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J. L. Gillin, Professor of Sociology, University of
Wisconsin, Madison

In spite of all the boasted progress of our modern civilization crime, in most of the countries of the world, persists in its intensity and multiplies in variety with the increasing complexity of life. Studies made before the war showed that crime was on the increase in Germany, stationary in France, and apparently decreasing in Great Britain. So far as we can judge from the figures of our United States Census, measured by the commitments per 100,000 of population to our various jails, reformatories, industrial schools, and prisons, there has been little change in the crime rate in this country since 1880. We must remember, of course, that commitments are no exact measure of criminality. However, they are valuable in determining whether crime has increased or decreased. The only thing which makes them uncertain as a measure of the increase or decrease of crime is that we cannot be certain that juries are convicting as many today as thirty years ago, and we do not know what effect on commitments the practice of probation has had.

In facing the crime situation we must also bear in mind that legislation is constantly enlarging the number of things forbidden. Every legislature passes laws which make new crimes. There is no question but that the passage of the prohibition law has greatly increased the number of commitments to institutions, because this law has created a new class of crimes, viz., the violation of this law.

After analyzing the situation as carefully as we can, however, and making allowance for the influence of probation in keeping people out of institutions and in discounting the effect on the crime rate of actions declared to be criminal by recent laws, a study of the older and more serious crimes like murder, robbery, embezzlement, and sex crimes seems to indicate that such crimes are not decreasing. New methods of committing murder, robbery, and embezzlement have been devised with the growth of applied science and the increase of new inventions. In general, therefore, we can say that society has not been able seriously to reduce the number of the more grave crimes.

Why have we failed in the fight with crime?-Never was so much attention given to the subject of crime. The newspapers are filled with reports of crime as never before. Judges, probation officers, and social students are giving atten

tion to it as never before in history. Laboratories are being established in connection with courts to study the causes of crime. Students are bringing together statistics of crime in the effort to discover causes. New light is being thrown on the problem in ever increasing volume.

Moreover, never have we had so much wealth in this country as at the present time. The general standard of living is higher, although the difference between the standards of various economic classes is greater than ever before. The poor are better looked after today than at any time in the past hundred and fifty years of our history. The comfort of the people of this country, even the poorest, is probably greater than in any other country in the world. Surely the pressure of need cannot explain the persistence of crime, although the pressure of new wants may do so.

Moreover, the ancient institutions which are supposed to have a preventive influence on criminality are developed as never before. Our educational institutions are more highly developed than ever in our history. Churches rear their spires in larger numbers than ever before. Moreover, both education and religion are being given a social flavor which formerly they lacked. Recreation without a parallel is being organized to care for the leisure time of childhood and youth, and yet, so far as we can tell from the facts available, we are not gaining in this country decidedly in the fight against crime. Why are we failing? We have to confess that we do not know. We have various guesses, some of which probably approximate the truth. We need, however, very many more careful studies than we have had to determine the causes of criminality. One of the things that stands out today is the imperative necessity of research which will make available to us the facts concerning crime and the factors of criminality.

Why the persistence of crime?-In the absence of scientific knowledge concerning the reasons for the persistence of crime let us turn to some of the hypotheses which have been suggested to explain the fact.

One of these hypotheses is that we have been making a lot of new legal crimes. Every session of Congress and every meeting of a state legislature puts upon the statute books laws which make things a crime which once were not crimes. For example, all the fish and game laws which have been enacted in the last fifty years and which represent the attempt of society to conserve some of the natural resources of our country have made acts criminal which once were perfectly legitimate. These laws run across customs and habits of individuals which originated centuries ago. From the time of paleolithic man, ten thousand or more years ago, down to very recent times anyone was at liberty to kill game and catch fish whenever and wherever he pleased. Today these habits and customs are restricted and prohibited at certain times and in certain districts. The age-old habits and customs persist in spite of the laws and appear in the statistics of crime.

With the invention of the automobile a new set of laws has been devised

and enacted to meet the new problems of transportation on the highways. Here again old habits and customs find themselves in conflict with the new standards of conduct set by the laws. Moreover, the automobile has made easier many of the old crimes. The bank robber and the holdup man can more easily escape today, because of the automobile, than ever before. The theft of automobiles is entirely a new crime. The horse thief is passing, but in his place we have the automobile thief.

Furthermore, with the rise of new knowledge concerning the cause of disease we have enacted a whole series of laws called dairy and food laws. One may not sell food products unless they conform to certain standards set by the hygienists and the sanitarians. So intricate is our economic life today that we are dependent, not upon our own chicken yard, herd of swine, and herd of cattle for our meats. When we were we could depend upon our selfish regard for the health of ourselves and our families to see that the food was taken care of properly in accordance with the best knowledge we had. When, however, food products are produced for a market there is every temptation to sell food products which we ourselves do not consume but which may endanger the health or life of others.

The same thing is true with respect to sanitation. In the old English village community, before we knew anything about germs, the house and the stable were under the same roof, and the manure pile was beside the house door. Contaminated water was drunk from the town pump or the individual well, and the results were blamed upon the inscrutable wisdom of God. Today anyone who allows garbage to lie about and become a menace to the health of himself or others is subject to prosecution. Moreover, before we understood how disease is transmitted there were no quarantine regulations. Today even measles and chickenpox are subject to quarantine, to say nothing of diphtheria and scarlet fever. Here again is another source of law-breaking. Ignorance and indifference, the children of unsocialized habits and customs, persist in spite of our efforts to control them in the interests of health.

Another explanation of the persistence of crime, which cannot be demonstrated with present statistical methods, is the theory of "social change" or the "costs of progress." Look at the changes in our modern civilization; the changes in thought and ideals, in standards, conventions, customs, and beliefs which have occurred in the last seventy-five years. An echo of it is to be seen in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy. In most matters we take these changes as a matter of course. It takes a case like the fundamentalist controversy to wake us up to a realization of the enormous changes in thought which have occurred. Not only has there been a revolution industrially, but science and philosophy have brought about a revolution in our thinking. The scientific discoveries of the last seventy-five years have been working themselves out in all the realms of thought and action. The spirit of modern science is to question everything for a deeper understanding. It is a spirit of inquiry into all traditions, customs, sanctions, as well as theories of matter and of mind. As a result, many

of the old sanctions of conduct have either been destroyed or have been questioned, and there has been nothing to take their place. The social atmosphere of the present time, due to changing ideals and changing sanctions of conduct, explains why we have crime in the midst of our civilization. If old sanctions are destroyed, like the fear of hell, or reverence for custom and tradition, new ones of equal force must take their place, else social control is destroyed or weakened. The hands of the clock do not go backward. There is no use raving over our loss of the old sanctions. What we must do is to meet the situation by setting up new sanctions adapted to changed conditions.

We have not kept pace in our social inventiveness with our material progress. We have not devised new social machinery to meet the problems created by the industrial and social changes which have come about in the last century. Consequently the criminal is always about three jumps ahead of the law, and our methods for the prevention of crime are not up with the conditions making for criminality. Our schools have failed to meet the situation demanded by the changing ideals of youth. Our churches too often have failed to adapt their appeals and their teachings to the new conditions. We social workers are in the same situation in that we have failed to invent devices to take up the slack in our social machinery. Not only have we failed in the machinery of prevention, but we have bungled the job of caring for our criminals whom we have succeeded in catching. We insist on retaining the old penal theory of retribution. Punishment is the idea at the bottom of our legislation and our court procedure. Then we wonder why we do not do a better job in reforming the criminal.

The persistence of crime is a testimony to our ignorance of social causation. How little we know about the interplay of personality and social pleasures. How ignorant we are of the influence of social conditions on personalities incapable of adjustment to the more complex conditions of modern life. How little we know about the processes of developing socialized personalities, and how poor is our knowledge of the technique of adapting social institutions to the production of social personality. Even our educational system has not advanced very far in determining just how to direct the developing personalities of children so ' that they shall fit well into the social conditions of our times. Just how much pressure and what kind of pressure should society place upon the individual in order to make him conform happily and usefully to our new social standards? How far can we go by legislation in producing a change in habit and custom? Just how shall we order the life of our homes so that the boys and girls as they grow up will find satisfaction in adapting their conduct to the standards of life which are held to be socially desirable? How shall we handle the abnormal personality so that he may live a life of happy usefulness in the midst of a civilization which is geared to high-grade individuals? How shall we treat the individual who has violated the social standards which we have set up, so that he will not be confirmed in his attitude of rebellion against society? How shall we train

him while he is under detention so that he does not go back into free society with a grudge, but with a desire to conform to the standards of social life we have set for him? These are some of the questions on which we must have more knowledge before we can hope to succeed in the struggle against crime. On such knowledge must be based our programs of social reform and our penological systems. How little we are willing to spend on experiment and investigation which will throw light upon these problems. We spend money upon the investigation of plant, animal, and human diseases, but how little we spend on understanding the fundamental basis of social conduct. Until we are willing to spend more than we are spending today on experiments and research into the springs of human conduct and methods of social control which promise some greater degree of success in controlling the development of human beings who must perforce live in complicated human relations, we shall continue to have the persistence of crime which is challenging our attention at the present day.


Robbins Gilman, Head Worker, Northeast Neighborhood House,

The manifestation of crime, that is the actual condition that society is called on to deal with, deserves the closest kind of study, not only to ascertain the causes and to relieve society as well as the individual of the consequences of crime, but as well to formulate some sort of program for the prevention of crime. A study of the cause presupposes an act precedent. A successful effort to prevent may indeed rob the student of his material, but in this no doubt the student would rejoice, for as between a lack of material on criminology and a crimeless social state there is no choice.

Those of us engaged in the preventive side of this ubiquitous subject are constantly thinking in and dealing with human factors at first hand. I know we all wish we had arrived at more successful means of prevention, but Rome was not made in a day and so we continue to build, here a little and there a little, hoping that our structure will approach our ideal just a little more quickly than it would had it not been for our efforts.

I have been asked to confine my remarks to preventive work with boys, and with boys of the adolescent age. Many organizations are in existence to deal with such boys. They have programs, perfected after much study, designed to meet the tastes and proclivities of the adolescent boy and young man. From my experience in the social settlement I have come to respect these agencies and organizations with what amounts to almost a reverence, and yet I realize that many boys are never reached by them. May this not be explained by the fact that despite the number of such organizations there has been from the start a timid attitude of restriction which is summed up in the slogan of "duplication of

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