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Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, all show lower ratios of commitments for homicides.
Both Kansas and North Dakota had larger proportions of commitments for offenses against the person than Maine, also relatively larger ratios of commitments for homicides. It is, therefore, unnecessary to carry these comparisons farther. But it may be said in passing that an attempt to trace a general relation between the liquor habit and the numerous homicides in the United States betrays an ignorance of other known crime factors; and is, moreover, equivalent to the concession that in this respect sumptuary legislation is a failure, as it has failed utterly to check crime.
RESULTS OF SPECIAL INQUIRY.
No sane man denies that the liquor habit is very productive of anti-social acts. But to what extent? He who assumes that it is the direct cause of most criminal offenses is at once confronted by stubborn facts like the following:
The United States, with a much smaller consumption of liquor and less visible drunkenness than England and Germany, has a much larger crime rate. Italy, which is reckoned among the soberest of nations, has a very much higher proportion of criminals than Denmark, where the consumption of intoxicants is inordinate. Among the immigrants in this country the Italians and Hebrews. bear a singular reputation for sobriety, yet they contribute percentages of criminals in excess of their representation among the total foreign born population. That is to say, criminal tendencies are more pronounced among them than among the Germans, Irish, Scandinavians and English, peoples who for the greater part are reckoned comparatively unsober. "Relative to their numerical representation and importance among the foreign born peoples in the United States, the Germans are the least conspicuous among the foreign born prisoners." (United States Census Report, 1904). On the other hand the Italians show proportionately the largest percentages of major criminals of all the immigrant races. The number of commitments for homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 1904 was only 5.6 in the North Atlantic States and only 8.4 in the North Central States, both of which groups are supposed to be especially given over to the use of liquor. But in the South Atlantic and South Central States the ratios of homicides were,
respectively, 21.3 and 24.5. Yet both of the last mentioned State groups are swayed by a strong temperance sentiment and have a large territory under prohibition.
Why in the face of such facts, which could be multiplied almost indefinitely, the view of the liquor habit as the chief source of criminality should maintain its currency is not difficult to understand. For the most part unenlightened authorities treat the confirmed drunkard as a criminal whenever he is apprehended. He consequently figures very largely in the prison returns. It is perhaps natural for superficial minds to argue from this to a causal relation between crime and drink in general. If the matter is made one of special inquiry similar conclusions are easily reached, especially if they are desired. Prisoners, especially the real criminals, are quick to discover whether their interrogator has a violent prejudice against liquor and are perfectly willing to cater to it. Furthermore, there is no explanation of the cause of crime so convenient; it relieves one from groping among less palpable forces that influence for evil, and it is an explanation containing an excuse from the prisoner's point of view when he can say, "I did this when I was not myself, because I was drunk." Therefore, one who sets out to discover that most crime is attributable to drink will find plenty of apparently corroborative evidence which, however, does not as a rule establish the truth.
Leaving out of consideration the many men and women whose sole offense is drunkenness, there is a considerable class of semicriminals or occasional criminals who are more or less intemperate. It is far from obvious, however, that intemperance is the direct cause of their criminal doings. They are, as Dr. Branthwaite has pointed out, mentally unsound, and commonly as a result of congenital defects, which, of course, become intensified by drink or any other vice. How far such persons should be reckoned socially responsible and how an enlightened community should deal with them, is not to be discussed here. Suffice it to say that it is the habit of society in these cases to try and cure natural defects by imprisonment.
That a criminal condition may also have a physiological basis entirely distinct from degeneration due to alcohol in the case of the professional criminal, is generally agreed upon by criminologists. Offenders of this class often require a skill and nerve which is not possessed by the inebriate. Most of them begin their criminal
career while young, or long before habits of intemperance might become fixed. The causes that lead them to a criminal life are usually very complex. It may be a combination of environment, lack of training (industrial and moral), a degenerate organism, etc. In most instances a criminal condition springs from a variety of causes that are exceedingly difficult to disentangle. But intemperance is rarely a direct cause of professional crime. That the confirmed or habitual criminal frequently ends life as an inebriate is another story.
A third class of persons found in prisons consists of accidental offenders. Among them are some who owe their condition directly to intoxication. That assaults, other acts of violence, even murder, are committed by persons who are "crazed by drink" is a common police experience. What proportion such accidental offenders. bear to the whole number dealt with as criminals during a given period, has not been established. It is not larger, but among them is the greatest number of whom it may be said that their condition can be traced to intemperance.
The results of
The absence of a basis for dogmatic utterances about the relation of crime to intemperance is thus apparent. Very few scientific investigations have been made to find out. the cautious inquiry made by the Committee of Fifty are well known. While it found that drink had some relation to the criminal condition of about one-half of the cases investigated, intemperance appeared as a sole cause in but 16 per cent. Whether a similar inquiry, undertaken in the light of recent evidence which shows an astounding proportion of persons formerly treated mostly as criminals to be congenitally weak-minded would lead to the same conclusions, is another matter. It is at least certain that in all future scientific inquiries the physiological element will be given a consideration it hitherto generally has lacked.
To-day the human weaklings go on unrestrainedly and reproduce their kind—the criminals who are at large, the thousands of semi-insane who annually are released from hospitals, the multitude of feeble-minded who live and move without hindrance. In short, from the diseased in mind and body a considerable proportion of the population is recruited. While these conditions prevail the extirpation, were it possible, of one source of weakness, intemperance, will not be a cure. The battle against poverty, crime and other social ills would have to go on just the same.
INSANITY AND DRINK.
Government reports on the insane have ceased to attempt any distinction between forms of insanity. This was done "upon the unhesitating advice of prominent alienists," because "there is no standard or universally adopted classification of mental disease in this country." As a rule the reports of the different hospitals do not conform in this respect and to have taken cognizance of the forms of mental diseases, regardless of the conflict of the returns of one institution with those of another, "would merely have led to confusing totals devoid of all scientific value.'
At no time has any government publication in this country ventured to deal with the causes of insanity. On this subject there is not only conflict between alleged statistics, but dire confusion. If there is no agreement as to the classification of forms of insanity, there is much less concerning causes of mental disorder. It is observable that superintendents of hospitals for the insane seldom come forward with a positive statement about the causes of mental disorder, but are content to give statistics under some such heading as "assigned causes," or "supposed causes. or "supposed causes." Comparability is, of course, the best test of the value of such assigned causes. But as between hospital reports showing causes of insanity, there is the greatest possible divergence in the estimates, no matter how nearly alike the basic facts may be in regard to numbers, ages, sex, nationality, etc. All of which goes to show that the assignment of causes of insanity, when not pure guess work, is a matter of subjective interpretation. and should be accepted with extreme caution.
Under such circumstances it is, to say the least, hazardous to produce statistics showing that such and such percentage of insanity is due to intemperance. Or one can easily, according to predilection, obtain statements showing that the liquor habit is responsible for a very great deal of insanity, or that it is present only in a small percentage of cases. How greatly the diagnosis varies in regard to the proportion of insanity attributed to alcoholic indulgence, may be seen from the statistics given below. They are culled from reports of State insane asylums or lunacy commissions. For the greater part the statistics cover commitments of insane
during 1903 or 1904 to single institutions and in one or two cases commitments during a series of years.
Upon their face these percentages are not comparable. They disclose personal opinion rather than conclusive facts. In' justice to those responsible it should be said that these statistics are not given out as final truth, but under the caption "assigned causes," "supposed causes," etc. It would, therefore, be grossly unfair to impute any scientific value to these figures.
Since qualified alienists appear to arrive at such widely divergent opinions concerning the proportion of insanity attributable to drink, it would be the merest guess work to express an opinion about the over-estimate or under-estimate of the causal relation between the liquor habit and mental derangement in different localities.
Turning to European statistics much the same lack of conformity is observed. According to Dr. Printzing, in his Handbuch der Medicinischen Statistik, the following percentages of cases of insanity are attributed to intemperance in the most recent statistics for the following countries: