REVIEW of REVIEWS

Dementia Praecox Causes Crime

World’s Work Writer Denies Brutal Criminals Are Monsters Owing to Heredity and Advises Isolation to Prevent Crimes.

FRENCH STROTHER October 15 1924
REVIEW of REVIEWS

Dementia Praecox Causes Crime

World’s Work Writer Denies Brutal Criminals Are Monsters Owing to Heredity and Advises Isolation to Prevent Crimes.

FRENCH STROTHER October 15 1924

Dementia Praecox Causes Crime

REVIEW of REVIEWS

World’s Work Writer Denies Brutal Criminals Are Monsters Owing to Heredity and Advises Isolation to Prevent Crimes.

FRENCH STROTHER

PEOPLE who commit crimes, even of the most brutal kind, are not monsters, but sufferers of a disease known to psychologists as dementia praecox, according to French Strother in the World’s Work. This is a physical defect of the mass of gray matter, comprising the basal ganglia and the nervous system, and, say the new psychologists, is almost certainly inherited. Sufferers from this defect have no emotion, because the machine that registers emotion in normal people is so defective that it does not work. In other words such sufferers are emotionally insane.

Crimes can now be prevented, say these psychologists, because the cause of them is known. It has been discovered recently, that the disease, emotional insanity, is nearly always inherited, is incurable, and can be positively diagnosed and accurately measured. In the light of this new knowledge what can be done to banish crime? We can, says French Strother, humanize our penology by abolishing our prisons, and in their place provide guarded farm colonies, where these “victims” may live a civilized life safe from the temptations of the world.

It should be understood at once that this system could not be adopted on this continent in less than thirty years, because at present there are less than a dozen psychologists here who are trained in the new science of making these tests of emotional insanity, and it will require a generation to train the thousands who would be needed.

Now, let us take up the case that doubtless first occurs to you, and makes you object to the system. Your own son is arrested in a strange town on suspicion of holding up a man and taking twenty dollars. It is a case of mistaken identity, but the circumstantial evidence looks conclusive, and the boy has no way of proving an alibi, so the judge and jury find him guilty. Are they then to sentence him to life detention in a farm colony? Not at all. Instead, they turn him over to the psychopathologist. This trained scientist gives him the “association test,” to measure his emotional response to words that are associated in idea with familiar emotions. Your son’s responses -are perfectly normal. He then gives him the “drawing test,” to see whether his intelligence and his emotions work normally in double harness. Your son meets this test perfectly. The scientist then gives him the physical tests of his neurological reflexes: for example, do his toes clinch in a certain way when his foot is tickled, as they should, or do they curl abnormally? Your son’s muscular reflexes are normal. Then the scientist looks up your son’s history, and finds he has never before been suspected of wrong-doing. He looks up your own and your wife’s heredity, and finds no evidence of outstanding emotional eccentricity. Then he goes back to the judge and says, “This boy did not commit the crime he is charged with. He couldn’t commit a deliberate crime if he tried, because his affectivity (you and I call it “conscience”) wouldn’t let him.” And the court would discharge your son and send the police to look for the real robber.

The experience of the Psychopathic Laboratory of the Municipal Court of Chicago shows that dementia praecox is the characteristic insanity of crime. In one or another ot its forms it is invariably detected in criminals. Most criminals have also a slight degree of intelligence defect—in fact, most criminals are in the moron class—but this defect of intelligence is by no means invariable. Indeed, a good many murderers, and practically all forgers, are above the average in intelligence; while nearly all pickpockets and confidence men have average intelligence or better.

On the other hand, a considerable majority of the law-abiding, God-fearing human race grades no higher than high grade moron in intelligence.

The truth about the part that environment plays in crime is this: criminals are people of unstable emotions. These emotions are least liable to be disturbed where life itself is most stabilized. An old, prosperous farming community, for example, where a livelihood is practically assured to everybody and where social relationships have become fixed by long acceptance of customs, is least likely to produce situations that put sudden or heavy strains upon the emotions.

A distinguishing fact that runs all through the records of criminals is the emotional eccentricity of their parents and other near relatives. Alcoholic excess, religious mania, hysteria, overwrought nerves, cruelty to animals—all are symptoms of defective emotional centers. Their presence in other members of the family simply means that the criminal inherited his defective emotional centers. He happened to inherit them in such proportions, and the circumstances of his individual existence happened so to work out. that he turned to crime.

Here, at last, we come to the permanent solution of the problem of crime—Stop the breeding of criminals! Segregation of males and females is all that is required. Society demands such segregation now in obvious cases—for example, society would not permit two inmates of a home for the feeble-minded to bring children into the world.

Segregation would not call for any more insane asylums. Instead, it would call for guarded farm colonies, where the victims of hereditary defect could live a cheerful, active, useful life, separated only from society at large and the companionship of the opposite sex.

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