to relapse.
My own point of view, on the contrary, has been general and reproductive, for my classification is based upon the natural causes of crime, individual, physical, and social, and to this extent it corresponds more closely with the theoretical and practical requirements of criminal sociology. If the curative art of society, like that of individuals, expects from positive knowledge an indication of remedies, it is clear that a classification based on the fundamental causes of crime is best fitted to indicate a social cure for this manifestation of disease, which is the essential object of criminal sociology. For, as in biology one is carried from purely descriptive anatomy to genetic anatomy and physiology, so in sociology we must pass on from purely legal descriptions of crimes to the genetic knowledge of the criminals who commit these crimes.
For this reason all the chief classifications of criminals, as has been seen, may be brought into line with my own, by virtue of the more complete and fruitful test which has established it. And thus we have a manifest proof that this classification actually represents the common and permanent basis of all the chief anthropological categories of criminals, whether in regard to their natural causality and their specific character, or in regard to the different forms of social self-defence which spring out of them, and which must be adapted to the natural causes of crime, and to the principal criminal types.
But whatever classification may be accepted, we shall always have, as the fundamental axiom of criminal anthropology, this variety in the types of criminals, which must henceforth be indispensable to all who are theoretically or practically concerned with crime.