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The Criminal and the Community
Part II - Chapter V - Age and Crime


THE great majority of those who enter prison for the first time are young persons, and in many cases they do not show any great degree of moral turpitude. “As the twig is bent the tree is inclined,” and what might have been merely a phase of recklessness or a passing mood of lawlessness is sometimes made a fixed habit as a result of the way it has been treated. The younger the person the narrower is his experience, other things being equal. In making the experiments which give experience we may hurt ourselves and others.

There are some who are content to accept the statements of others and to yield an easy obedience to those over them, but in early life the number is not great; and where the elders are too busy to pay much attention to the young there is a greater need for the boy to find out things for himself. Rules of life as they are presented to many boys consist of a series of prohibitions, and it is not always the worst boys who kick against them. Wild and intractable boys do not always grow up into bad citizens ; but if they are taken in hand by the penal machinery of the State there is not much chance for them. They may imitate the showy vices of their elders not because they are vices, but because they are showy. They do not admire the wrong things more frequently than grownup people, but they show their admiration in a way that is sometimes awkward both for them and for us. They are misunderstood and condemned when they persist in going their own way, although the cause of their vagaries may be simple enough if an attempt were made to find it. X 20 was a boy of ten, the son of a man in a comfortable position who had lost all control over him. The boy had run away from school, and had left his home more than once and gone wandering in the country. His father had coaxed and beaten him alternately without any beneficial result. His schoolmaster informed me that the boy was usually quiet and tractable, but did not take much interest in most of his work. He was not of defective intellect and he would not apply himself to some parts of the school course. He was fond of animals. I found him suspicious and reserved; but as he had been told that he was to be seen by the prison doctor, and as he evidently had expected to be confronted with an animated bogey-man, there was nothing surprising in that. He answered questions in monosyllables or not at all, but he promised that he would come himself to my house and see some things which I thought might interest him. I would not allow him to be brought to me, though he lived some three miles off, and he kept his promise and came. With the aid of some other juveniles he was made to feel at ease, and I found he could tell a good deal about animals, such as tadpoles and frogs, and that he had a real interest in such things. He came back several times, and in an indirect way he was advised of the danger of doing what his father had objected to; but it was perfectly evident that his conduct had been the result of the way in which he had been treated, and fear had caused him to commit at least some of the actions that had given cause for complaint. Those who had charge of him were more in need of direction than he was; for they had acted on the assumption that they understood what was best for him, whereas the fact was that they had not the faintest idea of the disposition of the boy, and were simply driving him to extremities in their efforts to keep him right. They were repressing instead of directing his tendencies, with disastrous consequences. His schoolmaster understood; and he was permitted to act on his knowledge with satisfactory results, the parents never having thought that he was as likely to be able to instruct them as to teach their boy. In this case the boy was fortunate beyond many others in respect that his parents were able to seek and obtain advice when they became alarmed because of his behaviour. They were in a position which enabled them to give him the necessary attention when they learned what was required.

X 21 was a boy who had developed the habit of playing truant from school and had come under the observation of the attendance officer. He was in danger of becoming an associate of city undesirables. His mother was a decent widow who had to support him and herself by casual labour. She was obliged to go out in the mornings to clean offices and he was left to himself. She was loth to have him sent to an Industrial School, but she preferred that that should be done to running the risk of having him get into the hands of vicious persons. There was no question as to her rectitude, and as little of her ability to look after him when she had the power; but she could not be out working and at the same time be discharging her maternal duties in guiding him. So he had to be sent to the institution. In a case like this—and they are not uncommon—it would be far better to free the woman from the need of leaving her child and see that she looked after him. She has a greater personal interest in him than any official person can have and it need cost no more; while the gain in character cannot be measured in terms of cash. The mother’s burden is greater than she can bear, and that is a reason for relieving it; but it is no reason for breaking up the family and loosening the tie between parent and child, and the practice cannot even be justified on the score of expense.

Boys get the name of being bad when they are intractable, but bad boys are fewer than bad men. There are too many people who are driven to assume that they know what is best for the boy—or the man— and that without making any attempt to understand those for whom they prescribe. When a boy rebels against the line of action laid down for him it is taken as evidence of his wickedness, though it may only show his good sense. He may be doing the wrong thing with a purpose more reasonable than that of his mentor, but he is likely to find that his intention will meet with no sympathetic consideration even if he reveals it, and his action will meet with punishment if he owns it. He is encouraged to lie in the hope of pleasing his master, and when he is found out his iniquity is magnified.

Boys are far more given to the attempt to find the point of view of those who are in authority over them than grown-up people are to find the standpoint of the boy; and children will often show a deeper knowledge of their parents than the parents have of them. If instead of assuming knowledge and showing ignorance parents would try to understand, there would be less disposition to rule the young by general prohibitions and a freer hand given to them in the choice of their pursuits. Left alone, the child will show its bent; it is not for the parent to thwart its aptitudes, but to direct them into useful channels. Many are made miserable by being set to books, and others are made equally wretched by physical drill. Every year brings forth its own fad. The adult may keep free from its tyranny to some extent, but let it find a place in some code or other and every juvenile runs a grave risk of being subjected to it, because someone in authority who knows nothing about him or his needs has so ordered it.

The boy is kept at school for nearly as many hours in the week as many men work, and when he is set free from its restraint he runs wild—if he is not too tired, or if he has not been set tasks which cause him to work overtime at home. He gets into mischief, and is denounced for his misdeeds and the trouble and annoyance he causes; but boys are not more mischievous than they were. There are few adults who have not been a great nuisance to others in their own early days, but too many of them seem to have forgotten all about that. By all means let the boy who has played some mischievous prank be restrained and corrected, but in choosing the method it might not be a bad plan to remember the exploits of a boy who was no better in his day than the culprit is, if no worse. When we show that we recognise a clear distinction between cramming juveniles with knowledge and educating them, they will learn at the school how to amuse themselves without annoying others. At present they are in this respect left mainly to their own devices, and in very few cases is there any serious ground of complaint against them. Considering their imitative tendencies and the incitements many of them have towards wrongdoing, it is wonderful how few go far astray.

When a boy is sent to a reformatory he has opportunities given him for play, and the importance of providing different forms of recreation for him is not ignored. This is by some called “putting a premium on wrongdoing,” and yet in spite of the reward there are few boys who deliberately adopt a course of law-breaking in order to have the advantages of life in that institution. Either they are too stupid or there is not such a bias on their part towards evil as some would have us suppose. The recreation which forms part of the means adopted to reform the boy who has transgressed might conceivably prevent transgressions if it were placed within the reach of others, especially as the association of boys whose common interest is that they have all been before the courts is not likely to make for their improvement.

Whatever its defects as an educational institution, the school has this to its credit, that a better standard of conduct is maintained than could be acquired by many of the scholars if they were left to grow up under tho conditions that obtain in their homes. Now and then someone does a particularly shocking thing, and until quite lately when this occurred the offender was liable to be brought to the police court. Now there is a special court for dealing with children, but as there is no change in the judge or in the officials before whom the child appears, all that has been gained is his separation from older offenders. This is something to be thankful for, but it is a minor mercy compared with what ought to be done. He is more a subject for treatment by those whose experience enables them to understand children than a “case” to be tried by a magistrate whose traditions are those of the criminal courts.

Most of the charges are acts of malicious mischief or petty thefts. The offenders have got out of parental control or have eluded the supervision of their parents. In some cases the parents are culpably careless or negligent, taking little interest in their children and making their home worse than it need be. They spoil the child without sparing the rod, for the boy is often hammered without mercy when he annoys them. He keeps out of their way and may fall into bad company and bad habits. Most of these boys show evidences of neglect in their appearance ; but they are not, though they may become, desperadoes. Others go astray not so much from the culpable neglect of their parents as because, with the best will in the world to guide the boy, the parent is either incompetent to to do so from sheer stupidity, or, more frequently, from being too busily engaged in trying to make a livelihood to have the necessary time to give to his care. A smaller number are the children of parents who are quite competent to look after them, but who have failed to keep themselves in sufficiently close touch with them —which is a more difficult thing to do than it seems.

At school the boy may be under good guardianship, but he is away from his mother during the greater part of the day, and he may pick up companions who will not exercise the most favourable effect on him. They need not be bad, but they may be bad for him. Out of school hours he seeks for recreation, and in the effort to obtain amusement of a special kind he may take what does not belong to him, and be found out and complained of; or not be found out and continue the practice. It is all very simple and not at all uncommon—except in the result. Honesty has to be learned, and some people never learn it; though they never commit crimes. There is a difference between being honest and being dishonest within the law. There are few women or men who have not at some time or other “dishonestly appropriated property,” though they did not express it that way when they abstracted sweets well knowing the penalty if caught. Some boys do not steal sweets, but they steal money to buy sweets; and in the same way others steal money to pay the price of admission to a place of entertainment. Sometimes they break into shops to steal, and they are then young criminals; but this rarely happens when the necessary money can be picked up at home.

In a young person the desire for pleasure is naturally too strong to be at first repressed by a sense of the rights of property. He does not need to be taught that sweets please the palate or shows delight the eye; but he requires to learn that in the long run honesty is the best policy. Children are not likely to steal if they can get what they want without stealing, but they may help themselves when they can if they are subjected to unreasonable prohibitions. Even men and women have been driven far out of the right path through attempts to repress their desires for harmless amusement and to make them take life solemnly.

The dishonesty of children arises not so much from a perverted nature as from an inability to appreciate the importance of honesty. It is a phase that passes as their experience of the world grows. They can be trained out of it, but attempts to knock it out of them are as likely to knock it into them.

There ought to be provision made whereby parents could be advised, admonished, and assisted in dealing with children whom they have been unable to control. Our Children Courts are not designed with this end in view, and I doubt whether it makes much difference to the child who is sent to one of our institutions that he was sent from one room in the courthouse rather than from another. Our money would be- better spent in assisting parents who have the will to do well by their children, but who have not the power, than in taking the children away from them. As for those who are careless of their children, they should be dealt with for their carelessness. In many cases the apathy they show is a consequence of our methods. If, instead of taking the children away from those who neglect them, we trained and assisted them, we should have better parents and better children. If carelessness and callousness were then shown by the parents we could proceed with justice to deal with them for culpable misconduct. At present we are not in a position to do so, since we are not prepared to help them to discharge their responsibilities. We make it easier for them to neglect than to care for their offspring, and if they lose control of them to a sufficient extent we free them from the burden altogether.

The spirit of enquiry and experiment leads many boys into mischief, and some of their malicious acts are the result of it. Men too readily forget that the boy sees things in a quite different light and relationship from them. Some of the housebreaking adventures that look so bad on a charge-sheet appear quite different when the story is told from the boy’s standpoint, and they do not always show such depravity as one would expect. Some boys are always seeking adventures and becoming absorbed in them; others are content to read about deeds of daring, and the works they favour are often crude enough. Occasionally one is taken with a mask and pistol in his possession attempting to rob in the highway, and then we have homilies on the evils of pernicious literature of the “Dick Turpin” sort, which might be more convincing if the homilists were themselves free from connection with stuff that is worse.

The adventurous boys are not those who read much of any kind of book; they are too busy living. The “Blood” is devoured more by the boy who dreams rather than acts; but of the thousands of men who as boys read prohibited books and enjoyed them, few are likely to spend much time on the equally sensational publications that circulate in millions among adults. On the whole, the boy will not get a more distorted view of life from the highly coloured papers he reads than he would obtain from some of the newspapers; and when he is being condemned for his preference for “Bloods,” it would not be amiss to remember that these productions have never set themselves to foment in his mind feelings of ill-will against people of other lands. It is not the boys but the adults who are raised by the papers they read into hysterical outbursts of senseless rage or equally senseless fear now of one and now of another continental power; and if “literature” is to be judged by its apparent effect, then these papers are more pernicious than the “Bloods,” which the boy prefers to the books which are designed for his moral instruction. There is no comparison between his highwayman—a boy’s highwayman who robbed the rich and gave to the poor, to the inversion of all social order—and the industrious apprentice who married his master’s daughter, poor girl. The hero is a hero to him because he dares all risks, is true to his friend, is gallant and generous, and faces death with a brave heart. If he does the wrong thing he does it in the right way, and it is not the thief but the man who gains the boy’s admiration. As for the industrious one, even a boy knows that there are not enough masters’ daughters to go round; and if he revolts at the selfishness of the gospel of getting on, he is right in rejecting such a false basis of morals. We know that the boy’s Robin Hood or Dick Turpin never existed in fact; but if they exist in his fancy?

To those who denounce them these papers are only a glorification of theft of a particular kind, but there is no likelihood of its ever coming into vogue again. Dick Turpin is now a company-promoter and his cheques are in demand by Churches and political parties. He does not risk his life now, and we are very glad to be taken into his confidence ; but the boy has not found that out yet. His books may be ill-chosen, but wholesale condemnation will not mend the matter; and in books, as in other things, it is impossible to tell what is good for the boy till something more is known about him than that he is a boy. When he reads it is safe to assume that he does so because he feels some need is supplied thereby. When its nature is discovered a step will be made towards its better supply, but not before. To take the boy away from the book he likes to a standard author on the ground that it is better for him, is to run the risk of creating in him a permanent dislike for the books chosen.

In the city most of the boys leave school when they are fourteen years of age, and entering on new pursuits are subject to fresh temptations. The employment they obtain is largely a matter of chance, but whatever it may be, they are less likely to go wrong when engaged at it than when free from it. Their playground is the street, and there is no adequate provision made for their recreation. On payment of a small sum they may obtain admission to the music-halls or the picture-shows, and these latter are largely patronised by boys. That they serve a useful purpose is undeniable, and if the entertainment they offer may not be all that is desirable, it is practically all that is to be had by many. Since it cannot be had freely there are temptations to find the means, and the boy amongst his neighbours who is worst off in respect of money is hardest pressed. It is deplorable that some should yield to the temptation to obtain money dishonestly, but it is idle to ignore the condition of things and neglect to provide reasonable opportunities for the recreation which is required after work done. There are private organisations taking the matter in hand, but their appeal, though wide, is, and must be, sectional. Boys’ Brigades in connection with the Churches can only reach a minority of the juvenile population, and the same statement applies to Boy Scouts. There are those who object on principle to both organisations on the ground that they foster the military spirit, but the militarists themselves do not appear to share this view. Boys like to play soldiers, but when they get sense they drop that; and meantime they play, greatly to their advantage. As for the Scouts, they seem to represent an improved edition of “follow my leader,” and their uniform prevents their being interfered with while they play. It does none of them any harm to believe that they are saving their country so long as they are really saving themselves, and no greater number of them develop a taste for a soldier’s career later in life than enlist from among those who have never belonged to one or other of the organisations. It may be that the intention of some of the promoters is to feed the army, but that is to leave out of account the boys themselves and the development of their minds. Whatever the intention, the result is good in so far as the interest of the game keeps the boys in healthy exercise.

The most popular of all the forms of public recreation is the football match. Week after week the grounds are filled by tens of thousands of spectators who find in the game they witness not only amusement for the time, but matter of conversation and interest which outlasts the day. Young and old they are mostly partisans, and though their conduct may leave much to be desired, that should not distract the observer’s attention from the main fact, which is that they are enabled to find a real interest in something which is at least harmless. There are those who lament the fact that the spectators are not players, and who condemn them for being merely vicarious partakers in the game. As a matter of fact, a good many of them have played, and some of them have got into trouble for playing. A very little acquaintance with the facts would make the Jeremiahs aware that there is no public provision made for allowing very many to play; that a great many who enjoy seeing others play have no time when free from labour to practise much themselves, even if a field were near ; and that if any large number began to play football in the only spaces open to them—the streets—there would be no room to get about. It is not a bad plan to consider men’s limitations before condemning their pursuits, but it is too little practised.

The football match is a strong counter-attraction to the public-house or the aimless wander through the streets, and the football field would be an admirable playground for many of the young, as they would readily admit; but those who want them to play rather than to look on are never very prominent when an attempt is made to find them the means. Some of them use the public streets for a practice ground, greatly to the annoyance of the passengers and sometimes to their danger. The nuisance has to be stopped and the usual method is adopted; the universal panacea for all evils is applied, and the culprits are taken in charge by the police. A small fine is inflicted, with the alternative of imprisonment if the lads are over sixteen. I have seen a batch of them brought to jail because their fines had not been paid. All that had been done was to ensure that these boys would not play football in the streets for several days; yet the cost of their escort and board during that time, if expended on the hire of ground, would have provided them and others with opportunities of play for six months; and they do not play in the streets for choice —at least it has not been demonstrated that they do.

Alike in work and in play the boy’s pursuits are largely matter of chance. He has to seek employment and is generally ready to take anything that presents itself. Some of the situations that offer most attractions to him are of such a character as to prevent him from applying himself to work at which in his manhood he could earn a living. In the beginning he may earn more money at these occupations than he would if apprenticed to some skilled handicraft, but before many years he is cast off by his employers, unsettled by his work, and less fit and less inclined to spend time in qualifying either for a trade or a profession. There are far too many blind-alley occupations open to boys, and they should be closed to those entering on industrial life. There are many men who by advancing years are shut out from the work they have been accustomed to do; they are leaving the ranks of the skilled workers, and they could do the work at present done by lads with advantage to the community, since there would not then be numbers of young persons spending the most receptive years of their life in occupations by which they cannot hope to earn their living when they reach manhood.

As the boy grows to adolescence he tends to get further from the control of his parents. His growth implies change in him, and he may develop new needs and new desires without the power necessary to control them. It is well recognised that in adolescence there is a special liability to physical or mental breakdown, and short of this it is no uncommon tiling for young people to show a degree of instability that alarms their friends for their safety. Yet in youth there are very many employed at occupations that are in a marked degree physically exhausting. They are permitted to take far too much out of their body, and though they may thereby develop their muscles, they are almost certain to hinder the healthy development of their minds. The State has interfered with some trades and prohibited certain processes of manufacture on the ground that the chemicals employed affect the health of the workers in an injurious way; and it has laid down regulations for the proper sanitation of workshops. It will yet have to consider the advisability of limiting the amount of physical energy that a man may be allowed regularly to expend in work, and the sooner it begins with lads the better for everybody. At present we hear of the large wage earned by workmen in certain trades and their notorious improvidence. To anyone with eyes to see their improvidence is not more evident in the way they spend their wages than in the way they earn them; for their lives, industrially, are short, and they are too often physical wrecks in middle life, partly from the undue fatigue to which they have been subjected and partly from vices they have contracted in the attempt to stimulate themselves when fatigued. We only hear of the vices, but their industry is equally foolish if it implies excessive expenditure of vitality; and no income in money would justify the cost at which it is obtained.

Time and again there come before the courts young men who are neither insane nor weak-minded, but whose mental powers have been stunted and twisted by the conditions to which they have been subjected. They are not there for committing offences against property, but for startling the district by some atrocious assault; and there is this point of similarity about them all, that they have been engaged at work which was too heavy for them, and when set free from it have used the strength of a man incited by a man’s passions to do things that only a boy would conceive.

Equal mental and physical development is rare in youth, and in practice everybody recognises the fact. There are some big lads who are young for their years and little ones who are pretematurally old-fashioned; but time mends the matter, and a balance is established if something does not occur to mar the youth meanwhile. Placed under conditions that favour the development of muscle and prevent the development of the mental powers, young men cannot be wholly blamed if now and then they shock us by showing the natural result of such a course of training.

About the streets of the city there are lads who take care not to work too hard. Many of them are the children of parents who have never exercised much care over them, and in some cases they have been sent out with a few coppers to purchase papers and sell them; or to beg. They have learnt to like the life and have deliberately adopted it themselves in preference to other employment. They come to prison sooner or later if they escape the reformatory; and sometimes after they have been there. There is only one opinion possible among those who know the facts about the street-trading they carry on—that it should be abolished; and the only real difficulty is that its abolition ought in justice to be accompanied by some provision for the employment of those young persons who have been engaged in it. The newsboy is a great convenience to the public and the newspaper owners. He sometimes is an important aid to his family, for in a proportion of cases the parent is as respectable and as anxious to take care of the boy as anyone could wish. It is her poverty that compels her to use his services. But the risks to the boys outweigh all advantages. The poverty that compels a mother to subject her child to such risks ought to be relieved; the public and the newspaper proprietors would find other means of obtaining and delivering the news if they realised the cost of the present condition of things; and a nursery of criminals would be removed.

In most cases the parents require more attention than the boys, and especially the female parent. The children are her peculiar care, and if she takes to drink the results to them are serious. Whatever differences of opinion there may be as to the hereditary transmission of intemperance, there is no room for doubt as to its effect in causing the mother who is subject to it to become an inefficient guardian of her child.

Her family suffers from neglect, and they are driven on the street to pick up a living as best they may. When they can they may take lodgings in a “Model,” and in any case they learn from others how they may live with most license. They are nearly all gamblers, and honesty is not a virtue that they find profitable.

The fact is that there could be no worse school for a boy than the street and no worse companions than those who live there, not because they are gifted with any additional dose of original sin; they are no worse mentally, morally, or physically than many others; but because a tradition has grown up among them that is anti-social in its character, and like the rest of folks they conform to the conditions in which they find themselves. When they loaf or steal they do it because they believe that it is easier and more profitable than working in a regular way. Show them that they are wrong and they will modify their opinion and their action; but that is precisely what is not done. They have heard all you can tell them, and they adhere to their own standpoint not because they are more stupid than their' teachers, but because they see another side to the story. When they are imprisoned they are not generally intractable, and they do what they are told because it pays better to obey than to rebel; but outside, though they recognise the inconvenience and risk of being caught, they have a not unjustifiable belief in their power to dodge those who are watching them, and at the worst they prefer to serve a term of imprisonment once in a while rather than exchange their way of living for another. It is just as well to recognise the fact that they do not follow their objectionable courses because it is difficult to do so. When they are dishonest it is usually because they believe it is easier for them to pick up a livelihood that way than by any honest occupation within their reach or experience. Their opinion may be right or wrong, but it is formed on a knowledge of a different set of facts from that within the ken of those who judge them; and it does not help to a better understanding of them that we should assume that they are greater fools than we are, though we do not share their follies.

Now and then there are outbreaks of savage violence on the part of young lads in the streets ; acts which, apparently purposeless and certainly cruel, shock the citizens and anger them. Then there is a cry for vengeance; never an attempt to seek the causes of the trouble; and the matter is forgotten when a few of the offenders have been given “exemplary punishments.” Exemplary punishments always repay examination, and sometimes the hapless individual who is made the whipping-boy for others has been rather cruelly treated; not that that seems to matter if the offence complained of ceases, for it is taken as proof that the authorities have done the right thing in making an example of him. The assumption is one that never bore examination at any time, but it seldom is examined.

When a crop of offences of a similar kind startles a district there may be a common cause found if it is sought for; and when the offences cease their cessation may be found to have some relation to that cause; but the arrest and imprisonment of one here and there as examples have as little relationship to the cessation of offences as prayer had in the stopping of an epidemic of cholera. In the one case you have to break up the association of offenders and destroy their spirit; in the other you have to attend to your drains and your sanitation. The punishment and the prayer in either case may assist in so far as they direct attention to the need for right action. How then do these outbreaks originate, and what causes them to cease? In the first place, they are not the work of professional thieves, though these take advantage of them. They begin in horseplay among the lads at the street comer. None of them may be abnormally mischievous or wicked, but a crowd has a spirit of its own which is different from that of its members. Everybody has seen dignified citizens under the excitement of, say, an election, when they got the news that the country had been saved in the way they desired, behaving in a sufficiently ridiculous manner and inciting others to a like behaviour. If they had received the news when at home it would at most have caused a smile, but in a crowd one has stirred the other to do and say things that neither would ordinarily do or say.

An orator may sway a crowd and utterly fail to move the members of it if he spoke to them individually. The lads at the corner will do things when they are together that none of them would think of doing if he were alone. Not only does each incite the other, but all incite each one to action. The horseplay is extended and indulged in by them at the expense of passers-by, and to their annoyance. If it stops there no noise is heard about “Hooliganism”; but if the lads, letting themselves loose, go further and injure a respectable citizen there is complaint. The culprit is at first frightened, but having done the thing he tries to make the most of it, especially if he sees his companions rather admire his temerity. He boasts of his daring and excites emulation. One tries to outdo another; other “corners” hear about and imitate the desperadoes; the newspapers take the matter up; and the place is in a state of terror. There is reason for the terror, too; for in the process unoffending and peaceful citizens have suffered serious injury. The professional criminal, who is quick to take advantage of any chance, hangs on to the tails of the foolish lads, and under cover of their depredations helps himself to what he can get. Anything that gathers a crowd helps him, but he knows better than to commit assaults of this purposeless kind himself. He has no objection to rob the assaulted or the threatened and terrorised parties, however, provided he can conceal himself. If he can get any of the lads who began the proceedings to assist him, good and well; but in that case they may find they have started on a new and criminal career. The loose cohesion between the mischievous and the criminal elements in the crowd becomes organised; and by this time there is a general demand on the part of the citizens that somebody should be punished. Then the examples begin.

But the very fact that the outrages have been advertised, while it causes their imitation at first, makes parents and employers enquire into the conduct of their sons and their workers. The lads are kept in at night, or they are otherwise separated from each other. When the association begins to break up the process is not long before it is complete. Everyone who leaves it is suspected of being a possible informer, and the dread of they know not what—the most powerful kind of fear—invades their minds. The conduct that seemed so laudable is now given up and the epidemic dies out. To send one of the offenders to prison is simply to make him a martyr in the eyes of his associates, who know that he is no worse than they were and who sympathise with rather than abhor him. The real deterrent is the action of the parents and employers who know the lads. They neither want to get into trouble at home nor to lose their jobs. Those who are sent to prison have often little to do with the matter, and their exemplary punishment has less. Real hooliganism—the existence of young professional thieves who are in the habit of committing brutal assaults and inflicting injuries recklessly on their victims—is rare in Glasgow.

The young person is more likely to fall into error than his elders because of his inexperience. Whatever the law may hold, no business man expects the kind of service from a youth that he looks for from a man. The young man may have more knowledge than his senior and more recent information on many things, but only time can enable him to co-relate his knowledge. The question whether a lad knows right from wrong is all that some people will consider ; which shows how little they know, if they really believe that the answer will enable anyone to assess a man’s responsibility. We are taught “right and wrong” from our earliest years by way of principles to guide us, but they are not always easy of application. The difference between a young and an old man is one of experience. Practice has enabled the one to use his knowledge in a way that the other has yet to learn. Our conceptions of many things on which we have been given information apparently full and accurate have been proved time and again to be quite wrong ; experience enables us to discount our anticipations, but it only comes with years. In judging young people it is specially necessary to bear in mind the fact that with all their apparent knowledge they may have totally wrong conceptions of things, and that thus they have been misled. On many occasions I have had to note the fact that a young man had committed an atrocious crime; that he knew perfectly well it was wrong; that it was not due to imperfect powers of control; that he had brooded over and visualised it before the act; and that its accomplishment had left him shocked beyond expression, for it was all so different from his conception of it.

No punishment could intensify the shuddering horror with which these lads regarded their own acts, “so different from what I thought it would be”; and yet in ordinary affairs we are well acquainted with the phenomenon. Why we should lose sight of it when a crime has been committed and we are seeking to unravel the causes is a mystery. Know right from wrong? Yes, and conceive the whole matter wrongly. This state of mind is not peculiar to the criminal, and may sometimes be present in those who take upon themselves to judge and condemn him.

In early life a lad is not only more liable to go astray, but having fallen it is more difficult for him to recover. He is more impressionable, and the impression of his crime and of the way in which he has been treated stands in his way. He has no record of experience behind it to which his memory can turn and by which he can be helped to seek the right road when he leaves prison. “Learn young, learn fair,” is as true of crime as of other things.

At the opposite end of the path of life a special cause of crime is degeneration of the physical or mental powers. In the first case the man may become destitute and forced into criminal courses in order to gain a living. In the latter case he may develop tendencies and commit certain offences that are quite at variance with his former conduct.

As a result of senile changes in body and mind some old men offend against the law. When the condition is marked they are dealt with for it, but in some cases it is only suspected and is not capable of proof. It is simply a question of whether they should be sent to prison or to a lunatic asylum.


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