THE TRUTH ABOUT SEX CRIMINALS
We jail these men, we lash them, then turn them loose to sin again — A frank report on a hush-hush subject
A FEW WEEKS ago an eminent Ontario jurist, Chief Justice McRuer, found himself in a serious dilemma.
A 17-year-old boy had been found guilty of attempting to rape a 13-year-old schoolgirl. Three psychiatrists and a probation officer had testified that the youth was mentally unhealthy and that he had a perverted moral sense.
What was to be done with him?
According to the section of the Criminal Code dealing with sex offenses there were only three sentences the Chief Justice could impose; two or more years in penitentiary, up to two years in a reformatory or free on probation.
His Lordship was sharply critical of all three forms of punishment.
“If the lad is incurable,” he stated,
“he should be segregated from others whom he might harm. If he is curable he should be treated by doctors or psychiatrists. It is with regret that I must send him to an institution where his condition will be ignored. When this boy is discharged from the institution he will be more likely to repeat the offense for which he was convicted than when he entered.”
Only a few days earlier a Grand Jury at the spring assizes had drawn attention to the same matter. “We regret,” they stated, “that in all Canada there is not a suitable single institution where sex offenders are segregated to receive corrective mental treatment.”
Statements such as these point dramatically to the growing problem of sex criminality. Sex offenses of every category are increasing in Canada.
Convictions in Montreal last year were 35% above the 1944 figure, and those in Toronto had risen 47%. The nationwide total of convictions is now running above 2,000 a year; it reached 2,126 in 1945, the last year for which complete statistics are available.
But every police authority can tell you that the official figures don't begin to give the story. “For every sex offense reported,” one of them said, “there are a hundred we never hear about.”
At this writing Winnipeg police are seeking the maniac who brutally assaulted and murdered two young boys within a few weeks. The mutilated body of the second victim, 13-year-old Roy McGregor, was found tossed into a coalbin.
Public-spirited organizations in both Calgary and Edmonton, fearful for the safety of the children of their community, recently sent urgent petitions to Hon. J. L. Ilsley, Minister of Justice, asking him to devise some means of treating and curing sex criminals.
After a local crime which shocked the community a Maritime mother writes: “The police have just grabbed the depraved prowler that mauled the little girl last week within two blocks of our home. But for the grace of God the victim might, have been my youngest son. The danger is not yet past. Within a few years the same man, or someone like him, will be free again to repeat the same crime. Is there nothing that can be done to protect us?”
These Men Are 111
ONE of the chief reasons sex criminality has grown to such proportions is that we have miserably failed to approach the problem intelligently. Sexual abnormality has always been a hush-hush subject, and the sex pervert is probably the least understood of all our citizens.
The sex variant is much more common than is generally realized. Fortunately only a small per-
centage of perverts are criminals. United States medical officers, after examining millions of men called up for the armed forces, reported, “We were surprised at the large number of sex quirks we came across. Applying our figures to the national scene it is possible that as many as five per cent of the entire nation are sexually maladjusted.”
In Canada the situation is probably as serious. Every Canadian serviceman can recall at least a few instances where one of the fellows in his outfit was suddenly sent home for discharge because he was a “queer.” The police of one of our large cities have a file of 1,500 names of known sex perverts— an admittedly small percentage of the total number in that city, which is estimated at 15,000.
Sex abnormality is no respecter of race, color, occupation, economic class or social standing. The sex deviate may be brilliant or moronic, a confirmed bachelor or a married man with a family. In any case, aware that both society and the law frown on his abnormality, such a man lives in constant fear of exposure. What would his wife and family
say if they found out? How could he go on with his job or profession if the truth were known?
“Why,” you ask, “does a man run the risk of losing everything by engaging in abnormal sex practices?”
The truth is that sex deviates act under an overpowering compulsion. Normal people regard their acts as ugly and sordid; the psychiatrist sees them as the product of diseased, ailing minds in need of extensive treatment. They suffer an illness just as surely as does a man with tuberculosis or a broken leg. Some are incurable, but others can respond to psychiatric treatment and sympathetic guidance.
When a sex crime occurs the public instantly flies into a panie and cries loudly for the blood of the offender. Like the lunatic of 100 years ago the sex criminal today is despised, lashed, and incarcerated.
This feeling of hatred and repugnance makes rational handling of the situation all but impossible. Take the matter of detection; often children tell their parents that they have been molested on the street or in some alleyway. The parents, unwilling to have the experience dwell in their youngsters’ minds any longer than necessary, unwisely dismiss the incident. Similarly, a large number of young women do not like to appear in court and testify in a sex case, lest some stigma be attached to their names for years to come.
Canada’s penal institutions are ill-equipped to help the sex offender who is caught and convicted. “We have no psychiatrists to treat them and no
room to segregate them,” complained one prison official. “They cause a lot of trouble. We’re not soriy to see them go.”
Punishment Not a Cure
F)R the past several weeks I have been studying the problem of sex criminality in Canada. The medical, police and social welfare authorities whom I interviewed suggested over and over again that I make one point abundantly clear to the public— that no amount of lashing, beating, or imprisonment will ever cure or improve or deter a sex criminal.
In the words of Dr. C. B. Farrar, director of the Toronto Psychiatric Hospital, “Some attempt should be made to deal with the cause of the crime. Perhaps there is a mental impairment or a psychological maladjustment. Simply sentencing sex perverts according to the terms laid down by the Criminal Code doesn’t seem sensible.”
Our obsolete, vindictive treatment of the sex offender has brought tragedy and suffering into thousands of Canadian homes. Hundreds of sex crimes are committed each year by men who have already been punished by the law for the same offense. By releasing them without treatment of any kind we are ignoring a golden opportunity to prevent indescribable crimes before they occur.
Consider, for example, the following incidents—in every case the criminals involved had passed through our penal institutions.
One Saturday afternoon in February, 1945, 9-year-old John Benson, Montreal, waved good-by to his parents and skied away over Mount Royal to spend a happy afternoon. An hour later a passer-by found the lad half-buried in bloodstained snow, his head bashed in, his groin wounded with the point of a ski pole.
The Montreal police began to question 1,500 previously convicted sex perverts in the Montreal area. They didn’t get around to Roland Charles Chasse, aged 43, until two months and 300 interviews later. Chasse finally broke down and confessed to the crime, was sentenced and was hanged.
In one large community Julius N., a supposedly normal and respectable businessman, was picked up on a charge of gross indecency against a lad in his teens. When police started investigating they unearthed indisputable evidence that he had corrupted the morals of 500 school-age youngsters in the previous 11 months! The horrified judge gave him the maximum penalty provided by the law—two years.
Julius N. was set free last January. Within 90 days he was rearrested in a public park on a similar charge. The morality squad detective who made the arrest observed to me, “We’ve got the rottenest job in the world. Under the present setup keeping the city clear of sex perverts is like trying to empty a well with a wicker basket.”
At this writing Alfred Ernest Hall, sex pervert, is in a British Columbia penitentiary. When he was sentenced to five years and lashes, in 1943, Chief Justice Farris said to him, “I think you have contempt for the decent things in life . . . you brazenly defended yourself against this charge . . . Your admissions show that you have a completely perverted mind.”
It was not Hall’s first sex offense—he had a long record. His latest offenses took place in his “Health Institute,” to which unsuspecting clients came in search of expert advice on diet and health. The details of his behavior were so revolting that the veteran court stenographer who was recording the proceedings was taken violently ill at his stomach.
A perusal of police dossiers in several communities reveals that the sex pervert—even if he steers clear of the more violent offenses—breaks all records for being in Continued on page 46
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The Truth About Sex Criminals
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and out of jail. One man was convicted 13 times in 20 years, chiefly on sex charges. Another, only 41 years old, has already been picked up 14 times by the morality squad. Sometimes the long list of crimes only comes to its end with the single entry “rape,” or “murder.”
Why does the sex offender leave our penal institutions a greater menace to society than when he entered?
To get the answer to this question I consulted penologists who have long been studying the shortcomings of our Canadian penal system. I then talked to ex-convicts who have spent many years in the county jails, reformatories and penitentiaries that dot the country from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.
Here’s a brief summary of what I learned:
Not a single Canadian penitentiary is making a serious effort to cure the sex offender.. He is not even segregated, but is allowed to mingle with other prisoners. In some cases young boys of 18 and 19, serving time for theft, are thrown together with sex perverts and eventually become perverts themselves. The next time they’re back in jail it’s often on a sex charge.
Supervision in many institutions is so lax that the sex offender finds ample time and opportunity to practice perversions.
A penologist summed it all up in these words, “If one were to consciously plan an institution to promote sexual degeneracy he would create the modern prison.”
Not long ago, J. Alex Edmison, K.C., president of the Canadian Penal Association, made a cross-country survey of how prisons handle sex offenders. A former Montreal lawyer and alderman, who turned his hack on a lucrative law practice to devote all his time to prison reform, Mr. Edmison reported, “In all Canada Dr. C. M. Crawford of Kingston >is the only psychiatrist attached to a prison.”
The sex variant who approaches the regular prison physician for assistance Is a courageous soul indeed.
Mike Y., aged 23, was aware of the fact that he was unlike other men even before he committed the offense which landed him behind bars. The fifth day after his arrival, therefore, he determined to go on sick parade to talk things over with the doctor.
He found himself in the dispensary with 18 other prisoners. The doctor sat at hls desk, wearing the hated prison uniform; the male nurse stood at his side. A few feet away was the yard officer, eyeing Mike suspiciously.
Mike explained to the doctor as best he could what he thought was wrong with him. “I don’t know what gets into me but I can’t seem to control myself. I’m afraid of getting into some more trouble.”
The yard officer took it all in, grin-
ning cynically. The doctor prescribed a treatment: a crude physical alleviative for a condition that called fo.r careful psychiatric guidance.
The result? Mike’s condition was helped for only a few days. Worse than that, details of his medical history spread via the grapevine throughout the entire prison body. Many of the men insulted him in the stinging, harsh language of the underworld. Others, seasoned sex perverts, hounded him at every turn, forcing their attentions on him. Within rix months Mike degenerated so badly that all ambition to be normal again vanished.
The Downward Path
An ex-blackmailer who has just completed a 10-year stretch gave me the crime history of Tony, a 19-yearold kid who received three years for stealing a car. Tony’s history, with minor variations, is being repeated today in penal institutions across the country.
Tony was put to work in the prison kitchen immediately following his entrance. Most of his co-workers were older men, veterans of the prison system, and included a number of sex perverts. Within the first five days the lad was “propositioned” no fewer than seven times. Surprised and shocked he resisted all advances. During the weeks that followed, however, his ideas on the question of sex were rapidly modified. For one thing he found that he was being discriminated against by his fellow workers. Life could be much more agreeable if he were in thenfavor. Experienced in finding loopholes in the prison regulations, they could get him extra rations of tobacco and other small comforts. Another factor that had a strong influence on him was the whole prison attitude toward sex abnormality. He saw, for example, that when perverts were turned in after being caught they were merely sentenced to a week or 10 days in solitary confinement—the same punishment meted out for smoking after hours or being caught with chocolate bars or gum.
By the time Tony was granted his freedom he had become an inveterate sex deviate. In a few months he was back in penitentiary for an attack on a little girl. Two years later he was released and attacked another child. Three years later it was the same story. He’s in prison now for a long term.
It’s an ugly, frightening record for a 19-year-old boy who was originally sentenced for three years for stealing a car. Here we have three sex crimes that might never have occurred if we had proper penal facilities.
You may ask, “How is it that prisoners are allowed to indulge in so much sexual activity? Is there no supervision?” There is—of a sort. In some institutions the inmates are kept under close surveillance at all times. But in others, where the staff is woefully small, prisoners are left to themselves for long periods of time.
In one Canadian penitentiary, for example, there are only two officers to supervise the bakeshop, kitchen,
officers’ mess, storeroom and meatcutting room. They can’t be everywhere at once. A “trusty,” whose job took him frequently to this department, told me that he would sometimes come upon prisoners engaged in abnormal practices in broad daylight.
Many ex-convicts are of the opinion that conditions are even worse in some of our county jails where overcrowding makes supervision almost impossible.
The whole atmosphere of the prison favors the sex pervert who sets out to form alliances. Cut off from normal contacts and idly cooped up in their cells much of the time, the men become frustrated and crave some form of outlet.
One man who has “done time” in six different institutions told me, “The talk is always sex, sex, sex. It’s the worst possible place for any person, leave alone a sex pervert.”
*. As a rule prisoners learn to despise the men who have been convicted of a sex offense. For one thing they blame them for the restriction of certain privileges. Most penitentiaries will not show moving pictures because sex deviates are not above taking advantage of the opportunity provided by the darkened room.
Are prison guards trained to deal with the sex offender—a complex, psychopathic personality? The answer is “No.” Rather than the guard influencing the prisoner, the reverse is sometimes the case. Younger guards— many of them ex-servicemen—are at first shocked by conditions but they, too, learn to accept the situation.
I have heard individual prison wardens and guards lauded to the skies for their many acts of kindness and understanding. Penologists who have worked with Major-General Ralph B. Gibson, who was appointed Commissioner of Penitentiaries in April, 1946, are uniformly impressed with his intelligence and humanitarianism. Already he has assigned social workers in Kingston and Collins Bay penitentiaries to work with the padres in preparing prisoners for useful jobs after their discharge.
“But no one individual can carry out the drastic reforms necessary without the proper tools,” says Mr. Edmison. “We need an aroused and informed public who will insist on adopting many of the recommendations contained in the Archambault Report. Until we do the Canadian taxpayer will continue to pay a staggering bill—financial, social and moral.”
(The Archambault Report, the result of a two-year Royal Commission enquiry into Canadian penal conditions, was published in 1938. It described our penal system as outmoded and inadequate, and made 88 specific suggestions for improvement. Very few of its recommendations have been put into effect.)
How Perversion Begins
What makes one man normal and another a sex deviate?
One can readily understand how the “girlish” boy—one with a high-pitched voice, little or no beard, broad hips and
other feminine characteristics—is naturally inclined to sexual abnormality because of an abnormal glandular condition.
It is more difficult to comprehend the majority of our sexual misfits, whose habits have been formed by harmful environmental influences. An overattentive mother, an unhappy home where the child is scorned, faulty sex education—these are some of the things that can turn a normal child into a potential sex pervert.
Consider, for example, the following cases, selected from a psychologist’s files:
Case 1. Albert D. was a premature baby. As a result his mother lavished attention upon him in his early years and rushed him off to a specialist at the slightest provocation. She impressed upon him early in life the dangers of having any contact with girls. “They will give you a horrible disease. It will leave you a cripple for life.”
Frightened, the boy shunned girls and in his teens started turning to men for affection. At 25 he is a confirmed homosexual.
Case 2. George’s stepfather was a firm believer in discipline. At 12 he had the boy washing dishes, scrubbing floors and doing the family laundry. At 14 George was forbidden to have his friends over to the house; moreover, if he wasn’t in bed by nine each night he was beaten.
Seeking vengeance the boy began to steal clothes and money from his stepfather, then from the old man’s cronies who would often drop over for a game of cards. Instead of going to school he played hookey, sometimes absenting himself for two or three days at a time. It was later discovered that he had been adopted by a group of homosexuals, who showered him with expensive clothes, good food and lavish enterta inment.
“For the first time in my life I was treated decently,” he told a social worker. “Why shouldn’t I like it?”
George thus began a life which was to take him in and out of prison on a series of sex charges.
Case 3. Tommy’s birth was hailed as a miracle. For 15 years the doctors had been telling his mother that she was incapable of bearing children.
The overjoyed parents could think and talk of nothing but their baby. He was proudly shown off to friends and relatives. Dozens of nude baby photographs adorned the walls of the apartment and an artist was commissioned to paint a large nude of the boy—now six years old. Tommy was given every reason to believe that he was the possessor of an extraordinary body.
When relatives began to talk, the parents suddenly reversed their attitude. They told Tommy that he must stay clothed at all times, and hinted at frightening consequences should he disobey. They implanted in the boy a disgust with his body and a fear of sex that he was to retain long after he reached adolescence.
At 16 Tommy’s idea of a satisfactory sex life was to expose himself in public. He was picked up by police when he exhibited himself to some women coming from church one Sunday evening.
Not a very serious crime you may say. Sensational newspapers create the impression that all sex deviates are dangerous criminals, merely waiting for the proper moment to commit a gruesome murder. This is simply not true. The police officials of one of our large cities told me that in the past 10 years only one exhibitionist ever resorted to physical violence. Similarly,
homosexuals will often seek out their own kind and achieve some sort of personal adjustment.
However, what worries the psychiatrist is not the sex act itself but the motive. Behind the act there usually lies a deep-rooted emotional disturbance which may be potentially dangerous. The exhibitionist, for example, may be a sadist who derives his chief pleasure from the look of horror he brings to the faces of strange women. Some day he may no longer derive satisfaction from a shocked expression. Then he will resort to violence.
A young and handsome homosexual may find little difficulty in forming an attachment with one of his own kind. When his youth and beauty vanish, however, he may have to force himsel,f on the group of people least capable of resisting him—young children.
Often the feeling of remorse, shame and self-hatred which fills the mind of a sex variant after he has committed a sex offense is in itself dangerous, since only by going one step further—that is, by inflicting physical pain on his victim—can he achieve a feeling of peace.
What Can Be Done?
There is no easy way to solve the complex problem of sex crimes. As Dr. C. M. Hincks, director of the National Committee for Mental Hygiene (Canada), recently observed, “Perversion is one of the most difficult of all problems to treat successfully.” The following program is no simple and magic panacea, but penal and medical authorities agree that it would in time drastically reduce the number of sex crimes.
1. The section of the Canadian Criminal Code dealing with sex offenses should be changed.
Under existing law the prisoner is punished solely according to his act, without due regard for his mental condition. Thus, rape is treated as a simple act of violence, to be punished with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment or death. Indecent assault on a woman merits two years, on a man, 10 years, while the exhibitionist can expect a 6-month term (all terms mentioned are the maximum).
In all fairness to both the prisoner and society, indefinite sentences, with every opportunity for medical treatment, should be substituted. A curable sex offender, for instance, who has been given five years, may (with proper treatment) be ready to re-enter society in two years. On the other hand, why release an incurable sex offender just because his term is up? He will continue to be a menace to young boys and girls.
2. Our courts and penal institutions should be provided with probation personnel, psychiatric staffs, and modern buildings to house sex offenders.
Many sex variants respond readily to treatment. To give them every chance of being restored to normalcy, they should be segregated and provided with the services of psychologists and psychiatrists. Many penologists visualize a special institution for such men, a sort of half hospital, half jail.
3. A mobile vice squad should keep close watch night and day on the community, to try to prevent sex crimes before they happen.
This, in effect, is now being done in many Canadian communities. Montreal, for example, has a Delinquency Prevention Bureau with a staff of 42, some of them policewomen, which makes a regular check on parks, hotel and theatre lobbies, poolrooms, bowling alleys and comfort stations. Sometimes the police cruisers find children in juke joints where known perverts hang out.
They are given a ride home in the police car and the parents are roundly lectured.
4. The public should cp-operate in reporting every case of sex perversion to the police authorites.
In the course of investigating a particularly ugly sex murder of a child in one neighborhood, the police found six mothers who admitted that their children had been attacked during the previous few months! Had even one of them reported the matter to police the pervert might have been apprehended and a tragedy averted.
This lack of co-operation on the part of the public is a familiar problem to police authorities. For this reason few sex offenders are caught, and even fewer convicted. For our own good we must cure ourselves of the habit of pretending that such a nasty thing as sex abnormality does not exist.
5. We should establish a national organization to study the whole problem of sex variants.
This would enable doctors and sociologists to pool their experiences and to evolve new and better methods of treatment. The following two cases are examples of the type of information which should be shared by all persons and groups interested in reducing sex criminality:
A 12-year-old boy was repeatedly in trouble with the Juvenile Court. An endocrinologist found a definite physical basis for the boy’s antisocial behavior. After five months of treatment, the boy was normal again.
In another case I was told how a brain operation (lobotomy) was performed in Sing Sing Penitentiary by Dr. Davidoff of New York on Henry S., a middle-aged pervert who had a dozen sordid convictions against him. At the time of his discharge Henry S. was apparently normal and his abnormal impulses had disappeared.
6. Proper sex education and guidance
should be furnished to all children.
One homosexual, for instance, recalls that when he was 10 years old his mother discovered him engaged in a form of sexual practice common to children of that age. She called him a sneak and a degenerate; told him that he would turn into a dwarf and become insane. The incident so frightened the child that he was to fear all normal sex activity from that day on. Today he is 24, and an experienced sex deviate with two police convictions.
Parents, schools and churches should unite to make sure that our children receive a complete and intelligent education in all matters pertaining to sex. Included should be a frank dis-
cussion on the subject of sex crimes. Children are going to read the screaming headlines in our daily papers, in any case. Why not prepare them by presenting the facts in a calm, objective manner?
Sometimes the amazing ignorance of the general public in matters pertaining to sex astounds even a physician. One doctor, affiliated with the National Committee for Mental Hygiene, told me that he was once visited by a woman in her mid-twenties who complained of a large swelling in her stomach. After examining her for a few seconds he looked up at her in amazement.
“You’re pregnant, Madam. Only another three months and your baby will be here.”
Pregnant? Although the woman was a high-school graduate, she had had no idea that she was pregnant. Furthermore, she did not know the cause of pregnancy and she was under the impression that giving birth to a child required quite a serious surgical operation.
Years later the doctor heard that her children had grown up sexually maladjusted. “I was not in the least surprised,” he commented. “Untaught herself on sex matters, how could she teach others?” ★