Source: Philadelphia Medical Journal
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Physical Stigmata of the Criminal”
Date of publication: 16 November 1901
Volume number: 8
Issue number: 20
|“The Physical Stigmata of the Criminal.” Philadelphia Medical Journal 16 Nov. 1901 v8n20: p. 797.|
|W. Norwood East; criminals (study of); Leon Czolgosz (mental health).|
|Leon Czolgosz; W. Norwood East.|
The Physical Stigmata of the Criminal
Dr. W. Norwood East, the deputy
medical officer in the Convict Prison, at Portland, England, believes, evidently,
that the criminal carries with him some physical signs of his degeneracy. In
the Journal of Mental Science, for October, he contributes a carefully
written paper on “Physical and Moral Insensibility in the Criminal.” Dr. East,
like every sensible man, knows that there are criminals and criminals. In other
words, the various criminal classes must be distinguished and differentiated.
The accidental criminal is one kind; the occasional criminal is another; and
the professional criminal is still another. These facts are, of course, patent
to scientists, but the average declaimer against “sin” and “materialism” fails
to distinguish them. A case in point is that of the assassin, Czolgosz, who
was an “occasional” criminal and in no sense a “professional” one. He offended
on one particular occasion only and then in obedience to a vicious dogma which
had been preached into him. He was in every sense sane and responsible, and
has been pronounced so by every alienist who has studied him or his history.
In such a criminal the stigmata of degeneracy would not necessarily be found,
and, even if they were found, would not necessarily indicate his irresponsibility.
Dr. East found in 100 convicts at Portland Prison that the three classes, (1) accidental, (2) occasional, and (3) professional criminals, represent three degrees of moral and physical sensibility, and that the difference in these respects is on the whole greater between the first and second than between the second and third for moral sensibility, and the reverse for physical sensibility. Dr. East’s general conclusion is that sensibility is impaired in the criminal, and most so in the professional criminal; and this is quite in accord with the inexpert observation of most persons. In the brain of the professional criminal the number of conscious sensory elements is reduced, and hence the range of ideation is less. The paper has value as a contribution to both the physiology and psychology of crime.