Crime and the Alarmists
By CLARENCE S. DARROW
(Reprinted by permission of the author and Harper & Brothers)
LEAGUE TO ABOLISH CAPITAL PUNISHMENT A National Organization 104 Fifth Avenue New York City
CRIME AND THE ALARMISTS
BY CLARENCE S. DARROW
READERS of newspapers and pe-*y
riodicals are constantly regaled • with lurid stories of crime. From time to time with great regularity the.se tales are pieced together to produce the impression that waves of crime are sweeping across the land. Long rows of figures generally go with these tales which purport to tabulate the number of murders, hold-ups* burglaries, etc., in given areas, and sometimes comparisons arc drawn with other countries and with other periods. The general effect is always to arouse anger and hatred, to induce legislatures to pass more severe laws, to fill the jails and penitentiaries, and to furnish more victims for the electric chair and gallows. It is a commonplace that cruel and hard punishments cannot be inflicted unless the populace is moved by hatred and fear. The psychology of fighting crime is the same as the psychology of fighting wars: the people must be made to hate before they will kill. This state of mind prevents any calm study of facts or any effort to seek causes or even to consider whether causes for crime may exist.
No one need be surprised that crime is so seldom the subject of objective study. It has not been very long since men thought that the whole physical world was operated by miracles. The motion of the earth and sun, the procession of day and night, the seasons of the year, the waves and wind, the flood and drought, the seed time and the harvest— all were defined by no natural laws, but all were dependent upon the whim and caprice of some other-worldly power. Even when some natural law of causation was believed to account for the phenomena of the physical world, the conduct of man was still supposed to lie outside this realm. Sickness and disease meant the possession of the individual by devils, and these could be driven out only by punishments and incantations. The ordinary treatment of disease was by magic and sorcery. For eighteen centuries, over most of Europe, medical men were punished often in the most terrible ways for seeking to find out the causes of disease and for attempting to treat illness by scientific methods. It was the greatest heresy to deny that sickness was due to sin and that pestilence and plague came as a divine visitation of angry gods to afflicted communities. And yet, in spite of restrictive measures and stem persecutions, the doctors persisted, until now no one questions that disease and pestilence are due to natural causes which must and can be removed if the patients are to be cured and infection prevented.
Insanity, too, was for many centuries thought of as possession by devils, and the punishment of the afflicted individual was the favorite treatment for driving out the demon. Hundreds of thousands of unfortunate insane men and women have been put to the severest tortures even down to the most recent times. Sorcery, witchcraft, and magic were the only methods of treatment permitted and the physician was obliged to risk his liberty and life in treating insanity as a disease, and seeking to understand the causes back of the phenomenon.
To-day, no one doubts that disease and insanity can be traced to natural causes and that both can be cured only by discovering the cause and applying the remedies which have been arrived at by careful and objective study of the disease.
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Copyrighted 1036 by Hatjxjt & Hrothm
The realm of miracle and magic has constantly grown smaller as natural law has come to be better understood. Crime, like insanity and sickness, is a departure from ordinary conduct; but most of the world clings to the belief that it can only be treated as a manifestation outside the realm of natural law. The old indictments read that "John Smith, being possessed of the devil, did wilfully kill/' etc., etc. The modern indictments do not mention the devil, yet we still believe that crime is not due to causes, but is an arbitrary act unrelated to the criminal's past. We believe that the criminal should be made to suffer punishment for his act as a matter of "justice1' and likewise that the only way to deter others from crime is to make them fear punishment.
In support of the theory that severe punishment with all its attendant horrors, and the psychology of general fear which goes with it, is the only admissible treatment of crime, tables of so-called statistics are always freely called into play. What these figures would prove in this behalf, even if they were dependable, is not easy to conceive.
It is only during a few years that any effort has been made in the United States to gather statistics on the subject of crime. From the nature of our political organization, this movement began with isolated states and cities, and even up to the present time statistics can be obtained from relatively only few and small areas. In the main these figures have been collected by police departments, coroners* offices, clerks of courts, Grand Juries, prison superintendents, and sometimes by outside agencies. In short, as the system was built up the methods of gathering statistics have developed in a hit or miss fashion. Naturally, as in all similar cases, the additional work thrown upon the various officials was done carelessly and imperfectly. As time has gone on, however, the collection of data has been improved. The growing care in gathering statistics in itself might easily lead to the conclusion that crime in the United States is on the increase. But still in very few places has there been any attempt to place the collection of data in the hands of intelligent people trained for such a task.
Every student of crime who has commented on these statistics gathered by various agencies has reached the conclusion that in their present state they are of little if any value. In no field has it been more clearly shown that there is a vast difference between the mere gathering of figures and an intelligent interpretation of the statistics after they have been collected. Public speakers, magazine writers, and newspapers are periodically presenting long arrays of figures to prove that there is an epidemic of crime in some part of the United States. As a rule there is not the slightest relation between the figures and the conclusions drawn. For example, the figures which are sometimes quoted with regard to the increase of the crime of rape arc noteworthy illustrations of the care that must be taken in interpreting criminal statistics. Any one reading the startling statement that in New York state 146 persons were convicted of rape in the decade between 1880 and 1889, while 1297 were convicted of rape in the decade between 1910 and 1919 would be amazed if not horrified at the increase in the sexual passion and its manifestations in this period. Still, their condemnation of their fellows may be somewhat abated when they learn that in the decade showing the largest number of convictions for rape the age of consent had been raised from ten years of age to eighteen. Let us take another case: 991 persons were found guilty of violating motor laws in Michigan in the three-year period from 1906 to 1909. The number increased to 29,893 in the three-year period from 1919 to 1922. Before reaching the conclusion that this is positive evidence of the increasing recklessness of automobile owners and drivers or of the younger generation it might be well to consider the increase in the general use of automobiles from 1909 to 1922.
Alarmists also forget that the number of violators of law has something to do with the number of laws. Every new criminal statute brings a new grist of crimes. This is well illustrated in the Volstead Act and the state legislation covering the same subject. Prisons are now filled with inmates who have only done something which a few years ago was perfectly legal.
Or, again, it is freely asserted that the late comers to the United States commit more crimes than the descendants of the earlier settlers. Those who make this statement forget to take into account the fact that practically all of the later immigrants live in our large cities and industrial centers. It is beyond question that our large urban areas produce more disorder, maladjustment, and crime than our rural communities. And this is true, irrespective of the race or nationality of the people who live under these crime-breeding conditions.
Likewise, the colored population Is charged with a share in the commission of crime quite out of proportion to their number. This, too, should always be considered in connection with the fact that in the North they live in industrial centers and in restricted, crowded areas and that colored people, owing to race prejudice and poverty, are much more apt to be accused and convicted than whites.
All this amounts to saying that the agencies which gather statistics of crime and those who quote these statistics in our newspapers and magazines use all sorts of standards and definitions and overlook explanatory facts which make their conclusions valueless. For instance, in classifying murders some agencies base their conclusions on the police reports, some on the coroner's inquests, some on indictments, and others on convictions. Statistics taken from these various sources differ so widely that they seem almost to have no relation to each other As a rule, the people who quote statistics to prove their theories simply cite figures without giving their source and without in any way analyzing them to find out what they mean.
In my recent studies in this field I have observed that many books and articles, while calling attention to the uncertainty of figures on crime, at the same time quote the statistics furnished by the Chicago Crime Commission as being the best statistics on crime in the United States now available. Perhaps these are the best. If they are, it is all the more reason for examining them carefully to see just how reliable are the "best" statistics on crime. Let us, then, consider the reports of the Chicago Crime Commission.
In the first place, let me say that I have no idea that those in charge of the Chicago Crime Commission would pretend to give their statistics any such interpretation and validity as has widely been credited to them. They have gathered statistics on crime in the best way they could, conditions being what they are, and in most cases they have simply given them to the public. In the remarks which follow I have no intention of criticizing the work of the Chicago Crime Commission as such, but I only wish to use their reports as an example of the extreme care necessary when drawing inferences from statistics relating to crime.
The Chicago Crime Commission was organized in 1919 to combat what was said to be a crime wave. In the main it is backed by the Chicago Association of Commerce and leading business men of the city. It has published several annual reports and a number of pamphlets, all dealing with crime in Chicago. The question is—what light do these reports throw on this problem in the city of Chicago, and, by implication, on the problem in the country at large? Is crirac decreasing or increasing? Is there a crime wave?
Let us look at the figures which the Commission has collected on burglary, robbery, and murder. The Commission reports that so far as burglary is concerned there has been a steady decrease from the year 1919 to the present time. For example, in December, 1919, there were approximately 550 burglaries in Chicago, while in the month of December, 1925, there were approximately only 100 cases. As to robberies the figures are likewise impressive. For December, 1919, the number of robberies was approximately 350. In December, 1925, this number had decreased to approximately 200. In both cases the month of December is cited because this month shows the highest number of offenses of this type of any month during the year. The total numbers for the whole year period indicate substantially the same general trend, i.e., for both robbery and burglary there has been a marked and steady decrease during the seven-year period covered by the reports of the Commission.
I have made no effort to verify the figures given out by the Commission for the number of burglaries and robberies, nor in any way have I attempted to ascertain how they were arrived at otherwise than that they were taken from the annual reports of the police department.
However, we assume from these figures, showing as they do such a marked decrease in the number of burglaries and robberies, that when the newspapers and orators talk about the "crime wave" in Chicago their remarks are evidently directed to what they call "murders." For example, one of the most esteemed judges on the bench in Chicago is quoted as having said before the St. Louis Bar Association that "there are at large and unafraid in the United States at least 135,000 crimson-handed women and men who have unlawfully taken human life," and that the number of those who live by crime is "increasing with incredible rapidity." Where these figures came from we are not told; however, on other occasions the judge has referred to the reports of the Chicago Crime Commission. It is possible that the figures on "murder" given out by this Commission may have furnished him with some basis for his estimate, although the Crime Commission does not pretend to tell how many of the murderers now at large are "unafraid/'
Be this as it may, the fact remains that Chicago has been held up to view throughout the United States for its large number of murders, and it is also true that the reports of the Chicago Crime Commission have been widely quoted to support this fact. Let us, then, carefully examine their figures on murder. It may prove a valuable lesson in the interpretation of criminal statistics.
The Commission has made available to the public statistics on murder in Chicago for the years 1919 to 1924:
Year. No. of Murders.
1920 ............................... 194
1924 ............................... 291
From these figures the reader might draw the conclusion that the number of murders in Chicago had steadily increased from 1921 to 1924. However, before drawing any such conclusion, or before allowing ourselves to believe that any such numbers of murders have occurred in any year let us find out how these statistics were compiled.
With the exception of the year 1919 the figures for the number of murders in Chicago as recorded by the Chicago Crime Commission were taken solely from the reports of the Coroner's office; 1919 being the first year of the Commission's work, the figures were taken from various sources including the
Coroner's office. For the sake of accuracy it should be stated that the jurisdiction of the Coroner extends over the whole county in which Chicago is located. It is the duty of the Coroner to call a jury to determine the cause of death in all cases where it appears that death might not be due to what is termed natural causes. This office, of course, has been created in order to have some agency to investigate cases where death might have been brought about by foul means. The investigation is made very soon after the death is reported, necessarily without great care, and with the end in view that where there is even a possibility of homicide somebody should be held to the Grand Jury for further investigation. The Chicago Crime Commission's reports, then, as to the number of "murders" in Chicago in any given year are based upon the fact that the Coroner's jury has in a certain number of cases made a finding of "murder" with a recommendation that the "guilty persons" be held pending further investigation and examination by the Grand Jury.
Let us continue our investigation of these cases which, during these various years, the Coroner's jury reported as " murder/' For purposes of convenience let us take the two years 1922 and 1923 in which the Commission reported 228 and 270 murders respectively. We may take these two years simply as representative years of the period covered by the work of the Commission. The records of the Clerk of the Criminal Court of Cook County show that the number of persons indicted for murder by the Grand Jury in Chicago (Cook County) for the year 1922 was 178. The number of persons indicted for manslaughter was 80. In the same year (1922) 88 persons were convicted of murder and 28 of manslaughter. In the year 1923 the number of persons indicted for murder by the Grand Jury was 179. The number indicted for manslaughter was 46. The number of convictions for murder was 44 and for manslaughter was 18. Thus in the two years 1922 and 1923 the total number of 44murders" reported by the Chicago Crime Commission (Coroner's Jury) was 498. Whereas in the same two-year period the total number of indictments for murder by the Grand Jury was 357 and the total number of conviction3 for murder was 82.
Let us see if we can find out with reasonable certainty what became of the 416 "murders" reported by the C. C. C. who were not convicted during the years 1922 and 1923. In the first place we already know that in 141 cases the Grand Jury refused to indict. Then of those who were indicted for murder by the Grand Jury in this two-year period according to the reports of the C. C. C., we find that out of a total of 326 defendants—the total number which they report, as having been indicted during the period under consideration—138 were convicted; 48 were dismissed by the State's Attorney without prosecution; 41 were stricken off the docket with leave to reinstate (which order almost always means dismissal); 99 were found not guilty.
The first point to be made about these figures concerns the matter of the number of convictions for "murder." The total number of convictions for murder for the two-year period 1922-8 as shown by the records of the Clerk of the Criminal Court, was, as we have already stated, 82. The Crime Commission shows the number of convictions for murder for the same period to be 188. How shall we account for this difference of 56? Of course it is possible that all indictments are not disposed of by the courts in the same year in which they are returned. Each year, no doubt, some cases are tried, the indictments for which were returned in the preceding year; but this would make no notable difference when the figures are taken for a two-year period. The discrepancy between the two sets of figures is mainly to be accounted for by the fact that the Crime Commission in making its tabulation of "murders" does not distinguish between manslaughter and murder. AH are listed as murder. As a matter of fact during these two years there were 46 convictions for manslaughter. Manslaughter, by no possible definition of the term, is synonymous with murder, although a verdict of manslaughter may be found under an indictment for murder in cases where death was caused without malice, or through accident due to gross carelessness.
It is at once manifest that there can be no possible excuse for the various statements which are so glibly and carelessly made as to the number of "murders" in Chicago during any given year. The number of "murders" put down by the Crime Commission for the years 1922 and 1923 was 498. The number convicted for murder during the same period was 82, or less than one-sixth the number constantly heralded to the world. It will not do to say that the State's Attorney and his assistants are dishonest and incompetent, and no one pretends to account for the discrepancy in the above figures in this way. The story has been practically the same in all administrations in Chicago, and no doubt in other cities as well. No one can pretend that the findings of the Coroner's jury gives any sort of evidence of the actual number of murders. On the contrary, there is every reason for taking the number of convictions as the real basis for estimates of the number of murders during any given period.
Even indictments returned by the Grand Jury, although far superior as a basis for statistical computation to the reports of the Coroner's jury, do not furnish any accurate evidence of the number of murders in a city like Chicago. It is a well-known fact that although the evidence presented to the Grand Jury may be rather carefully prepared, nevertheless, the Grand Jury investigation is purely one-sided and almost entirely under the control of the State's Attorney or his deputies. The defendant is never present nor is he represented. In the two years which we have been considering there were 357 indictments for murder in Chicago —or, rather, in Cook County, the jurisdiction covered by the Coroner and the Criminal Court. As we have said, these 357 indictments resulted in 82 convictions for murder; 89 of these indictments were dismissed by the State's Attorney after full consideration. This left a little over one half the number shown by the Coroner on which the State's Attorney even asked a trial. And out of these only 82 were convicted of murder while 99 were found not guilty of any crime.
It should be clear that no person can possibly use the figures of the Crime Commission as an indication of the number of murders in Chicago without the most serious reflection upon the Grand Jurors and upon the State's Attorney, to say nothing of the Judges of the Criminal Courts. And no one pretends to make any such charges.
But perhaps some one will think that the foregoing simply represents a more or less adroit juggling of figures in the interest of proving my point. Statistics are notoriously slippery affairs. To be fully certain what these figures mean it would be necessary to take the complete history of each individual case from the time it left the Coroner's office until it was finally disposed of by the courts (assuming that it got that far). Obviously, limitations of space will not allow any such exhibit in this place. However, suppose we take at random one month during this two-year period and see the character of the "murder'1 cases reported during that month and what befell them. The following cases are those listed by the Chicago Crime Commission and the Coroner's juries for the month of March, 1928. During this month there were 26 cases of "murder'1 involving 29 defendants reported by the C. C. C. The cases listed seriatim are:
Case 1. Thomas Rutledge shot by Forrest Hand during a quarrel over the deceased's wife (all parties colored). Plea of guilty. Sentenced to 14 years in the penitentiary.
Case 2. Hattie Morgan throat cut by Robert E. Morgan (both colored). Plea of guilty. Sentenced to 20 years. Cases 3 and Antonio Giarabaluo shot in a duel with Joseph Salamitano. Both parties killed in the duel. (Both reported as "murders.") Cases 6 and 6. Paul Radin shot by Albert Green when Green was shooting at William Kinsella (also killed) during a quarrel at a meeting of the Butchers* Union. Defendant found not guilty on both charges.
Case 7. Wilbert Andrews shot by Owen Thomas who was sentenced on a plea of guilty of manslaughter. Case 8. Alice Powers shot by Elmer Bostic. Verdict-guilty, but insane. Case 9. Allen Walker stabbed by Burton Andrews (both colored). Verdict of manslaughter.
Case 10. James Lockett stabbed by Raymond Perkins (both colored). Verdict—guilty of manslaughter. Case 11. Donald Whitner shot by James Brooks. Dismissed. Case 12. Michael McGinnis shot during a quarrel. Four defendants (three women and one man) all found not guilty. Case 13. John Nicolin thrown over a porch railing during a quarrel with Theodore Past. Verdict—not guilty. Case 14. Ella Wollson throat cut by Edna Robinson (her daughter) who then committed suicide. Case 15. Orfie Rizzato killed in a fist fight in a saloon by Sam Sanadrea. No indictment.
Case 16. Donata Frazzolari shot by insane brother-in-law who then committed suicide.
Case 17. Gaspar Lombardi struck by unknown vehicle. Unsolved. Case 18. Walter Henning shot by unknown persons. Unsolved. Case 19. Unknown white baby found under elevated railway in a pile of
ashes. Coroner's verdict—died from neglect at birth. Unsolved. Case 20. Joseph Basile shot by Phillip Leonette. Unsolved. Case 21. George Wesley killed by blow on the head by persons robbing a laundry. Unsolved. Case 22. Frederico Amadio shot by unknown persons in the rear of his home. Unsolved.
Case 23. Asap Shultz shot by an unknown colored man during a holdup. Unsolved.
Case Unknown white baby. Neglect at time of birth. Found in rear of building. Unsolved. Case 25. Julia Sinks, 18-year-old colored girl, struck on head with hatchet by unknown persons. Unsolved. Case 26. Frank Liber killed by unknown automobile. Unsolved.
In this list of 20 possible defendants all of them were classed as "murderers" by the Coroner's Jury and the Chicago Crime Commission. And yet it is extremely unlikely that more than two of them (Cases 21 and 23) were really cases of out and out murder, and both of these were unsolved. Is this feeble list for March, 1923t the red-handed menace that is so luridly pictured as an army in mortal combat with organized society? Rather it is a fair sample of the results of poverty, hard luck, ignorance, maladjustment, and destiny that in some form come to light in every great city filled with the flotsam and jetsam of humanity. It is a condition, and it needs careful study to find out what should be done and what can be done. It does not call for blind hatred and stern revenge.
What general conclusions can be drawn from the object lesson just exhibited in our analysis of the statistics on crime compiled by the Chicago Crime Commission? One thing is certainly clear—no intelligent person can examine carefully the statistics which are at present available and come to any satisfactory or defensible conclusion as to the number of crimes committed in the United States, or whether they are increasing or diminishing in proportion to the population, or the cause of any increase or diminution. The study of statistics in regard to crime, as in many other matters, leaves one in a hopeless maze. It will take years of careful preparation and thorough, unbiased gathering of objective statistics before any general conclusion can be reached in this way. It is, however, safe to say that statistics do not show that there is an increasing trend of crime in America. On the whole, it probably remains fairly stationary—with variations up and down now and then due to all sorts of reasons. Probably, on the whole, there is a tendency downward, especially if allowance is made for the new crimes that are constantly being created by statute and which add materially to the tables of law violation.
The growing use of the automobile has had a positive tendency to increase crime materially. It is a new lure that is hard to withstand. Men and women mortgage their homes and their beds to get them, and of course boys borrow and steal them. The indiscriminate use of the automobile in crowded cities has added largely to the coroner's returns, and many accidents appear in the tables as murders, although the only element even of homicide is careless or reckless driving. Sometime life may adjust itself to the automobile, but it will be a long time before men, women, and children can withstand the lure and before the accidents incident to the use of the automobile be materially reduced.
The Volstead Act and kindred state laws have furnished a great many additions to the reports of crimes. Many of these are classed as murders, many others as unlawful buying and selling. It is inevitable, in a mixed people like ours, with their diversity of habits and customs, that a drastic, tyrannical law, which makes criminal acts that carry with them no feeling of wrong, can have any other effect than to add to the list of crimes. Prohibition will continue to reap this harvest until it is settled whether the government shall recognize the habits of its citizens or whether the people shall be compelled by brute force to yield what they have long believed to be their rights.
Those who believe in sterner laws and harsher treatment of criminals are always drawing comparisons between America and England. Different parts of England show marked differences in the statistics of crime. Liverpool, for example, shows more burglaries than New York, and about the same as Chicago, and nearly twice as many murders and other serious felonies as London. The difference is most likely accounted for by the seaport location of Liverpool which adds to the mixture of races and peoples. Still, it is true that there are many more felonies in the United States than iu England in proportion to the population. This condition cannot be accounted for by the severity of punishment in England. In many important instances the American penalties are much harsher and more brutal. The executions in England are fewer in proportion to the population than in America and, in cases where death sentences are pronounced, a much larger proportion receives clemency there than here. From all that can be gathered, it is probable that China has a smaller crime rate than England, though it is not possible to find statistics of crime for China. Regardless of the question of crime, few Americans believe that England is, on the whole, a more desirable place for living than America, much less is China.
Other things being equal, all new countries have a higher crime rate than old ones. This is due to many reasons, not all of which apply in all new countries. The residents of England are a homogeneous people. This is true of all old countries. They lack many of the inducing causes that lead to crime. The
English people have been made alike by centuries of molding and welding* They have from long association formed common customs, habits, and views of life; in other words, folkways—which make them one people. An old country inevitably develops a sort of caste system; each person takes his place without hope of change or advancement. The individual grows to accept his lot in life.
When we remember that crime means the violation of law, which in turn means getting out of the beaten path, it is easy to see why it is more common in new countries, where the paths are faint and not strongly marked, than in old countries where the paths are deep. It is only one hundred and fifty years since the United States gained its independence. It then had some 8,000,000 people. Since that time it has grown to about 115,000,000. This necessarily means that it has drawn from almost every country of the earth. These people have brought all kinds of religions, social customs, political ideas, temperaments, and ambitions. Probably no such heterogeneous combination was ever before brought together upon the earth. Most of these people came here to improve their condition, to get out of their caste. Their children are still hopeful that they may rise. The subduing of natural resources has built our great cities and filled them with a babel of tongues and a medley of temperaments, and with every religious, social, and political idea in the world. The higher wages and better opportunities have made the people venturesome and aggressive. The larger individual freedom and greater independence of individual action have made collisions more inevitable and severe.
Most of the crime in the United States comes from our industrial centers. Our cities have always been settled by a mixture of the peoples of the world with varied feelings and emotions, and with the individual customs and habits of their native lands. In the main these have been the poor of Europe. They have come with new hopes and ambitions, moved by intense desires. The industrial cities have been alternately prosperous and idle. Aside from the natural emotions of love and f^ar and hate, there has been the constant battle with employers and between union and nonunion men. Such a medley of conflicting peoples and emotions has always been a prolific soil out of which violations of habits, customs, and laws inevitably grow. No other country has ever had so many antagonisms, such a fertile soil for combat and discontent. Australia and Canada, although new countries, have in the main a homogeneous people and a rural population. The statistics of crime of the rural communities of the United States are not unlike the statistics of rural communities in Canada and the other countries of the world.
The population of the United States has been constantly augmented by the poor of other countries. These have left an old social organization with fixed habits and have been thrown into a social environment new and strange. Such a condition has always been disorganizing to every group. Old customs and folkways which act as restraints are left behind, and inevitable disorganisation is the result. The study of our recent immigrants shows the difficulty of new adjustments and the disintegration and misfortune that comes to individuals and groups.
It is not the terror of brutal punishment that holds the units of society in their place. It is customs and habits. It is long familiarity with the beaten paths. People think and act and live as they are wont. They stay in grooves. Any sudden change jolts them from their ways and sets them loose to find or make other paths. To believe that men are kept in a certain line by fear is a crude conception at variance with experience and psychology alike.
Imperfect as all our statistics are confessed to be, it is doubtless true that the dangerous age for boys in reference to crime is constantly growing younger. It is safe to say that almost all crimes are committed by boys in their early teens or by those who began in effect a criminal career at that age. Saving criminals is, in the last analysis, only saving children; and saving children means not only saving criminals but their victims, too. Most of the criminals come from the cities and most of them were born and reared in the poor and crowded districts where they had little chance to develop into anything but criminals. A little knowledge of biology, psychology, and life makes this plain to understand. No well-informed person believes that one is born a criminal or with even a tendency to crime. If so, crime would not be of the individual's own choosing nor his end be due to his own volition. No child is born a criminal. He may be born weak or strong and, therefore, his power of resistance be more or less; but the course he takes is due to training, opportunity, and environment. The protection of the child or the grown person comes from habit. Religion may teach precepts, but this means nothing without habits. The school may give a certain kind of education, but unless this creates habits which fit the child for life it is of no avail.
Most of those who follow a criminal career have had little education and cared little for books. Most of them could not be fitted for professions by education; their only chance was some sort of work. They passed the school age without becoming scholars, and the schools have given them nothing in the place of what is generally called an education. When very young they began a life that almost inevitably leads to crime. If it is the duty of the state or any organized institution to provide for the education of the youth, then the most important thing is to fit them for the job of living. Many boys come to the adolescent age with only scant education in books and no education that fits them for any self-reliant life. For the large class who have no taste for books society furnishes no training in the schools. These boys are thrown on their own resources with no occupation that will furnish them a chance to live. The schools could as well teach manual trades as books, and a large part of those who cannot succeed with books could do well in working with their hands. There is no more reason why schools should prepare one to succeed in a profession than why they should teach certain ones a useful trade. Most boys like to use their hands, and the proper training for trades should be begun when very young. It is seldom that a mechanic enters on a life of crime. He forms habits that keep him safe.
The child is born with the same instincts that move all other animals. When he wants something he feels the urge to take it in the easiest way. It is only training that teaches him that he may get things one way, but not another. His training must be developed into habits. The life of a child is a conflict between primal emotions and social restrictions, and he must be fortified, not alone by teaching, but by habits, if he is to live by the rules that society lays down. Intelligent teachers and wise parents know what this means. It is only rarely that a boy carefully trained and fitted for life is sent to jail.
More and more the teacher and the psychologist are learning the importance of early training. Habits are formed when the child is young; these arc easily fixed and hard to change. All statistics, if carefully gathered and thoroughly studied, lead to this conclusion, and logic and experience likewise show that this is true. To believe any other theory would be to deny the efficacy of moral and religious teaching and the effect of education and habit in the formation of character.
It is not difficult for the student to find the causes of crime. When they are found, it is not hard to prescribe for their cure. To ignore reason and judgment and all the finer sentiments that move men, to follow blind force and cruelty in the hope that fear will prevent crime and make all people safe, is bad in practice, philosophy, and ethics.