It is true that insane asylums, homes for the feeble-minded, and hospitals are not what they should be, nor what they will be some day. All of this is not due to the attitude of the mind of the public, but is due to the method of administration which is not within the scope of this book. If justice and humanity shall ever have to do with the treatment of the criminal, and if science shall ever be called upon in this, one of the most serious and painful questions of the ages, it is necessary, first, that the public shall have a better understanding of crime and criminals.
RESPONSIBILITY FOR CRIME
It is only lately that we are beginning to find out anything about the origin and nature of man. Laws have come down to us from old customs and folk-ways based on primitive ideas of man’s origin, capacity and responsibility. It has been generally assumed that man was created different from all the rest of animal life; that man alone was endowed with a soul and with the power to tell good from evil; that in the beginning man was perfect but yielded to temptation, and since then has been the subject of an everlasting contest between the powers of light and the powers of darkness for the possession of his soul; that man not only knew good from evil, but was endowed with “free will,” and had the power to choose between good and evil; and that when he did wrong he deliberately chose to do so out of an abandoned and malignant heart; and that all men alike were endowed with this power and all alike were responsible for their acts.
The old indictments charged that: “John Smith, being a wicked, malicious and evil disposed person, not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil etc.” It followed, of course, that John Smith should be punished or made to suffer, for he had purposely brought all the evil on himself. The old idea is still the foundation of the world’s judgment of men, in court and out. Of course this idea leaves no room for mercy and understanding. Neither does it leave any chance to give the criminal the proper treatment for his defects which might permit him to lead a normal life.
As a matter of fact, every scientific man knows that the origin of life is quite different from this; that the whole current conception of the individual and his responsibility is a gross error; and that no correct judgments can be based on the old foundation; that no sane treatment of crime can follow this assumption of man’s origin and nature; that the result of this foundation is almost infinite injustice and cruelty to a large and constantly growing number of men and women; and that it tends to endless injury and evil to society. The conception of man and the treatment of crime and criminals by the courts is not better nor more scientific than was the old-time doctors’ treatment of physical ailments by magic, incantations and sorcery.