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the ex-prisoner with an official of a discharged prisoners' aid society in London, he remarked to me that the ex-prisoner must, during the remainder of his earthly career, regard himself as a one-legged man, that is to say, a moral cripple for whom anything was good enough. The assumption that underlies the article of Sir Alfred Wills is that the professional criminal loves his profession, and won't be quit of it no matter what opportunities he may constantly be offered of earning an honest livelihood. I assert that this assumption is not only incorrect, but absolutely false. Burglary, housebreaking, pocketpicking, are not precisely the pursuits after which many men hanker. How is it then, someone may inquire, that so many
criminals release from gaol return to wallow in the mire ? There are, it may be pointed out, charitable societies which exist for aiding the discharged prisoner, and there are quite a number of people who never seem to be tired of mouthing fine phrases about him. I heard a well-known minister of religion, two or three years ago, remark at a meeting of one of these societies that all the people he knew were ready, so they said, to hold out a helping hand to the discharged prisoner in the abstract, but that when he attempted to get any of them to take a personal interest in a concrete case, they all with one consent began to
The remark struck me as not only true, but as very largely explaining the existence of the professional criminal. The charitable people, or the pseudo-charitable people, are largely the cause of it, I suggest. They make the path of the ex-criminal so hard, the building-up of his character anew so difficult. They want to reform the criminal in their own way, and that way involves the patronising of the criminal and the impressing on him of the fact that he is not as other men. When a man has once come under the ban of the criminal law in this country, the difficulty really is to avoid becoming one of the criminal classes. The way to that end is so easy, Society has rendered, and still renders, it so. The world,' to use that convenient phraseology, expects that a man who has been in gaol will continue on an evil course. It shuns him on his release, and will have nothing to say to him. If he make an honest living, he can only, as a rule, do so by dint of hiding his past and changing his name. When his identity is discovered, and it usually is discovered, he gets short shrift, and has to commence again the effort to live under false pretences. He has the necessity of deceit borne in on him from the day of his release. His friends, if he have any, suggest it. Frequently he finds the struggle a hopeless one, and if he succumbs, and he often does succumb, it can at least be said, though we cannot pronounce him a hero, that Society must share the responsibility of his fall. This is the way the professional criminal classes in this country are perpetually being recruited, and one of the first steps to put a stop to the constant acceleration to their ranks is to bring about a change in the treatment of the prisoner when in gaol and in the attitude of Society to him when he is released. Those who put forward suggestions for the permanent incarceration of criminals quite evidently know nothing whatever about the interior of English prisons. I say furthermore that the authors of these proposals have a poor faith in humanity and a scant conception as to the meaning of human brotherhood and the duty it involves. I believe in my heart that no man is altogether bad, utterly incorrigible, or absolutely hopeless. Society, I repeat, has created a distinct criminal class and continues daily, by its action, or inaction, to recruit it. Society must apply the remedy, and it lies ready at hand. That remedy is not the seizing and casting into gaol for the rest of their lives of a number of human wrecks. That is not the performance, but the evasion, of duty.
Sir Alfred Wills, in the course of his article, descants, inter alia, on the mischief of short sentences and the necessity for restitution on the part of the criminal. I am very strongly of opinion that it is not short, but long, sentences that are mischievous. If imprisonment is to be for the purpose of punishment, it should be short and sharp, not long and stupid. It is a well-known fact, and I can verify it from my own experience, that after a comparatively short period in gaol the only effect of imprisonment upon the man is to drive home on him the fact of its extreme stupidity. After two or three years it utterly fails to have any punitive effect whatever, and only tends to harden and degrade the prisoner, and to cause a mental and physical deterioration. But, though I advocate short sentences, I also advocate sharp punishment during the term of those sentences. At the present time, owing to the official sanction given to the fallacy that every man should be punished alike, the greater number of men in prison are not punished at all. To punish every man alike certainly does not mean to treat every man alike, but those responsible for the administration of our prison system evidently think it does. I would, I repeat, make sentences short and severe. I would make the education and the reform of prisoners objective points to be kept well in view, and to be intelligently attempted. I would teach prisoners useful trades and encourage them to train and develop their intellects. I would get rid of the present dull and stupid routine which is made a fetish of prison administration, and is surely the most dull and stupid thing in the whole world. I would do all this ; but at the same time I reiterate that all this, productive of much good as it undoubtedly would be, will largely fail in the desired effect unless Society changes its attitude to the prisoner on his return to the world. This is the fateful time. The attitude of even one man to the ex-prisoner may draft him a recruit into the ranks of professional crime. It is, I sug. gest, well to look this fact straight in the face instead of putting it on one side. Of one thing I am assured : we shall never rid ourselves of professional criminals by locking up a certain number of that class.
* The professional criminal' is a term very largely in evidence nowadays. What does it mean? If crime were a disease that broke out and showed itself on the person like small-pox or the measles, we might, so to speak, earmark the criminal, including the professional criminal, seize him, and put him under restraint for a long or short period. Unfortunately such is not the case ; crime is an insidious thing which not only does not show itself in a visible manner, but is often extremely difficult to discover. It is not uncharitable to assert that there are a very large number of criminals, and a not inconsiderable number of professional criminals, in this country who have never seen, and possibly never will see, the inside of a gaol. These men, I admit, are not often burglars, housebreakers, or perpetrators of those other crimes mentioned by Sir Alfred Wills, crimes which, he asserts, exercise such a glamour over those addicted to them. But crime is crime and criminals are criminals, whether or not the crime be brought under the notice of the law or the perpetrator be convicted of it by a jury of his fellow-countrymen. It is just as well to drive home this fact, because a large number of people seek to put it on one side, and when they talk about 'criminals' have only in their minds those vulgar persons who pass some portion of their careers in gaol. The extinction of crime is a thing that we all hope for. It will, no doubt, come about, but not in our time. When it does come about, the consummation will be effected by every man recognising his duty to his neighbour and acting accordingly. That duty, I suggest, includes a duty to professional and other criminals who, whatever their offences, have been punished for them. The diminution of crime which, I think, is steadily in progress, has been largely due to education and enlightenment, but I would also point out that it has proceeded simultaneously with the amendment of our penal code, the abolition of all those fiendish and awful punishments which were, until a century or 80 ago, in vogue for the most trivial offences, and also with the infiction, of recent years, of comparatively short sentences for crimes which were at one time punished by long periods of penal servitude. I suggest that the penologists should take these facts to heart before advocating our going back to mediæval methods of punishment.
I will only refer in passing to Sir Alfred Wills' endorsement of the principle of restitution on the part of the criminal. He does not explain his proposed modus operandi in regard thereto; but, presumably, it is that the man who is ordered to make restitution, and fails to do so, will be punished for his failure, it may be for his inability. This seems to me to be, in fact, a revival of torture which I thought had been abolished in this country a great many years ago. I have always understood the theory of the law was that a man was punished for his crime against the community, and that all the law was concerned with was the fact of the commission or otherwise of the crime. If I steal 51., I am indicted for the felony, and if found guilty I am, very properly, punished for the offence. I suggest that, having punished me for my crime, the law has nothing to do, and ought to have nothing to do, with the disposal of the booty, and, having punished me for the offence, has certainly no right in addition to punish me because I do not produce 51. If restitution is to be legalised, and the fact of restitution is to be taken into account in the sentence to be inflicted, evidently the criminal who is a man of good family or has friends in affluent circumstances will fare much better in the future than the criminal who is not so happily circumstanced. I imagine, however, that the days are far distant when restitution in criminal offences will form a part of the jurisprudence of this country.
As I said at the beginning of this article I repeat at the close, I extremely regret that Sir Alfred Wills should have lent the weight of his great name to the agitation in favour of the permanent incarceration of professional criminals. He has, however, expressed his desire for enlightenment in the matter, and I have attempted to give him some. I know full well that there are a large number of people who will deem it a great piece of presumption on the part of any person who has occupied the position that I have to attempt to enlighten one who has filled the great post of a judge of the High Court. I cannot, however, in the sacred cause of humanity, allow views such as those that have been put forward by Sir Alfred Wills to go uncontradicted. I am convinced that he conscientiously advances them, believing them to be true. He is shocked at the knowledge that, in these civilised days in this metropolis, the greatest city of the greatest empire the world has ever seen, the headquarters of culture, wealth, and refinement, there should exist the most degraded and debased class of persons on the face of the globe, the English professional criminals. They are here, I admit, and I am quite as ashamed of the fact as is Sir Alfred Wills. But they are not to be got rid of by the simple expedient of locking them up. We must stop the process of manufacture. The remedy appears to me obvious, the necessity for applying it is urgent. I suggest furthermore, and these shall be my last words, that it is our duty to seek a remedy, for, after all, these men, degraded and debased though they be, are our brethren, related to us by the ties of a common humanity. Sir Alfred Wills and other advocates of the permanent incarceration of these criminals suggest, in effect, that we should wait until they are dead, and then, when the breath is out of their bodies, that we should depute the prison chaplain to read over them the sublime Burial Service of the Church of England in accordance with which each one of them, when dead, will be designated as 'this our brother.' My suggestion is that we should recognise this human tie when the man is alive, not when he is dead. If Society would only recognise and act upon the 'this our brother' principle, and treat the prisoner as 'this our brother,' both in prison and on his release from prison, we should, in my humble opinion, have gone
far to solve one of our gravest social problems. I believe, at any rate
I will hope, that in such a case the criminal, assured that he was not a human pariah, but a brother, stricken and sore, to be tended and cheered, and bid take heart and sin no more, would become sensible of his ties, recognise his human treatment, and determine that he, too, would recognise his human kinship, its duties, and its responsibilities. This
, as I have said, I believe with all my heart and soul, and through the medium of this Review I seriously and solemnly ask the public to attempt to solve and end for all time the problem of the professional criminal in this manner, and not by the methods suggested by Sir Alfred Wills and other writers.
H. J. B. MONTGOMERY.