Criminal Sociology. Enrico Ferri 1905

Chapter II.
The Data of Criminal Statistics.

For moral and social facts, unlike physical and biological facts, experiment is very difficult, and frequently even impossible; observation in this domain brings the greatest aid to scientific research. And statistics are amongst the most efficacious instruments of such observation.

It is natural, therefore, that criminal sociology, after studying the individual aspect of the natural genesis of crime, should have recourse to criminal statistics for the study of the social aspect. Statistical information in the words of Krohne, “is the first condition of success in opposing the armies of crime, for it discharges the same function as the Intelligence department in war.”

From statistics, in fact, the modern idea of the close relation between offences and the conditions of social life, in some of its aspects, and above all in certain particular forms, has most directly sprung.

The science of criminal statistics is to criminal sociology what histology is to biology, for it exhibits, in the conditions of the individual elements of the collective organism, the factors of crime as a social phenomenon. And that not only for scientific inductions, but also for practical and legislative purposes; for, as Lord Brougham said at the London Statistical Congress in 1860, “criminal statistics are for the legislator what the chart and the compass are for the navigator.”

The experimental school, accepting the fundamental and incontestible idea, apart from its numerical and optimistic exaggerations, that the statistics of crime must be considered in regard to the growth and activity of the population, has opened up an entirely new channel of fruitful observations, in the classification and study of the natural factors of crime.

In my “Studies of Crime in France” (1881) I arranged in three natural orders the whole series of causes leading to crime, which had previously been indicated in a fragmentary and incomplete manner.[12]

Lombroso, in the second edition of his “Criminal,” which embraces all the divisions of his classical work, has made but a rapid enumeration of the principal points:–race civilisation, poverty, heredity, age sex, civil status, profession, education, organic anomalies, sensations imitation. Morselli, treating of suicide, has given a fuller classification of its contributory causes:–worldly or natural influences, ethnical or demographical influences, social influences, biopsychical influences.

From the consideration that human actions, whether honest or dishonest, social or anti-social, are always the outcome of a man’s physio-psychical organism, and of the physical and social atmosphere which surrounds him, I have drawn attention to the anthropological or individual factors of crime, the physical factors, and the social factors.

The anthropological factors, inherent in the individual criminal, are the first condition of crime; and they may be divided into three sub-classes, according as we regard the criminal organically physically, or socially.

The organic constitution of the criminal comprises all anomalies of the skull, the brain, the vital organs, the sensibility, and the reflex activity, and all the bodily characteristics taken together, such as the physiognomy, tattooing, and so on.

The mental constitution of the criminal comprises anomalies of intelligence and feeling, especially of the moral sense, and the specialities of criminal writing and slang.

The personal characteristics of the criminal comprise his purely biological conditions, such as race, age, sex; bio-social conditions, such as civil status, profession, domicile, social rank, instruction, education, which have hitherto been regarded as almost the exclusive concern of criminal statistics.

The physical factors of crime are climate, the nature of the soil, the relative length of day and night, the seasons, the average temperature, meteoric conditions, agricultural pursuits.

The social factors comprise the density of population; public opinion, manners and religion; family circumstances; the system of education; industrial pursuits; alcoholism; economic and political conditions; public administration, justice and police; and in general, legislative, civil and penal institutions. We have here a host of latent causes, commingling and combining in all parts of the social organism, which generally escape the notice both of theorists and of practical men, of criminologists and of legislators.

This classification of the natural factors of crime, which has indeed been accepted by almost all criminal anthropologists and sociologists, seems to me more precise and complete than any other which has been proposed.

In respect of this classification of the natural factors of crime, it is necessary to make two final observations as to the practical results which may be obtained in the struggle for just laws and against the transgression of them.

In the first place, owing to “the discovery of the unexpected relation amongst the various forces of nature, which had previously been thought to be independent,” we must lay stress on this positive deduction, that we cannot find an adequate reason either for a single crime or for the aggregate criminality of a nation if we do not take into account each and all of the different natural factors, which we may isolate in the exigencies of our studies, but which always act together in an indissoluble union.

No crime, whoever commits it, and in whatever circumstances, can be explained except as the outcome of individual free-will, or as the natural effect of natural causes. Since the former of these explanations has no scientific value, it is impossible to give a scientific explanation of a crime (or indeed of any other action of man or brute) unless it is considered as the product of a particular organic and psychical constitution, acting in a particular physical and social environment.

Therefore it is far from being exact to assert that the positive criminal school reduces crime to a purely and exclusively anthropological phenomenon. As a matter of fact, this school has always from the beginning maintained that crime is the effect of anthropological, physical, and social conditions, which evolve it by their simultaneous and inseparable operation. And if inquiries into biological conditions have been more abundant and more conspicuous by their novelty, this in no way contradicts the fundamental conclusion of criminal sociology.

That being stated, we have still to examine the relative value of these three classes of conditions in the natural evolution of crime.

It seems to me that this question is generally stated inaccurately, and also that it cannot be answered absolutely, and in a word.

It is generally stated inaccurately; because they who think, for instance, that crime is nothing else than a purely and exclusively social phenomenon in the evolution of which the organic and psychical anomalies of the criminal have had no part, ignore more or less consciously the universal correlation of natural forces, and forget that, in regard to any phenomenon whatsoever, it is impossible to set an absolute limit to the network of its causes, immediate and remote, direct and indirect.

To put this question in an arbitrary sense would be like asking if a mammal is the product of its lungs, or its heart, or its stomach, or of vegetable constituents, or of the atmosphere; whereas each of these conditions, internal and external, is necessary to the life of the animal.

In fact, if crime were the exclusive product of the social environment, how could one explain the familiar fact that in the same social environment, and in identical circumstances of poverty, abandonment, lack of education, sixty per cent. do not commit crimes, and, of the other forty, five prefer suicide, five go mad, five simply become beggars or tramps not dangerous to society, whilst the remaining twenty-five actually commit crimes? And amongst the latter, whilst some go no further than theft without violence, why do others commit theft with violence, and even kill their victim outright, before he offers resistance, or threatens them, or calls for help, and this with no other object than gain?

The secondary differences of social condition, which may be observed even amongst the members of a single family, rotting in one of the slums of our great towns, or amongst those who are surrounded by the temptations of money or power, or the like, are clearly not enough in themselves to explain the vast differences in the actions which grow out of them, varying from honesty under the greatest discouragement to suicide and murder.

The question, therefore, must be asked in a relative sense altogether, and we must inquire which of the three kinds of natural causes of crime has a greater or less influence in determining each particular crime at any given moment in the
individual and social life.

No clear answer of general application can be given to this question, for the relative influence of the anthropological, physical, and social conditions varies with the psychological and social characteristics of each offence against the law.

For instance, if we consider the three great classes of crimes against the person, against property, and against personal purity, it is evident that each class of determining causes, but especially the biological and social conditions, have a distinctly different influence in evolving homicide, theft, or indecent assaults. And so it is in every category of crimes.

The undeniable influence of social conditions, and still more of economic conditions, in leading up to the commission of theft, is far inferior in the genesis of homicides and indecent assaults. And similarly, in each category of crimes, the influence of the determining conditions varies greatly according to the special forms of crime.

Certain casual homicides are plainly the result of social conditions (gambling, drink, public opinion, &c.) in a much higher degree than homicides which for the most part spring from brutality, from the moral insensibility of individuals, or from their psycho-pathological conditions, corresponding to abnormal organic conditions.

In like manner, certain indecent assaults, incests, &c., are largely the outcome of social environment, which, condemning a number of persons to live in hovels without air or light, with a promiscuity of sex between parents and children such as obtains amongst the brutes, effaces or deadens all normal sense of modesty. On the other hand, there are cases of rape and the like which are mostly due to the biological condition of the individual, either in manifest forms of sexual disease or, less manifest though none the less actual, of biological anomaly.

For thefts, again, whilst occasional simple thefts are largely the effect of social and economical conditions, this influence becomes feebler in comparison with impulses due to the personal constitution, organic and psychical, as, for instance, in the case of thefts with violence, and especially of murder for the purpose of robbery, which scoundrels of the “swell-mob” so frequently commit in cold blood.

The same observation applies to the conditions of physical environment. For instance, if the regular increase of crimes against property in winter (and, as I showed for the first time from French statistics, in years when the cold is greatest) is only an indirect result, through the social and economic influences of temperature, the increase of crimes of passion and indecent assaults during the months and years when the temperature is highest is only a direct effect of temperature, even for such as, by their biological conditions, offer the feeblest resistance to these influences.

Meanwhile, a last objection has been raised against the conclusions which I have maintained for many years past.

It has been said that, even if we admit that for certain crimes and criminals the greatest influence must be recognised as due to the physical and psychical conditions of the individual, extending from slightly manifested anomalies of an anthropological character to the most accentuated pathological condition, this does not exclude the possibility of a crime being due to social conditions. In fact, it is said the anomalies of the individual are in their turn only an effect of a debasing social environment, which condemns its victims to organic and psychical degeneration.

This objection is sound enough if it be taken in a relative sense, but groundless if it be insisted on absolutely.

It must be considered, in the first place, that the distinctions of cause and effect are only relative, for every effect has its cause, and vice versa; so that if wretchedness, material and moral, is a cause of degeneration, degeneration itself, like biological anomaly, is a cause of wretchedness. And in this sense the question would be simply metaphysical, like the famous Byzantine discussions as to whether there was originally an egg before a hen or a hen before an egg.

And, in fact, when it was said, in regard to criminal geography, that the extent and quality of crime in such and such a province, instead of being the effect of biological conditions (race, &c.) and physical conditions (climate, soil, &c.), were but the effect of social and economic conditions (of rural and industrial pursuits, and the like), I was able to make a very simple reply. For, apart even from statistical proofs, if the social conditions of such and such a province, which have an unquestionable influence, are really the absolute and exclusive cause of crime, we may still ask whether these social conditions of the province are not themselves the effect of the ethnical qualities of energy, intelligence, and so forth, in its inhabitants, and of the more or less favourable conditions of the climate and the soil.

But it may also be observed, more precisely, that even apart from strongly marked and conspicuous pathological conditions, which meanwhile assert themselves amongst the biological factors of crime, there is a very great number of these cases in which it cannot actually be said that the bio-psychical anomalies of the criminal are the effect of a physically and morally poisonous environment.

In every family in which there are several children, we find (in spite of identical surroundings and conditions of a favourable kind, and suitable methods of training and education), individuals who differ intellectually from the cradle; we also find in the degree or in the kind of their talent, the same individuals also differ from their cradle in physical and moral constitution. And though the phenomenon may only be manifest in the less numerous cases of types which are markedly normal or abnormal, it is none the less true also in the more numerous cases of ordinary types.

In this connection I may observe that physical and social conditions have a greater or a less influence in proportion as the physical and psychical constitution of the individual is more or less sound and vigorous.

The practical conclusion, therefore, of these general observations on the natural genesis of crime is this: Every crime is the result of individual physical and social conditions; and, since these conditions have a more or less dominant influence for various forms of crime, the most certain and profitable mode of defence which society can employ against criminality is of a twofold character, and both modes ought to be employed and brought into action simultaneously–in the first place, the amelioration of the social conditions, as a natural preventive of crime, in the nature of a substitute for punishment; and, secondly, measures of perpetual or temporary elimination of criminals, according as the influence of biological conditions in the evolution of crime is all but absolute, or more or less great, and more or less curable.

As a matter of fact, when we follow the periodic variations of crime, with its measured growth and decrease, we cannot fail to conclude that these constant and constantly occurring variations depend upon a corresponding variation of anthropological and physical factors. For, whilst criminal statistics are far from showing the regularity which Quetelet claimed with much exaggeration, the proportional figures in regard to the bearings of age, sex, calling, &c., upon criminality exhibit very insignificant variations from year to year. And as for the physical factors, if marked variations are explicable at some given period, it is nevertheless evident that neither climate, nor the nature of the soil, nor atmospheric conditions, nor the seasons, nor the temperature of different years could have undergone in the last half-century such constant and repeated variations as to correspond to those waves of criminality which we shall presently exhibit in almost every nation of Europe.

Thus it is to the social factors that we must chiefly attribute the periodic variations of criminality. For even the variations which can be detected in certain anthropological factors, like the influences of age and sex upon crime, and the more or less marked outbreak of anti-social and pathological tendencies, depend in their turn upon social factors, such as the protection accorded to abandoned infants, the participation of women in non-domestic, commercial and industrial life, preventive and repressive measures, and the like. And again, since the social factors have special import in occasional crime, and crime by acquired habit, and since these are the most numerous sections of crime as a whole, it is clear that the periodic movement of crime must be attributed in the main to the social factors. So true is this, that, as we shall presently see, the gravest crimes, especially against persons, precisely because they mostly indicate congenital criminality, follow a more steady and regular movement than these slighter but far more frequent offences against property, public order, and persons, of a more occasional character, and that, as microbes of the world of crime, they are the more direct outcome of social environment.

It is therefore another point in favour of the experimental school that it has insisted on this sociological aspect of the problem of criminality, by showing legislators, outside the limits of their punitive remedies, as easy as they are illusory, how they might, as far as circumstances will permit, apply a genuine social remedy to crime.

After these preliminary observations, it is time that we should take a closer view of the general statistics of the movement of crime in Europe, so far as they may be followed in official figures.

Whilst we have no intention of offering a body of comparative statistics, but only of giving a simple indication of the periodic movement of crime, these data, which do not render it easy to compare one country with another, though they are intimately related so far as each particular country is concerned, suffice to exhibit a few facts of some considerable importance.

The most conspicuous general phenomenon in the countries here included is the steadiness of the gravest forms of crime side by side with the continuous increase of slighter offences, especially in the countries which show a long series of figures, such as France, England, and Belgium. This proceeds mainly from the progressive accumulation of offences against special enactments, which are constantly being added to the original basis of the penal code; but it is also a symptom of an actual transformation in the criminal activity of the century, from whence, through the gradual substitution of crimes against property in the great towns for crimes against the person in earlier centuries, we have a wider extension together with a lower degree of intensity.

Another characteristic common to the countries under observation is that, whilst the graver crimes against property show a somewhat marked diminution, crimes against persons, on the other hand, show more steadiness, either of regularity, as in France and Belgium, or of increase, as in England, and still more in Germany. But this phenomenon in the case of crimes against the person is in actual correspondence with criminal activity arising from an increase of population. On the other hand–apart from the transformation of crimes of violence into crimes of craft and fraud, due to the increase of movable property–the decrease of offences against property is no more than the manifest effect of an artificial change of judicial procedure, summary proceedings taking the place of trial by jury.

An alternation, which is not invalidated by exceptions here and there, has been observed in the criminality of different countries, in the periodic movement of crimes and offences against property and those against the person, of such a kind that years of increase in the former usually answer to a diminution in the latter, and vice versa. The principal factors in the annual increase of theft, such as scarcity and extremes of weather, cause a corresponding diminution of violent assaults and bodily harm, of homicides and indecent assaults, and vice versa. On the other hand, offences against property, which are very numerous, contribute most of all to the total of annual crime; so that the maximum of 1880 in Italy, as well as in France, Belgium and Austria, is especially due to the great severity of the winter of 1879-80, which in Italy coincided with an agricultural crisis, attested by the very high price of corn. Whereas from 1881 to 1885 there were very mild winters, with more abundant harvests, and from 1886 a greater extreme of cold and a more acute economic crisis.

The general tendency of these periodic oscillations of crime in Italy, as in other European countries, is nevertheless far more towards increase than towards decrease. This is also shown by the proportional triennial averages of crimes and offences placed on record, and of persons condemned to imprisonment.

In the movement of crime in each country it is necessary to distinguish special oscillations, more or less prolonged, of increase or decrease, from its general and permanent tendency. The latter is determined by the fundamental conditions of each nation, physical and social, apart from the purely artificial section of transgressions brought into existence by new laws. The special oscillations, on the other hand, are determined by the annual variations in this or that factor of the more numerous offences; that is to say, by abundance or scantiness of the harvests, by the annual variations of temperature, by industrial and political crises, and the like.

The oblivion of this marked distinction, coupled with the prejudices of the scientific schools, and even of political parties, leads to some curious disagreements, and to lively discussions on the results of criminal statistics. For on one side the champions of the classical school plainly see that the persistent increase of crimes and offences amounts to a proof of that breakdown of penal systems, practical and theoretical, which have hitherto been applied–as was admitted by Holtzendorff. And on the other hand, the increase of crimes is denied or affirmed for the purpose of supporting or attacking some particular ministry. For, in parliaments more than elsewhere, there is always a deep-seated and vivacious prejudice, a kind of social artificiality, which causes men to think that the condition of States, moral and economic, is fundamentally determined far more by the action of this or that government than by natural factors, which are mainly superior to and outside of governments and politicians.

And this is why in Italy there has been much discussion of late, in scientific publications, at the sittings of the Central Commission of Judicial Statistics, and even in Parliament, as to whether crime was increasing or decreasing.

Beltrani-Scalia and Lombroso almost simultaneously called attention to the growth of Italian crime, and they were succeeded by various adherents of the positive school, such as Ferri, Garofalo, Pavia, Pugliese, Guidi, Bournet, Barzilai, and Rossi, who produced evidence that the general tendency of crime in Italy was to increase, and that the diminutions observed after 1880 were mere transitory oscillations; and after 1886 they were justified by facts.

On the other hand, official returns of criminal statistics, and a majority of the members of the Central Commission, when pursuing an inquiry suggested by myself into Italian crime since 1873 –for previously to this date there are no criminal statistics in Italy except for 1853 and 1869-70–came to the conclusion that there was a tendency towards a diminution of crime. But their decision was formed from an entirely partial standpoint, which they had taken up in the exigency of polemical discussion. They compared, in fact, the years just concluded, 1881-5, with 1880, and thus it naturally followed that after a maximum they had a relative decrease. And it was only this ingenious comparison which gave an appearance of actual proof to their optimistic assertions; for when a fever is at forty degrees, the fall of even half a degree is very important. They paid special attention to the so-called high criminality, which is tried by the Assize courts, and is actually decreasing, though by the purely artificial effect of more and more effective measures of correction. But I have always maintained, and I have the support of M. Oettingen, that we cannot separate crimes and offences tried by the Assizes from those tried by the Tribunals, for there is only a difference of degree between them, as is clear in regard to theft, assaults and wounding, forgery and the like.

It is a curious fact that similar illusions have existed in all countries through the same causes and prejudices which have been mentioned above. In France, for instance, we often find that the keepers of the seals, reporting on volumes of the excellent and valuable series of criminal statistics since the year 1826, occasionally remark on these oscillatory diminutions, and make a point of treating them as signs of a constant and general tendency, which succeeding years have always contradicted.

In France also, the same controversy has been kept up since 1840, with the same polemical artifices as were employed more recently in Italy, on the question whether crime has increased or decreased. Dufau, Beranger, Berrzat de St. Prix, and Legoyt affirmed that it had diminished since 1826, against the true opinion of de Metz, Dupin, Chassan, Mesuard, and Fayet, the last of whom quotes the others in one of his essays on criminal statistics, now undeservedly forgotten, though they abound in striking and profound observation.

But, as for France in those days, so for Italy to-day, the statistics of succeeding years quickly proved that what official optimism and national self-complacency spoke of as pessimism on our part was but a conscientious inference from lamentable facts, established in every country by the influence of civilisation on crime, which I have described in preceding pages.

After these general statements we ought logically to watch the periodic movement of each leading category of crimes and offences in each division of the country; for not all crimes, nor all districts, pursue the same course from year to year. But as this inquiry is impossible in the present work, we may pass on to the general figures for other European countries.


FRANCE. 1826-8. 1895-7. Police Contraventions ... ... ... 100 391| Offences ... ... ... ... ... ... 100 397| Crimes against the person ... ... 100 98|in 61 years " property ... ... ... 100 41|


The most constant general fact shown by these data is in all cases the very remarkable increase of slighter delinquencies, side by side with constancy or slight diminution in crimes against the person, and a large diminution in crime against property. This is seen in France, England, Belgium, whilst there is an increase both of crimes and offences in Austria.

Behind the general fact, however, we must distinguish between the actual and the apparent.

On the one hand, the decrease of more serious crime against property is simply due to prisoners electing to be sentenced by the inferior court, which is at the discretion of the Tribunals in France, but legally established in Belgium, by the laws of 1838 and 1848, and in England by the Acts of 1856 and 1878–an election of the slighter but more certain punishment of the magistrates in preference to going before a jury. Indeed, crimes against the person, in which there is less power of election, do not exhibit so marked a decrease; and accordingly we see that in Belgium the increase of “correctionalised” crimes is due far more to crimes against property (62 per cent in 36 years) than to those against the person (9 per cent.).

On the other hand, the growth of slighter delinquency is partly the effect of special enactments, which are constantly creating new infractions, offences or contraventions. For France may be mentioned the law of 1832 on eluding supervision, that of 1844 on the game laws, that of 1857 on the false description of goods for sale, of 1845 on railway offences, of 1849 on the expulsion of refugees, of 1873 on drunkenness, and of 1874 on requisition of horses. I dealt with the statistical results of these laws, and with the influence of the increasing number of police agents, in my “Studies on Criminality in France” (Rome, 1881); and I will here add only a single observation. If it is true, as M. Joly says, that other laws, passed since 1826, have extinguished a few offences, or at least have diminished their frequency under less severe regulations, yet it is also true that the new infractions created in the past half-century show far higher numbers than those of the infractions which have been extinguished or rendered less easy. So that amongst the 297 per cent. of increase on the offences tried in France between 1826 and 1887, the element due to legal creation of new infractions must not be ignored.

It cannot, however, be denied that for certain more frequent offences we have a real and very noteworthy increase, apart from any legislative or statistical cause of disturbance.

The same observation may be made in regard to England. There also the increase of 76 per cent, during thirty years of offences tried summarily is due in part to new infractions, created by special legislation, and especially by the Education Act of 1873, under which there were more than forty thousand infractions in 1878, and more than sixty-five thousand in 1886.

In regard to this delinquency in England (wherein are included, over and above real offences, certain infractions corresponding to the police contraventions of the Italian, French, Belgian and Austrian codes) it is to be observed that the increase of 76 per cent. in thirty years is due rather to contraventions than to offences. And this would establish a remarkable difference between the variations of delinquency in England and in France.

If we analyse the record of infractions tried summarily in England, we find that contraventions of the law in respect of drunkenness account for most of this increase (from 82,196 in 1861 to 183,221 in 1885 and 165,139 in 1886). On the other hand, offences against the person (assaults) and against property (stealing, larceny, malicious offences) have not shown so large an increase.

In fact, if we compare the variations in assaults and thefts in France and England, we have the following figures:–


So that in England not only the total delinquency, but more especially the commoner offences against the person and against property show a slighter increase than that which has been established for the same period in France. Whilst we do not overlook the greater increase of crimes against the person in England (coinciding, of course, with the doubling of the population in fifty-five years), this fact seems to me to prove the salutary influence of English organisations against certain social factors which lead up to delinquency (such as the care of foundlings, the guardianship of the poor, and so forth), notwithstanding the great development of economic activity, which is assuredly in no way inferior to that of France. The figures strengthen my conclusions as to the social factors of crime, and refute the optimistic theory of Poletti.

But the actual participation of each country in the general increase of crime in Europe is determined by other causes, outside of the artificial influences of different codes of law. And the most general and constant of these causes, in all the various physical and social environments, is the annual increase of population, which, by adding to the density of the inhabitants of each country, multiplies their material and legal relations to one another, and, consequently, the objective and subjective constituents of crime.

Taking the official Italian figures, which are also relied on by M. Levasseur, we find, for the periods corresponding to the variations of criminality, the following rates of increase in the population of the different countries. Ireland shows a decrease, owing to emigration.


It must, however, be observed, with regard to this increase of the population, firstly that it tells as a factor of criminality only in so far as it is not neutralised, wholly or in part, by other influences, mainly social, which prevent crime or render it less grave. Secondly, it is not right merely to compare the proportional rates of increase in the population with those of crime, as was done for instance by M. Bodio, who said that in Italy, from 1873 to 1883, “since the population had increased by 7.5 per cent., crime might have increased during the same time by 7.5 per cent., without its being fair to say that it had actually increased.” In point of fact, as M. Rossi remarked, since in Italy, and almost all the European States, the growth of the population is due to the excess of births over deaths (for emigration is more numerous than immigration), it is evident that, when we confine our attention to short periods, the addition to the population, consisting of children under ten or twelve years, does not increase crime in an appreciable degree. The deaths, on the other hand, must be subtracted from all stages of human life, but especially from the number of those who can and do commit crimes and offences.

Now, as we cannot in this place go into detail, I must confine myself to the statement of a few characteristic facts, as illustrated by European crime. Thus we perceive the influence of the great famine of 1846-7 on crimes against property in France and Belgium; the rapid oscillations of crime in Ireland, indicating the unstable political and social conditions of the country; and the parallel movements of crime in, France and Prussia. We see, indeed, a constant diminution of crime for the period between 1860 and 1870, followed (after the statistical disturbance of the terrible year 1870-1) by a period of serious and continued increase of crime, resulting from social and economic conditions, as shown especially by the increase of vagrancy and theft since 1875.

All these general facts go to prove the close and intimate connection between crime and the aggregate of its various constituents. So that, without pursuing more detailed inquiries into certain social factors of crime, which are capable of statistical enumeration, such as the increase in the number of the police, the abundance or scarcity of corn and wine, the spread of drunkenness, family circumstances, increase of personal possessions, the facility or otherwise of the settlement of disputes, commercial and industrial crises, the rate of wages, the variation from year to year of the general conditions of existence, and so forth, coincident with the development of education, encouragements to thrift and the organisation of charity, we must now proceed to draw from these statistical data the most important conclusions of criminal sociology.


Criminal statistics show that crime increases in the aggregate, with more or less notable oscillations from year to year, rising or falling in successive waves. Thus it is evident that the level of criminality in any one year is determined by the different conditions of the physical and social environment, combined with the hereditary tendencies and occasional impulses of the individual, in obedience to a law which I have called, in analogy with chemical phenomena, the law of criminal saturation.

Just as in a given volume of water, at a given temperature, we find a solution of a fixed quantity of any chemical substance, not an atom more or less, so in a given social environment, in certain defined physical conditions of the individual, we find the commission of a fixed number of crimes.

Our ignorance of many physical and psychical laws and of innumerable conditions of fact, will prevent us from obtaining a precise view of this level of criminality. But none the less is it the necessary and inevitable result of a given physical and social environment. Statistics show us, indeed, that the variations of this environment are always attended by consequential and proportional variations of crime. In France, for instance (and the observation will be found to apply to every country which possesses an extended series of criminal statistics), the number of crimes against the person varies but little in sixty-two years. The same thing holds good for England and Belgium, because their special environment is also less variable, by reason that hereditary dispositions and human passions cannot vary profoundly or frequently, except under the influence of exceptional disturbances of the weather, or of social conditions. In fact, the more serious variations in respect of crimes against the person in France have taken place either during political revolutions, or in years of excessive heat, or of exceptional abundance of meat, grain, and wine. This is illustrated by the exceptional increase of crime from 1849 to 1852. Minor offences against the person, on the contrary, which are more occasional, assaults and wounding, for example, vary in the main, as to their annual oscillations, with the abundance of the wine harvest, whilst in their oscillations from month to month they display a characteristic increase during the vintage periods, from June to December, notwithstanding the constant diminution of other offences and crimes against the person.

On the other hand, crimes against property, and still more offences against property, show wide oscillations on account of the variability of the special environment, which is almost always in a condition of unstable equilibrium, as in periods of scarcity, and of commercial, financial and industrial crises, and so forth, whilst they are subject also to the influence of the physical environment. Crimes and offences against property display extraordinary increases in the severest winter seasons, and diminutions in milder winters.

And this correspondence between the more general, powerful, and variable physical and social factors of crime, as well as its more characteristic manifestations such as thefts, wounding, and indecent assaults, is so constant and so direct that, when I was studying the annual movement of criminality in France, and perceived some extraordinary oscillation in the crimes and offences, I foresaw that in the annals of the year I should find mention of an agricultural or political crisis, or an exceptional winter or summer in the records of the weather. So that with a single column of a table of criminal statistics I was able to reconstruct the historical condition of a country in its more salient features. In this way psychological experiment again confirmed the truth of the law of criminal saturation.

Not only so, but it may be added that as, in chemistry, over and above the normal saturation we find that an increased temperature of the liquid envelopes an exceptional super-saturation, so in criminal sociology, in addition to the ordinary saturation we are sometimes aware of an excess of criminal saturation, due to the exceptional conditions of the social environment.

Indeed it is to be observed not only that the main and typical criminality has a sort of reflex criminality depending upon it, but also that an increase of more serious or more frequent crimes induces a crop of resistance to and assaults upon the guardians of public order, together with false witness, insults, avoidance of supervision, absconding, and the like. Certain crimes and offences also have their complementary offences, which from being consequences become in their turn the causes of new offences. Thus concealment and purchase of stolen goods increase simultaneously with theft; homicide and wounding lead to the illegal carrying of arms; adultery and abusive language to duels, and so forth.

Beyond this there are sundry kinds of excessive criminal saturations which are exceptional, and therefore transitory. Ireland and Russia present us with conspicuous examples in their political and social crimes; and similarly America, during election contests. So in France before and after December 2 1851, the harbouring of criminals, which in no other quadrennial period from 1826 to 1887 exceeds a record of fifty, rises in 1850-53 as high as 239. So during the famine of 1847, theft of grain rises in France to forty-two in a single year, whilst for half a century it barely reaches a total of seventy-five. It is notorious, again, that in years of dear provisions, or severe winters, a large number of thefts and petty offences are committed for the sole object of securing maintenance within the prison walls. And in this connection I have observed in France that other offences against property decrease during a famine, by an analogous psychological motive, thus presenting a sort of statistical paradox. Thus, for example, I have found that as oidium and phylloxera are more effective than severe punishments in diminishing the number of assaults and cases of unlawful wounding, so famine succeeds better than the strongest bars, or dogs kept loose in the prison yards, in preventing the escape of prisoners, who at such times are detained by the advantage of being supported at the public expense.

For a parallel reason in 1847, a famine year, whilst all crimes and offences against property increased in an extraordinary fashion, only the crimes of theft and breach of confidence by household servants showed a characteristic decrease, because such persons were deterred by the fear of being dismissed by their employers during the time of distress. The figures are as follows:–


M. Chaussinand adds, by way of confirmation of my statement that during economic crises, such as famine and high prices of grain, the number of cases of escape from justice also decreases, FOR “thieves and tramps prefer arrest, in order to escape from the misery which afflicts them outside the prison walls.”

Two fundamental conclusions of criminal sociology may be drawn from this law of criminal saturation.

The first is that it is incorrect to assert a mechanical regularity of crime, which from Quetelet’s time has been much exaggerated. There has been a too literal insistance on his famous declaration that “the budget of crime is an annual taxation paid with more preciseness than any other”; and that it is possible to calculate beforehand how many homicides, poisoners, and forgers we shall have, because “crimes are generated every year in the same number, with the same punishments, in the same proportions.” And one constantly meets with this echo of the statisticians, that “from year to year crimes against the person vary at the most by one in twenty-five, and those against property by one in fifty”; or, again, that there is “a law of limitation in crime, which does not vary by more than one in ten.”

This opinion, originated by Quetelet and other statisticians after an inquiry confined to the more serious crimes, and to a very short succession of years, has already been refuted, in part by Maury and Rhenisch, and more plainly by Aberdare, Mayr, Messedaglia and Minzloff.

In fact, if the level of criminality is of necessity determined by the physical and social environment, how could it remain constant in spite of the continual variations, sometimes very considerable, of this same environment? That which does remain fixed is the proportion between a given environment and the number of crimes: and this is precisely the law of criminal saturation. But the statistics of criminality will never be constant to one rule from year to year. There will be a dynamical but not a statical regularity.

Thus the element of fixity in criminal sociology consists in asserting, not the fatality or predestination of human actions, including crimes, but only their necessary dependence upon their natural causes, and therewith the possibility of modifying effects by modifying the activity of these causes. And, indeed, even Quetelet himself recognised this when he said, “If we change the social order we shall see an immediate change in the facts which have been so constantly reproduced. Statisticians will then have to consider whether the changes have been useful or injurious. These studies therefore show how important is the mission of the legislator, and how responsible he is in his own sphere for all the phenomena of the social order.”

The second consequence of the law of criminal saturation, one of great theoretical importance, is that the penalties hitherto regarded, save for a few platonic declarations, as the best remedies for crime, are less effectual than they are supposed to be. For crimes and offences increase and diminish by a combination of other causes, which are far from being identical with the punishments lightly written out by legislators and awarded by judges.

History affords us various impressive examples.

The Roman Empire, when society had fallen into extreme corruption, recalling many symptoms of our own epoch, vainly promulgated laws which visited celibacy, adultery, and incest–“venus prodigiosa”–with “the vengeance of the sword and punishments of the utmost severity.” Dio Cassius (“Hist. Rom.,” lxxvi. 16) says that in the city of Rome alone, after the law of Septimus Severus, there were three thousand charges of adultery. But the stringent laws against these crimes continued to the days of Justinian, which shows that the crimes had not been checked; and, as Gibbon says (“Decline and Fall,” ch. 44), the Scatinian law against “venus nefanda” had fallen into abeyance through lapse of time and the multitude of offenders. Yet we see in our own days, as in France, that there are some who would oppose celibacy with no other remedy than a law passed for the purpose.

Since mediaeval times the increasing gentleness of manners has caused a diminution of crimes of blood, once so numerous that there was need of sundry “truces” and “peaces,” notwithstanding the harsh penalties of previous centuries. And Du Boys called Cettes simple because, after giving a table of shocking punishments in the Germany of his day (the fifteenth century), he marvelled that all these pains and torments had not prevented the increase of crimes.

Imperial Rome deluded herself with the idea that she could stamp out Christianity with punishments and tortures, which, however, only seemed to fan the flame. In the same way Catholic Europe hoped to extinguish Protestantism by means of vindictive persecution, and only produced the opposite effect, as always happens. If the Reformed faith does not strike root in Italy, France, and Spain, that must be explained by psychological reasons proper to those nations, independently of the stake and of massacres, for it did not strike root even when religious belief was liberated from its fetters. This does not prevent all governments in every land from continuing to believe that, in order to arrest the spread of certain political or social doctrines, there is nothing better than to pass exceptional penal laws, forgetting that, with ideas and prejudices just as with steam, compression increases the expansive force.

Popular education has swept away the so-called crimes of magic and witchcraft, though they had withstood the most savage punishments of antiquity and mediaeval times.

Blasphemy, in spite of the slitting of the nose, tongue, and lips, enacted by the penal laws, and continued in France from Louis XI. to Louis XV., was very common in the middle ages, being (like witchcraft, trances, and self-immurement) a pathological or abnormal manifestation of religious emotion, which in those times had an extraordinary development. And the habit of blasphemy diminished under the psychological and social evolution of our own days, precisely when it ceased to be punished. Or, rather, it continued to this day, as in Tuscany, where the Tuscan penal code (Art. 136), which survived until December 31, 1889, still punished it with five years’ imprisonment. The illusion as to the efficacy of punishment is so deeply rooted that a proposal was made in the Senate, in 1875, to include this penalty in the new Italian penal code. And at Murcia, in Spain, trials for blasphemy have lately been re-established.

Mittermaier observed that, if in England and Scotland there were far fewer cases of false witness, perjury, and resistance to authority than in Ireland and on the Continent, this must be due in great measure to national character, which is one of the hereditary elements of normal as well as of abnormal and criminal life.

Thus even apart from statistics we can satisfy ourselves that crimes and punishments belong to two different spheres; but when statistics support the teaching of history, no doubt can remain as to the very slight (I had almost said the absence of any) deterrent effect of punishments upon crime.

We may indeed derive a telling proof from statistical records, by referring to the progress of repression in France, over a period of sixty years, as I have already done in my “Studies” previously quoted.

When we speak of the repression of crime, we must first of all distinguish between that which is due to the general character of penal legislation, more or less severe, and that which is secured by the administration by the judges of the law as it is. Now, so far as legislation is concerned, the growth of crime in France certainly cannot be attributed to the relaxation of punishment. The legislative reforms which have taken place, especially in 1832 and 1863, on the general revision of the penal code, modified punishments to some extent, but with the definite purpose and result, as shown by the same official records of criminal statistics, of strengthening the repressive power of the law by providing for the application of less aggravated punishments. The repugnance of juries and judges against excessive punishments, and their preference for acquittal, is, indeed, a psychological law. Moreover, it is well known that if there is in Europe a penal code less mild than any of the rest, it is that of France, which is the oldest of those now in force, and still retains much of the military rigour of its origin. And it must be added that for certain crimes, as for rapes and indecent assaults, which are nevertheless constantly increasing in France, the punishments have been increased by several successive enactments. The same is true of extortion by threats of exposure, which occurs more and more frequently, as M. Joly also observes, in spite of the severe punishments of the law of 1863.

The question, therefore, is reduced to judicial repression, the progress whereof must be observed in the past half-century, for it has evidently the greatest influence upon crime. Laws, in fact, have no real operation if they are not applied more or less rigorously; for in the social strata which contribute most to criminality the laws are known only by their practical application, which is also the only truly defensive function, carrying with it a special preventive of the repetition of the crime by the person condemned.

Thus the arguments of jurists and legislators have not much value for the criminal sociologist when they are based solely on the psychological illusion that the dangerous classes trouble themselves about the shaping of a penal code, as the more instructed and less numerous classes might well do. The dangerous classes attend to the sentences of the judges, and still more to the execution of those sentences, than to the articles of a code. In this connection I cannot agree with the forecast of Garofalo as to the perilous effect of the abolition of capital punishment in Italy on the imagination of the people; for he was well aware that, though it is defined in various articles of the old code, and in about sixty sentences every year, the punishment of death has not been carried out, which is the essential point, for the last fifteen years.

The elements which determine the greater or less severity of judicial repression are of two kinds:–

1. The ratio of persons acquitted to the total number of prisoners put on their trial.

2. The ratio of the severest punishments to the total number of prisoners condemned.

Certainly the proportion of acquittals ought not to indicate a difference in the severity of repression as such, for condemnation or acquittal ought to point merely to the certainty or otherwise of guilt, the sufficiency or insufficiency of the evidence. But, as a matter of fact, the proportional increase of convictions does partly represent greater severity on the part of the judges, and still more of the juries, who display it by attaching weight to somewhat unconvincing evidence, or in too readily admitting circumstances which tend to aggravate the offence. This is confirmed also by the rarity of acquittals in cases of contumacy.

Of these two factors the former is certainly the more important, for it is a psychological law that man, in regard to punishment as to any other kind of suffering, is more affected by the certainty than by the gravity of the infliction. And it is to the credit of criminal theorists of the classical school that they have steadily maintained that a mild yet certain punishment is more effectual than one which, being severe in itself, holds out a stronger hope of escaping it. Nevertheless it is a fact that they have carried the theory too far, by seeking to obtain excessive mitigations and abbreviations of punishment, without exerting themselves to secure certainty by reforms of procedure and police administration.

The diminution of the rate of acquittal is evident and continuous, both at the Assizes and in the Tribunals, except for the last quadrennial period. This may of course indicate a more careful management of the trials by the judges; but it certainly shows an undoubted tendency towards increased judicial severity, which, meanwhile, has not arrested the growth of crime.


Here also it appears that the growth of crime in England, though less than in France, is not due to the weakening of judicial severity through the greater number of acquittals. The number has, in fact, constantly diminished, especially in summary proceedings, which is just where the greatest increase of crime is manifest.

Passing now to the other factor of judicial repression, that is to the percentage of persons sentenced to graver kinds of punishment, we have to take into account, amongst assize cases in France, the prisoners sentenced to death, penal servitude, and solitary imprisonment, excluding such as are sentenced to correctional punishment (simple imprisonment and fines) as well as young prisoners sent to reformatories; and in regard to the Tribunals, we must take the percentages of those who are condemned to imprisonment, which is the most serious punishment, the remainder being fined, or handed over to their parents, or sent to reformatories.


These figures, if they do not show (as might have been foreseen) so large an increase of severity as in the percentages of acquittals, yet prove that repression has not diminished even in the serious character of the punishments. On the other hand, we can see that, in the assize cases, excluding the first period, before the revision of 1832, whilst capital punishment shows a certain diminution (especially due to the laws of 1832, 1848, &c., which reduced the number of cases involving the death penalty), though continuing at a certain level since 1861, sentences of penal servitude and solitary confinement show a continued increase from the second period, and especially since 1851.

So also at the Tribunals, except for a few oscillations, as in the ninth period, there is a sustained increase of repression.

And the fact that this increased ratio of the more serious punishments actually indicates a greater severity on the part of the judges can only be contested on the ground of a simultaneous increase of the more serious crimes and offences. On the other hand, we note in France a general decrease of crimes against the person (except for assaults on children), and still more of crimes against property.

There is also a striking confirmation in the corresponding acquittals and condemnations of a more serious character. We see, in fact, that the more serious condemnations increase precisely when the acquittals decrease (as in the 4th, 6th, 7th, and 10th periods at the Assizes, and the 2nd, 5th, and 8th periods at the Tribunals); whilst in the years of more frequent acquittals there is also a diminution of more serious punishments, as in the 5th and 8th periods at the Assizes. That is to say, the two sets of statistics actually indicate a greater or less severity on the part of juries and judges.

This firmer repression is demonstrated in spite of the continued increase of attenuating circumstances, which rose at the Assizes from 50 per cent. in 1833 to 73 per cent. in 1806, and at the Tribunals from 54 per cent. in 1851 to 65 per cent. in 1886. Nevertheless it is a fact that the number of cases tried by default at the Assizes has continuously decreased from a yearly average of 647 in 1826-30 to one of 266 in 1882-6.

For Italy we have the following figures:


Thus, once more, there has been no relaxation of repression, except in late years for those condemned by the Pretors to penal servitude for life.

The conclusion, therefore, is still the same, namely that judicial repression, in France and Italy, has grown stronger and stronger, whilst criminality has increased more and more.

In this fact, again, which confutes the common opinion that the sovereign remedy of crime is the greater rigour of punishment, we may fairly find a positive proof that the penal, legislative, and administrative systems hitherto adopted have missed their aim, which can be nothing else than the defence of society against criminals.

Henceforth we must seek, through the study of facts, a better direction for penal legislation as a function of society, so that, by the observation of psychological and sociological laws, it may tend, not to a violent and always tardy reaction against crime already evolved, but to the elimination or diversion of its natural factors.

This fundamental conclusion of criminal statistics is so important that we must confirm it by adding to the statistical data the general laws of biology and sociology. This is the more necessary because my position as first stated has met with some criticism.

In the first place, it is easily seen, when we compare the total result of crime with the varied character of its anthropological, physical, and social factors, that punishment can exert but a slight influence upon it. Punishment, in fact, by its special effect as a legal deterrent, acting as a psychological motive, will clearly be unable to neutralise the constant and hereditary action of climate, customs, increase of population, agricultural production, economic and political crises, which statistics invariably exhibit as the most potent factors of the growth or diminution of criminality.

It is a natural law that forces cannot conflict or neutralise each other unless they are of the same kind. The fall of a body cannot be retarded, changed in direction or accelerated, save by a force homogeneous with that of gravity. So punishment, as a psychological motive, can only oppose the psychological factors of crime, and indeed only the occasional and moderately energetic factors; for it is evident that it cannot, as a preliminary to its application, eliminate the organic hereditary factors which are revealed to us by criminal anthropology.

Punishment, which has professed to be such a simple and powerful remedy against all the factors of crime, is therefore a panacea whose potency is far beneath its reputation.

We must bear in mind a fact which is familiar enough, though it has been too often forgotten by legislators and criminalists. Society is not a homogeneous aggregate, but on the contrary an organism, like every animal organism, composed of tissues of varying structure and sensibility. Every society, in fact, with its progressive and increasingly distinctive needs and occupations, is a product of the union of social classes which differ greatly in their organic and psychical characteristics. The physical constitution, the habits, sentiments, ideas, and tendencies of one social stratum are far from being the same as those of other strata. Here again we have, as Spencer would say, the law of evolution through a departure from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, from the simple to the complex, or, in the words of Ardigo, a natural formation by successive distinctions. Amongst savage tribes this distinction of the social strata does not exist, or it is far less marked than in barbarian societies, and still less than in civilised societies.

Every schoolmaster with a bent for psychological observation separates his pupils into three classes. There is the class of industrious pupils of good disposition, who work of their own accord, without calling for strict discipline; that of the ignorant and idle (degenerate and of weak nervous force) from whom neither mildness nor severity can obtain anything worth having; and that of the pupils who are neither wholly industrious nor wholly idle, and for whom a discipline based on psychological laws may be genuinely useful.

This is the case with large bodies of soldiers or of prisoners, for all associations of men, and for society as a whole. These partial organisms, due to the constant relationships of a life more or less in common, are in this respect reproductions of society as a whole, just as a fragment of crystal reproduces the characteristics of the unbroken crystal.[13]

In the same way, from the standpoint of criminal sociology, we may divide the social strata into three analogous categories–the highest, which commits no crimes, organically upright, restrained only by the authority of the moral sense, of religious sentiments and public opinion, together with the hereditary transmission of moral habits. This class, for which no penal code would be necessary, is unfortunately very small; and it is far smaller if, in addition to legal and apparent criminality, we also take into account that social and latent criminality through which many men, who are upright so far as the penal code is concerned, are not upright by the standard of morality.

Another class, the lowest, is made up of individuals opposed to all sense of uprightness, who, being without education, perpetually dragged back by their material and moral destitution into the primitive forms of the brute struggle for existence, inherit from their parents and transmit to their children an abnormal organisation, adding degeneration and disease, an atavistic return to savage humanity. This is the nursery of the born criminals, for whom punishments, so far as they are legal deterrents, are useless, because they encounter no moral sense which could distinguish punishment by law from the risk which also attends upon every honest industry.

Lastly we have the other class of individuals who are not born to crime, but are not firmly upright, alternating between vice and virtue, with imperfect moral sense, education and training, for whom punishment may be genuinely useful as a psychological motive. It is just this class which yields the large contingent of occasional criminals, for whom punishments are efficacious if they are directed in their execution by the axioms of scientific psychology, and especially if they are aided by the social prevention which reduces the number of opportunities of committing crimes and offences.

Once again I must express my agreement with M. Garofalo, who, in dealing with this subject, insists on the necessity of distinguishing between the different classes of criminals before deciding as to the efficacy of punishments.

Yet this conclusion as to the very limited efficiency of punishments, which is forced upon us by facts, and which, as Bentham said, is confirmed by the application of each punitive act, precisely because its previous application did not succeed in preventing crime, is directly opposed to general public opinion, and even to the opinion of jurists and legislators.

On the inception or the growth of a criminal manifestation, legislators, jurists, and public think only of the remedies, which are as easy as they are illusory, of the penal code, or of some new Act of repression. Even if this were useful, which is very problematical, it has the inevitable disadvantage of making men ignore other remedies, far more profitable, albeit more difficult, of a preventive and social kind. And this tendency is so common that many of those who have dwelt upon or accepted the positive movement of the new school, not long after they had admitted that I was in the right, declared impulsively that “the constant commission of crime arises from the lack of timely repression,” and that “one of the chief causes of the growth of crime in Italy is the mildness of our punishments.” Or else they forgot to ask themselves the elementary question of criminal sociology, whether and how far punishments have a genuinely defensive force. This is just what happens with pedagogues who enter upon long discussions on the various methods and means of education, without asking themselves beforehand whether and how far education has the actual power of modifying the temperament and character which heredity stamps upon every individual.

These conclusions take us far beyond the limit of penal severity, and at the same time they suffice to combat the objection commonly raised against those who think, like ourselves, that repressive justice ought to concern itself not with the punishment of past crime, but with the prevention of future crime. For whilst the advocates of severity, and those whom I will call the “laxativists,” virtually think (apart from a few platonic statements) only of punishments as remedies of offences, we on the other hand believe that punishments are merely secondary instruments of social self-defence, and remedies ought to be adapted to the actual factors of the offence. And since the social factors are most capable of modification, so we say with Prins that “for social evils we require social cures.”

M. Tarde, then, was not quite accurate in his remark that my conviction as to the very slight efficacy of punishments is a mere consequence of my ideas on the anthropological and physical character of crime, and that, “on the contrary, the preponderating importance which he has assigned to the social causes logically debars him from accepting this conclusion.” As a matter of fact, punishment regarded as a psychological motive so far as it is a legal deterrent, and as a physical motive so far as it implies the confinement of the person condemned, would more naturally belong, in abstract logic, to the biological and physical theory of crime. Whereas it is precisely because I recognise the influence of social environment, in addition, that experimental logic convinces me that punishment is not an efficacious remedy of crime, unless forces are applied beforehand to neutralise, or at any rate to counteract, the social factors of crime.

And if this is not a new conclusion, as one of our critics observes by way of reproach–as though it were not one of the characteristics of truth to repeat itself persistently, however much it may be forgotten or even opposed–we must nevertheless remark that it is now repeated with a mass of new observations and definite applications, which give it a force unknown to mere logical deductions.

The classical school has concerned itself simply with mitigation of punishment as compared with mediaeval excess; and for this reason, because every age has its own mission, it could not also concern itself with the prevention of crimes, which is far more useful and efficacious. A few isolated thinkers, it is true, wrote a few bold and far-reaching pages on preventive methods in opposition to the numerous volumes on punishment; but their words had no effect upon criminalists and legislators, because science had not yet undertaken the positive and methodical observation of the natural factors of crime.

I will confine myself to a few examples, in order to show that amongst practical men, as amongst public officials and legislators, the illusion that punishments are the true panacea of crime is always predominant.

Practical men declare that “the prohibitive penal law ought to be regarded as the first and most important of preventive laws.” The prefets in their circulars, being concerned about the increase of crime, put forward the most vigilant and severe repression as a sovereign remedy. A counsellor of the French Cour de Cassation writes that “in a worthy system of social police there is no better guarantee for order and safety than intimidation.” The Keeper of the Seals, in his report on French penal statistics for 1876, speaking of the continued increase of indecent assaults, comes to the conclusion that “in any case, only firm and energetic repression can avail against a lamentable increase of crimes against morality.” And more recently another Keeper of the Seals ended his report on the statistics of 1826 to 1880 by observing that “the growth of crime can only be opposed
by an incessantly vigorous repression.” M. Tarde agreed with this conclusion, saying that “if crimes are only, as has been said, railway accidents of a society travelling at full speed, it must not be forgotten that, the faster the train, the stronger must be the brake . . . and it is certain that such a state of affairs demands an increase or a new departure of repression and punishment.”

It may be admitted that our conclusion is not a novelty; but, as Stuart Mill said, there are two ways of effecting useful innovations, to discover what was not known before, or else to repeat with new demonstrations the truths which had been forgotten.

And this illusion as to the influence of punishments is so widespread that it is well to inquire into its historic and psychological arguments; for, as Spencer says, in order to decide as to the value of an idea, it is useful to examine its genealogy.

We may pass by the foundation of primitive vengeance, which from the age of private combats passed into the spirit and form of the earliest penal laws, and still subsists as a more or less unconscious and enfeebled residuum in modern society. We may also pass by the hereditary effect of the traditions of mediaeval severity, which excite an instinctive sympathy for stern punishment in connection with every crime.

But one of the main reasons of this tendency is an error of psychological perspective, whereby men have forgotten the profound differences of the ideas, habits, and sentiments of the various social strata, concerning which I have spoken above. Through this forgetfulness the honest and instructed classes confound their own idea of the penal law, and the impression it makes upon them, with the idea and the impression of the social classes from which the majority of criminals are recruited. This has been remarked upon by Beccaria, Carmignani, and Holtzendorff amongst the classical criminalists, and by Lombroso and others of the new school who have studied the slang and literature of criminals, which are their psychological mirror. Again, it is forgotten that for the higher classes, apart from their physical and moral repugnance against crime, which is the most powerful repelling force, there is the fear of public opinion, almost unknown amongst the classes which have stopped short at a lower stage of human evolution.

For the higher classes one example may suffice. It is the fact observed upon by Mr. Spencer, that gambling debts and Stock Exchange bargains are scrupulously discharged, though for them there is neither penal obligation nor evidence in writing. And it may be added that imprisonment for debt never promoted the fulfilment of contracts, nor has its abolition discouraged it.

As for the lower classes, one visit to a prison suffices. There, if you ask a prisoner why the punishment did not deter him from the crime, you generally get no answer, because he has never thought about it. Or else he replies, as I have often found, that “if you were afraid of hurting yourself when you went to work, you would give up working.” These indeed are what one would expect to be the feelings prevailing amongst the lower social strata, to whom honest sentiments and ideas, which for us are traditional and organic, come very late–just as Mr. Stanley observed that the people in Central Africa are only now beginning to employ stone guns, which in past ages were used in Europe.

Another fallacy which helps to strengthen confidence in punishments is that the effect of exceptional and summary laws is treated on the same basis as that of the ordinary codes, slow and uncertain in their procedure, which saps all their force by the chance of immunity, and the interval between the unlawful act and its legal consequence.

Lombroso and Tarde, indeed, have confronted me with historic examples of vigorous and even savage repressions, whereby it was possible to stamp out some epidemic crime. But these examples are not conclusive, for I have shown that, as soon as these exceptional repressions were at an end, as, for instance, after the death of Pope Sixtus V., brigandage and other crimes were persistently renewed. But my main rejoinder is this, that these exceptional repressions depend upon the jus belli; and therefore cannot enter into the ordinary and constant methods of penal administration. This may not have the effect of an extraordinary repression, secured by a somewhat unscrupulous promptitude, which strikes innocent and guilty alike; and thus it is impossible to treat as equal, or even to compare, the influence of methods which are essentially different.

Another false comparison is drawn between the effective force of various punishments, and their potentiality is confounded, whereas it is necessary to distinguish the punishment of the written code from that of the judge, and still more from that carried into execution. In fact it is only natural that punishment should more or less terrify the criminal who has been judged and is about to be condemned; but this in no way proves its efficacy, which should have been displayed by the menace of the law in guarding the prisoner against the crime. Even with the death penalty, there are many instances of condemned persons who, through congenital insensibility, submit to it cynically. Moreover, for such as have been overwhelmed with terror when the moment of execution arrived, the utmost that this fact can prove is that they are so constituted as to give themselves up completely to the impression of the moment, without the energy to resist it. In other words, so long as the punishment is distant and uncertain, they were not terrified, but having always yielded to the impression of the moment, they yielded to the criminal impulse.

For other punishments, also, it is known that punitive methods, even when not contrary to the law, as they sometimes are in Italy, are always less stern than simple folk imagine when they read the codes and the sentences. And criminals naturally judge of punishments by their own experience, that is to say, in accordance with their practical application, and not with the more or less candid threats of the lawmaker.

If we add to vindictive feeling, historic traditions, oblivion of bio-psychic differences of the social strata, the confounding of exceptional laws and ordinary punishments, and of the varying effective force of punishment, the attitude of the public mind and the natural tendency of criminalists to think only of their two syllogistic symbols of crime and punishment–if we further add the easy-going idea of the multitude, that the inscribing of a law in the statute-book is a sufficient remedy for social diseases, we can readily understand how this exaggerated and illusory confidence in punishment is so persistent, and crops up in every theoretical or practical discussion, in spite of the strong refutation which is daily afforded by facts and psychological observation.

All human actions, like the actions of animals, are developed between the two opposite poles of pleasure and pain, by the attraction of the former and the repulsion of the latter. And punishment, which is one of the social forms of pain, is always a direct motive in human conduct, as it is also an indirect guide, by virtue of its being a sanction of justice, unconsciously strengthening respect for the law. But still this psychological truth, whilst it demonstrates the natural character of punishment, and the consequent absurdity of abolishing it as absolutely void of efficacy, does not destroy our conclusion as to the slight efficacy of punishment as a counteraction of crime.

We have only to distinguish between punishment as a natural sanction and punishment as a social sanction in order to see how the really great power of natural punishment almost entirely disappears in social punishment, which in all our systems is but a sorry caricature.

The mute but inexorable reaction of nature against every action which infringes her laws, and the grievous consequences which inevitably follow for the man who has infringed them, constitute a repression of the most efficacious kind, wherein every man, especially in the earlier years of his life, receives daily and never to be forgotten lessons. This is the discipline of natural consequence, which is a genuine educational method, long since pointed out by Rousseau, and developed by Spencer and Bain.

But in this natural and spontaneous form, the punishment derives its whole force from the inevitable character of the consequences. And it is one of the few observations of practical psychology which have been made and repeated by the classical students of crime, that in punishment, and especially the punishment of death, the certainty is more effectual than the severity. And I will add that even a small uncertainty takes away from a pain which we fear, much of its repelling force, whereas even a great uncertainty does not destroy the attraction of a pleasure which we are hoping for.

Here, then, we have a primary and potent cause of the slight efficacy of legal punishments, in the picturing of the many chances of escape. First there is the chance of not being detected, which is the most powerful spring of all contemplated crime: then the chance, in case of detection, that the evidence will not be strong enough, that the judges will be merciful, or will be deceived, that judgment may be averted amidst the intricacies of the trial, that clemency may either reverse or mitigate the sentence. These are so many psychological causes which, conflicting with the natural fear of unpleasant consequences, weaken the repellent force of legal punishment, whilst they are unknown to natural punishment.

There is also another psychological condition which, undermining even the force of natural punishment, almost entirely destroys the power of social punishment; and that is improvidence. We see, in fact, that even the most certain natural consequences are defied, and lose most of their power to guard an improvident man from anti-natural and dangerous actions. Now in regard to legal punishment, even apart from passionate impulse, it is known that criminals, occasional and other, are specially improvident, in common with savages and children. This weakness is conspicuous enough in the lower and less instructed classes, but amongst criminals it is a genuine characteristic of psychological infirmity.

Now, whilst a very slight force is sufficient to produce very great and constant effects, when it acts in harmony with natural tendency and environment, every process, on the other hand, which is opposed to the natural tendencies of man, or which does not follow them closely, encounters a resistance which triumphs in the last resort.

Everyday life gives us many examples. The university student, when he gambles, risks on a single card the last remnant of his allowance, and prepares for himself a thousand privations. Miners and workmen at dangerous trades refuse to take warning by the sight of comrades whom they have seen dying or repeatedly attacked by disease. M. Despine related that, during the cholera of 1866, at Bilbao, there were some who set up an imitation of the disease in order to obtain charitable relief, though in several cases death ensued. M. Fayet, in an essay on the statistics of accused persons in France, extending over twenty years, remarked that specific and proportionately greater criminality was displayed by notaries and bailiffs, who knew better than any one else the
punishments fixed by law. And in the statistics of capital punishment at Ferrara, during nine centuries, I discovered the significant fact that there is a succession of notaries executed for forgery, frequently at very short intervals, in the same town. This attests the truth of the observation made by Montesquieu and Beccaria, as against the deterrent power of the death penalty, for men grow accustomed to the sight; and this again is confirmed by the fact mentioned by Mr. Roberts, a gaol chaplain, and M. Berenger, a magistrate, that several condemned men had previously been present at executions, and by another fact mentioned by Despine and Angelucci, that in the same town, and often in the same place, in which executions had been carried out, murders are often committed on the same day.

A man does not change his identity; and no penal code, whether mild or severe, can change his natural and invincible tendencies, such as inclination to pleasure and persistent hope of impunity.

Let us also observe that, as Mill said, the permanent efficacy of any measure in the spheres of politics, economy, and administration, is always inversely proportional to its force and suddenness. Now punishment does not stand the test even of this sociological law, for in its essence it is only the primitive reaction of force against force. It is true that, as Beccaria said, the classical school has always aimed at rendering social reaction against crime less violent; but that is not enough. Henceforward, if we are to adapt ourselves to psychological and sociological laws, the development of our defensive administration must tend to render this social reaction less direct. If the struggle for existence is always to remain the supreme law of living creatures, yet it is not necessary that it should always be developed in the violent forms of primitive humanity. On the contrary, one of the results of social progress is to make the struggle for existence less violent and less direct.

In the same way, the continuous struggle between society and criminals, instead of being a physical and social force, directly opposed to a physical individual force, should rather become an indirect system of psychical forces. Penal law in society has the same qualities as education in the family and pedagogy in schools. All the three were once dominated by the idea of taming human passions by force; the rod was supreme. In course of time it was perceived that this produced unexpected results, such as violence and hypocrisy, and then men thought fit to modify their punishments. But in our own days schoolmasters see the advantage of relying solely on the free play of tendencies and bio- psychological laws. Similarly the defensive function of society, as Romagnosi said, in place of being a physical and repressive system, ought to be a moral and preventive system, based on the natural laws of biology, psychology, and sociology.

Force is always a bad remedy for force. In the Middle Ages, when punishments were brutal, crimes were equally savage; and society, in demoralising rivalry with the atrocity of criminals, laboured in a vicious circle. Now, in the lower social grades, the brutal man, who often resorts to violence, is in his turn frequently the victim of violence; so that, amongst criminals, a scar is somewhat of a professional distinction.

To sum up, our doctrine as to the efficacy of punishments does not consist, as some critics too sparing of their arguments have maintained, in an absolute negation, but rather and especially in objecting to the traditional prejudice that punishments are the best and most effectual remedies of crime.

What we say is this. Punishment by itself, as a means of repression, possesses a negative rather than a positive value; not only because it has not the same influence on all anthropological types of criminals, but also because its use is rather to preclude the serious mischief which would result from impunity than to convert, as some imagine that it can, an anti-social into a social being. But impunity would lead to a demoralisation of the popular conscience in regard to crimes and offences, to an increase of the profound lack of foresight in criminals, and to the removal of the present impediment to fresh crimes during the term of incarceration.

It is the same with education, the modifying power of which is commonly exaggerated. Education, though it has an enduring influence on children, and is therefore more effectual than punishment, is far more serviceable in eliminating anti-social tendencies, whereof we all possess the germs, than in any supposed creation of social tendencies and forces which were not present from birth.

Thus, whilst the consequences of impunity and lack of education are serious and mischievous, still this does not prove conversely that punishment and education have in reality so positive an influence as is commonly attributed to them.

It is precisely on the ground of this negative, yet real efficacy of punishments, especially whilst they are being carried out, that, whilst we appreciate the mitigation of punitive discipline which has been achieved by the classical school, we believe, on the other hand, that their abbreviation of the term of punishments is altogether mistaken and dangerous. We admit that punishment ought not to be an arbitrary and inhuman torture, and for this reason we have no sympathy with the system of solitary confinement, now so much in fashion with the classical jurists and prison authorities, precisely because it is inhuman, as well as
unwise and needlessly expensive.

It is a psychological absurdity and a social danger, which nevertheless underlies the new Italian penal code, that punishment ought to consist more and more in a short isolation of the prisoner. For, setting aside the well-known results of short punishments, such as corruption and recidivism, it is evident that in this way punishment is deprived of its main element of negative efficiency against crime, as well as of its effect in preventing crime during the incarceration of the criminal.


Since punishments, instead of being the simple panacea of crime which popular opinion, encouraged by the opinions of classical writers on crime and of legislators, imagine them, are very limited in their deterrent influence, it is natural that the criminal sociologist should look for other means of social defence in the actual study of crimes and of their natural origin.

We are taught by the everyday experience of the family, the school, associations of men and women, and the history of social life, that in order to lessen the danger of outbreaks of passion it is more useful to take them in their origin, and in flank, than to meet them when they have gathered force.

Bentham relates that in England the delays caused by hard-drinking couriers, who used to be heavily fined without any good result, were obviated by combining passenger traffic with the postal service. Employers of labour secure industry and the most productive work far more easily by offering a share of the realised profits than by a system of fines. In the German universities, academic jealousies and intolerance have been in great measure overcome by paying the professors in proportion to the number of their pupils, so that the Faculties find it to their interest to engage and encourage the best professors, in order to attract as many students as possible. Thus the activity and zeal of professors, magistrates, and officials would be stimulated if their remuneration depended not only on the automatic test of seniority, but also on the progress displayed by publications, sentences not reversed, settlements not cancelled, and the like. It is better to regulate the disturbing restlessness of children by timely diversions rather than by attempting to repress them in a manner injurious to their physical and moral health. So in lunatic asylums and prisons, work is a better means of order and discipline than chains and castigation. In brief, we obtain more from men by consulting their self-respect and interests than by threats and restraint

If the counteraction of punishment must inevitably be opposed to criminal activity, still it is more conducive to social order to prevent or diminish this activity by means of an indirect and more effective force.

In the economic sphere, it has been observed that when a staple product fails, recourse is had to less esteemed substitutes, in order to supply the natural wants of mankind. So in the criminal sphere, as we are convinced by experience that punishments are almost devoid of deterrent effect, we must have recourse to the best available substitutes for the purpose of social defence.

These methods of indirect defence I have called penal substitutes. But whereas the food substitutes are as a rule only secondary products, brought into temporary use, penal substitutes should become the main instruments of the function of social defence, for which punishments will come to be secondary means, albeit permanent. For in this connection we must not forget the law of criminal saturation, which in every social environment makes a minimum of crime inevitable, on account of the natural factors inseparable from individual and social imperfection. Punishments in one form or another will always be, for this minimum, the ultimate though not very profitable remedy against outbreaks of criminal activity.

These penal substitutes, when they have once been established in the conscience and methods of legislators, through the teaching of criminal sociology, will be the recognised form of treatment for the social factors of crime. And they will also be more possible and practical than that universal social metamorphosis, direct and uncompromising, insisted on by generous but impatient reformers, who scorn these substitutes as palliatives because humanitarian enthusiasm causes them to forget that social organisms, like animal organisms, can be only partially and gradually transformed.

The idea of these penal substitutes amounts, in short, to this. The legislator, observing the origins, conditions, and effects of individual and collective activity, comes to recognise their psychological and sociological laws, whereby he will be able to obtain a mastery over many of the factors of crime, and especially over the social factors, and thus secure an indirect but more certain influence over the development of crime. That is to say, in all legislative, political, economic, administrative, and penal arrangements, from the greatest institutions to the smallest details, the social organism will be so adjusted that human activity, instead of being continually and unprofitably menaced with repression, will be insensibly directed into non-criminal channels, leaving free scope for energy and the satisfaction of individual needs, under conditions least exposed to violent disturbance or occasions of law-breaking.

It is just this fundamental idea of penal substitutes which shows how necessary it is that the sociologist and legislator should have such a preparation in biology and psychology as Mr. Spencer justly insisted on in his “Introduction to Social Science.” And it is the fundamental idea rather than the substitutes themselves that we should bear in mind if we would realise their theoretical and practical value as part of a system of criminal sociology.

As for the efficacy of any particular penal substitute, I readily admit, in some sense at least, the partial criticisms which have been passed upon them. Apart from such as simply say that they do not believe in the use of alternatives to punishment, and such as confine themselves to the futile question whether this theory belongs to criminal science or to police administration, a majority of criminal sociologists have now definitely accepted the doctrine of penal substitutes. This theory is accepted, not as an absolute panacea of crime, but, as I have always stated it, in the sense of a combination of measures analogous to penal repression; in place of trusting solely to repression for the defence of society against crime.

Let us take note of a few examples.


In the Economic Sphere.–Free Trade (apart from the temporary necessity of protecting a particular manufacturing or agricultural industry), by preventing famines and exceptional high prices of and taxes on food, eliminates many crimes and offences, especially against property.–Unrestricted emigration is a safety- valve, especially for a country in which this phenomenon, assuming large proportions, carries off many persons who are easily driven to crime by wretchedness, or by their unbalanced energy. Thus the number of recidivists has diminished in Ireland, not by virtue of her prison systems, but by emigration, which reached forty-six per cent. of released prisoners. In Italy, also, there has been a decrease of crime since 1880, owing to other causes, such as mild winters and plentiful harvests, but also through a vast increase of emigration.–Smuggling, which for centuries resisted extremely harsh punishments, such as amputation of the hand, and even death, and which still resists prison and the fire-arms of the revenue officers, is suppressed by the lowering of the import tariff, as M. Villerme has shown in the case of France. So that everyday facts justify the system of Adam Smith, who said that the law which punished smuggling, after creating the temptation, and which increased the punishment when it increased the temptation, was opposed to all justice; whilst Bentham, on the contrary, departing from his maxim that the punishment ought to be dreaded more strongly than the offence attracted, called for the stern repression of smuggling.–The system of taxation which touches wealth and visible resources instead of the prime necessaries of life, and which is proportional to the taxpayer’s income, diminishes the systematic frauds which no punishment availed to stop, and it will also abolish the arbitrary and exaggerated fiscal traditions which have been the cause of rebellions and outrages. In fact, Fregier describes the criminal industries which are called into existence by octrois, and which will disappear with the abolition of these absurd and unjust duties. And whilst M. Allard demonstrated that a decrease of taxes on necessaries would have beneficial effects, not only in economic affairs but also in respect of commercial frauds, the Report on French Criminal Statistics for 1872 calmly continued to call for more severe repression of such frauds. To this M. Mercier replied that if the cause–that is to say, disproportionate taxes–were not removed, it would be impossible to prevent the effects.–Immunity from taxation for the minimum necessary to existence, by preventing distraint, and the consequent diminution of small properties, which means the increase of the very poor, will obviate many crimes, as we see from the agrarian conditions in Ireland. Thus there is a demand in Italy for the inalienability of small properties, as in America under the Homestead Exemption Law.–Public works, during famine and hard winters, check the increase of crimes against property, the person, and public order. For instance, during the scarcity of 1853-5 in France, there was no such enormous increase of theft as during the famine of 1847, simply because the Government set up vast relief works in the winter months.

The taxes and other indirect restrictions on the production and sale of alcohol are far more efficacious than our more or less enormous gaols. The question of pronounced and chronic drunkenness has increased in gravity, owing to its effect upon the physical and moral health of the people.

In France the average consumption of wine, estimated at 62 litres (13.64 gallons) per head in 1829, exceeded 100 litres in 1869; and in Paris the average of 120 litres in 1819-30, reached 227 litres in 1881. The average yearly consumption of alcohol in France rose from .93 in 1829 to 3.24 in 1872, and 3.9 in 1885, the rates in a few towns being still higher. The total manufacture of alcohol in France (95 per cent. of which is consumed in the form of drink) rose from 479,680 hectolitres in 1843 to 1,309,565 in 1879, and 2,004,000 in 1887. Simultaneously, we have seen that there was an increase of crimes and offences in France, suicides in particular having increased from 1,542 in 1829 to 8,202 in 1887.

Moreover I have shown by a special table (Archivio di Psichiatria) that in France, despite a certain inevitable variation from year to year, there is a manifest correspondence of increase and decrease between the number of homicides, assaults, and malicious wounding, and the more or less abundant vintage, especially in the years of extraordinary variations, whether of failure of the vintage (1853-5, 1859, 1867, 1873, 1878-80), attended by a remarkable diminution of crime (assaults and wounding), or of abundant vintages (1850, 1856-8, 1862-3, 1865, 1868, 1874-5) attended by an increase of crime.

I was also the first to show that in the vintage months there is an increase of occasional crimes and offences against the person, owing to that connection between drink and crime which had already been remarked upon by M. Pierquin amongst others, and illustrated by the newspaper reporters on the days which follow Sundays and holidays.

But apart from their natural variation, the connection between drink and crime is definitely established. Every day we have the confirmation of Morel’s statement, that “alcoholism has produced a demoralised and brutalised class of wretched beings, characterised by an early depravation of instincts, and by indulgence in the most immoral and dangerous actions.” It is useless to quote again in this place the data of psycho- pathology and legal medicine, or those of prison statistics relating to imprisoned drunkards, or to tavern brawls as the proved causes of crime.

Nevertheless it is a fact that the relation of cause and effect between drink and crime has recently been denied, with the aid of arguments based upon statistics. M. Tammeo opened the discussion by observing that the countries of Europe and the provinces of Italy distinguished by the largest consumption of alcohol, show lower ratios under the worst crimes of violence. He gave to his remark a relative and limited value, for he only denied that the abuse of liquor was the most active cause of crime. After him M. Fournier de Flaix, maintaining the same proposition with the same statistical arguments, and admitting that “alcohol is a special scourge for the individual who indulges in it,” yet concluded that “alcoholism is not a scourge which menaces the European race.” And he repeated that the nations which consumed the greatest quantity of alcohol show a slighter frequency of crime, especially against the person. Lastly M. Colajanni enlarged upon the same proposition, using the statistical data so fully set out by M. Kummer, and drew a still more positive conclusion, that “there is a lack of constancy, regularity, and universality in the relations, coincidence, and sequence, as between alcoholism and crime and suicide; so that it is impossible to establish any statistical relation of cause and effect between these phenomena.”

Passing over the grave errors of fact in M. Colajanni’s brochure, I will only observe that this proposition is a pure misapprehension of statistical logic.

If we once admit (and unfortunately it cannot be denied) the bad influence of alcohol on bodily and mental health, in the form of spirits as well as of wine–as to which it is not correct to say that the southern departments are not consumers of alcohol–it cannot be maintained that alcohol, which is physically and morally injurious to individuals, is not hurtful to nations, which are but aggregates of individuals.

There is an easy answer to the statistical arguments. (1) A symmetrical and continuous agreement of figures is never found in any collection of statistics, for in all that concerns a society the intervention of individual, physical, and social causes is inevitable. (2) A negative conclusion from these partial and natural disagreements (for it is especially true in biology and sociology that every rule has its exceptions, due to intervening causes) would only be justified if it had been maintained that alcoholism is the sole and exclusive cause of crime. But as this has never been asserted by anybody, all the statistical arguments of Fournier and Colajanni are based on a misapprehension. And unfortunately they do not destroy the link of causality between drink and crime. This connection is occasional, in assaults, wounding, and homicide in acute alcoholism. It is habitual, in the case of chronic alcoholism, as in crimes against property, the person, morality, and public officers. And this in spite of the relatively low figures, though lower than the facts warrant, contained in the general statements, apart from special and scientific inquiries into alcoholism as a direct and manifest cause of crime and suicide.

I wrote as early as 1881 that alcoholism, prior to its becoming a cause, is the effect of wretched social conditions in the poorer classes; and that to the one-sided simplicity of economic causes it is necessary to add certain bio-psychical conditions and conditions of physical environment, which go far to determine the geographical distribution of spirit-alcoholism (chronic and more serious, in northern countries and provinces) and wine-alcoholism (acute and less deep-seated, in the countries and provinces of the south).

It was therefore natural that indirect measures against alcoholism should have been resorted to long ago, such as the raising of the tax on alcoholic drinks, and the lowering of that on wholesome beverages, such as coffee, tea, and beer; strict limitation of the number of licenses; increased responsibility of license-holders before the law, as in America; the expulsion of tipsy members from workmen’s societies; the provision of cheap and wholesome amusements; the testing of wines and spirits for adulteration; better organised and combined temperance societies; the circulation of tracts on the injurious effects of alcohol; the abolition of certain festivals which tended rather to demoralisation than to health; discouragement of the custom of paying wages on Saturday; the establishment of voluntary temperance homes, as in America, England, and Switzerland.

North America, England, Sweden and Norway, France, Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland have applied remedies against drunkenness (to the length of a State monopoly of drink in Switzerland); but with too much zeal for public revenue, and, under the pretext of public health, almost exclusively framed with a view to duties on manufacture, distribution, and consumption. Yet these duties are quite inadequate by themselves, and may even tend to the injury of the physical and moral health of the nation, the increase of price, leading to frauds and adulteration.

Penal laws against drunkenness, naturally resorted to in all countries, are far from being effectual. There is so far no system of direct and indirect measures against alcoholism, duly co-ordinated, beyond taxation and punishment. And we perceive, as for instance in France, in spite of the repressive law introduced by my distinguished friend Senator Roussel (January, 1873), and in spite of the extremely high duties, which were doubled in 1872 and 1880, that alcoholism persists with a terrible and fatal increase. So it is, more or less, in every country still, in spite of duties and punishments.

The irregularity of wages, and the deceitful vigour imparted by the first recourse to alcohol, the poverty and excessive toil of the working classes, insufficiency of food, inherited habits, and the lack of efficacious preventive measures, are influences which prevent the working man from resisting this scourge; and no fiscal or repressive law, acting solely by direct compulsion, will ever be able to paralyse these natural tendencies, which can only be weakened by indirect measures. On the other hand, when we remember that habitual intoxication, so common in mediaeval days amongst the nobles and townsfolk, has grown less and less frequent in those classes (aided by the introduction and rapid diffusion of coffee since the time of Louis XIV.), it is possible to hope that the improvement of economic, intellectual, and moral conditions amongst the populace will gradually succeed in modifying this terrible plague of drink, which cannot be cured all at once.

To continue our illustrations of penal substitutes, we see that the substitution of metallic money for a paper medium decreases the number of forgers, who on the contrary had defied penal servitude for life. False money is more easily detected than a spurious note.[14]–Money dealers and dealers in precious stones have done more than any punishment to check the crime of usury, as was shown in the case of Spain, after her American conquests; whereas mediaeval punishments never prevented the recrudescence of usury in one form or another. Popular and Agricultural Credit Banks, which are practically within the reach of all, are more efficacious against usury in our own days than the special repressive laws enacted once more in Germany and Austria, under the influence of the old illusion.–With the diminution of interest on the public funds the stream of capital has been diverted into commerce, manufactures, and agriculture, thus warding off stagnation, with the bankruptcies, forgeries, frauds, &c., which result therefrom.–The adjustment of salaries to the needs of public officials, and to general economic conditions, stems the tide of corruption and embezzlement, which were partly due to their concealed poverty.–Limited hours of duty for the responsible services on which the safety of the public depends, as for instance in railway stations, are far more serviceable in preventing accidents than the useless punishment of those who are guilty of manslaughter.–High-roads, railways, and tramways disperse predatory bands in rural districts, just as wide streets and large and airy dwellings, with public lighting and the destruction of slums, prevent robbery with violence, concealment of stolen goods, and indecent assaults.–Inspection of workshops and shorter hours for children’s labour, with their superintendence of married women, may be a check on indecent assaults, which penal servitude does not prevent.–Cheap workmen’s dwellings, and general sanitary measures for houses both in urban and rural districts, care being taken not to crowd them with poor families, tend to physical health, as well as to prevent many forms of immorality.–Co-operative and mutual societies, provident societies and insurance against old age, funds for sick and infirm workmen, employers’ liability for accidents during work, from machinery or otherwise; popular savings’ banks, charity organisation societies and the like, obviate a large number of offences against property and the person much better than a penal code.–I have maintained in the Italian Parliament that the reform of religious charities, which in Italy represent funds to the amount of two milliards, might lead to the prevention of crime.–Measures for the discouragement of mendacity and vagrancy, above all agricultural colonies, as in Holland, Belgium, Germany, and Austria, would be the best penal substitute for the very frequent offences committed by vagabonds. Thus it may be concluded that a prudent social legislation, not stopping short at mere superficial and perfunctory reforms, might constitute a genuine code of penal substitutes, which could be set against the mass of criminal impulses engendered by the wretched conditions of the most numerous classes of society.


In the Political Sphere.–For the prevention of political crime, such as assassination, rebellion, conspiracies, civil war, arbitrary repression and prevention by the police are powerless; there is no other means than harmony between the Government and the national aspirations. Italy has been a conspicuous example of this, for under the rule of the foreigner, neither the scaffold nor the galleys could hinder political outrages, which have disappeared with national independence. So with Ireland and Russia. Germany, which believed that it could stamp out socialism by exceptional penal laws, discovered its mistake.–For so-called press offences (which are either ordinary offences committed by the aid of the press, or are not offences at all), nothing but freedom of opinion can render attacks and provocations of a political type less frequent.–Respect for the law spreads through a nation by the example on the part of the governing classes and authorities of constant respect for the rights of individuals and associations, far better than by policemen and prisons.–Electoral reform adapted to the condition of a country is the only remedy against electoral offences.–Similarly, in addition to the economic reforms already indicated, political and parliamentary reforms are much more serviceable than the penal code in preventing many offences of a social and political type, provided that a more real harmony has been established between a country and its lawful representation, and that the latter is freed from the occasions and the forms which lead to its abuse, by removing technical questions from injurious political influences, and giving the people a more direct authority over public affairs, including the referendum.–Finally, that great mass of crimes, isolated or epidemic, evolved by unsatisfied needs and the neglect of separate divisions of a country, which differ in climate, race, traditions, language, customs, and interests, would be largely eliminated if we were to dispense with the vague folly of political symmetry and bureaucratic centralisation, and in their place to adapt the laws to the special features of the respective localities. National unity in no way depends upon legislative and administrative uniformity, which is merely its unhealthy exaggeration. It is indeed inevitable that laws, which in our day merely represent a mode of contact between the most varied moral, social and economic conditions of different localities, should always be inadequate to social needs–too restricted and slow in action for one part of the country, too sweeping and premature for another part, just as the average convict’s garb is too long for those who are short, and too short for those who are tall. Administrative federation with political unity (e pluribus unum) would furnish us with an aggregate of penal substitutes, restoring to each part of the social organism that freedom of movement and development which is a universal law of biology and sociology–for an organism is but a federation too lightly appreciated by the advocates of an artificial uniformity, such as ends by conflicting with unity itself.


In the Scientific Sphere.–The development of science, which creates fresh instruments of crime, such as fire-arms, the press, photography, lithography, new poisons, dynamite, electricity, hypnotism, and so forth, sooner or later provides the antidote also, which is more efficacious than penal repression.– The press, anthropometric photography of prisoners, telegraphy, railways, are powerful auxiliaries against crime.–Dissection and the progress of toxicology have decreased the number of poisoning cases; and experience has already proved that “Marsh’s preparation” has rendered poisoning by arsenic, once so common, comparatively rare.–A similar process has recently been suggested as a means of detection in cases of forgery, for when documents are exposed to iodine vapour, effaced or altered writing is restored.–Women doctors will diminish the opportunities of immorality.–The free expression of opinion will do more to prevent its possible dangers than trials of a more or less scandalous kind.–Piracy, which was not extirpated by punishments which are now obsolete, is disappearing under the effects of steam navigation.–The spread of Malthusian ideas prevents abortion and infanticides.[15]–Systematic bookkeeping, by its clearness and simplicity, obviates many frauds and embezzlements, which were encouraged by the old complicated methods.–Cheques, by avoiding the necessity of frequent conveyance of money, do more to prevent theft than punishments can do.–The credentials given by some banks to their clerks, whose duty it is to witness the signature of the actual debtor, prevent the falsification of bills.–Certain bankers have adopted the practice of taking an instantaneous photograph of every one presenting cheques for large amounts.–Safes, bolts, and alarm- bells, are a great security against thieves. –As a preventive of murder in railway carriages, it has been found that alarm signals and methods of securing the carriage-doors from the inside, are more effectual than penal codes.


In the Legislative and Administrative Sphere.–Wise testamentary legislation prevents murders through the impatient greed of next-of-kin, as in France during a former age, with what was known as “succession powder.”–A law to facilitate the securing of paternal assent for the marriage of children (as suggested by Herschel in his “Theory of Probabilities”) in countries which require the assent of both parents, and for affiliation and breach of promise of marriage, with provision for children born out of wedlock, are excellent as against concubinage, infanticide, abortion, exposure of infants, indecent assaults, and murders by women abandoned after seduction. On this head Bentham said that concubinage regulated by civil laws would be less mischievous than that which the law does not recognise but cannot prevent.–Cheap and easy law is a preventive of crimes and offences against public order, the person and property, as I have already said.–The ancient Italian institution of Advocate of the Poor, if substituted for the present illusory assistance by the courts, would prevent many acts of revenge. So also would a strict and speedy indemnity for the victims of other men’s crimes, intrusted to a public minister when the injured person is not able to resort to the law; for as I have maintained, with the approval of sundry criminal sociologists, civil responsibility for crime ought to be as much a social obligation as penal responsibility, and not a mere private concern.–Simplification of the law would prevent a large number of frauds, contraventions, &c., for, apart from the metaphysical and ironical assertion that ignorance of the law excuses no man, it is certain that our forest of codes, laws, decrees, regulations and so forth, leads to endless misapprehensions and mistakes, and therefore to contraventions and offences.–Commercial laws on the civil responsibility of directors, on bankruptcy proceedings and the registration of shareholders, on bankrupts’ discharges, on industrial and other exchanges, would do more than penal servitude to prevent fraudulent bankruptcy.–Courts of honour, recognised and regulated by law, would obviate duels without having recourse to more or less serious punishments.–A well organised system of conveyancing checks forgery and fraud, just as registration offices have almost abolished the palming and repudiation of children, which were so common in mediaeval times. Deputy Michelin, in order to discourage bigamy, proposed in 1886 to institute in the registers of births for every commune a special column for the civil standing of each individual, so that any one who contemplated marriage would have to produce a certificate from this register, and thus would be unable to conceal a previous marriage which had not been dissolved by death or divorce.–The form of indictment by word of mouth in penal procedure has prevented many calumnies and false charges.–Foundling and orphan homes, or, still better, some less old-fashioned substitute, such as lying-in hospitals and home attendance for young mothers, might do much to prevent infanticide and abortion, which are not checked by the severest punishment.–Prisoners’ aid societies, especially for the young, might be useful as penal substitutes, although much less so than is generally alleged, with plenty of eloquence and little practical work. There is always this strong objection to them, that we ought to succour workmen who continue honest in spite of their wretchedness before those who have been in prison; and again, in place of bestowing patronage on released prisoners without distinction, many of whom are incorrigible, we ought to select the occasional criminals and criminals of passion, who alone are capable of amendment; and assisting them we should avoid anything like police formalities. As a matter of fact it appears that, even in England, where these societies are most active, their intervention, like all direct charity, is too far below the needs of those for whom provision is necessary.


In the Sphere of Education.–It has been proved that mere book education, whilst it is useful in rendering certain gross frauds more difficult, in extending a knowledge of the laws, and above all in diminishing improvidence, so characteristic of the occasional criminal, is far from being the panacea of crime which people imagined when they found in the criminal statistics a large proportion of illiterate prisoners. It must also be said that schools which are not closely inspected are frequently hotbeds of immorality. It is necessary, therefore, to rely on the influence of a wider education, limited though this may be in its turn. I do not mean a mechanical instruction in moral maxims, appealing to the intelligence without reaching the feelings, but rather of the examples afforded by every kind of social institution, by the government and the press, by the school of the stage and of public entertainments.–It would be well, however, to abolish certain vulgar and sensual entertainments, and to substitute for them wholesome amusements and exercises, public baths, properly superintended, and so built as to render private meetings impossible, cheap theatres, and so forth. Thus the prohibition of cruel spectacles, and the suppression of gambling houses, are excellent penal substitutes.–The experimental method in the teaching of children, which applies the laws of physio- psychology, according to the physical and moral type of each pupil, and by giving him less of archaeology, and more knowledge serviceable in actual life, by the mental discipline of the natural sciences, which alone can develop in him a sense of the actual, such as our classical schools only enfeeble, would adapt men better for the struggle of existence, whilst diminishing the
number of those left without occupation, who are the candidates of crime.–Many of the causes of crime would be nipped in the bud by checking degeneration through physical education of the young, as well as by preventing demoralisation by means of the education of abandoned children, at such institutions as the workhouse, ragged and industrial schools, so well developed in England–or, still better, by the boarding out of children, so as to avoid over- crowding.–One class of inducements to crime would be eliminated by restrictions imposed on scandalous publications which concern themselves exclusively with crime, having no other object than to trade upon the most brutal passions, and which are allowed to exist under an abstract conception of liberty, save that the responsible conductors are punished when the evil has been done.–Similarly there ought to be some restriction upon the right of admission to police-courts and assizes, where our women hustle each other as the Roman women of the decline scrambled to be present at the imperial circus-shows, and where our young men and our hardened criminals receive lessons in the art of committing crimes with greater smartness and precaution.

The instances which I have given, and which might be multiplied into a preventive code as long as the penal code, prove to demonstration how large a part is played by social factors in the genesis of crime, and especially of occasional crime. But they prove still more clearly that the legislator, by modifying these causes, can influence the development of crime within limits imposed by the competition of other anthropological and physical factors. Quetelet was right, therefore, when he said in this connection, “Since the crimes committed every year seem to be the necessity of our social organisation, and their number cannot be diminished if the causes to which they are due cannot be modified in a preventive sense, it behoves legislators to recognise these causes, and to eliminate them as far as possible. They must frame the budget of crime as they frame that of the national revenue and expenditure.”

It must nevertheless be borne in mind that all this will have to be done apart from the penal code; for it is true, however strange, that history, statistics, and direct observation of criminal phenomena prove that penal laws are the least effectual in preventing crime, whilst the strongest influence is exercised by laws of the economic, political, and administrative order.

In conclusion, the legislator should be convinced by the teaching of scientific observation that social reforms are much more serviceable than the penal code in preventing an inundation of crime. The legislator, on whom it devolves to preserve the health of the social organism, ought to imitate the physician, who preserves the health of the individual by the aid of experimental science, resorts as little as possible, and only in extreme cases, to the more forcible methods of surgery, has a limited confidence in the problematic efficiency of medicines, and relies rather on the trustworthy processes of hygienic science. Only then will he be able to avoid the dangerous fallacy, ever popular and full of life, which Signor Vacca, Keeper of the Seals, expressed in these words: “The less we have recourse to preventive measures, the more severe ought our repression to be.” Which is like saying that when a convalescent has no soup to pick up his strength, we ought to administer a drastic drug.

It is precisely on this point that the practical, rather than the merely theoretical, differences between the positive and the classical schools of penal law become evident. Whilst we believe that social reforms and other measures suggested by a study of the natural factors of crime are most effective in preventing crime, legislators, employing the a priori method of the classical school, have for many years past been discussing proposed penal codes, whilst they permit criminality to make steady progress. It is another case of Dum Romae consulitur, Saguntum expugnatur.

And when the legislators find their Byzantine discussions on the “juridical entities” of crime and punishment broken in upon by a recrudescence of crime, or by a serious manifestation of some phenomenon of social pathology, then all they can do in their perplexity and astonishment is to pass some new repressive law, which for a moment stills the outcry of public opinion, and remits the matter once more from the acute to the chronic phase.

The positive theory of penal substitutes, apart from any particular example, aims precisely at furnishing a mental discipline for legislators, and bringing home to them the duty of constant reinforcements of social prevention, no matter how difficult it may be, before the evil comes to a head, and forces them too late to a course of repression which is as easy as it is fallacious. No doubt it is vexatious and difficult, even in private life, to be perpetually living up to rules of health; and it is easier, if more dangerous, to forget them, and to fly, when the mischief declares itself, to drugs which are too frequently deceptive; but it is just the want of forethought, both public and private, which it is so important to overcome. And as hygienic science was not possible as a theory or as a practice until after the experimental observations and physio-pathology on the causes of disease, especially of epidemic and infectious diseases, together with the discoveries of M. Pasteur, who created bacteriology; so social hygiene as against crime was only possible as a theory, and will not be so as a practice, till the diffusion of the facts of biology and criminal sociology relating to the natural causes of crime, especially of occasional crime.

The great thing is to be convinced that, for social defence against crime, as for the moral elevation of the masses of men, the least measure of progress with reforms which prevent crime is a hundred times more useful and profitable than the publication of an entire penal code.

When a minister introduces a law, for instance, on railways, customs duties, wages, taxation, companies, civil or commercial institutions, there are few who think of the effect which these laws will have on the criminality of the nation, for it is imagined that sufficient has been done in this respect by means of reforms in the penal code. In the social organism, on the other hand, as in individuals, there is an inevitable solidarity, though frequently concealed, between the most distant and different parts.

It is just from these laws of social physiology and pathology that we derive the notion of penal substitutes, which at the same time we must not dissociate from the law of criminal saturation. For if it is true that by modifying the social factors we can produce an effect on the development of crime, and especially of occasional crime, it is also true, unfortunately, that in every social environment there is always a minimum of inevitable criminality, due to the influence of the other factors, biological and physical. Otherwise we might easily fall into the opposite and equally fallacious illusion of thinking that we could absolutely suppress all crimes and offences. For it is easy to reach on one side the empiric idea of penal terrorism, and on the other side the hasty and one-sided conclusion that to abolish some particular institution would get rid of its abuses. The fact is that we must consider before all things whether it is not a less evil to put up with institutions, however inconvenient, and to reform them, than to forfeit all the advantages which they afford. And it must above all be borne in mind that as society cannot exist without law, so law cannot exist without offences against the law. The struggle for existence may be fought by honest or economic activity, or by dishonest and criminal activity. The whole problem is to reduce to a minimum the more or less criminal rufflings and shocks, yet without disturbing “social order,” amidst the indifference or servility of a spiritless people, or resorting to policemen and prisons on every slight occasion.

These general observations on penal substitutes in connection with the law of criminal saturation are a sufficient answer to the two chief objections raised even by such as agree with me in theory.

It has been urged, in effect, that some of the penal substitutes which I have enumerated have already been applied, without preventing crime; and again, that there were some institutions which it would be absurd to abolish because the removal of a prohibition would also remove the contravention.

The aim of penal substitutes is not to render all crimes and offences impossible, but only to reduce them to the least possible number in any particular physical and social environment. There are crimes of piracy to this day, but the use of steam in navigation has, none the less, been more effectual than all the penal codes. Murders still occur, though very rarely, on the railways; but it is none the less true that the substitution of the railways and tramways for the old diligences and stage coaches has decimated highway robberies, with or without murder. Divorce does not eliminate wife-murder as a consequence of adultery, but it diminishes its frequency. Similarly, after the protection which is afforded to abandoned children, we shall not be able to close the tribunals through the absence of crimes and offences, but it is certain that the supply of these will be notably diminished.

As for the second objection, I was careful to say, in regard to existing institutions, that we must naturally consider whether the evil arising from violating them or that which would be due to their suppression is the greater. But my main contention is that by reforming these institutions we can do more to prevent crime than by leaving them as they happen to be, or at most granting them the fallacious protection of one or two articles in the penal code.

I will myself add a criticism of the theory of penal substitutes, and it is that they are difficult of application. We have only to think of the immense force of inertia in the habits, traditions and interests which have to be overcome before we can secure the application, not of all, but of any one of the penal substitutes which I have enumerated. And some of these are not simple, or based on a single principle, but comprise an assemblage of co-ordinated reforms, like the prevention of drunkenness, the protection of abandoned children, the accessibility of justice, and so forth.

But if legislators must take into account the actual conditions of the people, and adapt themselves to conditions of time and place, it is the business of science to indicate the goal, however distant and difficult to reach. The first condition of attaining legislative and social reforms is that they should impress themselves beforehand on the public conscience; and this is not possible if science, in spite of transitory difficulties, does not resolutely open up the road which has to be travelled, without any compromise with eclecticism, which means for science what hybridism means for organic life.

Two other objections may be made on the ground of principle to what has been said. The first is that this system of penal substitutes is only the familiar process of prevention of crime. The second is that the criminal expert need not concern himself with it, since prevention is only a question of good government, which has nothing to do with the study of crimes and punishments.

My answer to the second objection is that the importance of taking measures to prevent crime has certainly been dwelt upon, especially from the time of Montesquieu and Beccaria, but it has been only by way of platonic and isolated declaration, with no such systematic development as might have given them practical application, based on experimental observations. Moreover, this prevention has always been held as subsidiary to repression, whereas we have arrived at the positive conclusion that prevention, instead of being a mere secondary aid, should henceforth become the primary defensive function of society, since repression has but an infinitesimal influence upon criminality.

Furthermore, it is important to observe the profound distinction between ordinary prevention and penal substitutes; or in other words, between prevention by police and prevention by society. The former merely seeks to prevent crime when its germ is already developed and active, and it nearly always employs methods of direct coercion, which, being themselves repressive in their character, are often inefficacious, even if they do not provoke additional offences. Social prevention, on the other hand, begins with the original sources of crime, attacking its biological, physical, and social factors, by methods which are wholly indirect, and which rest upon the free play of psychological and sociological laws.

Science, as well as the making of laws, has hitherto been too much influenced by a preference for repression, or at least for administrative police prevention. “There have been authoritative works and learned folios,” says Ellero, “which dealt not only with punishment, but also with torture; there has been none dealing with the provision of means for providing an alternative to punishment.”

After the general observations of Montesquieu, Filangieri, Beccaria, and more recently Tissot, on the influence of religion, climate, soil, and the form of government, upon the penal system rather than the prevention of crime, the authors who studied prevention with wider and more systematic views (excluding the criminal sociologists who have more or less taken the positive point of view), are Bentham, Romagnosi, Barbacovi, Carmignani, Ellero, Lombroso, and a few Englishmen, who, without making much of the theory, have made many practical suggestions of preventive reform. But even these writers either confine themselves to general synthetic considerations, like Romagnosi and Carmignani, or else, entering the domain of facts, and even accepting the idea of social prevention, have made too little of those physio- psychological laws as the natural factors of crime, which alone can furnish a method of regulating human activity. And, when all is said and done, they have clung to punishment as the chief method of prevention.

Hence their teaching and their propositions have had no weight with legislators, for these latter had not been convinced, as only the criminal sociologist could convince them, that punishments are far from having the deterrent force commonly attributed to them, and that crime is not the outcome of free will, but rather a natural phenomenon which can only disappear or diminish when its natural factors are eliminated.

The legislators for their part have not only neglected the definite teaching of these authors with more than ordinary insight, but they have also enacted what are really penal substitutes in a clumsy and unscientific manner.

We have thus studied the data of criminal statistics in their theoretical and practical relations with criminal sociology, and come to the conclusion that, since crime is a natural phenomenon, determined by factors of three kinds, it answers on that account to a law of criminal saturation, whereby the physical and social environment, aided by individual tendencies, hereditary or acquired, and by occasional impulses, necessarily determine the extent of crime in every age and country, both in quantity and quality. That is to say, the criminality of a nation is influenced in the natural sphere by the bio-psychical conditions of individuals and their physical environment, and, in the social sphere, by economic, political, administrative and civil conditions of laws, far more than by the penal code.

Nevertheless the execution of punishment, though it is the less important part of the function of social defence, which should be carried out in harmony with the other functions of society, is always the last and inevitable auxiliary.

And this entirely agrees with the universal law of evolution, in virtue of which, amidst the variation of animal and social organisms, antecedent forms are not wholly eliminated, but continue as the basis of the forms which succeed them. So that if the future evolution of the social administration of defence against crime is to consist in the development of the primitive forms of direct physical coercion into the higher forms of indirect psychical discipline of human activity, this will not imply that the primitive forms must entirely disappear, especially for the gravest crimes, which, in the biological and psychological conditions of those who commit them, take us back to the primitive epochs and forms of individual and social violence.

I end with a modification of an old comparison which has been much abused. Crime has been compared to an impetuous torrent which ought to be enclosed between the dykes of punishment, lest civilised society should be submerged. I do not deny that punishments are the dykes of crime, but I assert that they are dykes of no great strength or utility. All nations know by sad and chronic experience that their dykes cannot save them from inundations; and so our statistics teach us that punishments have but an infinitesimal power against the force of criminality, when its germs are fully developed.

But as we can best protect ourselves against inundations by obeying the laws of hydrostatics and hydrodynamics, by timbering the banks near the source of the stream, and by due rectilineation or excavation along its course and near its mouth, so, in order to defend ourselves against crimes, it is best to observe the laws of psychology and sociology, and to avail ourselves of social substitutes, which are far more efficacious than whole arsenals of repressive measures.