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Criminal Class (Sources)

P. Colquhoun, A Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis, esp Ch IV

It is not, therefore, so much the actual loss that is sustained (great as it certainly is) which is to be deplored as the mischief which arises from the destruction of the morals of so numerous a body of people; who must be directly or collaterally engaged in perpetrating smaller offences, and in fraudulent and criminal pursuits.

This, in a political point of view, is a consideration of a very serious and alarming nature, infinitely worse in its consequences than even those depredations which arise from acts of violence committed by more atrocious offenders; the numbers of which latter have been shewn to be small, in comparison with other delinquents, and not to have increased in any material degree for the last 50 years; while inferior thefts, river-plunder, pillage, embezzlement, and frauds, in respect to public property, coining base money, forgeries under various ramifications, cheating by means of swindling and other criminal practices, and purchasing and dealing in stolen goods, have advanced in a degree, commensurate to the great and rapid influx of wealth, which has arisen from the vast increase of the commerce and manufactures of the Country, and the general accumulation of property by British subjects in the East and West Indies, and in foreign Countries.

The evils, therefore, are the more prominent, as they have become so exceedingly diffused; and implicate in criminality numerous individuals, of whom a very large proportion were formerly untainted with any of that species of Delinquency, which now renders them, (for their own sakes—for the benefit of their families—and for the interest of public morals,) objects of peculiar attention on the part of the Legislature, as well as the Police of the Country.

G. Rylands, Crime: Its Causes and Remedy, esp Ch II


Gina Lombroso (intro by Cesare Lombroso), The Criminal Man

The Criminal Type

All the physical and psychic peculiarities of which we have spoken are found singly in many normal individuals. Moreover, crime is not always the result of degeneration and atavism; and, on the other hand, many persons who are considered perfectly normal are not so in reality. However, in normal individuals, we never find that accumulation of physical, psychic, functional, and skeletal anomalies in one and the same person, that we do in the case of criminals, among whom also entire freedom from abnormal characteristics is more rare than among ordinary individuals.

Just as a musical theme is the result of a sum of notes, and not of any single note, the criminal type results from the aggregate of these anomalies, which render him strange and terrible, not only to the scientific observer, but to ordinary persons who are capable of an impartial judgment.

Cesare Lombroso and William Ferrero, The Female Offender


The primitive woman was rarely a murderess ; but she was always a prostitute, and such she remained until semi-civilised epochs. Atavism, again, then explains why prostitutes should show a greater number of retrogressive characteristics than are to be observed in the female criminal.

Various as are these solutions of a singular problem, we may, I think, seek yet another. In female animals, in aboriginal women, and in the women of our time,
the cerebral cortex, particularly in the psychical centres, is less active than in the male. The irritation consequent on a degenerative process is therefore neither so constant nor so lasting, and leads more easily to motor and hysterical epilepsy, or to sexual anomalies, than to crime. For a similar reason genius is more common in men than in women ; and the lower animals remain insensible to narcotics, which intoxicate the human species, and are not subject to delirium or mania when attacked by fever.

We have now got to the reason why criminality increases among women with the march of civilisation. The female criminal is a kind of occasional delinquent, presenting few characteristics of degeneration, little dulness, &c., but tending to multiply in proportion to her opportunities for evil-doing ; while the prostitute has a greater atavistic resemblance to her primitive ancestress, the woman of pleasure, and, as we shall see, has consequently a greater dulness of touch and taste, a greater propensity for tattooing, and so on.

In short, the female criminal is of less typical aspect than the male because she is less essentially criminal ; because in all forms of degeneration she deviates to a less degree ; because, being organically conservative, she keeps the characteristics of her type even in her aberrations from it ; and finally because beauty, being for her a supreme necessity, her grace of form resists even the assaults of degeneracy.

Thomas Plint, Crime in England, esp chapter on the Criminal Class

But the whole theory of a criminal class may be looked at from an entirely different point of view. The class has been regarded hitherto, either as a sequence of errors in the frame and working of social institutions, or as a moral cesspool, into which all the offscourings and dregs of the community settle down and corrupt. Is there not a fundamental error involved in this view? May it not be said of the class that it is in the community, but neither of it, nor from it? Is it not the fact that a large majority of the class is so by descent, and stands as completely isolated from the other classes, in blood, in sympathies, in its domestic and social organization (if such terms are applicable to its conditions and institutions), as it is hostile to them in the whole ways and means of its temporal existience.

William Morrison, Juvenile Offenders, esp Chs V and VI

First, then, What does the physical condition of juvenile offenders teach us as to their mental condition? With respect to physical condition it has been pointed out in the preceding chapter that the mortality among juveniles in reformatory and industrial schools is higher than the mortality among the general population of a similar age. It has also been pointed out that the juvenile prison population, as a whole, are under the average height and under the average weight of the general community at the same period of life. Lastly, it has been shown that a high percentage of these juveniles are descended from such a feeble stock, that over 30 per cent, of the industrial school, reformatory school, and prison population have lost one or both parents in early life. Therefore, whether we look at these juveniles from the point of view of parentage, or from the point of view of actual physical condition, the conclusion is in each case forced upon us that a high percentage f the youthful delinquent population is more feebly eveloped on the physical side, and more liable to scumb to the attacks of disease than juveniles of similar age in the general community. In other ords, the physical basis of mental life is in a worse ondition amongst juvenile offenders as a body than mongst the ordinary population at the same stage of existence.