Crime Prevention and Punishment
Chapter 10: Crime Prevention and Punishment
Over the years, politicians, law enforcement officials, teachers, parents, and other concerned citizens have examined countless ideas in an effort to decrease youth violence and crime, from holding parents responsible for their children's crimes to having after-school violence prevention programs. The continuing problem of youth crime has many people devoting significant time and resources to end the cycle of violence. A variety of programs have been implemented in the area of prevention, intervention, and suppression. Efforts are ongoing to determine the effectiveness of such programs. The following sections discuss laws that have been enacted as well as a variety of prevention programs, including community prevention programs, law enforcement prevention strategies, and school-based prevention programs, to try to prevent juvenile crime.
Laws Enacted to Prevent Juvenile Crime
HOLDING PARENTS RESPONSIBLE. Civil liability laws have held parents at least partly responsible for damages caused by their children for many decades. In addition, child welfare laws included actions against those who contributed to the delinquency of a minor. By the 1990s, in response to rising juvenile crime rates, communities and states passed tougher laws about parental responsibility. In “Parent Liability Child's Act” (2008, http://www.enotes.com/everyday-law-encyclopedia/parent-liability-child-s-act), the Encyclopedia of Everyday Law notes that some states now hold parents of delinquent youth criminally liable. However, other less stringent parental responsibility laws are more common. Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, and West Virginia require parents to pay court costs for their children adjudicated delinquent. Florida, Idaho, Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia require parents to pay the costs of caring for, treating, or detaining delinquent children. Idaho, Maryland, Missouri, and Oklahoma require parents to pay restitution to the victims of their children's crimes. Nine states hold parents criminally responsible for storing a loaded firearm in a place that allows minors access to it, and other states hold parents liable if they know their child possesses a firearm and do not confiscate it. The article “Parental Civil Liability for Acts of Minor Children” (August 4, 2008, http://www.lawserver.com/articles/parental-civil-liability-for-acts-of-minor-children) indicates that in about half the states, the “family car doctrine” holds parents responsible for any damage caused by a child driving the family car. These laws are meant to prevent or reduce delinquent behavior among juveniles.
Critics of parental liability state that victims are just looking for someone to blame. They assert that U.S. law usually holds people responsible for crimes only if they actively participate in the transmission of such acts. They believe that if standard rules of law are practiced, the prosecutor of a case should have to prove that the parents intended to participate in a crime to be found guilty. Samantha Harvell, Belen Rodas, and Leah Hendey of Georgetown University explain in Parental Involvement in Juvenile Justice: Prospects and Possibilities (November 8, 2004, http://www.crocus.georgetown.edu/reports/parental.involvement.pdf) that judges and probation officers believe parents should be more involved in legal proceedings against minors because they feel the relationship between the parent and child often contributes to delinquency. However, judges and probation officers remain somewhat reluctant to use parental sanctions. In fact, Cathy Keen notes in “UF Study: Americans Give Mixed Reviews to Parental Responsibility Laws” (University of Florida News, March 14, 2005) that a 2005 survey found that public support for parental responsibility laws was relatively low, and Eve M. Brank and Jodi Lane of the University of Florida find in “Punishing My Parents” (Criminal Justice Policy Review, vol. 19, no. 3, September 2008) that delinquent juveniles did not believe their parents should be held responsible for their crimes.
CURFEWS. To “break the cycle” of youth violence and crime, lawmakers in more than 1,000 jurisdictions have
enacted curfews in various cities, towns, and rural areas across the country. According to Arlen Egley Jr. and Aline K. Major of the National Youth Gang Center, in Highlights of the 2001 National Youth Gang Survey (April 2003, http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/fs200301.pdf), 62% of jurisdictions reporting gang problems used curfews or other ordinances aimed at keeping youth from congregating at night. Of those jurisdictions, 86% argued that such laws “demonstrated at least some degree of effectiveness.”
Most curfew laws work essentially the same way. They are aimed at restricting juveniles to their homes or property between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. weekdays. Such laws usually allow juveniles to stay out a little later on weekends. Exceptions are made for youth who need to travel to and from school, attend church events, or go to work at different times. Other exceptions include family emergencies or situations when juveniles are accompanied by their parents.
Even though many people believe curfews are important in the fight against youth crime, critics of curfew ordinances argue that such laws violate the constitutional rights of children and their parents. They contend that the First, Fourth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights of people are endangered by curfew laws, especially the rights of free speech and association, privacy, and equal protection. Opponents also assert that no studies have proven curfew laws to be effective. In fact, most studies show that curfews have little effect on youth crime, such as Angie Schwartz and Lucy Wang's “Proliferating Curfew Laws Keep Kids at Home, but Fail to Curb Juvenile Crime” (National Center for Youth Law, vol. 26, no. 1, January–March 2005), Caterina Grovis Roman and Gretchen Moore's “Evaluation of the Youth Curfew in Prince George's County, Maryland” (March 11, 2003, http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/200520.pdf), and Kenneth Adams's “The Effectiveness of Juvenile Curfews at Crime Prevention” (Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 587, 2003).
Community Prevention and Intervention Programs
Prevention measures are programs aimed at keeping youth, particularly at-risk youth, from beginning a life of crime, joining gangs, or otherwise ending up in prison or jail. Intervention programs are designed to remove youth from gangs, criminal activities, and patterns of reckless behavior that would ultimately put the youth in prison or jail. Such programs typically include helping the individual build self-esteem, confidence, and socialization skills while offering education, recreation, and job skills assistance.
Even though this chapter examines a few of the types of programs available, hundreds of such programs exist throughout the United States, some at the national or state levels, but many at the local/community level. Many involve mentoring—having adults and sometimes other students spend time with at-risk youth to help them explore alternatives to violence and crime. Mentoring programs take on a variety of activities, including sports, recreation, and education. Mentors help their subjects gain self-esteem, conflict resolution abilities, peer pressure resistance skills, and confidence.
Many prevention and intervention programs have seen some success with delinquent and at-risk youth, as noted by individuals who credit such groups with turning their lives around or keeping them from heading into a life filled with crime and violence. Other programs have proven to be ineffective. Those that succeed provide alternatives to youth and often a safe place to hang out, make new friends, and learn life skills.
THE CHICAGO AREA PROJECT. Chicago, Illinois, like Los Angeles, California, has been home to many gangs throughout the twentieth century. In an effort to deal with the gang situation on the city's streets, the Chicago Area Project (CAP) was founded in 1934—the nation's first community based delinquency prevention program. The program, designed by the sociologist Clifford R. Shaw (1895–1957), aimed to work with delinquent youth in poverty-stricken areas of Chicago. Project staff sought to prevent youth from joining gangs and ultimately committing crimes.
To achieve this, CAP advocates believed that improvements needed to be made to neighborhoods and communities. According to CAP (June 5, 2008, http://www.chicagoareaproject.org/about.html), “The agency believes that residents must be empowered through the development of community organizations so that they can act together to improve neighborhood conditions, hold institutions serving the community accountable, reduce anti-social behavior by young people, protect them from inappropriate institutionalization, and provide them with positive models for personal development.” The organization emphasizes that juvenile delinquency in low-income areas is a product of social disadvantages—not a flaw of the individual child or of individuals from certain ethnic or racial backgrounds. As of 2008, CAP had grown to include more than 40 affiliates and special projects.
BOYS AND GIRLS CLUBS OFAMERICA. Offering a variety of programs to help youth, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA; 2009, http://www.bgca.org/whoweare/) has worked with about 4.8 million children throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and U.S. military bases in the United States and abroad. In about 4,300 club locations, the group uses 50,000 trained, fulltime staff “to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”
Law Enforcement Strategies
OFFICE OF JUVENILE JUSTICE AND DELINQUENCY PREVENTION'S COMPREHENSIVE GANG MODEL. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) advocates the use of a comprehensive gang model developed by Irving A. Spergel to combat gangs. According to the National
Youth Gang Center, in Best Practices to Address Community Gang Problems: OJJDP's Comprehensive Gang Model, National Youth Gang Center (2007, http://www.iir.com/nygc/publications/gang-problems.pdf), the model includes five steps to help gang members and their communities. Steps include mobilizing the larger community to create opportunities or service organizations for gang-involved and at-risk youth; mobilizing outreach workers to connect with youth involved in gangs; creating academic, economic, and social opportunities for at-risk and gang-involved youth; using gang suppression activities and holding youth involved in gangs accountable for their actions; and helping community agencies problem-solve at a grassroots level to address gang problems. The model assumes that gang violence is a product of a breakdown in the larger community. According to the OJJDP, in “OJJDP Model Programs Guide” (2005, http://www.dsgonline.com/mpg2.5/mpg_index.htm), evaluations of programs based on the OJJDP model show mixed results, although negative results generally result from poor program implementation.
GANG RESISTANCE EDUCATION AND TRAINING. Hoping to reach students before they become involved in gangs and crime, uniformed police officers throughout the country visit middle schools to discuss the life consequences associated with such activities. The 13-part curriculum, which is offered through the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) program, was initially created by the Phoenix (Arizona) Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in 1991. Because that pilot program met with success, GREAT has expanded to all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Among the topics presented are personal, resiliency, resistance, and social skills. The stated goals of the program are to help youth resist peer pressure, have positive attitudes toward law enforcement, learn ways to avoid violence, develop basic life skills, and set positive goals for the future. According to the article “G.R.E.A.T. Middle School Component” (2009, http://www.great-online.org/corecurriculum.htm), the GREAT curriculum for seventh graders educates students about gangs, violence, drug abuse, and crime; helps students recognize their responsibilities and learn how to make good decisions; fosters communication skills; and teaches anger management skills.
The effectiveness of GREAT training became the basis for a study conducted by Finn-Aage Esbensen and D. Wayne Osgood, who published their findings in “Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT): Results from the National Evaluation” (Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, vol. 36, no. 2, May 1999). Program participants were said to have developed more negative opinions about gangs and more positive attitudes about police. They also reported experiencing lower rates of victimizations, among other things.
SUPPRESSION PROGRAMS. Another method intended to reduce youth crime and violence is called suppression. This tactic is used by law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Suppression usually involves a show of force, such as saturating an area with many uniformed police officers. The idea is meant to demonstrate to criminals that they are being watched and that criminal activities will not be tolerated. Suppression techniques also include sweeps, where officers sweep through an area rounding up youth and adult offenders. Some suppression programs have proven to be somewhat effective, whereas others have not.
In some areas with high gang activity and violent youth crime, law enforcement personnel have tried suppression techniques. Suppression programs have been tested out in various cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston, Texas, among others.
The Houston Police Department Gang Task Force is just one example of the many units of this type operating throughout the United States. Working in conjunction with the Mayor's Anti-Gang Office (2009, http://www.houstontx.gov/publicsafety/antigang/index.html), the task force focuses on areas with high gang activity by providing a highly visible presence in an effort to lessen gang violence and crime. Initiatives aim to target, arrest, and incarcerate gang members involved in criminal activities. At the same time, the AntiGang Office works with communities, neighborhoods, service organizations, and schools to provide supportive services to at-risk youth, including counseling, job leads, conflict resolution, and recreation programs. The Mayor's Anti-Gang Office has also provided gang awareness training to individuals, including educators, law enforcement personnel, probation officers, and members of the public since 1994. The group makes use of high-tech devices, such as geomapping and tracking systems. These programs help staff keep track of gang locations as well as youth program assistance sites.
Bill White (1954–), the mayor of Houston, reports in “Houston Mayor White Oversees Gang Free Schools and Communities Project” (April 10, 2006, http://www.usmayors.org/uscm/best_practices/usmayor06/HoustonBP.asp) that suppression is generally not successful alone. Houston provides an example of how suppression can be combined with other program elements, in that the Mayor's AntiGang Office uses suppression techniques as one element of the OJJDP's comprehensive gang model, “a paradigm that utilizes five core strategies (community mobilization, provision of opportunities, social intervention, suppression, organizational change and development) to address gang issues within a targeted community.”
SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS. The School Resource Officers (SROs) program is intended to improve relations between youth and police. The project, designed to prevent and intercept the commission of youth crime and violence, also gives students and police officers the chance to get to know one another. In some areas, children grow up with contempt for or fear of police. The SRO program works to
eliminate these concerns as well as to educate students about the law and provide one-on-one mentoring.
Under the program, a police officer is dispatched to a school as an SRO. The officer works to prevent crime, violence, and substance abuse; makes arrests if necessary during the commission of crimes; counsels students; and conducts classes about law enforcement and school safety. The program calls this the TRIAD concept (police officer, educator, and counselor). To participate as an SRO, candidates must complete a specialized training program. The SRO program is credited with helping reduce youth crime in schools and in the community.
Founded in 1990, the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO; 2008, http://www.nasro.org/membership.asp) has a national membership of over 9,000 officers. NASRO holds annual conferences and provides workshops for the SROs about various procedures, techniques, and prevention measures. The association also surveys its members to learn more about current issues affecting the SROs and schools. For example, Kenneth S. Trump of the National School Safety and Security Services notes in School Safety Left Behind? School Safety Threats Grow as Preparedness Stalls and Funding Decreases: NASRO 2004 National School-Based Law Enforcement Survey (February 2005, http://www.schoolsecurity.org/resources/2004%20NASRO%20Survey%20Final%20Report%20NSSSS.pdf) that over a third (37.4%) of the SROs believed that gang activity in their schools had increased, another third (38%) believed gang activity had remained the same, and only 8.4% believed gang activity had decreased.
School-Based Prevention Programs
STUDENTS AGAINST VIOLENCE EVERYWHERE. After Alex Orange was shot and killed in Charlotte, North Carolina, while trying to stop a fight in 1989, his classmates at West Charlotte High School decided to organize the group Students against Violence Everywhere (SAVE). SAVE (2007, http://www.nationalsave.org/main/statistics.php) has grown far beyond Orange's high school; in 2007 it had 1,664 chapters with nearly 190,000 student members. The group is active in elementary, middle, and high schools across the United States. Members have their own “colors”: orange for Alex Orange and purple for peace and nonviolence.
The group focuses on violence prevention and on helping kids gain life skills, knowledge, and an understanding of the consequences of violence and crime. SAVE helps members overcome negative peer pressure situations through the development of positive peer interactions. It also plans safe activities, including cosponsorship of the National Youth Violence Prevention Campaign (2009, http://www.violencepreventionweek.org/). During the weeklong campaign participants spend each day focused on one aspect of violence prevention. For example, the first day seeks to “promote respect and tolerance,” and other days focus on anger management, conflict resolution, school and community safety, and unity.
BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS IN SCHOOL. The Big Brothers Big Sisters program has been serving children for over 100 years. The organization provides one-on-one mentoring services to young people (aged five to 18) throughout the United States. Big Brothers Big Sisters seeks to help youth perform better at school, stay clear of drugs and alcohol, improve their relationships with others, and avoid lives of crime and violence. Under the main program, a child is paired with an adult who spends time with him or her several times each month on outings, which can include sports, recreation, visits to museums or parks, and so on. Through the experience, the “Bigs” help the “Littles” develop life skills, confidence, and self-esteem.
Big Brothers Big Sisters has also developed programs for school children. Through the group's outreach program, volunteers visit schools weekly to provide one-on-one mentoring to students needing help. In addition, high school students also gain experience mentoring elementary school children through the High School Bigs program. While helping older students develop skills working with children, the project helps younger children bond with teens closer to their own age and see that they, too, can grow up to lead a productive life. In Making a Difference in Schools: The Big Brothers Big Sisters School-Based Mentoring Impact Study (June 2007, http://www.ppv.org/ppv/publications/assets/220_publication.pdf), Carla Herrera et al. find that children in the program demonstrate eight positive academic outcomes in their first year of being matched with a mentor, including improved overall academic performance. With longer matches, children improved their expectation to attend college.
In Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report (March 2006, http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.gov/ojstatbb/nr2006/downloads/NR2006.pdf), Howard N. Snyder and Melissa Sickmund of the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) indicate that juvenile court generally has original jurisdiction in cases involving youth who are under the age of 18 when the crime was committed, when the youth is arrested, or when the offender is referred to the court. In 2004 37 states and the District of Columbia considered the oldest age for juveniles to be 17. Ten states (Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin) used 16—meaning that youth aged 17 are under the jurisdiction of criminal courts. In Connecticut, New York, and North Carolina, the age was set at 15—in other words, 16- and 17-year-olds are tried in criminal court.
When youth crime surged in the 1980s, many citizens called for changes in the juvenile justice system. According to Snyder and Sickmund, 45 states made it easier to transfer
juveniles from the juvenile justice system to the criminal justice system, 31 states made a wider variety of sentencing options for juveniles available, 47 states either changed or removed confidentiality provisions of the juvenile justice system, 22 states passed laws that enhanced the rights of victims of juvenile crime, and new programs for juveniles were developed in most states. As a result of these changes, more juveniles were tried as adults in the criminal justice system. Codes regulating state juvenile justice systems now tend to strike a balance between prevention/treatment goals and punishment rather than focusing mainly on rehabilitation.
If the court deems that it is in the interests of the juvenile and the public, juvenile courts in some states may retain jurisdiction over juvenile offenders past the ages discussed earlier. Thus, such courts can handle juvenile offenders until they turn 20 in 33 states and the District of Columbia. Snyder and Sickmund note that Florida uses age 21, Kansas uses age 22, and California, Montana, Oregon, and Wisconsin use age 24 as the cutoff. Extended jurisdiction, however, may be limited by legislation to specific crimes or certain juveniles. Hence, the question of “who is considered a juvenile” does not have one consistent, standard answer. In various states exceptions can be made to the age criteria. This is done so that juveniles can be tried as adults or to provide for procedures under which a prosecutor can decide to handle an offender as a juvenile or an adult.
DOES IT WORK? The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) notes in Crime in the United States, 2007 (September 2008, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2007/index.html) that from 1998 to 2007 the number of juveniles arrested for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter dropped 23.4%, and juvenile arrests for most other violent crimes had also fallen. In 2007 only 753 juveniles were arrested for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, compared to 983 in 1996. As such, some public officials believe that efforts to reduce crime through adult sentencing are working. However, many experts attribute the murder rate decline to expanded after-school crime prevention programs, the decline of crack cocaine and violent gangs, and big-city police efforts to crack down on illegal guns.
Youth on Trial: A Developmental Perspective on Juvenile Justice (Thomas Grisso and Robert G. Schwartz, eds., 2000) discusses some of the problems in transferring juveniles to adult court. The authors note that juveniles have a harder time than adults when making “knowing and intelligent” decisions at many junctures in the criminal justice process. In particular, problems occur when waiving Miranda rights, which allow the juvenile to remain silent and talk to a lawyer before responding to questions posed by police. When a juvenile waives such rights, this can lead to much more serious consequences in adult court than in juvenile proceedings. The authors assert that “questions must be raised regarding the juvenile's judgment, decision-making capacity, and impulse control as they relate to criminal culpability” in adult proceedings. Researchers and experts in child development explain that before deciding if a youth can be held accountable as an adult for a particular offense, it is important to understand an adolescent's intellectual, social, and emotional development.
According to statistics maintained by the FBI, the property and violent crime arrest rate for juveniles aged 10 to 17 began to rise during the 1980s. As recorded in the FBI's Property Crime Index and its Violent Crime Index, arrests per 100,000 juveniles in that age bracket decreased for both property and violent crime from around 1980 to 1983. At that point, property crime arrests began a gradual increase, whereas violent crime started to surge in the late 1980s. Around 1995 arrest rates for both property crime and violent crime began to decrease, with violent crimes seeing the greatest reductions.
Between 1998 and 2007 the number of juveniles arrested for all crimes dropped 20.4%; during this same period arrests of adults increased by 0.5%. (See Table 10.1.) Arrests of juveniles for some offenses declined even more drastically. For example, arrests of juveniles for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter dropped 23.4%; for drunkenness, dropped 27.9%; for burglary, dropped 30.3%; for forcible rape, dropped 31.6%; and for motor vehicle theft, dropped 48.8%. Other offenses dropped much less. For example, arrests for drug abuse violations dropped by only 5.9%; for carrying or possessing weapons, by 7.8%; and for sex offenses other than rape and prostitution, by 15%. Arrests of juveniles for prostitution actually increased by 5.7% during this period and arrests for robbery increased by 6%.
In Crime in the United States, 2007, the FBI reports that 8.1 million arrests were made nationwide in 2007, a decrease of 3.3% from 1998. In 2007, 15% of all people arrested were juveniles and 85% were adults. Adults were most often arrested for drug abuse violations (923,759 arrests), whereas juveniles were most often arrested for larceny-theft (175,561 arrests). Adults were proportionally more likely to be arrested for violent crime than were juveniles, whereas juveniles were more likely to be arrested for property crime. In 2007, 84% of arrests for violent crime were arrests of adults; however, only 74% of arrests for property crime were of adults.
ARRESTS AMONG SPECIFIC AGE GROUPS. The FBI also records in Crime in the United States, 2007 arrest rate statistics for specific age groups: under age 15, under age 18, under age 21, and under age 25. Even though 15.4% of all people arrested were juveniles in 2007, almost half (44.4%) of all people arrested were under the age of 25, highlighting that crime is often perpetrated by young adults, rather than juveniles.(See Table 10.2.) These statistics also show what crimes are more likely to be committed by juveniles as opposed to young adults. The table compares the number of arrests for these four age groups against the total number of arrests for all ages in 2007. For each
|TABLE 10.1 Ten-year arrest trends, 1998–2007|
|[7,946 agencies; 2007 estimated population 171,876,948; 1998 estimated population 154,013,711]|
|Offense charged||Number of persons arrested|
|Total all ages||Under 18 years of age||18 years of age and over|
|1998||2007||Percent change||1998||2007||Percent change||1998||2007||Percent change|
|a Does not include suspicion.|
|b Violent crimes are offenses of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robber y, and aggravated assault. Property crimes are offenses of burglar y, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.|
|*Less than one-tenth of 1 percent.|
|SOURCE: “Table 32. Ten-Year Arrest Trends: Totals, 1998–2007,” in Crime in the United States, 2007, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2008, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2007/data/table_32.html (accessed November 11, 2008)|
|Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter||8,232||7,301||-11.3||983||753||-23.4||7,249||6,548||-9.7|
|Motor vehicle theft||80,925||62,766||-22.4||29,882||15,289||-48.8||51,043||47,477||-7.0|
|Forgery and counterfeiting||67,870||58,832||-13.3||4,250||1,699||-60.0||63,620||57,133||-10.2|
|Stolen property; buying, receiving, possessing||78,371||72,904||-7.0||19,869||13,230||-33.4||58,502||59,674||+2.0|
|Weapons; carrying, possessing, etc.||109,533||106,080||-3.2||26,395||24,328||-7.8||83,138||81,752||-1.7|
|Prostitution and commercialized vice||50,082||39,081||-22.0||743||785||+5.7||49,339||38,296||-22.4|
|Sex offenses (except for cible rape and prostitution)||52,527||45,871||-12.7||9,531||8,106||-15.0||42,996||37,765||-12.2|
|Drug abuse violations||878,355||1,033,203||+17.6||116,352||109,444||-5.9||762,003||923,759||+21.2|
|Offenses against the family and children||85,823||71,305||-16.9||5,765||3,095||-46.3||80,058||68,210||-14.8|
|Driving under the influence||803,030||788,864||-1.8||11,917||9,867||-17.2||791,113||778,997||-1.5|
|All other offenses (except traffic)||2,185,863||2,267,145||+3.7||266,238||207,224||-22.2||1,919,625||2,059,921||+7.3|
|Cur few and loitering law violations||104,976||73,217||-30.3||104,976||73,217||-30.3||—||—||—|
offense, it presents the number of actual arrests for each age group as well as what percentage of total arrests falls within each age group.
A high percentage does not necessarily indicate a high number of arrests in a category. Instead, it means that age group was responsible for a high percentage of arrests within that category. For example, 147,382 individuals under the age of 18 were arrested on drug abuse violations, which was 10.6% of the total arrests in that category. For comparison, 16,889 people under the age of 18 were arrested for buying, receiving, and possessing stolen property. Even though the number of stolen property offenses is far less than that of drug abuse violations for those under the age of 18, it represented 18.3% of the total arrests for stolen property. Such percentages help law enforcement personnel identify trends and patterns in juvenile crime.
Two categories that consistently had high arrest percentages among each of the four age groups presented in Table 10.2 were arson and vandalism. Two-thirds of arrests for each of these crimes (66.5% and 67%, respectively) were of young adults under the age of 25. Of the 11,451 arrests for arson in 2007, 28% were of youth under age 15, 47.4% were of juveniles under age 18, and 58.3% were of people under age 21. Vandalism was less associated with the youngest juveniles. Of the 221,040 people arrested for vandalism in 2007, 15.5% were under age 15, 38.3% were under age 18, and 54% were under age 21.
Other categories with the highest arrest percentages for those under the age of 15 include disorderly conduct (10.7%), larceny-theft (7.9%), sex offenses, except forcible rape and prostitution (8.9%), and burglary (8.1%). (See Table 10.2.) The under-age-15 group also scored high in two other
|TABLE 10.2 Arrests of persons under 15, 18, 21, and 25 years of age, 2007|
|[11,936 agencies; 2007 estimated population 225,518,634]|
|Offense charged||Total all ages||Number of persons arrested||Percent of total all ages|
|Under 15||Under 18||Under 21||Under 25||Under 15||Under 18||Under 21||Under 25|
|a Violent crimes are offenses of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Property crimes are offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.|
|b Less than one-tenth of 1 percent.|
|SOURCE: “Table 41. Arrests of Persons under 15, 18, 21, and 25 Years of Age, 2007,” in Crime in the United States, 2007, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2008, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2007/data/table_41.html (accessed November 11, 2008)|
|Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter||10,082||103||1,011||3,027||5,084||1.0||10.0||30.0||50.4|
|Motor vehicle theft||89,022||4,917||22,266||37,083||50,174||5.5||25.0||41.7||56.4|
|Forgery and counterfeiting||78,005||294||2,353||11,760||24,739||0.4||3.0||15.1||31.7|
|Stolen property; buying, receiving, possessing||92,215||4,136||16,889||32,394||46,285||4.5||18.3||35.1||50.2|
|Weapons; carrying, possessing, etc.||142,745||10,577||33,187||58,664||83,152||7.4||23.2||41.1||58.3|
|Prostitution and commercialized vice||59,390||147||1,160||7,615||16,180||0.2||2.0||12.8||27.2|
|Sex offenses (except forcible rape and prostitution)||62,756||5,574||11,575||18,399||25,403||8.9||18.4||29.3||40.5|
|Drug abuse violations||1,386,394||21,506||147,382||392,486||636,465||1.6||10.6||28.3||45.9|
|Offenses against the family and children||88,887||1,237||4,205||10,005||20,422||1.4||4.7||11.3||23.0|
|Driving under the influence||1,055,981||398||13,497||107,733||311,920||b||1.3||10.2||29.5|
|All other offenses (except traffic)||2,948,031||69,448||284,096||625,448||1,088,202||2.4||9.6||21.2||36.9|
|Curfew and loitering law violations||109,815||28,949||109,815||109,815||109,815||26.4||100.0||100.0||100.0|
categories that are not applicable to those over age 18: curfew and loitering law violations and runaway arrests. A little more than a quarter (26.4%) of all arrests for curfew violations were of people under the age of 15, whereas 31.8% of arrests of runaways were of people under the age of 15. Arrests for murder (1%), fraud (0.5%), forgery and counterfeiting (0.4%), embezzlement (0.3%), drunkenness (0.3%), and prostitution (0.2%) were the least likely to be of children under the age of 15.
All arrests for curfew violations and of runaways were of youth under the age of 18. Besides arson and vandalism, arrests for disorderly conduct (28.4%), burglary (27%), larceny-theft (25.6%), motor vehicle theft (25%), and carrying and possessing weapons (23.2%) were particularly likely to be of youth under the age of 18. (See Table 10.2.) Arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol (1.3%), prostitution (2%), drunkenness (2.9%), forgery and counterfeiting (3%), fraud (3.1%), and offenses against the family and children (4.7%) were the least likely to be of youth under the age of 18.
Despite the overall decrease in arrests of juveniles, delinquency cases handled by juvenile courts nationwide increased by 46% between 1985 and 2005. (See Figure 10.1.) Between 1997 and 2005 the number of public order offense cases increased by 16%, drug law violation cases increased by 3%, and person offense cases increased by 4%. After big jumps between 1985 and 1997, property offense cases decreased 30% between 1997 and 2005.
ARRESTS BY GENDER. Young males were arrested in far greater numbers than young females between 1998 and 2007. However, juvenile female arrest rates grew proportionately in relation to arrests of young males, particularly in violent crime. In 1998 females represented 27% (412,694 out of a total of 1,527,681 juvenile arrests) of the juveniles arrested. (See Table 10.3.) By 2007 the percentage of juvenile arrests who were female had reached 29% (357,093 out of a total of 1,215,839 juvenile arrests). Even though arrests of both young males and young females decreased between 1998 and 2007, arrests of females decreased less. Arrests of males
under the age of 18 decreased by 23% over the decade, whereas arrests of females under the age of 18 decreased by only 13.5%. In some categories, female arrests increased while male arrests decreased.
For example, between 1998 and 2007 juvenile male arrests for aggravated assault dropped by 22.5%, whereas juvenile female arrests dropped by only 17.3%. (See Table 10.3.) Juvenile male arrests for other assaults dropped by 4.4%, whereas juvenile female arrests increased by 10.1%. Arrests of juvenile males for drug abuse violations dropped by 7.9%, whereas arrests of juvenile females for the same offenses increased by 5.9%. Arrests of juvenile males for driving while intoxicated decreased by 23.7%, but for juvenile females increased by 13.8%.
These male and female arrest trends among juveniles reflect to some degree changes in arrest trends among male and female adults. In Crime in the United States, 2007, the FBI reports that in 2007, 75.8% (6,150,145 out of a total of 8,118,197 arrests) of all arrests in the United States were of males (all ages). (See Table 10.3.) In that year, 81.7% (286,190 out of a total of 350,332 arrests) of people arrested for violent crime were male, whereas 66.4% (626,799 out of a total of 943,449 arrests) of those arrested for property crime were male. Between 1998 and 2007 the number of arrests of males dropped by 6.1%, whereas the number of arrests of females increased 6.6%.
According to the FBI's 10-year arrest trends, juvenile males and females engage in many of the same types of crimes. For example, the crime most frequently committed by both males and females was larceny-theft. Even though the numbers of arrests were down for both males and females in this category in 2007, males were arrested 100,043 times and females were arrested 75,519 times for larceny-theft. (See Table 10.3.) As such, juvenile males were responsible for 14.5% (100,042 out of a total of 689,037 arrests) of arrests for larceny-theft and juvenile females for 11% (75,519 out of 689,037). Together, juvenile offenders represented almost 25.5% (175,561 out of 689,037) of all larceny-theft arrests.
Other areas with high arrest rates of both juvenile males and females include other assaults, disorderly conduct, and drug abuse violations. Young males were arrested 91,986 times on other assault charges, whereas young females were arrested 46,809 times for that offense in 2007. (See Table 10.3.) Disorderly conduct resulted in 69,051 young males and 35,329 young females under the age of 18 being arrested, and drug abuse violations accounted for the arrests of 91,800 young males and 17,644 young females.
|TABLE 10.3 Ten-year arrest trends by sex, 1998–2007|
|[7,946 agencies; 2007 estimated population 171,876,948; 1998 estimated population 154,013,711]|
|Total||Under 18||Total||Under 18|
|1998||2007||Percent change||1998||2007||Percent change||1998||2007||Percent change||1998||2007||Percent change|
|aDoes not include suspicion.|
|bViolent crimes are offenses of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robber y, and aggravated assault. Property crimes are offenses of burglar y, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.|
|SOURCE: “Table 33. Ten-Year Arrest Trends by Sex, 1998–2007,” in Crime in the United States, 2007, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2008, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2007/data/table_33.html (accessed November 11, 2008)|
|Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter||7,342||6,519||-11.2||898||702||-21.8||890||782||-12.1||85||51||-40.0|
|Motor vehicle theft||68,494||51,382||-25.0||24,689||12,701||-48.6||12,431||11,384||-8.4||5,193||2,588||-50.2|
|Forgery and counter feiting||41,508||36,217||-12.7||2,754||1,146||-58.4||26,362||22,615||-14.2||1,496||553||-63.0|
|Stolen property; buying, receiving, possessing||66,132||57,865||-12.5||17,289||10,809||-37.5||12,239||15,039||+22.9||2,580||2,421||-6.2|
|Weapons; carr ying, possessing, etc.||100,973||97,822||-3.1||24,048||21,999||-8.5||8,560||8,258||-3.5||2,347||2,329||-0.8|
|Prostitution and commercialized vice||20,745||11,485||-44.6||349||170||-51.3||29,337||27,596||-5.9||394||615||+56.1|
|Sex offenses (except forcible rape and prostitution)||48,658||42,369||-12.9||8,870||7,450||-16.0||3,869||3,502||-9.5||661||656||-0.8|
|Drug abuse violations||723,435||833,941||+15.3||99,691||91,800||-7.9||154,920||199,262||+28.6||16,661||17,644||+5.9|
|Offenses against the family and children||67,843||53,754||-20.8||3,648||1,885||-48.3||17,980||17,551||-2.4||2,117||1,210||-42.8|
|Driving under the influence||676,911||626,371||-7.5||9,849||7,513||-23.7||126,119||162,493||+28.8||2,068||2,354||+13.8|
|All other offenses (except traffic)||1,732,271||1,744,417||+0.7||199,315||153,225||-23.1||453,592||522,728||+15.2||66,923||53,999||-19.3|
|Cur few and loitering law violations||73,163||51,116||-30.1||73,163||51,116||-30.1||31,813||22,101||-30.5||31,813||22,101||-30.5|
Other crimes most frequently committed by young males and females in 2007 included liquor law violations (47,505 arrests for males and 27,443 arrests for females) and curfew and loitering law violations (51,116 arrests for males and 22,101 arrests for females). (See Table 10.3.) Males also saw high numbers of arrests for vandalism (56,177 arrests), whereas young females were arrested 34,822 times as runaways.
Despite the high number of juvenile crimes, arrest rates for youth under the age of 18 were down in many categories between 1998 and 2007. Young males experienced the greatest decline in the number of arrests for forgery and counterfeiting (down 58.4%), prostitution and commercialized vice (down 51.3%), motor vehicle theft (down 48.6%), and larceny-theft (down 41%). (See Table 10.3.) During this same period young female arrest rates dropped most for forgery and counterfeiting (down 63%), forcible rape (down 52.5%), and motor vehicle theft (down 50.2%). Arrests based on suspicion were down for both young males (down 72.4%) and young females (down 69.6%).
Over the decade juvenile arrests of males increased in only two categories: vagrancy (up 27.4%) and embezzlement (up 7.5%). (See Table 10.3.) By contrast, arrests of young females were up for vagrancy (up 167.3%), prostitution and commercialized vice (up 56.1%), disorderly conduct (up 20.1%), robbery (up 16.6%), other assaults (up 10.1%), drug abuse violations (up 5.9%), and embezzlement (up 2.5%).
ARRESTS BY RACE . African-Americans are disproportionately arrested in the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau (April 30, 2008, http://www.census.gov/popest/national/asrh/NC-EST2007-asrh.html) estimates that in 2007, the U.S. population was 66.3% non-Hispanic white, 12.9% African-American, 4.5% Asian-American, and 1% Native American or Alaskan Native. Hispanics, who can be of any race, represented 15.2% of the total population. In Crime in the United States, 2007, the FBI notes that two-thirds (69.7%) of all arrested individuals in 2007 were white, 28.2% were African-American, 1.3% were Native American or Alaskan Native, and 0.8% were Asian or Pacific Islander.
Arrested juveniles exhibited a similar racial distribution; 67% were white, 30.8% were African-American, 1.2% were Native American or Alaskan Native, and 1% were Asian or Pacific Islander 2007. (See Table 10.4.) Among juveniles, a particularly high proportion of those arrested for driving under the influence (93.1%), violation of liquor laws (91%), drunkenness (89.3%), vandalism (78.8%), vagrancy (77.6%), arson (76.4%), and offenses against the family and children (72.8%) were white. A particularly high proportion of those arrested for gambling (95.4%), robbery (67.8%), prostitution and commercialized vice (58%), and murder and nonnegligent manslaughter (57.4%) were African-American. The FBI data on arrests by race did not identify arrest rates by Hispanic origin.
DISPOSITION OF JUVENILES ARRESTED . Ann L. Pas-tore and Kathleen Maguire report in Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics (2003, http://www.albany.edu/sourcebook/pdf/t4262004.pdf) that in the 1970s a change occurred in the disposition of arrested juveniles. Statistics for 1972 show that 50.8% of arrested minors were referred to juvenile court, 45% were handled within the police department and then released, and 1.3% were referred to criminal or adult court. In other words, almost half of all arrested juveniles were not formally charged with offenses in either juvenile or criminal court. From 1972 to 2000, however, those referred to juvenile court increased to 70.8%, whereas those handled internally and then released dropped to 20.3%. The percentage of juvenile cases referred to criminal or adult court rose to 7%. By 2007 only 19.5% of juveniles arrested were released after being handled internally within the department, 69.6% were referred to juvenile court jurisdiction, and 9.4% were referred to criminal or adult court. (See Table 10.5.) Also included in this table are statistics for the percentage of juveniles referred to a welfare agency (0.4%) and those referred to another police agency (1.2%).
Juveniles in Custody
The OJJDP classifies juveniles in residential placement into three categories: committed, detained, and under a diversion agreement. According to the OJJDP (2009, http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/glossary.html), committed juveniles include those placed in the facility as part of a court-ordered disposition; detained juveniles include those held awaiting a court hearing, adjudication, disposition, or placement elsewhere; and voluntarily admitted juveniles include those in the facility as part of a diversion agreement.
Snyder and Sickmund note that of the 109,225 juvenile offenders in residential placement overall in 2003, 74% were committed, 25% were detained, and less than 1% were under diversion agreements. The largest group, committed, was sent to residential placement by juvenile courts. Those being detained were part of a transitory population—those awaiting hearings, awaiting the disposition of their cases, or awaiting transfer to a different type of facility. It is likely that some of the detained individuals were later sent to prison or jail. People in confinement under diversion agreements have entered detention voluntarily. In other words, the juvenile may have volunteered to go to a detention center to avoid going to juvenile court.
DETENTION. About one out of five juveniles are put in detention as their cases are processed in juvenile court. Detention may be used if the youth is judged to be a threat to the community, will be at risk if returned to the community, or may not appear at an upcoming hearing if released. Snyder and Sickmund report that the number of delinquency cases involving detention increased 42% between 1985 and 2002, from 234,600 to 329,800. The largest increase was for drug cases (140%), followed by crimes against people (122%), and public order cases (72%). The number of juveniles detained in
|TABLE 10.4 Arrests of juveniles by race, 2007|
|[11,929 agencies; 2007 estimated population 225,477,173]|
|Offense charged||Arrests under 18||Percent distributiona|
|Total||White||Black||American Indian or Alaskan Native||Asian or Pacific Islander||Total||White||Black||American Indian or Alaskan Native||Asian or Pacific Islander|
|aBecause of rounding, the percentages may not add to 100.0.|
|bViolent crimes are offenses of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robber y, and aggravated assault. Property crimes are offenses of burglar y, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.|
|SOURCE: Adapted from “Table 43. Arrests by Race, 2007,” in Crime in the United States, 2007, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2008, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2007/data/table_43.html (accessed November 11, 2008)|
|Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter||1,011||407||580||15||9||100.0||40.3||57.4||1.5||0.9|
|Motor vehicle theft||22,227||12,191||9,426||339||271||100.0||54.8||42.4||1.5||1.2|
|Forgery and counter feiting||2,341||1,699||596||21||25||100.0||72.6||25.5||0.9||1.1|
|Stolen property; buying, receiving, possessing||16,809||9,203||7,302||127||177||100.0||54.8||43.4||0.8||1.1|
|Weapons; carrying, possessing, etc.||33,040||19,992||12,412||250||386||100.0||60.5||37.6||0.8||1.2|
|Prostitution and commercialized vice||1,156||473||670||9||4||100.0||40.9||58.0||0.8||0.3|
|Sex offenses (except forcible rape and prostitution)||11,526||8,139||3,239||77||71||100.0||70.6||28.1||0.7||0.6|
|Drug abuse violations||146,785||101,152||43,343||1,295||995||100.0||68.9||29.5||0.9||0.7|
|Offenses against the family and children||4,161||3,029||1,047||60||25||100.0||72.8||25.2||1.4||0.6|
|Driving under the influence||13,420||12,498||589||238||95||100.0||93.1||4.4||1.8||0.7|
|All other offenses (except traffic)||282,244||198,916||77,153||3,313||2,862||100.0||70.5||27.3||1.2||1.0|
|Cur few and loitering law violations||109,575||69,950||37,532||964||1,129||100.0||63.8||34.3||0.9||1.0|
property cases declined by 12% during this period. Figure 10.2 shows that the percent of juveniles who were detained for these cases fluctuated between 1985 and 2002, but did not experience much change overall.
Snyder and Sickmund find that the use of detention increased more for females than for males between 1985 and 2002 (87% and 34%, respectively). However, males continued to be more likely than females to be detained, despite the increase in the use of detention for female juvenile offenders. Likewise, the use of detention increased more for African-American youth between 1985 and 2002 (64%) than it did for white youth (32%). Even though a larger number of white youth than African-American youth were detained, African-American youth were proportionately more likely than white youth to be detained. This disparity was greatest in drug cases—African-American youth were more than two times more likely than white youth to be detained for these offenses.
RESIDENTIAL PLACEMENT . Youths sentenced under the jurisdiction of juvenile courts could be generally confined in residential placement facilities. In 2006, 92,854 juvenile offenders were confined in public and private juvenile correctional, detention, and shelter facilities. (See Table 10.6.) Excluded from this category are juveniles in prisons and jails. Sarah Livsey, Melissa Sickmund, and Anthony Sladky of the NCJJ find in Juvenile Residential Facility Census, 2004: Selected Findings (January 2009, http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/222721.pdf) that the number of juvenile offenders in custody decreased 7% between 2002 and 2004, probably because of the substantial decline in the number of juvenile arrests since the mid-1990s.
The OJJDP divides juvenile crimes into delinquency offenses and status offenses. Delinquency offenses are acts that are illegal regardless of the age of the perpetrator. Status offenses are acts that are illegal only for minors, such as
|TABLE 10.5 Police disposition of juvenile offenders taken into custody, 2007|
|[2007 estimated population]|
|Population group||Totala||Handled within department and released||Referred to juvenile court jurisdiction||Referred to welfare agency||Referred other to police agency||Referred to criminal or adult court||Number of agencies||2007 estimated population|
|aIncludes all offenses except traffic and neglect cases.|
|bBecause of rounding, the percentages may not add to 100.0.|
|cSuburban area includes law enforcement agencies in cities with less than 50,000 inhabitants and county law enforcement agencies that are within a metropolitan statistical area. Suburban area excludes all metropolitan agencies associated with a principal city. The agencies associated with suburban areas also appear in other groups within this table.|
|*Less than one-tenth of 1 percent.|
|SOURCE: “Table 68. Police Disposition of Juvenile Offenders Taken into Custody, 2007,” in Crime in the United States, 2007, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2008, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2007/data/table_68.html (accessed November 11, 2008)|
|Group I (250,000 and over)||Number||138,954||41,670||94,226||20||604||2,434||37||25,796,709|
|Group II (100,000 to 249,999)||Number||82,959||18,009||58,590||378||2,274||3,708||80||12,018,629|
|Group III (50,000 to 99,999)||Number||105,992||19,497||76,429||414||1,295||8,357||234||15,972,903|
|Group IV (25,000 to 49,999)||Number||75,606||12,211||53,794||254||1,671||7,676||360||12,405,704|
|Group V (10,000 to 24,999)||Number||85,504||13,001||59,213||461||688||12,141||793||12,642,471|
|Group VI (under 10,000)||Number||71,378||13,200||45,260||248||566||12,104||2,433||8,962,509|
truancy and running away. Ninety-five percent (88,137 out of a total of 92,854) of juveniles in residential placement in 2006 were delinquents. (See Table 10.6.) The other 5% were status offenders (truants from school, noncriminal ordinances and rules violators, out-of-control youths, curfew violators, and runaways). Approximately 31,704 (34%) juveniles in residential placement were held for offenses against people (homicide, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated or simple assault); 23,177 (25%) were held for offenses against property (burglary, theft, auto theft, arson, or other property offenses); 15,316 (16%) were held for technical violations; 9,944 (10%) were held for public order offenses; and 7,996 (9%) were held for drug offenses.
According to Melissa Sickmund, T. J. Sladky, and Wei Kang of the NCJJ, in Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement Databook (2008, http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.gov/ojstatbb/cjrp/), the states with the largest number of youth under the age of 21 in residential facilities in 2006 included California (15,240), Texas (8,247), Florida (7,302), Pennsylvania (4,323), New York (4,197), and Ohio (4,149). These six states housed 47% of all juveniles in residential detention. States with the smallest number included Vermont (54), Hawaii (123), and New Hampshire (189).
DEMOGRAPHICS OF THOSE IN RESIDENTIAL PLACEMENT . Sickmund, Sladky, and Kang state that in 2006 juvenile detention facilities were home to a disproportionately larger number of males (85%) than females (15%). Of the males in confinement, 35% had committed offenses against people and 26% had committed property offenses. Females were less likely to commit person offenses (29%) and property offenses (20%) than males were. Proportionally, females in detention were more likely to have committed simple assault than males were (13% and 7%, respectively), but far less likely to have committed sexual assault (1% and 9%, respectively). A larger proportion of males were being held for burglary (11%) than were females (4%). Females were substantially more likely to be held for status offenses (14%) than were males (4%), including incorrigibility (5% of females and 2% of males), running away (4% of females and 1% of males), and truancy (3% of females and 1% of males).
Sickmund, Sladky, and Kang also report that in 2006, 65% of juveniles in residential placement nationwide were members of minority groups. Forty percent of juvenile offenders in residential placement were African-American, 20% were Hispanic, 2% were Native American, and 1% were Asian-American. About one-third (35%) of juveniles
in custody were non-Hispanic whites. Minority groups were overrepresented in residential placements.
In Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2006 (June 2007, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pjim06.pdf), William J. Sabol, Todd D. Minton, and Paige M. Harrison of the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicate that 6,104 juveniles were in prison or jail in 2006. That same year 2,364 juveniles were held in state prisons, down significantly from 3,896 in 2000. (See Table 10.7.) Of the 2,364 juveniles in state prisons as of midyear 2006, 2,259 (96%) were male.
Christopher Harney of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency reports in “Youth under Age 18 in the Adult Criminal Justice System” (June 2006, http://www.nccd-crc.org/nccd/pubs/2006may_factsheet_youthadult.pdf) that both the number of juveniles being admitted to state prisons and the proportion of people under the age of 18 in prisons have been dropping since the mid-1990s. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of these youth have been convicted of a violent offense. However, Harney points out that “the practice of sentencing youth as adults most seriously impacts African-American, Latino, and Native American youth” and that juveniles convicted in the adult system receive little or no rehabilitative assistance and are more likely to recidivate (go back to criminal behavior) than youth convicted of similar offenses in the juvenile system.
|TABLE 10.6 Juveniles in residential placement, by offense, 2006|
|Most serious offense||Total|
|aIncludes criminal homicide, violent sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault.|
|bIncludes burglary, theft, auto theft, and arson.|
|Note: U.S. total includes 1,466 juvenile offenders in private facilities for whom state of offense was not reported and 124 juvenile offenders in tribal facilities.|
|SOURCE: Melissa Sickmund, TJ. Sladky, and Wei Kang, “Detailed Offense Profile for United States, 2006,” in Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement Databook, U.S. Department of Justice, Of fice of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2008, http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.gov/ojstatbb/cjrp/asp/State_Offense.asp (accessed November 14, 2008)|
|Other public order||5,958|
|Violent Crime Indexa||21,776|
|Property Crime Indexb||18,986|
|Cur few violation||96|
|Other status offense||423|
Recent breakdowns of juveniles in state and federal prisons by race are not available. However, among 22,100 (20,200 male and 1,900 female) imprisoned young adults aged 18 to 19 in 2006, 9,300 (9,000 male and 300 female) were African-American (42%), 6,700 (6,300 male and 400 female) were non-Hispanic white (30%), and 5,100 (4,900 male and 200 female) were Hispanic (23%). (See Table 10.8.) Of those who were 18 to 19 years old in 2006, the rate of incarceration for African-American males was 1,454 per 100,000; for Hispanic males, 670 per 100,000; and for non-Hispanic white males, 236 per 100,000. (See Table 10.9.) African-American and Hispanic females also had higher rates of incarceration than non-Hispanic white females. African-American young adults have a much higher rate of incarceration than do white juveniles and young adults.
JUVENILESINJAIL . Between 2000 and 2006 the number of juveniles in local jails fell from 7,615 to 6,104, for a decrease of 20%. (See Table 10.10.) In 2006, 4,836 (79%) juveniles in local jails were being held as adults—meaning they were either being held for trial in adult criminal court or they had been convicted as adults—and 1,268 were being held as juveniles (21%).
IMPRISONING ADULTS AND JUVENILES TOGETHER . Beginning in the 1990s American society experienced a “moral panic” about juvenile crime that Laurence Steinberg argues in “Introducing the Issue” (Future of Children, vol. 18, no. 2, Fall 2008) fueled “get tough” on crime policies that treated many juvenile offenders as adults. A number of human rights organizations and juvenile justice groups point out the risks associated with incarcerating juveniles with adults. Among the chief concerns is that being held with
|TABLE 10.7 Number of inmates under age 18 held in state prisons, by gender, 2000–06|
|Year||Total number in prison||Male||Female|
|SOURCE: William J. Sabol, Todd D. Minton, and Paige M. Harrison, “Table 7. Number of Inmates under Age 18 Held in State Prisons, June 30, 2000–2006,” in Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, June 2007, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pjim06.pdf (accessed November 14, 2008)|
hardened adult prisoners will likely cause youth offenders to become more violent, more tough, and repeat offenders. Instead of rehabilitation and education, such juveniles are subjected to more physical and sexual abuse and violence, increasing their likelihood of showing violent tendencies when returning to society one day.
Youth in adult prisons and jails are more vulnerable to violence than they would be in juvenile-only facilities. The Campaign for Youth Justice notes in Jailing Juveniles: The Dangers of Incarcerating Youth in Adult Jails in America (November 2007, http://www.campaign4youthjustice.org/Downloads/NationalReportsArticles/CFYJ-Jailing_Juveniles_Report_2007-11-15.pdf) that youth are at a high risk of sexual assault while imprisoned in adult facilities. In 2005, 21% of all victims of sexual assault were juveniles, while only 1% of inmates were juveniles. The organization Act 4 Juvenile Justice notes in “Youth in Adult Prisons” (2005, http://www.act4jj.org/media/factsheets/factsheet_26.pdf) that juveniles are particularly vulnerable to physical and sexual assault at the hands of both prison staff and adult inmates because of their young age, emotional immaturity, and smaller size. In comparison to juveniles in juvenile-only facilities, those in adult facilities were twice as likely to suffer beatings by prison staff and 50% more likely to be attacked with a weapon. However, the Campaign for Youth Justice argues that merely isolating youth from adult offenders within adult prisons is not a viable answer, because such isolation puts youth at risk for mental illness. The organization notes that “even limited exposure to such an environment can cause anxiety, paranoia, exacerbate existing mental disorders, and increase the risk of suicide.” In fact, youth in adult prisons are 19 times more likely than youth in the general population to commit suicide; youth imprisoned in adult facilities are 36 times more likely than youth in juvenile detention centers to commit suicide.
|TABLE 10.8 Number of sentenced prisoners under State or Federal jurisdiction, by gender, race, Hispanic origin, and age, 2006|
|Note: State sentenced prisoner counts are based on estimates by gender, race, Hispanic origin, and age from the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities and updated from jurisdiction counts by gender at yearend 2006. Federal sentenced prisoner counts are based on data from the BJS Federal Justice Statistics Program for September 30, 2006 and updated from jurisdiction counts at yearend 2006.|
|aSentenced prisoners are limited to those sentenced to more than 1 year.|
|bTotal includes American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Asians, Native Hawaiians, other Pacific Islanders, and persons identifying two or more races.|
|cExcludes Hispanics and persons identifying two or more races.|
|SOURCE: William J. Sabol, Heather Couture, and Paige M. Harrison, “Appendix Table 7. Estimated Number of Sentenced Prisoners under State or Federal Jurisdiction, by Gender, Race, Hispanic Origin, and Age, Yearend 2006,” in Prisoners in 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2007, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/p06.pdf (accessed November 11, 2008)|
|55 or older||76,500||40,100||21,100||11,500||3,700||2,200||800||500|
|TABLE 10.9 Number of sentenced prisoners under State or Federal jurisdiction per 100,000 residents, by gender, race, Hispanic origin, and age, 2006|
|All malesb||Whitec||Blackc||Hispanic||All femalesb||Whitec||Blackc||Hispanic|
|Note: Based on estimates of the U.S. resident population on January 1, 2007, by gender, race, Hispanic origin, and age. Detailed categories exclude persons identifying two or more races.|
|aSentenced prisoners are limited to those serving sentences of more than 1 year.|
|bIncludes American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asians, Native Hawaiians, other Pacific Islanders, and persons identifying two or more races.|
|cExcludes Hispanics and persons identifying two or more races.|
|SOURCE: William J. Sabol, Heather Couture, and Paige M. Harrison, “Appendix Table 8. Estimated Number of Sentenced Prisoners under State or Federal Jurisdiction per 100,000 Residents, by Gender, Race, Hispanic Origin, and Age, Yearend 2006,” in Prisoners in 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2007, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/p06.pdf (accessed November 11, 2008)|
|55 or older||248||162||820||510||10||7||23||18|
|TABLE 10.10 Average daily population and the number of men, women, and juveniles in local jails on June 30, 2000, 2005, and 2006|
|aAverage daily population is the sum of the number of inmates in jail on each day for a year divided by the total number of days in a year.|
|bJuveniles are persons under age 18 on June 30.|
|cIncludes juveniles who were tried or awaiting trial as adults.|
|SOURCE: William J. Sabol, Todd D. Minton, and Paige M. Harrison, “Table 9. Number of Inmates in Local Jails on June 30, 2000, 2005, and 2006,” in Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2006, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, June 2007, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pjim06.pdf (accessed November 14, 2008)|
|Average daily populationa||618,319||733,442||755,896|
|Number of inmates, June 30||621,149||747,529||766,010|
|Held as adultsc||6,129||5,750||4,836|
|Held as juveniles||1,489||1,009||1,268|
Steinberg argues that at the end of the first decade of the new millennium, get-tough policies were softening “as politicians and the public come to regret the high economic costs and ineffectiveness of the punitive reforms and the harshness of the sanctions.” Elizabeth Scott and Laurence Steinberg find in “Adolescent Development and the Regulation of Youth Crime” (Future of Children, vol. 18, no. 2, fall 2008) that by 2008 the justice system was once again recognizing that age and maturity level needed to be taken into account when calculating punishment for crimes. They suggest that most juveniles who commit crimes are “adolescence-limited” offenders who will mature out of their criminal tendencies; however, contact with a harsh, adult corrections system can push juveniles into adult criminality. Instead, the authors state, successful programs “seek to provide young offenders with supportive social contexts and authoritative adult figures and to help them acquire the skills necessary to change problem behavior and attain psychosocial maturity.”
Other surveys support the idea that get-tough attitudes appear to be changing. The survey “New NCCD Poll Shows Public Strongly Favors Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment” (February 7, 2007, http://www.nccd-crc.org/nccd/pubs/zogbyPR0207.pdf), which was conducted by Zogby International for the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, finds that the American public supports rehabilitation and treatment for young people, not prosecution in adult criminal courts or incarceration in adult jails or prisons. Nine out of 10 people surveyed believed this approach might help prevent crime in the future, and seven out of 10 believed imprisoning juveniles in adult facilities would increase the likelihood that they would commit future crimes. Most people believed that youth should not be automatically transferred to adult court, but that such transfers should be handled on an individual basis.
Children and the Death Penalty
Until 2005 convicted criminals could be executed for crimes they committed as juveniles. Victor L. Streib of Ohio Northern University reports in The Juvenile Death Penalty Today: Death Sentences and Executions for Juvenile Crimes, January 1, 1973–February 28, 2005 (October 7, 2005, http://www.law.onu.edu/faculty_staff/faculty_profiles/coursematerials/streib/juvdeath.pdf) that between 1973 and 2005, 22 offenders were executed for crimes they committed when they were younger than 18. The U.S. Supreme Court has considered many cases concerning the practice of executing offenders for crimes they committed as children. In Eddings v. Oklahoma (455 U.S. 104 ), the Court found that a juvenile's mental and emotional development should be considered as a mitigating factor when deciding whether to apply
the death penalty, noting that adolescents are less mature and responsible than adults and not as able to consider long-range consequences of their actions. In this case, the court reversed the death sentence of a 16-year-old who had been tried as an adult.
Subsequent Supreme Court rulings have further limited the application of the death penalty in cases involving juveniles. In Thompson v. Oklahoma (487 U.S. 815 ), the court found that applying the death sentence to an offender who had been 15 years old at the time of the murder was cruel and unusual punishment, concluding that the death penalty could not be applied to offenders who were younger than 16. However, the following year the court found in Stanford v. Kentucky (492 U.S. 361) that applying the death penalty to offenders who were age 16 or 17 at the time of the crime was not cruel and unusual punishment.
The court was asked to reconsider this decision in 2005. In Roper v. Simmons (543 U.S. 551), the court set aside the death sentence of Christopher Simmons by a vote of five to four, concluding that the “Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments forbid imposition of the death penalty on offenders who were under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed.” Snyder and Sickmund note that few states applied death penalty provisions to juveniles at the time of the Roper decision, even though 20 states allowed juveniles to be sentenced to death under the law.
Crime Prevention and Punishment
Crime Prevention and Punishment
Over the years politicians, law enforcement officials, teachers, parents, and other concerned citizens have examined countless ideas in an effort to decrease youth violence and crime, from holding parents responsible for their children's crimes to having after-school violence prevention programs. The continuing problem of youth crime has many people devoting significant time and resources to end the cycle of violence. A variety of programs have been implemented in the area of prevention, intervention, and suppression. Efforts are ongoing to determine the effectiveness of such programs. The following sections discuss laws that have been enacted as well as a variety of prevention programs, including community prevention programs, law enforcement prevention strategies, and school-based prevention programs, to try to prevent juvenile crime.
Laws Enacted to Prevent Juvenile Crime
HOLDING PARENTS RESPONSIBLE
For many decades civil liability laws have held parents at least partly responsible for damages caused by their children. In addition, child welfare laws included actions against those who contributed to the delinquency of a minor. By the 1990s, in response to rising juvenile crime rates, communities and states passed tougher laws about parental responsibility. In "Parent Liability Child's Act" (2007, http://law.enotes.com/everyday-law-encyclopedia/parent-liability-child-s-act#criminal-responsibility), the Encyclopedia of Everyday Law notes that some states now hold parents of delinquent youth criminally liable. However, other, less stringent parental responsibility laws are more common. Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, and West Virginia require parents to pay court costs for their children adjudicated delinquent. Florida, Idaho, Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia require parents to pay the costs of caring for, treating, or detaining delinquent children. Idaho, Maryland, Missouri, and Oklahoma require parents to pay restitution to the victims of their children's crimes. Nine states hold parents criminally responsible for storing a loaded firearm in a place that allows minors access to it, and other states hold parents liable if they know their child possesses a firearm and do not confiscate it.
Critics of parental liability explain that victims are just looking for someone to blame. They assert that U.S. law usually holds people responsible for crimes only if they actively participate in the transmission of such acts. They believe that if standard rules of U.S. law are practiced, the prosecutor of a case should have to prove that the parents intended to participate in a crime to be found guilty. Samantha Harvell, Belen Rodas, and Leah Hendey of Georgetown University find in Parental Involvement in Juvenile Justice: Prospects and Possibilities (November 8, 2004, http://www.crocus.georgetown.edu/reports/parental.involvement.pdf) that judges and probation officers believe that parents should be more involved in legal proceedings against minors because they feel that the relationship between parent and child often contributes to delinquency. However, judges and probation officers remain somewhat reluctant to use parental sanctions. In fact, the article "UF Study: Americans Give Mixed Reviews to Parental Responsibility Laws" (University of Florida News, March 14, 2005) notes that a 2005 survey found that public support for parental responsibility laws was relatively low.
To break the cycle of youth violence and crime, lawmakers have enacted curfews in various cities, towns, and rural areas across the country. Curfews for young people have existed off and on since the 1890s, when they were enacted to reduce crime among immigrant youth. States and cities often pass curfew ordinances when citizens perceive a need to maintain control over juveniles. Because of the rising rate of juvenile crime in the late 1980s and early 1990s, more than a thousand jurisdictions in the United States imposed youth curfews. Arlen Egley Jr. and Aline K. Major of the National Youth Gang Survey, in "Highlights of the 2001 National Youth Gang Survey" (April 2003, http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/fs200301.pdf), report that 62% of jurisdictions reporting gang problems used curfews or other ordinances aimed at keeping youth from congregating at night. Of those jurisdictions, 86% argued that such laws "demonstrated at least some degree of effectiveness."
Most curfew laws work essentially the same way. They are aimed at restricting juveniles to their homes or property between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. weekdays. Such laws usually allow juveniles to stay out a little later on weekends. Exceptions are made for youth who need to travel to and from school, attend church events, or go to work at different times. Other exceptions include family emergencies or situations when juveniles are accompanied by their parents.
Although many people believe that curfews are important in the fight against youth crime, critics of curfew ordinances argue that such laws violate the constitutional rights of children and their parents. They contend that the First, Fourth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights of people are endangered by curfew laws, especially the rights of free speech and association, privacy, and equal protection. Opponents also assert that no studies prove curfew laws to be effective. In fact, most studies—such as Patrick Boyle's "Curfews and Crime" (Youth Today, November 2006) and Caterina Grovis Roman and Gretchen Moore's "Evaluation of the Youth Curfew in Prince George's County, Maryland" (April 23, 2003, http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/200520.pdf)—show that curfews have little effect on youth crime.
Community Prevention and Intervention Programs
Prevention measures are programs aimed at keeping youth, particularly at-risk youth, from beginning a life of crime, joining gangs, and/or otherwise ending up in prison or jail. Intervention programs are designed to remove youth from gangs, criminal activities, and/or patterns of reckless behavior that would ultimately put the youth in prison or jail. Such programs typically include helping the individual build self-esteem, confidence, and socialization skills while offering education, recreation, and job skills assistance.
Although this chapter examines a few of the types of programs available, hundreds of such programs exist throughout the United States, some at the national or state levels, but many at the local/community level. Many involve mentoring—having adults and sometimes other students spend time with at-risk youth to help them explore alternatives to violence and crime. Mentoring programs take on a variety of activities, including sports, recreation, and education. Mentors help their subjects gain self-esteem, conflict resolution abilities, peer pressure resistance skills, and confidence.
Many prevention and intervention programs have seen some success with delinquent and at-risk youth, as noted by individuals who credit such groups with turning their lives around or keeping them from heading into lives of crime and violence. Others have proven to be ineffective. Those that succeed provide alternatives to youth and often a safe place to hang out, make new friends, and learn life skills.
CHICAGO AREA PROJECT
Chicago, like Los Angeles, has been home to many gangs throughout the twentieth century. In an effort to deal with the gang situation on the city's streets, the Chicago Area Project (CAP) was founded in 1934—the nation's first community-based delinquency prevention program. The program, which was designed by the sociologist Clifford R. Shaw (1895–1957), aimed to work with delinquent youth in poverty-stricken areas of Chicago. CAP staff sought to prevent youth from joining gangs and ultimately committing crimes.
To achieve this, CAP advocates believed that improvements needed to be made to neighborhoods and communities. According to CAP (April 9, 2007, http://www.chicagoareaproject.org/aboutus.htm), "The agency believes that residents must be empowered through the development of community organizations so that they can act together to improve neighborhood conditions, hold institutions serving the community accountable, reduce anti-social behavior by young people, protect them from inappropriate institutionalization, and provide them with positive models for personal development." The organization emphasizes that juvenile delinquency in low-income areas is a product of social disadvantages—not a flaw of the individual child or of individuals from certain ethnic or racial backgrounds.
CAP includes more than twenty-nine affiliates and twelve special projects. Continuing to promote self-improvement and self-determination, CAP emphasizes community organizing, advocacy, and direct service. According to CAP, it "has succeeded in arousing in individual citizens a sense of responsibility for the welfare of their children—and a realization that their own united efforts offered the most promising prospect for providing security, protection, and constructive satisfaction of the needs of the children and young people in any community."
BOYS AND GIRLS CLUBS OF AMERICA
Offering a variety of programs to help youth, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA; 2007, http://www.bgca.org/) has worked with more than 4.6 million children throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and U.S. military bases in the United States and abroad. In about four thousand club locations, the group uses forty-seven thousand trained, full-time staff "to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens."
The BGCA offers a specialized program called Gang Prevention/Intervention through Targeted Outreach for those aged six to eighteen. Sponsored by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), the outreach program works with delinquent youth and those at risk of becoming delinquent. The goal of the program is to provide educational and fun activities for youth in a safe environment to steer them away from becoming involved in gangs.
Coordinated by the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, violence-free zones help gang members and other violent youths turn their lives around through the adoption of a productive and peaceful lifestyle. A community-based program, the project provides various types of assistance, including life-skills training, mentoring, job assistance, substance abuse help, character development, and family services. To establish a violence-free zone, the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise and community leaders seek to end youth violence by working with warring gang factions to call a truce.
The first violence-free zone was created in 1997 in the Benning Terrace public housing complex in Washington, D.C. At that time the area was so crime-ridden that people were afraid to leave their homes. The situation became even more desperate after the twelve-year-old Daryl Hall was beaten, kidnapped, and later murdered by warring gang members. Gangs had become so bold they attacked Hall in broad daylight. The National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, in conjunction with the Alliance of Concerned Men, stepped in and was able to set up meetings between the leaders of the rival gangs. The groups managed to work out a truce.
Aimee Howd reports in "How to Stop Kids from Killing Kids" (Insight on the News, April 24, 2000) that when David Gilmore of the D.C. Housing Authority heard about the cease-fire, he joined the cause and offered jobs to some of the youths. Meaningful, legitimate employment proved to be an important asset to the program. Among the jobs available were landscaping, building maintenance, and removing graffiti. Jobs not only provided youth with an income but also with a sense of purpose and belonging. Gilmore estimates that the program saved the city $13 million and that fifteen or more deaths were prevented in the three years following the truce.
Programs have since been launched in Atlanta, Georgia; Prince George's County and Baltimore, Maryland; Dallas, Texas; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Law Enforcement Strategies
OJJDP COMPREHENSIVE GANG MODEL
The OJJDP advocates the use of a comprehensive gang model developed by Irving A. Spergel to combat gangs. Jim Burch and Candice Kane, in the fact sheet "Implementing the OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model" (July 1999, http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/fs99112.pdf), note that the model includes five steps to help gang members and their communities. Steps include mobilizing the larger community to create opportunities or service organizations for gang-involved and at-risk youth; mobilizing outreach workers to connect with youth involved in gangs; creating academic, economic, and social opportunities for at-risk and gang-involved youth; using gang suppression activities and holding youth involved in gangs accountable for their actions; and helping community agencies problem solve at a grassroots level to address gang problems. The model assumes that gang violence is a byproduct of a breakdown in the larger community. According to the OJJDP, in "OJJDP Model Programs Guide" (October 11, 2005, http://www.dsgonline.com/mpg2.5/mpg_index.htm), evaluations of programs based on the OJJDP model show mixed results, although negative results generally result from poor program implementation.
GANG RESISTANCE EDUCATION AND TRAINING
Hoping to reach students before they become involved in gangs and crime, uniformed police officers throughout the country visit middle schools to discuss the life consequences associated with such activities. The thirteen-part curriculum, offered through the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program, was initially created by the Phoenix (Arizona) Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in 1991. Because that pilot program met with success, G.R.E.A.T. has expanded to all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Among the topics presented are personal, resiliency, resistance, and social skills. The stated goals of the program are to help youth resist peer pressure, have positive attitudes toward law enforcement, learn ways to avoid violence, develop basic life skills, and set positive goals for the future. According to the article "G.R.E.A.T. Middle School Component" (April 27, 2007, http://www.great-online.org/corecurriculum.htm), the G.R.E.A.T. curriculum for seventh graders educates students about gangs, violence, drug abuse, and crime; helps students recognize their responsibilities and learn how to make good decisions; fosters communication skills; and teaches anger management skills.
The effectiveness of G.R.E.A.T. training became the basis for a study conducted by Finn-Aage Esbensen and D. Wayne Osgood, who published their findings in "Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT): Results from the National Evaluation" (Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 1999). Program participants were said to have developed more negative opinions about gangs and more positive attitudes about police. They also reported experiencing lower rates of victimizations, among other things.
Another method intended to reduce youth crime and violence is called suppression. This tactic is used by law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Suppression usually involves a show of force, such as saturating an area with many uniformed police officers. The idea is meant to demonstrate to criminals that they are being watched and that criminal activities will not be tolerated. Suppression techniques also include sweeps, where officers sweep through an area rounding up youth and adult offenders. Some suppression programs have proven to be somewhat effective, whereas others have not.
In some areas with high gang activity and violent youth crime, law enforcement personnel have tried suppression techniques. Suppression programs have been tested out in various cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston, among others.
The Houston Police Department Gang Task Force is just one example of the many units of this type operating throughout the United States. Working in conjunction with the Mayor's Anti-Gang Office (2007, http://www.houstontx.gov/publicsafety/antigang/index.html), the task force focuses on areas with high gang activity by providing a highly visible presence in an effort to lessen gang violence and crime. Initiatives aim to target, arrest, and incarcerate gang members involved in criminal activities. At the same time, the Anti-Gang Office works with communities, neighborhoods, service organizations, and schools to provide supportive services to at-risk youth, including counseling, job leads, conflict resolution, and recreation programs. The Mayor's Anti-Gang Office has also provided gang awareness training to individuals, including educators, law enforcement personnel, probation officers, and members of the public since 1994. The group makes use of high-tech devices, such as geomapping and tracking systems. These programs help staff keep track of gang locations as well as youth program assistance sites.
Bill White, the mayor of Houston, reports in "Houston Mayor White Oversees Gang Free Schools and Communities Project" (April 10, 2006, http://www.usmayors.org/uscm/best_practices/usmayor06/HoustonBP.asp) that suppression is generally not successful alone. Houston provides an example of how suppression can be combined with other program elements, in that the Mayor's Anti-Gang Office uses suppression techniques as one element of the OJJDP's comprehensive gang model, "a paradigm that utilizes five core strategies (community mobilization, provision of opportunities, social intervention, suppression, organizational change and development) to address gang issues within a targeted community."
SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS
The School Resource Officers (SROs) program is intended to improve relations between youth and police. The project, designed to prevent and intercept the commission of youth crime and violence, also gives students and police officers the chance to get to know one another. In some areas, children grow up with contempt for or fear of police. The SRO program works to eliminate these concerns as well as to educate students about the law and provide one-on-one mentoring.
Under the program, a police officer is dispatched to a school as an SRO. The officer works to prevent crime, violence, and substance abuse; makes arrests if necessary during the commission of crimes; counsels students; and conducts classes about law enforcement and school safety. The program calls this the TRIAD concept (police officer, educator, and counselor). To participate as an SRO, candidates must complete a specialized training program. The SRO program is credited with helping reduce youth crime in schools and in the community.
Founded in 1990, the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) has a national membership of nine thousand officers. NASRO holds annual conferences and provides workshops for the SROs about various procedures, techniques, and prevention measures. The group also conducts surveys of its members to learn more about current issues affecting the SROs and schools. For example, Kenneth S. Trump of the National School Safety and Security Services, in School Safety Left Behind? School Safety Threats Grow as Preparedness Stalls and Funding Decreases: NASRO 2004 National School-Based Law Enforcement Survey (February 2005, http://www.schoolsecurity.org/resources/2004%20NASRO%20Survey%20Final%20Report%20NSSSS.pdf), notes that over a third of the SROs (37.4%) believed that gang activity in their schools had increased, another third (38%) believed gang activity had remained the same, and only 8.4% believed gang activity had decreased.
School-Based Prevention Programs
STUDENTS AGAINST VIOLENCE EVERYWHERE
After Alex Orange was shot and killed in Charlotte, North Carolina, while trying to stop a fight in 1989, his classmates at West Charlotte High School decided to organize the group Students against Violence Everywhere (SAVE). SAVE (2006, http://www.nationalsave.org/main/statistics.php) has grown far beyond Orange's high school; in 2006 it had more than 1,650 chapters with 189,000 student members. The organization is active in elementary, middle, and high schools across the United States. Members have their own "colors": orange for Alex Orange and purple for peace and nonviolence.
The group focuses on violence prevention and on helping kids gain life skills, knowledge, and an understanding of the consequences of violence and crime. SAVE helps members overcome negative peer pressure situations through the development of positive peer interactions. It also plans safe activities, including cosponsor-ship of the National Youth Violence Prevention Campaign (2007, http://www.violencepreventionweek.org/). During the weeklong campaign participants spend each day focused on one aspect of violence prevention. For example, the first day seeks to "promote respect and tolerance," and other days focus on anger management, conflict resolution, school and community safety, and unity.
BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS IN SCHOOL
The Big Brothers Big Sisters program has been serving children for over one hundred years. The organization provides one-on-one mentoring services to young people (aged five to eighteen) throughout the United States. Big Brothers Big Sisters seeks to help youth perform better at school, stay clear of drugs and alcohol, improve their relationships with others, and avoid lives of crime and violence. Under the main program, a child is paired with an adult who spends time with him or her several times each month on outings, which can include sports, recreation, visits to museums or parks, and so on. Through the experience, the "Bigs" help the "Littles" develop life skills, confidence, and self-esteem.
Big Brothers Big Sisters has also developed programs for school children. Through the group's outreach program, volunteers visit schools weekly to provide one-on-one mentoring to students needing help. In addition, high school students also gain experience mentoring elementary school children through the High School Bigs program. While helping older students develop skills working with children, the project helps younger children bond with teens closer to their own age and see that they, too, can grow up to lead productive lives. According to the Big Brothers Big Sisters Report to the Community, 2005 (2006, http://www.bbbs.org/), the organization provided assistance to 234,000 children in 2005, a 5% increase over the year before, through 440 local Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies.
In Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report (March 2006, http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.gov/ojstatbb/nr2006/downloads/NR2006.pdf), Howard N. Snyder and Melissa Sickmund of the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) indicate that juvenile court generally has original jurisdiction in cases involving youth who are under age eighteen when the crime was committed, when the youth is arrested, or when the offender is referred to the court. In 2004 thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia considered the oldest age for juveniles to be seventeen. Ten states—Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin—used sixteen—meaning that youth aged seventeen are under the jurisdiction of criminal courts. In Connecticut, New York, and North Carolina the age was set at fifteen—in other words, sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds are tried in criminal court.
When youth crime surged in the 1980s, many citizens called for changes in the juvenile justice system. According to Snyder and Sickmund, forty-five states made it easier to transfer juveniles from the juvenile justice system to the criminal justice system, thirty-one states made a wider variety of sentencing options for juveniles available, forty-seven states either changed or removed confidentiality provisions of the juvenile justice system, twenty-two states passed laws that enhanced the rights of victims of juvenile crime, and new programs for juveniles were developed in most states. As a result of these changes, more juveniles were tried as adults in the criminal justice system. Codes regulating state juvenile justice systems now tend to strike a balance between prevention/treatment goals and punishment rather than focusing mainly on rehabilitation.
If the court deems that it is in the interests of the juvenile and the public, juvenile courts in some states may retain jurisdiction over juvenile offenders past the ages discussed earlier. Thus, such courts can handle juvenile offenders until they turn twenty in thirty-three states and the District of Columbia. Snyder and Sickmund note that Florida uses age twenty-one, Kansas uses age twenty-two, and California, Montana, Oregon, and Wisconsin use age twenty-four as the cutoff. Extended jurisdiction, however, may be limited by legislation to specific crimes or certain juveniles. Hence, the question of "who is considered a juvenile" does not have one consistent, standard answer. In various states exceptions can be made to the age criteria. This is done so that juveniles can be tried as adults or to provide for procedures under which a prosecutor can decide to handle an offender as a juvenile or an adult.
DOES IT WORK?
From 1996 to 2005 the murder rate for juvenile offenders consistently declined, dropping 46.8% in that period, and juvenile arrests for violent crimes—murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault—were at their lowest rate since 1980. (See Table 10.1.) In 2005 only 739 juveniles were arrested for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, compared with 1,388 in 1996. As such, some public officials believe that efforts to reduce crime through adult sentencing were working. However, many experts attribute the murder rate decline to expanded after-school crime prevention programs, the decline of crack cocaine and violent gangs, and big-city police efforts to crack down on illegal guns.
A 1987 Florida study discussed by Donna M. Bishop et al., in "The Transfer of Juveniles to Criminal Court: Does It Make a Difference?" (Crime and Delinquency, April 1996), suggests that juveniles tried in adult courts were likely to be rearrested more quickly and more often than juveniles who went to juvenile court. The study compared the rearrest rates of juveniles transferred to criminal court with a matched sample (similar crimes, past court experience, age, gender, and race) of those retained in the juvenile system. Of the transferred youth, 30% were rearrested, compared with 19% of the non-transferred ones. Transferred youth who were rearrested had committed a new offense within an average of 135 days of release, compared with an average of 227 days for youth processed in juvenile courts.
|Ten-year arrest trends by age and offense, 1996–2005|
|[8,009 agencies; 2005 estimated population 178,017,991; 1996 estimated population 159,290,470]|
|Offense charged||Number of persons arrested|
|Total all ages||Under 18 years of age||18 years of age and over|
|1996||2005||Percent change||1996||2005||Percent change||1996||2005||Percent change|
|aDoes not include suspicion.|
|bViolent crimes are offenses of murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Property crimes are offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.|
|Source: "Table 32. Ten-Year Arrest Trends: Totals, 1996–2005," in Crime in the United States 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2006, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/data/table_32.html (accessed March 5, 2007)|
|Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter||9,564||7,989||−16.5||1,388||739||−46.8||8,176||7,250||−11.3|
|Motor vehicle theft||100,318||82,160||−18.1||42,957||19,755||−54.0||57,361||62,405||+8.8|
|Forgery and counterfeiting||72,103||70,738||−1.9||5,433||2,600||−52.1||66,670||68,138||+2.2|
|Stolen property; buying, receiving, possessing||91,832||82,771||−9.9||26,647||13,902||−47.8||65,185||68,869||+5.7|
|Weapons; carrying, possessing, etc.||123,016||112,054||−8.9||31,067||26,834||−13.6||91,949||85,220||−7.3|
|Prostitution and commercialized vice||48,936||41,641||−14.9||723||870||+20.3||48,213||40,771||−15.4|
|Sex offenses (except forcible rape and prostitution)||56,484||52,410||−7.2||10,620||10,437||−1.7||45,864||41,973||−8.5|
|Drug abuse violations||830,684||1,034,844||+24.6||117,400||106,150||−9.6||713,284||928,694||+30.2|
|Offenses against the family and children||84,459||72,623||−14.0||4,839||3,067||−36.6||79,620||69,556||−12.6|
|Driving under the influence||877,727||816,243||−7.0||11,000||10,550||−4.1||866,727||805,693||−7.0|
|All other offenses (except traffic)||2,062,908||2,269,707||+10.0||264,418||220,050||−16.8||1,798,490||2,049,657||+14.0|
|Curfew and loitering law violations||119,407||87,658||−26.6||119,407||87,658||−26.6||—||—||—|
Youth on Trial: A Developmental Perspective on Juvenile Justice (Thomas Grisso and Robert G. Schwartz, eds., 2000) discusses some of the problems in transferring juveniles to adult court. The authors note that juveniles have a harder time than adults when making "knowing and intelligent" decisions at many junctures in the criminal justice process. In particular, problems occur when waiving Miranda rights, which allow the juvenile to remain silent and talk to a lawyer before responding to questions posed by police. When a juvenile waives such rights, this can lead to much more serious consequences in adult court than in juvenile proceedings. The authors assert that "questions must be raised regarding the juvenile's judgment, decision-making capacity, and impulse control as they relate to criminal culpability" in adult proceedings. Before deciding if a youth can be held accountable as an adult for a particular offense, according to researchers and experts in child development, it is important to understand an adolescent's intellectual, social, and emotional development.
According to statistics maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the property and violent crime arrest rate for juveniles aged ten to seventeen began to rise during the 1980s. As recorded in the FBI's Property Crime Index and Violent Crime Index, arrests per one hundred thousand juveniles in that age bracket decreased for both property and violent crime from around 1980 to 1983. At that point, property crime arrests began a gradual increase and violent crime started to surge in the late 1980s. Around 1995 arrest rates for both property crime and violent acts began to decrease, with violent crimes seeing the greatest reductions.
Between 1996 and 2005 the number of juveniles arrested for all crimes dropped 24.9%; during this same period arrests of adults increased by 0.7%. (See Table 10.1.) Arrests of juveniles for some offenses declined even more drastically. For example, arrests of juveniles for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter dropped 46.8%, for burglary, 44.4%, for motor vehicle theft, 54%, and for drunkenness, 38.6%. Other offenses dropped much less. For example, arrests for driving while under the influence of alcohol dropped by only 4.1%, for drug abuse violations, by 9.6%, for carrying or possessing weapons, by 13.6%, and for sex offenses other than rape and prostitution, by only 1.7%. Arrests of juveniles for prostitution actually increased by 20.3% during this period.
Crime in the United States 2005 (September 2006, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/index.html) reports that 14.1 million arrests were made nationwide in 2005, an increase of 0.2% from 2004. Overall, in 2005, 15.5% of all people arrested were juveniles and 84.5% were adults. Adults were most often arrested for drug abuse violations (928,000 arrests), whereas juveniles were most often arrested for larceny-theft (183,000 arrests). (See Table 10.1.) Adults were proportionally more likely to be arrested for violent crime than were juveniles, whereas juveniles were more likely to be arrested for property crime. In 2005, 84.7% of arrests for violent crime were arrests of adults; however, only 73.6% of arrests for property crime were of adults.
ARRESTS AMONG SPECIFIC AGE GROUPS
Crime in the United States 2005 also records arrest rate statistics for specific age groups—under fifteen, under eighteen, under twenty-one, and under twenty-five—as shown in Table 10.2. Whereas 15.3% of all people arrested were juveniles in that year, almost half (44.3%) of all people arrested were under age twenty-five, highlighting that crime is often perpetrated by young adults, rather than juveniles. These statistics also show what crimes are more likely to be committed by juveniles rather than by young adults. Table 10.2 compares the number of arrests for these four age groups against the total number of arrests for all ages in 2005. For each offense, it presents the number of actual arrests for each age group as well as what percentage of total arrests falls within each age group.
A high percentage does not necessarily indicate a high number of arrests in a category. Instead, it means that age group was responsible for a high percentage of arrests within that category. For example, 141,035 individuals under eighteen were arrested on drug abuse violations, which was 10.4% of the total arrests in that category. (See Table 10.2.) Compare that to the 16,501 people under the age of eighteen arrested for buying, receiving, and possessing stolen property. Although the number of stolen property offenses is far less than that of drug abuse violations for those under age eighteen, it represented 16.6% of the total arrests for stolen property. Such percentages help law enforcement personnel identify trends and patterns in juvenile crime.
Two categories that consistently had high arrest percentages among each of the four age groups presented in Table 10.2 were arson and vandalism. Two-thirds of arrests for each of these crimes (66.3%) were of young adults under age twenty-five. Of the 12,012 arrests for arson in 2005, more than a quarter (28.8%) were of youth under age fifteen, almost half (48.6%) were of juveniles under age eighteen, and 58.1% were of people under age twenty-one. Vandalism was less associated with the youngest juveniles. Of the 206,351 people arrested for vandalism in 2005, 15.5% were under age fifteen, 37.2% were under age eighteen, and more than half (52.8%) were under age twenty-one.
Other categories with the highest arrest percentages for those under age fifteen include disorderly conduct (11.9%), larceny-theft (9%), sex offenses, except forcible rape and prostitution (9%), and burglary (8.7%). (See Table 10.2.) The under-age-fifteen group also scored high in two other categories that are not applicable to those over age eighteen: curfew and loitering law violations and runaway arrests. A little more than a quarter of all arrests for curfew violations (28.2%) were of people under age fifteen, and 34.6% of arrests of runaways were of people under age fifteen. Children under age fifteen were the least likely to be arrested for murder (0.9%), forgery and counterfeiting (0.4%), fraud (0.4%), embezzlement (0.3%), prostitution (0.3%), and drunkenness (0.3%).
All arrests for curfew violations and of runaways were of youth under the age of eighteen. Besides arson and vandalism, arrests for disorderly conduct (29.7%), burglary (26.1%), larceny-theft (25.7%), motor vehicle theft (25.5%), and carrying and possessing weapons (23.1%) were particularly likely to be of youth under age eighteen. (See Table 10.2.) Arrests for offenses against the family and children (4.2%), forgery and counterfeiting (3.5%), drunkenness (2.9%), fraud (2.5%), prostitution (1.9%), and driving under the influence of alcohol (1.3%) were the least likely to be of youth under age eighteen.
Despite the overall decrease in arrests of juveniles, Snyder and Sickmund report that delinquency cases handled by juvenile courts nationwide increased to over 1.6 million between 1985 and 2002. Cases involving offenses against people rose to 387,500. (See Figure 10.1.) Cases involving public order offenses increased to 409,800. Cases involving drugs rose to 193,200. In contrast, juvenile court cases involving property offenses decreased to 624,900 during this period.
In Juvenile Arrests 2004 (December 2006, http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/214563.pdf), Howard N. Snyder of the NCJJ reports that young males were arrested in far greater numbers than young females between 1980 to 2004 in general. However, juvenile female arrestrates grew proportionately more than did arrests among young males, particularly in violent crime. In 2000 females represented 28% of the juveniles arrested. By 2004 the percentage of juvenile arrests who were female had reached 30%. Even though arrests of both males and females decreased between 1995 and 2004, arrests of females decreased less in most offense categories—and in some categories female arrests increased, whereas male arrests decreased.
|Arrests of persons under 15, 18, 21, and 25 years of age, 2005|
|[10,974 agencies; 2005 estimated population 217,722,329]|
|Offense charged||Total all ages||Number of persons arrested||Percent of total all ages|
|Under 15||Under 18||Under 21||Under 25||Under 15||Under 18||Under 21||Under 25|
|aViolent crimes are offenses of murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Property crimes are offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.|
|*Less than one-tenth of 1 percent.|
|Source: "Table 41. Arrests of Persons Under 15, 18, 21, and 25 Years of Age, 2005," in Crime in the United States 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2006, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/data/table_41.html (accessed March 5, 2007)|
|Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter||10,335||97||929||2,864||5,129||0.9||9.0||27.7||49.6|
|Motor vehicle theft||108,301||6,443||27,666||46,376||62,980||5.9||25.5||42.8||58.2|
|Forgery and counterfeiting||87,346||370||3,096||14,245||29,171||0.4||3.5||16.3||33.4|
|Stolen property; buying, receiving, possessing||99,173||4,202||16,501||33,163||49,321||4.2||16.6||33.4||49.7|
|Weapons; carrying, possessing, etc.||142,878||11,246||33,069||58,278||83,649||7.9||23.1||40.8||58.5|
|Prostitution and commercialized vice||62,663||163||1,204||7,857||16,524||0.3||1.9||12.5||26.4|
|Sex offenses (except forcible rape and prostitution)||67,072||6,052||12,196||19,523||26,816||9.0||18.2||29.1||40.0|
|Drug abuse violations||1,357,841||22,596||141,035||376,106||621,104||1.7||10.4||27.7||45.7|
|Offenses against the family and children||93,172||1,230||3,901||9,873||21,212||1.3||4.2||10.6||22.8|
|Driving under the influence||997,338||236||12,956||103,277||296,129||*||1.3||10.4||29.7|
|All other offenses (except traffic)||2,837,806||70,131||266,885||600,528||1,055,767||2.5||9.4||21.2||37.2|
|Curfew and loitering law violations||104,054||29,382||104,054||104,054||104,054||28.2||100.0||100.0||100.0|
For example, between 1996 and 2005 juvenile male arrests for aggravated assault dropped by 23.4%, whereas juvenile female arrests dropped by only 5.4%. (See Table 10.3.) Juvenile male arrests for simple assault dropped by 4.1%, whereas juvenile female arrests increased by 24%. Arrests of juvenile males for drug abuse violations dropped by 13.6%, whereas arrests of juvenile females for the same offense increased by 14.4%. Crime in the United States 2005 notes that females accounted for 50% of all arrests for embezzlement and 66.4% of arrests for prostitution, more than any other type of crime.
Crime in the United States 2005 reports that 76.2% of all arrests in the United States were of males (all ages) in 2005. In that year, more than four out of five (82.1%) people arrested for violent crime were male, whereas 68% of those arrested for property crime were male. Between 1996 and 2005 the number of arrests of males dropped 7.6%, whereas the number of arrests of females increased 7.4%. The rate for juvenile males dropped 28.7% during this period, whereas the rate for juvenile females dropped only 14.3%.
According to the FBI's ten-year arrest trends, juvenile males and females engage in many of the same types of crimes. For example, the crime most frequently committed by both males and females was larceny-theft. Although numbers of arrests were down for both males and females in this category in 2005, 105,513 males were arrested, whereas 77,300 females were arrested. As such, juvenile males were responsible for 18% of arrests for larceny-theft, and juvenile females for 11%. Together, juvenile offenders represented 29% of all larceny-theft arrests.
Other areas with high arrest rates of both juvenile males and females include other assault, disorderly conduct, and drug abuse violations. Young males were arrested 95,555 times for other assault charges, whereas young females were arrested 47,402 times for this offense in 2005. (See Table 10.3.) Disorderly conduct resulted in 78,552 young males and 37,870 young females under age eighteen being arrested, and drug abuse violations accounted for the arrests of 86,895 young males and 19,255 young females.
Other crimes most frequently committed by young males and females include liquor law violations (49,116 arrests for males, 27,640 arrests for females) and curfew and loitering law violations (61,069 arrests for males, 26,589 arrests for females). (See Table 10.3.) Males also saw high numbers of arrests for vandalism (54,939 arrests), whereas young females were arrested 39,809 times as runaways.
Despite the high number of juvenile crimes, arrest rates for youth under age eighteen were down in many categories between 1996 and 2005. Young males experienced the greatest decline in the number of arrests for motor vehicle theft (down 55.3%); buying, receiving, and possessing stolenproperty (down 50.1%); murder and nonnegligent manslaughter (down 48.5%); and forgery and counterfeiting (down 47.8%). (See Table 10.3.) During this same periodyoung female arrest rates dropped most for forgery and counterfeiting (down 59.3%), gambling (down 51.4%), motor vehicle theft (down 47.1%), and running away (down 43.4%).
Whereas juvenile males experienced decreases in arrests for all crime categories, female juveniles witnessed increases for certain crimes between 1996 and 2005. Arrests of young females were up for prostitution and commercialized vice (up 59%) and other sex offenses (up 26.4%), driving under the influence (up 30.6%), disorderly conduct (up 29.3%), and for other assaults (up 24%). (See Table 10.3.)
|Ten-year arrest trends by sex, 1996–2005|
|[8,009 agencies; 2005 estimated population 178,017,991; 1996 estimated population 159,290,470]|
|Total||Under 18||Total||Under 18|
|1996||2005||Percent change||1996||2005||Percent change||1996||2005||Percent change||1996||2005||Percent change|
|aDoes not include suspicion.|
|bViolent crimes are offenses of murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Property crimes are offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.|
|Source: "Table 33. Ten-Year Arrest Trends by Sex, 1996–2005," in Crime in the United States 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2006, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/data/table_33.html (accessed March 5, 2007)|
|Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter||8,572||7,114||−17.0||1,290||664||−48.5||992||875||−11.8||98||75||−23.5|
|Motor vehicle theft||86,405||67,522||−21.9||36,188||16,172||−55.3||13,913||14,638||+5.2||6,769||3,583||−47.1|
|Forgery and counterfeiting||45,250||43,068||−4.8||3,388||1,768||−47.8||26,853||27,670||+3.0||2,045||832||−59.3|
|Stolen property; buying, receiving, possessing||78,156||66,459||−15.0||23,140||11,540||−50.1||13,676||16,312||+19.3||3,507||2,362||−32.6|
|Weapons; carrying, possessing, etc.||113,685||103,184||−9.2||28,657||24,052||−16.1||9,331||8,870||−4.9||2,410||2,782||+15.4|
|Prostitution and commercialized vice||20,524||14,615||−28.8||303||202||−33.3||28,412||27,026||−4.9||420||668||+59.0|
|Sex offenses (except forcible rape and prostitution)||52,296||48,112||−8.0||9,829||9,437||−4.0||4,188||4,298||+2.6||791||1,000||+26.4|
|Drug abuse violations||688,006||832,707||+21.0||100,568||86,895||−13.6||142,678||202,137||+41.7||16,832||19,255||+14.4|
|Offenses against the family and children||68,211||55,393||−18.8||3,089||1,894||−38.7||16,248||17,230||+6.0||1,750||1,173||−33.0|
|Driving under the influence||745,658||658,705||−11.7||9,191||8,187||−10.9||132,069||157,538||+19.3||1,809||2,363||+30.6|
|All other offenses (except traffic)||1,651,922||1,751,008||+6.0||201,228||159,156||−20.9||410,986||518,699||+26.2||63,190||60,894||−3.6|
|Curfew and loitering law violations||84,194||61,069||−27.5||84,194||61,069||−27.5||35,213||26,589||−24.5||35,213||26,589||−24.5|
ARRESTS BY RACE
African-Americans are disproportionately arrested in the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau reports in Race and Hispanic Origin in 2005 (2005, http://www.census.gov/population/pop-profile/dynamic/RACEHO.pdf) that in 2005 the U.S. population was 80.4% white, 12.8% African-American, 4.2% Asian, and 1% Native American or Alaskan Native. Hispanics, who can be of any race, represented 14.1% of the total. Crime in the United States 2005 notes that 69.8% of all arrested individuals in 2005 were white, 27.8% were African-American, 1.3% were Native American or Alaskan Native, and 1% were Asian or Pacific Islander.
Arrested juveniles exhibited a similar racial distribution; 67.5% of arrested juveniles were white, 29.9% were African-American, 1.3% were Native American or Alaskan Native, and 1.3% were Asian or Pacific Islander in 2005. (See Table 10.4.) Among juveniles, a particularly high proportion of those arrested for driving under the influence (93.3%), violation of liquor laws (91.6%), drunkenness (88.8%), arson (79.1%), vagrancy (79.1%), offenses against the family and children (79%), and vandalism (78%) was white. A particularly high proportion of those arrested for gambling (92.2%), robbery (67.5%), prostitution and commercialized vice (55.8%), and murder and nonnegligent manslaughter (54%) was African-American.
In 2005 juveniles were arrested more for larceny-theft than for any other crime (218,383 arrests). They were also arrested more often for simple assaults (181,114 arrests), disorderly conduct (147,976 arrests), and drug abuse violations (139,776 arrests). The FBI data on arrests by race did not identify arrest rates by Hispanic origin.
|Arrests of juveniles by race, 2005|
|[10,971 agencies; 2005 estimated population 217,692,433]|
|Offense charged||Arrests under 18||Percent distributiona|
|Total||White||Black||American Indian or Alaskan Native||Asian or Pacific Islander||Total||White||Black||American Indian or Alaskan Native||Alaskan Pacific Islander|
|aBecause of rounding, the percentages may not add to 100.0.|
|bViolent crimes are offenses of murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Property crimes are offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.|
|Source: Adapted from "Table 43. Arrests by Race, 2005," in Crime in the United States 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2006, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/data/table_43.html (accessed March 5, 2007)|
|Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter||924||397||499||18||10||100.0||43.0||54.0||1.9||1.1|
|Motor vehicle theft||27,499||14,798||11,943||349||409||100.0||53.8||43.4||1.3||1.5|
|Forgery and counterfeiting||3,051||2,259||725||18||49||100.0||74.0||23.8||0.6||1.6|
|Stolen property; buying, receiving, possessing||16,305||8,941||7,019||146||199||100.0||54.8||43.0||0.9||1.2|
|Weapons; carrying, possessing, etc.||32,949||20,154||12,161||253||381||100.0||61.2||36.9||0.8||1.2|
|Prostitution and commercialized vice||1,200||501||670||9||20||100.0||41.8||55.8||0.8||1.7|
|Sex offenses (except forcible rape and prostitution)||11,979||8,534||3,226||110||109||100.0||71.2||26.9||0.9||0.9|
|Drug abuse violations||139,776||96,207||41,076||1,301||1,192||100.0||68.8||29.4||0.9||0.9|
|Offenses against the family and children||3,850||3,042||714||80||14||100.0||79.0||18.5||2.1||0.4|
|Driving under the influence||12,584||11,744||502||223||115||100.0||93.3||4.0||1.8||0.9|
|All other offenses (except traffic)||264,643||190,241||67,221||3,429||3,752||100.0||71.9||25.4||1.3||1.4|
|Curfew and loitering law violations||103,886||64,881||36,928||876||1,201||100.0||62.5||35.5||0.8||1.2|
DISPOSITION OF JUVENILES ARRESTED
Ann L. Pastore and Kathleen Maguire report in Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics (2003, http://www.albany.edu/sourcebook/pdf/t4262004.pdf) that in the 1970s a change occurred in the disposition of arrested juveniles. Statistics for 1972 show that 50.8% of arrested minors were referred to juvenile court, 45% were handled within the police department and then released, and 1.3% were referred to criminal or adult court. In other words, almost half of all arrested juveniles were not formally charged with offenses in either juvenile or criminal court. From 1972 to 2000, however, those referred to juvenile court increased 20%, whereas those handled internally and then released dropped nearly 25%. The percentage of juvenile cases referred to criminal or adult court rose to 7%.
By 2005, 20.2% of arrested juveniles were released after being handled internally within the department, 70.7% were referred to juvenile court jurisdiction, and 7.4% were referred to criminal or adult court. (See Table 10.5.) Also included in Table 10.5 are statistics for the percentage of juveniles referred to a welfare agency (0.4%) and those referred to another police agency (1.3%). Statistics for city-residing juveniles are consistent with the overall totals. In urban areas more juveniles were handled within the department and released than overall (21.1% versus 20.2%), and fewer were referred to criminal or adult court (7% versus 7.4%).
|Police disposition of juvenile offenders taken into custody, 2005|
|[2005 estimated population]|
|Population group||Totala||Handled within department and released||Referred to juvenile court jurisdiction||Referred to welfare agency||Referred to other police agency||Referred to criminal or adult court||Number of agencies||2005 estimated population|
|aIncludes all offenses except traffic and neglect cases.|
|bBecause of rounding, the percentages may not add to 100.0.|
|Source: Adapted from "Table 68. Police Disposition of Juvenile Offenders Taken into Custody, 2005," in Crime in the United States 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 2006, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/data/table_68.html (accessed March 5, 2007)|
Juveniles in Custody
The OJJDP classifies juveniles in residential placement into three categories: committed, detained, and under a diversion agreement. According to the OJJDP (2007, http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/glossary.html), "Committed … includes juveniles in placement in the facility as part of a court-ordered disposition [and] those whose cases have been adjudicated and disposed in juvenile court and those who have been convicted and sentenced in criminal court. Detained … includes juveniles held prior to adjudication while awaiting an adjudication hearing in juvenile court, as well as juveniles held after adjudication while awaiting disposition or awaiting placement elsewhere…. Diversion … includes juveniles sent to the facility in lieu of adjudication as part of a diversion agreement."
Snyder and Sickmund note that of the 109,225 juvenile offenders in residential placement overall in 2003, 74% were committed, 25% were detained, and less than 1% were under diversion agreements. The largest group, committed, was sent to residential placement by juvenile courts. Those being detained were part of a transitory population—those awaiting hearings, awaiting the disposition of their cases, or awaiting transfer to a different type of facility. It is likely that some of the detained individuals were later sent to prison or jail. People in confinement under diversion agreements have entered detention voluntarily. In other words, the juvenile may have volunteered to go to a detention center to avoid going to juvenile court.
About one out of five juveniles are put in detention as their cases are processed in juvenile court. Detention may be used if the youth is judged to be a threat to the community, will be at risk if returned to the community, or may not appear at an upcoming hearing if released. Snyder and Sickmund report that the number of delinquency cases involving detention increased 42% between 1985 and 2002, from 234,600 to 329,800. The largest increase was for drug cases (140%), followed by crimes against people (122%), and public order cases (72%). The number of juveniles detained in property cases declined by 12% during this period. Figure 10.2 shows that the percent of juveniles who were detained for these cases fluctuated between 1985 and 2002 but did not experience much change overall.
Snyder and Sickmund find that the use of detention increased more for females than for males between 1985 and 2002 (87% and 34%, respectively). However, males continued to be more likely than females to be detained, despite the increase in the use of detention for female juvenile offenders. Likewise, the use of detention increased more for African-American youth between 1985 and 2002 (64%) than it did for white youth (32%). Although a larger number of white youth than African-American youth were detained, African-American youth were proportionately more likely than white youth to be detained. This disparity was greatest in drug cases—African-American youth were more than two times more likely than white youth to be detained for these offenses.
Youths sentenced under the jurisdiction of juvenile courts could be generally confined in residential placement facilities. According to Snyder and Sickmund, 96,655 juvenile offenders were confined in public and private juvenile correctional, detention, and shelter facilities. (See Table 10.6.) Excluded from this category are juveniles in prisons and jails. Melissa Sickmund of the NCJJ finds in Juvenile Residential Facility Census, 2002: Selected Findings (June 2006, http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/211080.pdf) that the number of juvenile offenders in custody decreased 7% between 2000 and 2002, probably because of the substantial decline in the number of juvenile arrests since the mid-1990s.
Sickmund reports that in 2002 group homes made up 38% of all facilities and held 12% of all juveniles in residential placement, reflecting their relatively small size; detention centers made up 26% of all facilities and held 40% of all juveniles in residential placement, reflecting these centers' relatively large size. Other types of residential facilities included shelters, diagnostic centers, boot camps, wilderness camps, and training schools. Six out of ten (60%) facilities were privately run; the rest were run by state or local government.
The OJJDP divides juvenile crimes into delinquency offenses and status offenses. Delinquency offenses are acts that are illegal regardless of the age of the perpetrator. Status offenses are acts that are illegal only for minors, such as truancy and running away. About 95% of juveniles in residential placement in 2003—91,831 out of a total of 96,655—were delinquents. (See Table 10.6.) The other 5% were status offenders (truants from school, noncriminal ordinances and rules violators, out-of-control youths, curfew violators, and runaways). According to Snyder and Sickmund, a third (34%) of juveniles in residential placement were held for offenses against people (homicide, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated or simple assault), 28% were held for offenses against property (burglary, theft, auto theft, arson, or other property offenses), 8% were held for drug offenses, 10% were held for public order offenses, and 15% were held for technical violations.
The number of juveniles held in residential placement declined by 8% between 1997 and 2003. (See Table 10.6.) In a few cases, however, the number of juveniles held in residential placement increased. The number of juveniles held for sexual assault increased by 34%, the number held for simple assault increased by 22%, and the number held for underage drinking increased by 27%. The greatest decline (54%) was in the number of juveniles held for criminal homicide.
Sickmund notes that in 2002 states with the largest number of youth under twenty-one in residential facilities included California (17,294), Florida (8,508), Texas (8,371), Pennsylvania (5,080), Ohio (4,480), and New York (4,455). These five states housed 47% of all juveniles in residential detention. States with the smallest number included Vermont (61), Hawaii (112), and New Hampshire (234). However, such data need to be considered in relation to the size of the population of these states; the rate of juvenile offenders in custody per 100,000 youth measures the likelihood of juvenile incarceration by state. In 2002 the states with the highest juvenile custody rates included Wyoming (688 per 100,000 youth), South Dakota (640 per 100,000 youth), the District of Columbia (599 per 100,000 youth), Louisiana (496 per 100,000 youth), and Florida (473 per 100,000 youth).
DEMOGRAPHICS OF THOSE IN RESIDENTIAL PLACEMENT
According to Snyder and Sickmund, in 2003 juvenile detention facilities were home to a disproportionately larger number of males (85%) than females (15%), although the proportion of females had increased slightly from 13% in 1991. Of the males in confinement, more than one-third (35%) had committed offenses against people and 29% had committed property offenses. Females were less likely to commit person offenses (30%) and property offenses (21%) than males were. Proportionally, among person offenses, females were more likely to commit simple assault than males (14% and 7%, respectively), but far less likely to commit sexual assault (1% and 9%, respectively). Among property offenses, a larger proportion of males were being held for burglary (12%) than were females (5%). Females were substantially more likely to be held for status offenses (13%) than were males (4%), including ungovernability (5% of females and 1% of males), running away (5% of females and 0% of males), and truancy (2% of females and 1% of males). However, the proportion of female status offenders dropped from 33% in 1991 to 13% in 2003.
Snyder and Sickmund also report that in 2003, 61% of juveniles in custody nationwide were members of minority groups. More than a third of offenders in custody were African-American (38%), 19% were Hispanic, 2% were Native American, and 2% were Asian. About four out of ten (39%) juveniles in custody were non-Hispanic white. Another 1% fell into the other category, which includes those of multiple races. Snyder and Sickmund also provide data on the number of detained juveniles per 100,000 juveniles in the general population for each of the racial/ethnic categories, except the other category. The custody rate for African-American juveniles was highest (754 per 100,000 youth), followed by Native American juveniles (496 per 100,000 youth) and Hispanic juveniles (348 per 100,000 youth). The rate was relatively low for white juveniles (190 per 100,000 youth) and Asian juveniles (113 per 100,000 youth).
|Juvenile offenders in residential placements by offense, 2003|
|Most serious offense||Juvenile offenders in residential placement, 2003||Percent change 1997–2003|
|Type of facility||Type of facility|
|*Percent change is based on a denominator less than 100.|
|Note: Total includes juvenile offenders held in tribal facilities.|
|Source: Howard N. Snyder and Melissa Sickmund, "In 2003, Public Facilities Held 64,662 Delinquents and Private Facilities Held 27,059 Delinquents on the 2003 Census Date," in Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2006, http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.gov/ojstatbb/nr2006/downloads/NR2006.pdf (accessed March 2, 2006)|
|Other public order||6,641||4,436||2,201||20||16||29|
|Running a way||997||417||577||−33||−14||−43|
|Under age drinking||405||210||186||27||86||−10|
|Other status offense||553||396||157||−14||98||−64|
In Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear, 2005 (May 2005, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pjim05.pdf), Paige M. Harrison and Allen J. Beck of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics indicate that 6,759 juveniles were in prison or jail in 2005. According to Snyder and Sickmund, in 2004 youth aged seventeen and younger accounted for about 1% of all jail inmates; an estimated 7,083 youth were held in adult jails on June 30, 2004. The number of juveniles being held in state prisons had declined from 5,309 in 1995 to a low of 2,266 in 2005. (See Table 10.7.)
Of the 2,266 juveniles in state prisons as of mid-2005, 2,175 (or 96%) were male. (See Table 10.7.) This figure represents a drop of 1,546 male juveniles since 2000. Although females were a small percentage of the juveniles incarcerated in state prison each year during this period, their numbers decreased as well, from 175 in 2000 to 91 in 2005. Overall, the number of juveniles in state prison dropped by 3,043 from 2000 to 2005.
Six states claimed more than 100 juvenile inmates in mid-2005—Connecticut (383), New York (223), Florida (185), North Carolina (169), Texas (167), and South Carolina (120). (See Table 10.8.) Between 2004 and 2005 Connecticut saw a 19.3% increase in juveniles in state prison, and South Carolina saw a 5.3% increase. The other states saw a decrease, with the largest decrease (20.5%) being in Texas. Three states reported no juvenile inmates in state prisons and another nineteen states reported having ten or fewer juvenile inmates in state prison in 2005.
|Number of inmates under age 18 held in state prisons, by gender, 1995, and 2000–05|
|Year||Inmates under age 18|
|Source: Paige M. Harrison and Allen J. Beck, "Table 5. Number of Inmates under Age 18 Held in State Prisons, by Gender, June 30, 1995, and 2000–05," in Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, May 2006, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pjim05.pdf (accessed March 5, 2006)|
|States with the highest number of prisoners under age 18, midyear 2004–05|
|Number of prisoners under age 18||Percent change|
|*Includes local jail inmates under age 18.|
|Source: Paige M. Harrison and Allen J. Beck, "Number of State Inmates under Age 18 Continues to Decline," in Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, May 2006, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pjim05.pdf (accessed March 5, 2006)|
|Number of sentenced prisoners under state or federal jurisdiction, by gender, race, Hispanic origin, and age, 2005|
|Age||Number of sentenced prisoners|
|Note: Based on estimates by gender, race, Hispanic origin, and age from the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities and updated from jurisdiction counts by gender at yearend 2005. Estimates were rounded to the nearest 100.|
|aIncludes American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asians, Native Hawaiians, other Pacific Islanders, and persons identifying two or more races.|
|bExcludes Hispanics and persons identifying two or more races.|
|Source: Paige M. Harrison and Allen J. Beck, "Table 10. Number of Sentenced Prisoners under State or Federal Jurisdiction, by Gender, Race, Hispanic Origin, and Age, Yearend 2005," in Prisoners in 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, November 2006, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/p05.pdf (accessed March 5, 2007)|
|55 or older||63,500||32,900||17,600||9,000||3,000||1,800||700||300|
In the fact sheet "Youth under Age 18 in the Adult Criminal Justice System" (June 2006, http://www.nccd-crc.org/nccd/pubs/2006may_factsheet_youthadult.pdf), Christopher Harney of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency reports that both the number of juveniles being admitted to state prisons and the proportion of people under age eighteen in prisons have been dropping since the mid-1990s. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of these youth have been convicted of a violent offense. However, Harney points out that "the practice of sentencing youth as adults most seriously impacts African American, Latino, and Native American youth" and that juveniles convicted in the adult system receive little or no rehabilitative programming and are more likely to recidivate (go back to criminal behavior) than youth convicted of similar offenses in the juvenile system.
Recent breakdowns of juveniles in state and federal prisons by race are not available. However, among the 27,500 (26,300 male and 1,200 female) imprisoned young adults aged eighteen to nineteen in 2005, 12,200 (11,800 male and 400 female) were African-American (44%), 7,700 (7,200 male and 500 female) were white (28%), and 5,800 (5,600 males and 200 females) were Hispanic (21%). (See Table 10.9.) Of those who were eighteen to nineteen years old in 2005, the rate of incarceration for African-Americans was 1,920 per 100,000 males and 61 per 100,000 females; for Hispanics the rate was 791 per 100,000 males and 38 per 100,000 females; and for whites the rate was 274 per 100,000 males and 20 per 100,000 females. (See Table 10.10.)African-American juveniles have a much higher rate of incarceration than do white juveniles.
|Number of sentenced prisoners under state or federal jurisdiction per 100,000 residents, by gender, race, Hispanic origin, and age, 2005|
|Age||Number of sentenced prisoners per 100,000 residents|
|Note: Based on estimates of the U.S resident population on January 1, 2006, by gender, race, Hispanic origin, and age. Detailed categories exclude persons identifying with two or more races.|
|aIncludes American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asians, Native Hawaiians, other Pacific Islanders, and persons identifying two or more races.|
|bExcludes Hispanics and persons identifying two or more races.|
|Source: Paige M. Harrison and Allen J. Beck, "Table 11. Number of Sentenced Prisoners under State or Federal Jurisdiction per 100,000 Residents, by Gender, Race, Hispanic Origin, and Age, Yearend 2005," in Prisoners in 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, November 2006, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/p05.pdf (accessed March 5, 2007)|
|55 or older||208||135||697||416||8||6||19||13|
JUVENILES IN JAIL
Between 1995 and 2005 the number of juveniles in local jails fell from 7,800 to 6,759, for a decrease of 13%. (See Table 10.11.) In 2005, 5,750 of 6,759 juveniles held in local jails were being held as adults (85%), whereas 1,009 were being held as juveniles (15%). In 1995 a smaller proportion of juveniles in local jails were being held as adults (76%, or 5,900)—meaning they were either being held for trial in adult criminal court or they had been convicted as adults. Even though the number of juveniles being held in local jails had declined between 1995 and 2005, the overall number of inmates had actually risen from 507,044 in 1995 to 747,529 in 2005, for an increase of 47%.
IMPRISONING ADULTS AND JUVENILES TOGETHER
A number of human rights organizations and juvenile justice groups point out the risks associated with incarcerating juveniles with adults. Among the chief concerns is that being held with hardened adult prisoners will likely cause youth offenders to become more violent, more tough, and repeat offenders. Instead of rehabilitation and education, such juveniles will be subjected to more physical and sexual abuse and violence, increasing their likelihood of showing violent tendencies when they eventually return to society.
In addition, youth in adult prisons and jails are vulnerable to violence. Amnesty International notes in Betraying the Young: Human Rights Violations against Children in the U.S. Justice System (November 20, 1998, http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGAMR510571998) that "youth in prison are notoriously a common target of sexual and physical assault by adult inmates." Vincent Schiraldi and Jason Zeidenberg of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, in The Risks Juveniles Face When They Are Incarcerated with Adults (1997, http://www.cjcj.org/pubs/risks/risks.html), echo this sentiment: "Young people slated to be placed in adult prisons and jails are more likely to be raped, assaulted, and commit suicide."
Organizations also point out that juveniles are exposed to attack not only by adult inmates but also by prison guards. Reasons for this can include the juveniles' small stature, lack of confidence, and inexperience at living confined with hardened criminals. Juveniles sometimes resort to suicide because they may give in to despair more quickly.
ADULT TIME FOR ADULT CRIME?
Although the public favored tougher penalties for juveniles in the 1990s, as juvenile crime decreases, these attitudes appear to be changing. The survey "New NCCD Poll Shows Public Strongly Favors Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment" (February 2007, http://www.nccd-crc.org/nccd/pubs/zogbyPR0207.pdf), which was conducted by Zogby International for the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, finds that the American public supports rehabilitation and treatment for young people, not prosecution in adult criminal courts or incarceration in adult jails or prisons. Nine out of ten people surveyed believed this approach might help prevent crime in the future, and seven out of ten believed imprisoning juveniles in adult facilities would increase the likelihood that they would commit future crimes. Most people believed that youth should not be automatically transferred to adult court, but that such transfers should be handled on an individual basis.
Children and the Death Penalty
Until 2005 convicted criminals could be executed for crimes they committed as juveniles. Victor L. Streib of Ohio Northern University reports in The Juvenile Death Penalty Today: Death Sentences and Executions forJuvenile Crimes, January 1, 1973–February 28, 2005 (October 7, 2005, http://www.law.onu.edu/) that between 1973 and 2005 twenty-two offenders were executed for crimes they committed when they were younger than eighteen. The U.S. Supreme Court has considered many cases concerning the practice of executing offenders for crimes they committed as children. In Eddings v. Oklahoma (455 U.S. 104 ) the Court found that a juvenile's mental and emotional development should be considered as a mitigating factor when deciding whether to apply the death penalty, noting that adolescents are less mature and responsible than adults and not as able to consider long-range consequences of their actions. In this case, the Court reversed the death sentence of a sixteen-year-old who had been tried as an adult.
|Average daily population and the number of men, women, and juveniles in local jails, midyear 1995, 2000, and 2004–05|
|Note: Data are for June 30. Detailed data for 1995 were estimated and rounded to the nearest 100.|
|aThe average daily population is the sum of the number of inmates in a jail each day for a year, divided by the total number of days in the year.|
|bJuveniles are persons held under the age of 18.|
|cIncludes juveniles who were tried or awaiting trial as adults.|
|Source: Paige M. Harrison and Allen J. Beck, "Table 9. Average Daily Population and the Number of Men, Women, and Juveniles in Local Jails, Midyear 1995, 2000, and 2004–05," in Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, May 2006, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pjim05.pdf (accessed March 5, 2007)|
|Average daily populationa||509,828||618,319||706,242||733,442|
|Number of inmates, June 30||507,044||621,149||713,990||747,529|
|Held as adultsc||5,900||6,126||6,159||5,750|
|Held as juveniles||1,800||1,489||924||1,009|
Subsequent Supreme Court rulings have further limited the application of the death penalty in cases involving juveniles. In Thompson v. Oklahoma (487 U.S. 815 ), the Court found that applying the death sentence to an offender who had been fifteen years old at the time of the murder was cruel and unusual punishment, concluding that the death penalty could not be applied to offenders who were younger than sixteen. However, the following year the Court found in Stanford v. Kentucky (492 U.S. 361) that applying the death penalty to offenders who were age sixteen or seventeen at the time of the crime was not cruel and unusual punishment.
The Court was asked to reconsider this decision in 2005. In Roper v. Simmons (543 U.S. 551), the Court set aside the death sentence of Christopher Simmons by a vote of five to four, concluding that the "Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments forbid imposition of the death penalty on offenders who were under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed." Snyder and Sickmund note that few states applied death penalty provisions to juveniles at the time of the Roper decision, even though twenty states allowed juveniles to be sentenced to death under the law.
Crime and Punishment
Crime and PunishmentIntroduction
For Further Study
When the first installment of Crime and Punishment appeared in the journal Russian Messenger in January of 1866, its debt-ridden author, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky, had not yet finished writing the novel. However, even before the entire work had appeared in serial form, the novel was a public success. Early Russian readers and critics recognized that, artistically and socially, Crime and Punishment was one of the most important novels of its time, and it was widely discussed.
On the surface, Crime and Punishment is the story of a murder, set in the city of St. Petersburg, then the Russian capital. It is not, however, a murder mystery: we know the murderer's identity from the very beginning. Moreover, although Dostoyevsky depicts the crime and the environment in which it takes place with great realism, he is more interested in the psychology of the murderer than in the external specifics of the crime.
Like many of the great nineteenth-century novelists, Dostoyevsky often uses a series of incredible coincidences to move the plot forward. Nonetheless, the story takes on a compelling life of its own. Dostoyevsky's use of parable and of dream sequences is also original and remarkable. Furthermore, Dostoyevsky creates a gallery of memorable characters, including the proud and tormented ex-student Raskolnikov and his two murder victims; the drunken civil servant Marmeladov and his daughter, the meek prostitute Sonya, whose love helps to redeem Raskolnikov; Raskolnikov's devoted sister, mother, and best friend (Dunya,
Pulkheria Aleksandrovna, and Razhumikhin); Dunya's scheming suitor Luzhin and the sinister Svidrigailov; and the canny police investigator, Porfiry Petrovich. Finally, beyond its powerful plot and colorful characters, Crime and Punishment is marked by its insightful treatment of several major themes. Among other things, the book is an expose of social conditions in nineteenth-century Russia, a satirical analysis of liberal and radical politics, and a religious call for redemption through suffering. As an intensely dramatic study of the nature of good and evil, it is commonly considered the quintessential Russian novel.
When Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky wrote Crime and Punishment in the mid-1860s, he was already a well-known author. Nonetheless, he lived in near-poverty and was plagued by gambling debts. Born in Moscow in 1821, he was the second child in a family that eventually consisted of seven children. The family's life was unhappy: Dostoyevsky's father, a doctor, ruled the family with an iron hand; his mother, a meek woman, died when the boy was sixteen. Young Dostoyevsky developed a love of books and enthusiastically read Russian, French, and German novels. However, his father insisted that Dostoyevsky study engineering, and from 1838 to 1843 Dostoyevsky trained in this subject at the military engineering academy in St. Petersburg. During this time the elder Dostoyevsky was murdered by one of his serfs, an incident that had a profound impact on Fyodor.
In the mid-1840s Dostoyevsky embarked on a literary career, writing several short stories and novellas, including "The Double" (1846). The concept of the "double" — the notion that a person may have a divided personality, symbolized by a good or evil "twin" — surfaced in several of his later works, including Crime and Punishment. His early published works brought Dostoyevsky some recognition. In 1848 Dostoyevsky joined a group of radical intellectuals (known as the "Petrashevsky Circle" after their leader, Mikhail Petrashevsky). The group discussed literary and political ideas and advocated reforming the autocratic tsarist government. Dostoyevsky and several of his friends were arrested for treason, tried, and sentenced to death. Just as they were lined up in front of the firing
[Image not available for copyright reasons]
squad, a messenger arrived with news that the tsar had commuted the death sentence to a term of hard labor in Siberia. Dostoyevsky later alluded to this event in Crime and Punishment and in other books. (It is believed that the authorities intended a mock execution all along.) During his five years in prison, Dostoyevsky came to know many of the prisoners, the great majority of whom were ordinary criminals rather than political prisoners. Through his dealings with them, the writer developed an understanding of the criminal mentality and the Russian soul. His political views also changed. He rejected his earlier pro-Western liberal-socialist ideas and instead embraced a specifically Russian brand of Christianity. His prison experiences provided the material for his later book The House of the Dead (1861).
After his release from prison camp in 1854, Dostoyevsky had to spend several more years in Siberia as an army private. He returned to St. Petersburg in 1859 and resumed his literary career. In the early 1860s he traveled extensively in Western Europe. However, he was troubled by personal misfortune, including the death of his wife and his brother, with whom he edited a literary journal. He also was afflicted by epilepsy, a condition little understood at the time. Moreover, he was unable to control his compulsive gambling habit, and he found himself on the brink of poverty. His writing during this period was stimulated not only by an intense desire to express important ideas but also by a need to earn money. In 1864 he wrote Notes from Underground, whose narrator is a selfconfessed "sick … spiteful … unattractive man," an embittered character who resents society. Immediately after this book, Dostoyevsky started work on Crime and Punishment (1865-66), regarded as his first true masterpiece. Important Russian critics hailed the work, and Dostoyevsky was acclaimed as one of Russia's most significant writers and thinkers. However, he still faced financial ruin, and the next year he wrote, in just one month, a novella called The Gambler in order to pay his debts. He subsequently married the stenographer to whom he had dictated the work, Anna Snitkina. She helped reform his life, and they lived abroad for several years. Foremost among his later novels are The Idiot (1869), The Possessed (also translated as The Devils, 1871), and The Brothers Karamazov (1880). With Crime and Punishment, these books express the essence of Dostoyevsky's social and moral philosophy and his insight into human character. In the last decade of his life, Dostoyevsky finally gained critical acclaim, social prestige, and financial security. He died in St. Petersburg in 1881.
Dostoyevsky's reputation and his influence remain strong to the present day. Virtually all his books have been translated into English and are in print. His insights into the complexities of human psychology anticipated the theories of Sigmund Freud and other early psychologists. (Indeed, Freud acknowledged Dostoyevsky's importance in this field.) Later novelists as diverse as Robert Louis Stevenson, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, and Iris Murdoch all drew inspiration from Dostoyevsky's themes and characters, while Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn carries on with Dostoyevsky's unique brand of Russian nationalism and Christianity. Filmmakers Ingmar Bergman and Woody Allen have also acknowledged a debt to Dostoyevsky in their views of human nature. Some scholars have gone so far as to claim that Dostoyevsky's view of the Russian character and politics prophesied the Russian Revolution and the terrible deprivations that Russia suffered under Soviet Communist rule in the twentieth century. With his contemporary Leo Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky is today regarded as one of the two greatest nineteenth-century Russian novelists and indeed as one of the most important novelists of any nation or period.
As the novel Crime and Punishment begins, an impoverished student named Rodion Raskolnikov sets out to visit a pawnbroker in a poor section of St. Petersburg, the Russian capital. This visit serves as a trial run for a sinister mission: Raskolnikov plans to murder and rob the old woman. After the visit, Raskolnikov feels miserable, so he stops at a tavern for a drink. There he meets a drunk named Marmeladov who tells him how his daughter Sonya became a prostitute to support her family. Raskolnikov helps Marmeladov home, and he is touched by the pitiful scene of poverty he sees there. After leaving the family some money, he returns to his cramped room.
The next day, Raskolnikov receives a letter from his mother. She informs him that Raskolnikov's sister Dunya is set to marry a bachelor named Luzhin. Raskolnikov realizes that his mother and sister are counting on Luzhin to give Raskolnikov financial assistance after the wedding. As he sees it, Dunya is sacrificing herself for her brother, a sacrifice that reminds him of Sonya's prostitution. He berates himself for his passivity. Soon afterwards, he falls asleep, and he dreams of watching a peasant beat an overburdened horse to death. When he awakens, he articulates for the first time his plan to kill the pawnbroker with an axe. Hearing that the pawnbroker's sister would be away from their apartment the next evening, he realizes that the time to execute his plan has arrived. The murder itself does not unfold as intended. Lizaveta, the pawnbroker's sister, returns home unexpectedly, and Raskolnikov kills her too. Distraught, he finds only a few items of value, and he is nearly discovered by two of the pawnbroker's clients who knock at the door. When they leave momentarily, Raskolnikov slips out of the apartment undetected.
During the next few days, Raskolnikov alternates between lucidity and delirium. He feels torn between an impulse to confess his crime and an impulse to resist arrest. He begins a game of cat-and-mouse with the examining magistrate, Porfiry Petrovich. Porfiry has read an article written by Raskolnikov in which Raskolnikov expounds the theory that a few select individuals may have the right to commit crimes if they think it necessary to attain special goals. Raskolnikov now explains his theory to Porfiry, beginning with the idea that there are two categories of people in the world—the masses and the elite.
The first group, that is the material, are, generally speaking, by nature staid and conservative, they live in obedience and like it. In my opinion they ought to obey because that is their destiny, and there is nothing at all degrading to them in it. The second group are all law-breakers and transgressors, or are inclined that way, in the measure of their capacities. The aims of these people are, of course, relative and very diverse; for the most part they require, in widely different contexts, the destruction of what exists in the name of better things. But if it is necessary for one of them, for the fulfillment of his ideas, to march over corpses, or wade through blood, then in my opinion he may in all conscience authorize himself to wade through blood—in proportion, however, to his idea and the degree of its importance—mark that. It is in that sense only that I speak in my article of their right to commit crime.
(From Crime and Punishment, translated by Jessie Coulson, Norton, 1989.)
Porfiry wonders whether Raskolnikov might consider himself to be an "extraordinary man," and if so, whether the murder of the pawnbroker could be connected with his cynical theory. Porfiry hints that he suspects Raskolnikov of the murder, but he avoids making definitive accusations at first, thus keeping Raskolnikov on edge.
While this covert duel between Raskolnikov and Porfiry Petrovich continues, Dostoyevsky develops several subplots. Marmeladov is run over by a carriage, and when Raskolnikov takes the dying man home, he sees Sonya. Struck by her image of humble self-sacrifice, he feels drawn to her. In the meantime, Raskolnikov's sister Dunya breaks off her engagement to Luzhin, who has become insufferably demanding. Yet she now must contend with a new pursuer, her former employer Svidrigailov. Svidrigailov is rumored to have abused young women and to have beaten his wife. He had made advances to Dunya when she worked for him, and his scandalous behavior had unjustly given her a bad reputation. Now he turns up again.
Wracked by continuing anxiety, Raskolnikov makes two important visits to Sonya's apartment. In the first visit, he alternates between antagonizing her and seeking her sympathy. He wonders how she could go on living despite her humiliating profession. It occurs to him that the answer may lie in religion. He asks Sonya to read aloud the Gospel account of the raising of Lazarus. This story of a dead man restored to life perhaps suggests to Raskolnikov that he too may someday be able to return to normal life. He tells Sonya that on his next visit he will disclose to her the murderer's identity.
During his second visit, Raskolnikov reveals to Sonya his awful crime. The moment of confession takes place without words. In a scene that uncannily recalls the original murder of the pawnbroker and Lizaveta, Raskolnikov looks into Sonya's eyes, and she reacts with the same terror he had seen on Lizaveta's face. In an instant, she perceives his guilt. Instead of turning away with horror, though, she embraces him and shows that she understands how much he suffers. Her selfless acceptance of his suffering gives Raskolnikov new strength. He tells her that he committed the murder to find out whether he was someone special, someone with the right to step over conventional codes of behavior. He now asks her what to do. She tells him to go to the crossroads, kiss the earth, and make a public confession. God will then send him new life. Yet Raskolnikov is not ready to surrender, and he leaves her apartment in a renewed state of indecision.
Unbeknownst to Raskolnikov and Sonya, Svidrigailov had been eavesdropping on their last conversation, and he attempts to use Raskolnikov's confession as a tool to win Dunya's affections. Luring her to his apartment, Svidrigailov tells Dunya that he knows of Raskolnikov's crime, and he indicates that he will save Raskolnikov if Dunya gives herself to him. She tries to leave the room, but he has locked the door. She takes a revolver out of her pocket, and while he taunts her to shoot him, she pulls the trigger twice. The first bullet misses, and then the gun misfires. Although Svidrigailov gives her the opportunity to shoot again, Dunya throws the gun down. Svidrigailov hopes that she will now surrender to him, but she tells him that she will never love him, and he lets her go. Disheartened by her rejection, Svidrigailov spends a fitful night in a cheap hotel. A series of dreams reveals to him the extent of his internal corruption. In the morning, he leaves the hotel and shoots himself in front of an astonished watchman.
On that same day, Raskolnikov resolves to turn himself in to the police. He makes a final visit to Sonya and departs for the police station. Crossing a public square, he recalls Sonya's words about confessing to the world. He falls to his knees and kisses the ground. The mockery of the bystanders, however, quells his impulse to make a public confession, so he moves on to the police station. There he learns that Svidrigailov has committed suicide. He begins to leave the station, perhaps feeling the lure of suicide himself. Outside the building, however, he sees Sonya looking at him in anguish. He reenters the station and declares in a loud voice: "It was I who killed the old woman and her sister Lizaveta…."
The novel's epilogue focuses on Raskolnikov's experiences as a convict in Siberia. Raskolnikov initially feels a deep sense of alienation from his fellow prisoners. During Lent and Easter, he falls ill, and he has a strange dream in which everyone in the world becomes infected with a disease that causes each person to believe that he or she is the sole bearer of truth. The deluded people kill each other, and the world heads toward total collapse. After recuperating from his illness, Raskolnikov walks to a riverbank and gazes at the landscape. Sonya appears at his side. Suddenly, Raskolnikov is seized with an entirely new sensation of love and compassion. Both he and Sonya realize that something profound has occurred within his soul. Love has raised him from the dead, and he will become a new man. Dostoyevsky concludes his novel by stating that the story of Raskolnikov's regeneration might be the subject of a new tale, but that the present one has ended.
Raskolnikov's mother. A widow, she is forty-three years old, but her face "still retains traces of her former beauty." When she arrives in St. Petersburg with her daughter Dunya and meets Raskolnikov, whom she has not seen for three years, she is deeply concerned about him. She finds his behavior puzzling, and she worries about him. Raskolnikov is embarrassed (among other things) by his mother's attention and attempts to rebuff her. In his final encounter with his mother, Raskolnikov reveals his love for her but does not tell her about his crime. However, with a mother's intuition, she is more aware of what is happening to her son than he realizes.
See Dunya Avdotya Romanovna
A pawnbroker whom Raskolnikov murders. The widow of a college registrar, in Raskolnikov's eyes she is a suspicious, miserly old woman who preys on unfortunate people who are forced to pawn their few possessions with her. Raskolnikov reasons that she is a "vile, harmful louse" who is no good to anyone and who only causes pain and suffering to others (including her simple-minded sister, Lizaveta Ivanovna). Therefore, for Raskolnikov, her murder is justified. However, Dostoyevsky suggests that the murder of even such an unsympathetic character is a crime against humanity.
The wife of Marmeladov. Marmeladov tells Raskolnikov that she is "full of magnanimous emotions" but "hot-tempered and irritable." The daughter of a military officer, she was a poor widow when she met Marmeladov, and since her marriage to Marmeladov she has been reduced to total poverty. She has three children from her previous marriage. She is "a thin, rather tall woman, with a good figure and beautiful chestnut hair." Raskolnikov guesses that she is about thirty years old. She suffers from consumption (tuberculosis) and has been driven to despair by her husband's drunkenness and extreme poverty. In this piteous state she abuses her children, and on her deathbed she refuses to forgive Marmeladov for his irresponsibility. After her husband's death, she retreats into the fantasy that she has an aristocratic background. She dies shortly thereafter.
The simple-minded younger half-sister of the pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna. Raskolnikov kills Lizaveta when the woman unexpectedly enters the apartment where Raskolnikov has just murdered Alyona Ivanovna. Ironically, Raskolnikov had earlier expressed some sympathy for Lizaveta, a poor soul who was abused by her sister. Raskolnikov had learned that Alyona would be alone when he overheard Lizaveta talking to someone in the market. Curiously, his unpremeditated killing of the innocent Lizaveta plays little part in his subsequent feelings of guilt. He later learns that Lizaveta was a friend of Sonya Marmeladova.
Andrei Semyonovich Lebezyatnikov
A former student of Luzhin, with whom Luzhin lodges temporarily in St. Petersburg. Lebezyatnikov belongs to a radical Utopian organization. Luzhin attempts to enlist him as a witness when he accuses Sonya of robbery. However, Lebezyatnikov realizes that Luzhin has framed Sonya, and he speaks up on her behalf and tells the truth. Dostoyevsky ridicules Lebezyatnikov's naive political ideas, but the character is commended for his basic honesty and decency.
Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin
The manipulative fiance of Raskolnikov's sister, Dunya. Luzhin is related to Svidrigailov and Svidrigailov's wife, Marfa Petrovna, for whom Dunya previously had worked as a governess. In his early forties, Luzhin is depicted as a self-important dandy with uncertain government connections. He clearly does not love Dunya, and his motives for marriage are suspect. After a brief acquaintance, he has arranged for Raskolnikov's sister and mother (Dunya and Pulkheria Aleksandrovna) to follow him to St. Petersburg. However, his arrangements are less than satisfactory. Raskolnikov takes an instant dislike to Luzhin and insults him. Raskolnikov vows to stop his sister's marriage to a man whom he regards as a hypocrite and an opportunist. Luzhin later falsely accuses Sonya of having robbed him, but the charges are disproven and Luzhin is humiliated. For Dostoyevsky, Luzhin embodies superficiality and corruption.
Semyon Zaharovitch Marmeladov
A drunken civil servant; the father of Sonya and the husband of Katerina Ivanovna. In the novel's second chapter, Raskolnikov encounters Marmeladov in a tavern, where Marmeladov tells the former student the story of his degeneration. Despite his drunkenness, Marmeladov is intelligent and perceptive, but he has abandoned his job and lost all self-respect. Consequently, his family has fallen into dire poverty, and his daughter Sonya has resorted to prostitution in order to help support them. Marmeladov is fully aware of his irresponsibility and its disastrous consequences for his family. Indeed, he seems to take pleasure in his depravity and suffering. However, he is unwilling or unable to change his ways and reform himself. Marmeladov is later run over by a carriage and is fatally injured. Raskolnikov happens to come along and has the older manw carried to Marmeladov's apartment, where he dies. Both comic and pathetic, Marmeladov is regarded as one of Raskolnikov's "doubles." Dostoyevsky may also intend him to be symptomatic of a Russian national tendency toward slothfulness and irrationality and an inability to reform or modernize.
- The earliest film adaptation of Crime and Punishment was produced in France, released in 1935, and remade in 1958. The original title of this French-language black-and-white film was Crime et Chatiment. Written by Marcel Ayme, Pierre Chenal, Christian Stengel, and Wladimir Strijewski (based on Dostoyevsky's book), it was directed by Chenal. It starred Pierre Blanchar, Madeleine Ozeray, Harry Baur, Lucienne Lemarchand, and Marcelle Geniat. Available from Facets Multimedia, Inc.
- An American film version of Crime and Punishment was released one week after the French film mentioned above. Adapted from Dostoyevsky's novel by Joseph Anthony and S. K. Lauren, it was directed by Josef von Sternberg. The cast included Peter Lorre, Marian Marsh, Edward Arnold, Tala Birell, Elisabeth Risdon, Robert Allen, Douglas Dumbrille, Gene Lockhart, and Mrs. Patrick Campbell. Available from Columbia Tristar Home Video.
- A Swedish film of Crime and Punishment was released in 1948. Adapted by Bertil Malmsberg and Sven Stolpe, it was directed by Hampe Faustman. It starred Faustman, Gann Wallgren, Hugo Bjorne, and Sigurd Wallen. Distributed by Film Rights.
- A Russian-language film of Crime and Punishment was produced in the Soviet Union in 1970. Written and directed by Lev Kulidzhanov, it featured Georgi Taratorkin, Victoria Fyodorova, and Innokenty Smoktunovsky. Distributed by Ingram International Films, Discount Video Tapes, Inc., and Horizon Entertainment.
See Sonya Marmeladova
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A meek young prostitute to whom Raskolnikov first confesses his guilt. The eighteen-yearold daughter of the drunken civil servant Semyon Marmeladov, and the stepdaughter of Katerina Ivanovna, Sonya has become a prostitute in order to help support Katerina's children. She is thin, fairhaired, and has "remarkable blue eyes." Raskolnikov first learns about her from Marmeladov. Although other characters scorn Sonya because of her profession, Raskolnikov is drawn to her because of her innocence. She reads Raskolnikov the biblical passage about Jesus's raising of Lazarus from the dead. She also tells Raskolnikov that she was a friend of the murdered woman Lizaveta. When Raskolnikov confesses that he is the murderer, Sonya is horrified because she realizes that he has murdered his own human spirit. She forgives him and urges him to go to a public place and bow down and confess his sin to God. Sonya follows him to Siberia. Sonya represents Dostoyevsky's religious faith. Her Christianity emphasizes redemption through suffering.
Natasya is the cook and only servant of Raskolnikov's landlady. Dostoyevsky describes her as a "country peasant woman, and a very talkative one." She tells Raskolnikov that the landlady has been talking about calling the police because he has been behind in his rent and will not leave. She is very kind to the poor student, bringing him tea and urging her cabbage soup on him, rather than taking his money to buy sausage.
Nikolay is one of the workmen. He is a house painter who confessed to the murders and who is described by Porfiry as a "child … responsive to influences." His false evidence serves to distract people from suspecting Raskolnikov and provides Porfiry with a chance to urge Raskolnikov to make a full confession for his own good.
See Alyona Ivanovna
A police inspector whose interviews with Raskolnikov provide much dramatic tension in the book. A relative of Raskolnikov's friend Razumikhin, he is about thirty-five years old and pudgy. At times he seems a somewhat befuddled, comical character, but in fact he is extremely perceptive and intelligent. His investigative methods are highly unorthodox. He is more interested in criminal psychology than in standard police procedure or material evidence. Raskolnikov is uncertain how much Porfiry really knows about the crime, and he attempts to outwit the detective. However, Porfiry's friendly but persistent and all-knowing manner upsets and confuses Raskolnikov. In the end, Raskolnikov breaks down and confesses. Porfiry's emphasis on criminal psychology reflects Dostoyevsky's own ideas and interests as a novelist.
Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov
The central character of Crime and Punishment. He is a poverty-stricken twenty-three-yearold. Described as an "ex-student," Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov has dropped out of the university presumably because of his inability to pay his fees. Beyond this, he has been suffering from a spiritual crisis. Proud, aloof, and scornful of humanity, at the beginning of the novel Raskolnikov has become obsessed with the idea that he is a "superman" and therefore not subject to the laws that govern ordinary humans. He has published an essay on his superman theory. To prove this theory, he intends to kill an old pawnbroker, whom he regards as worthless. However, the murder goes horribly wrong: he also kills the old woman's simple-minded innocent sister (Lizaveta), who stumbles upon the scene of the crime. Moreover, the crime fails to confirm Raskolnikov's cool superiority. Tormented by feelings of guilt, he acts erratically, and he fears that his guilt will be obvious to others. Much of the novel centers on Raskolnikov's irrational state of mind and the eccentric behavior that follows from this. On several occasions he comes close to boasting that he could have committed the crime, and dares others (notably the detective Porfiry Petrovich) to prove that he did it. He insults his friend Razumihkin and deliberately offends his mother and sister. However, he also acts in ways that show he still has a moral conscience. For example, he defends his sister against her scheming fiance Luzhin. He gives money to Marmeladov's widow Katerina Ivanovna. He recoils in horror from the depraved Svidrigailov. Most significantly of all, he is drawn to the young prostitute Sonya Marmeladova, who is morally pure and innocent despite her terrible life. He ultimately confesses his crime to her and begins his journey to redemption. The Russian word Raskol means "schism." The term was used to describe a split in the Russian Orthodox Church that occurred in the mid-1600s. Dostoyevsky's Russian readers would have been aware of the significance of Raskolnikov's name, which suggests contradictions in his own personality as well as his rebellion against God. In the complex Raskolnikov, Dostoyevsky created one of the most interesting and most human of all fictional characters.
Dmitry Prokovich Razumikhin
Raskolnikov's best friend. A former student himself, Razumikhin helps to nurse Raskolnikov back to health after the latter's breakdown (following Raskolnikov's murder of the pawnbroker and her sister). His attitude toward Raskolnikov is complex: he often berates Raskolnikov, but he is also protective toward his wayward friend. Razumikhin falls in love with Raskolnikov's sister, Dunya, and he subsequently acts as her protector. He is a cousin of the police inspector Porfiry Petrovich, to whom he introduces Raskolnikov. On the surface, Razumikhin is himself no paragon of virtue. He is unkempt and ungainly, and when he meets Raskolnikov's mother and sister after a party he is drunk. Razumikhin's name derives from the Russian word for "reason". Some critics have compared Razumikhin and his role in this novel to Shakespeare's character Horatio, the friend of Hamlet.
See Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov
Dunya Avdotya Romanovna
Raskolnikov's sister. She bears a physical resemblance to her brother, but in contrast to his morbid character she is self-confident, strong, and straightforward. She is devoted to Raskolnikov, and initially decides to marry Pyotr Luzhin primarily for her brother's financial benefit. With her mother (Pukheria Aleksandrovna), she unexpectedly arrives in St. Petersburg from the provinces and visits Raskolnikov. Raskolnikov is horrified at the thought of her loveless arranged marriage to Luzhin and attempts to stop it. Indirectly through Dunya, Raskolnikov also encounters Svidrigailov, whom Dunya earlier had served as a governess and whose intentions toward Dunya are not entirely honorable. Raskolnikov's friend Razumikhin falls in love with Dunya and serves as her protector; he eventually marries her.
See Sonya Marmeladova
Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigailov
A mysterious wealthy landowner, Svidrigailov is a shadowy, highly ambiguous character. He does not appear directly until the last third of the novel, although he is mentioned earlier. He is about fifty years old but looks younger. His "strange face" resembles a mask. He has blue eyes, a blond beard and blond hair, and ruby-red lips. Svidrigailov's background is thoroughly distasteful. He and his wife had employed Raskolnikov's sister Dunya as a governess, and he became obsessed with her. (Marfa Petrovna helped to arrange Dunya's engagement to Luzhin in order to get the girl away from Svidrigailov.) He confesses to Raskolnikov that his marriage to an older woman, Marfa Petrovna, was one of convenience. He is a shameless sensualist whose favorite activity was seducing young girls. There are rumors that he is responsible for the deaths of a servant, a girl whom he had raped, and his wife; he is occasionally visited by their ghosts. Svidrigailov has recently arrived in St. Petersburg. While lodging in the apartment next to Sonya's, he overhears Raskolnikov tell Sonya that he (Raskolnikov) is a murderer. Svidrigailov subsequently lets Raskolnikov know that he is aware of the young man's secret, and he attempts to blackmail Raskolnikov emotionally. Yet, for all his lurid interests, Svidrigailov is apparently capable of compassion. He gives much-needed money to both Dunya and Sonya, and he arranges for Katerina Ivanovna's children to be put in a good orphanage after their mother dies. (However, he hints that his motives for this last act may be entirely selfish.) After his last meeting with Raskolnikov he again attempts to seduce Dunya. When this fails, he spends a night in a run-down hotel and is troubled by dreams about his former victims. In the morning he goes outside, puts a gun to his head, and commits suicide. Svidrigailov is often considered Raskolnikov's "double." His utterly selfish, callous, and destructive nature points to what Raskolnikov might become if Raskolnikov were to abandon all conscience and follow his theories through to their logical conclusion.
The police clerk who tells Porfiry of his suspicions that Raskolnikov is the murderer early in the story. When Raskolnikov asks for him at the end of the novel in order to make his confession, he learns that Zametov is no longer there.
Dr. Zossimov is a young physician and friend of Razumikhim who comes to treat Raskolnikov. Described as "a tall fat man with a puffy, colourless, clean-shaven face and straight flaxen hair," he is fashionably dressed and nonchalant in manner, but he is known to be excellent at his work. Dr. Zossimov continues to look after Raskolnikov, "his first patient," he says, and is one of two friends to attend the wedding of Razumikhim and Raskolnikov's sister.
On the surface, Crime and Punishment belongs to the popular genre known as the crime novel. A young man (Raskolnikov) commits a murder and then tries to conceal his guilt and evade arrest. In the end he confesses, is arrested, and is sent to prison, where he begins a process of spiritual regeneration. The novel's suspense arises not only from the question "what will happen next?", but from Dostoyevsky's close and relentless examination of the murderer's psyche. Dostoyevsky is more interested in important philosophical questions than in the technical police procedures of bringing a criminal to justice. He is also interested in the criminal's motives, which are ambiguous. The title indicates Dostoyevsky's interest in opposites and in the duality of human nature. The nature of guilt and innocence, the role of atonement and forgiveness, and the opposition of good and evil (and God and the Devil) all play an important thematic role in the book. While Dostoyevsky also examines social and political problems in the Russia of his day, his concerns are universal.
Guilt and Innocence
In large part, Crime and Punishment is an examination of the guilty conscience. For Dostoyevsky, punishment is not a physical action or condition. Rather (much as in Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost), punishment inherently results from an awareness of guilt. Guilt is the knowledge that one has done wrong and has become estranged from society and from God. From the very beginning of the novel, Raskolnikov (whose name derives from the Russian word for "schism") suffers from this estrangement. In murdering the pawnbroker, he seeks to prove that he is above the law. But his crime only reinforces his sense that he is not a part of society.
Although she is a prostitute, Sonya is the embodiment of innocence. Her motive in becoming a prostitute was not one of lust. Indeed, in all of the novel, there is no indication that Sonya has any lustful or sexual inclination. On the contrary, she is embarrassed by, and ashamed of, her profession. In Dostoyevsky's eyes, she is not guilty of any transgression. She does what she does out of sheer necessity, not out of any base instincts or any hope for personal gain.
In contrast with Sonya's sense of shame over the life she leads, Pyotr Luzhin is shameless in the way he manipulates Raskolnikov's sister and mother (Dunya and Pulkheria Aleksandrovna). He is guilty of emotional blackmail as well as of fraud. Arkady Svidrigailov is an even more "guilty" character. Luzhin's crimes are calculated, whereas Svidrigailov's crimes result from his complete surrender to his evil nature. Rather than facing up to his guilt and its consequences, as Raskolnikov does, Svidrigailov partially acknowledges his guilt but evades the consequences by committing suicide. Although Raskolnikov is the central figure of Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky suggests that Raskolnikov may not quite be the book's most guilty criminal. Svidrigailov and Luzhin are also guilty of criminal misdeeds, and they are less open than Raskolnikov to the possibility of redemption.
Atonement and Forgiveness
The theme of atonement and forgiveness is closely related to that of guilt and innocence. As Dostoyevsky's title suggests, punishment is the only logical and necessary outcome of crime. Punishment, however, does not mean merely a legal finding and a sentence of imprisonment. In Dostoyevsky's view, the criminal's true punishment is not a sentence of imprisonment. Nor is legal punishment the definitive answer to crime. The criminal's punishment results from his own conscience, his awareness of his guilt. However, he must not only acknowledge his guilt. The criminal must atone for it and must seek forgiveness.
Raskolnikov at first tries to rationalize his crime by offering various explanations to himself. Foremost among these is his "superman" theory. By definition, the superman theory denies any possibility of atonement. The superman does not need to atone, because he is permitted to commit any crime in order to further his own ends. Raskolnikov also rationalizes his crime by arguing that the old pawnbroker is of no use to anyone; in killing her, he is ridding the world of an unpleasant person. Driven by poverty, he also claims that he wants to use her money to better his position in life. In the course of the book, he comes to realize that none of these excuses justifies his crime.
Raskolnikov's reasons for fearing arrest are equally complex. It is clear, however, that without the example and the urging of Sonya, he would not be able to seek forgiveness. He finds it remarkable that when he confesses his crime to her, Sonya immediately forgives him. She urges him to bow down before God and make a public confession. This act of contrition, she believes, will enable him to begin to cleanse his soul.
Svidrigailov is aware of his own guilt, but he does not seek forgiveness. Unlike Raskolnikov, he does not believe in the possibility of forgiveness. In giving money to Sonya and others, he attempts a partial atonement for his sins. However, even these gestures are motivated partly by base self-interest. Because he is spiritually dead, he feels that the only atonement he can make is to commit suicide.
Topics for Further Study
- Research the city of St. Petersburg, Russia. How did the city arise and develop? What are St. Petersburg's main features and landmarks?
- Research the main political movements in Russia in the mid-1800s. Is there any similarity between the kind of political groups that existed then and political parties as they are known in America?
- Research the condition of serfs (peasants who worked for landowners) in nineteenth-century Russia. Compare serfdom in Russia to slavery in America. What were the main similarities and differences between the two institutions?
- Research the plea of insanity as a legal defense in murder cases. What circumstances are usually necessary for a jury to find a defendant insane? Why does a defendant's claim of insanity often cause controversy?
Part of the motive for Raskolnikov's crime comes from a theory that he has developed. In an essay that he publishes, Raskolnikov argues that humankind is divided into two categories: ordinary people, and geniuses or supermen. Ordinary people must obey the law, but "supermen"—of whom there are very few in any generation—are entitled to break existing laws and make their own laws. Raskolnikov cites the French emperor Napoleon as the epitome of the superman type. He argues that Napoleon rose to power by overstepping the laws that govern ordinary people. Napoleon made his own laws and achieved his goals by killing tens of thousands of people in wars. Because Napoleon was a genius, Raskolnikov reasons, he was not regarded as a criminal. On the contrary, he was hailed as a hero. Early in Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov has become obsessed with the notion that he himself is a "superman." Therefore, he thinks, he is not subject to the laws that govern ordinary people. (In the original Russian text, Dostoyevsky frequently uses a word that means "overstepping" or "stepping over"—that is, transgressing. This word is closely related to the Russian word for "crime" (prestuplenie.) Raskolnikov decides to murder the pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna partly to prove that he is a superman. However, his indecision and confusion throughout the novel indicate that he is not a superman. Moreover, in the course of the novel, Dostoyevsky seeks to prove that there is no such thing as a superman. Dostoyevsky believes that every human life is precious, and no one is entitled to kill.
Dostoyevsky's formulation of the superman theory (through Raskolnikov) clearly anticipates the ideas developed by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in the 1880s. For Nietzsche, the superman and his "will to power" were supreme ideals. Christianity stood in the way of the superman, and Nietzsche scorned Christianity as a "slave morality." Dostoyevsky's view of the superman is absolutely opposed to Nietzsche's. For Dostoyevsky, following the "superman" theory to its natural conclusion inevitably leads to death, destruction, chaos, and misery. Rather than seeing Christianity as a "slave mentality," Dostoyevsky views it as the true vision of the human place in the world and of the human relationship with God. In Dostoyevsky's view, all people are valued in the eyes of God.
Crime and Punishment is written in the third person. However, Dostoyevsky's narrative focus shifts throughout the novel. Crime and Punishment is widely credited as the first psychological novel and in many passages, Dostoyevsky is concerned with the state of mind of the central character, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov. In these passages—including those that relate Raskolnikov's brooding, the murder itself, and his encounters with the inspector Porfiry Petrovich—Dostoyevsky puts us inside Raskolnikov's head. We view the action from Raskolnikov's viewpoint and share his often-disordered and contradictory thoughts. These passages read more like a first-person confession than a detached third-person fictional narrative. At the same time, he describes exterior events with clear realism.
Critics have pointed out that Dostoyevsky is essentially a dramatic novelist. He does not so much tell a story as enact it. Crime and Punishment is full of dramatic scenes, of which Raskolnikov's murder of the pawnbroker is only one. There are also a number of dramatic confrontations between characters. Dostoyevsky's characters rarely have calm discussions; rather, they have fierce arguments and verbal duels. Generally (but not always) Raskolnikov is at one end of these confrontations. At the other, in various scenes, are his friend Razumikhin, his sister and mother, his sister's corrupt suitor Luzhin, the police investigator Porfiry Petrovich, the innocent prostitute Sonya, and the cynical landowner Svidrigailov. These duels and pairings help to illustrate the idea of the double, discussed further below.
The action of the book takes place in St. Petersburg, the capital city of Russia, in the summer of 1865. (The brief epilogue is set in Siberia.) Crime and Punishment is a distinctly urban novel. In choosing a definite urban setting, Dostoyevsky was paving new ground for Russian fiction. His Russian predecessors and contemporaries such as Gogol, Turgenev, and Tolstoy generally set their stories on country estates. In confining the action of his novel entirely to St. Petersburg, Dostoyevsky was emulating the English author Charles Dickens, who set his well-known stories in the British capital, London. Moreover, St. Petersburg is not just a backdrop, but it is an inherent part of the novel. Dostoyevsky recreates St. Petersburg's neighborhoods and its streets, bridges, and canals with great realism. In his narrative, Dostoyevsky does not give the full street names, but uses only abbreviations. (In the very first paragraph, for example, he refers to "S—Lane" and "K—n Bridge.") Readers who were familiar with St. Petersburg would probably have been able to identify most of these specific locations, as modern scholars have done.
Much of the action takes place indoors, generally in cramped tenement apartments. With these settings, Dostoyevsky creates a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere. For example, in the weeks before he commits the murders, Raskolnikov has been lying in his tiny room and brooding. He retreats to this room after the murders, occasionally leaving his lair to wander the city's streets.
Most of the book's main characters are not natives of St. Petersburg, but have come to the city from Russia's far-flung rural provinces. Thus, they are not at ease in this urban setting. Provincial Russians might normally regard the capital city, created by Peter the Great as Russia's "window on the West," as a place of opportunity. However, for Raskolnikov, Katerina Ivanovna, Svidrigailov, and other characters, the city turns out to be a destination of last resort, a place where their diminished expectations are finally played out. (Svidrigailov remarks that "there aren't many places where there are as many gloomy, harsh and strange influences on the soul of man as there are in St. Petersburg.") This sense of the city as a dead-end is emphasized by the settings. The apartments where Raskolnikov and the Marmeladovs live are so small that there is scarcely enough space for a small group of visitors. Moreover, at several points in the novel, characters are threatened with eviction and fear that they will wind up on the streets. Near the end of the book, Katerina Ivanovna and her children beg on the streets by singing and dancing.
Most readers tend to think of Russia as a "winter" country, with lots of snow and cold weather. Dostoyevsky contradicts these expectations by setting his story during an unusual summer heat wave. The heat and humidity add to the general sense of discomfort that pervades the narrative. They also reflect and reinforce the feverish state that afflicts Raskolnikov throughout the book.
Crime and Punishment is divided into six parts plus an epilogue. Each part is broken further into several chapters. For the most part, each chapter centers around a self-contained dramatic episode. Much of this episodic structure is attributable to the fact that Crime and Punishment was written for serialization in a magazine. Magazine readers wanted each installment to be complete in itself and to contain colorful incidents. Many chapters end with the sudden, unexpected arrival of a new character. By introducing such developments at the end of many of the chapters, Dostoyevsky maintained a high level of suspense. He knew that his readers would be curious to know what would happen in the next chapter and that they would look forward to the next installment. Moreover, an unresolved complication at the end of a particular chapter would also stimulate Dostoyevsky to write the next chapter. This method of writing helps account for the numerous abrupt shifts in the plot focus.
Like many other important nineteenth-century novelists, Dostoyevsky does not hesitate to use coincidence to advance the plot. Indeed, many of the crucial developments in Crime and Punishment depend on sheer coincidences that seem highly unlikely to the modern reader. However, coincidence was an accepted literary convention of the period. Dostoyevsky does not attempt to explain away his coincidences, but on the contrary he simply states them as matters of fact. He uses this technique as a short cut to bring together certain characters and set up dramatic situations.
While he is walking down the street, Raskolnikov comes upon the scene of an accident. The accident victim turns out to be Marmeladov, a drunken civil servant whom he had met earlier in the novel. Marmeladov has been run over by a horse-drawn carriage. Raskolnikov takes charge of the situation and has Marmeladov carried home, where the injured man dies. This coincidence leads to Raskolnikov's first meeting with Marmeladov's daughter Sonya, who has turned to prostitution to support the poverty-stricken family. Drawn to Sonya by her meek nature and pure heart, Raskolnikov will later confess to her. In another coincidence, Sonya turns out to have been a friend of Lizaveta. This disclosure serves to increase Raskolnikov's sense of guilt and further points up Sonya's selflessness.
It is also purely coincidence that the scheming Luzhin happens to be living temporarily in the same building as Katerina Ivanovna. This makes plausible his appearance at Katerina's funeral party and his attempt to frame Sonya for robbery. Later, Svidrigailov just happens by coincidence to be renting the apartment next door to Sonya's apartment. Thus, he is able to overhear Raskolnikov's murder confession. Svidrigailov's awareness of Raskolnikov's guilty secret helps set into motion another chain of events. There are many more such coincidences in the course of the story. That such coincidences involving a relatively small number of characters would occur in a large city like St. Petersburg is almost unbelievable. However, Dostoyevsky's narrative has such dramatic force that the reader is able to overlook the implausibility of these coincidences.
Symbolism and Imagery
As already discussed, Dostoyevsky's literary technique mixes narrative realism, dramatic scenes, and psychological analysis. He also uses symbolism and imagery, not so much for aesthetic effect as to emphasize certain points about his characters' psychology. One of his main symbolic devices is the pairing of certain characters. Early in his writing career, Dostoyevsky formulated the idea of the "double." That is, he believed that there may be two sides to a human personality. In giving a character like Raskolnikov several "doubles," Dostoyevsky emphasizes certain aspects of Raskolnikov's personality by contrasting him with these "doubles."
Among Raskolnikov's symbolic "doubles" are Marmeladov, Razumikhin, Dunya, Sonya, and Svidrigailov. Where Raskolnikov is obsessed with a theory, Marmeladov lives entirely by impulse. Where Raskolnikov is extreme, Razumikhin is reasonable. (The Russian word razum means "reason.") Raskolnikov cuts himself off from his family, while his sister Dunya is completely dedicated to the family. Sonya too sacrifices herself for her family. Furthermore, her meekness and faith contrast with Raskolnikov's pride and his rejection of God. Raskolnikov is literally sickened by his crime and does not give any indication that he will commit more murders, whereas Svidrigailov takes pleasure in his criminal lust and persists in it.
Appropriately enough, blood and blood imagery pervades the book. Before he commits the murder, Raskolnikov has a horrific nightmare in which a group of drunken men flog "a little grey mare" to death. The notion of "shedding blood" becomes quite literal. Raskolnikov's murder of the pawnbroker and her sister with an axe is naturally a bloody act. As he attempts to escape notice, Raskolnikov becomes obsessed with the idea that he is covered in blood and that this will give him away. Toward the end of the novel, his sister Dunya tells him that "you have blood on your hands"; Raskolnikov defiantly replies that the world is covered in blood. It can be noted, as well, that the novel's blood imagery is paralleled by frequent references to tears.
Dostoyevsky uses dreams to give insight into his characters' psychology, as well as for symbolic purposes. Critics have debated the meaning of Raskolnikov's nightmare about the horse, mentioned above. As well as indicating his tormented state of mind, this nightmare may also symbolize the brutality of murder and the helplessness of the innocent. In the book's epilogue, in Siberia, Raskolnikov dreams that the world is swept by a terrible plague that turns people mad. This dream is generally believed to symbolize what would happen if all people rejected traditional morality and acted out Raskolnikov's "superman" theory. Svidrigailov, too, has terrible dreams and claims that he has seen the ghosts of his deceased wife and of a servant. The night before he kills himself, he dreams about a little girl whom he has victimized. In this dream, he sees the moral consequences of his crimes.
Dostoyevsky's Russia: Social and Political Background
For most modern Americans, the Russia of Dostoyevsky's time is almost incomprehensible. Sir Winston Churchill's comment in 1939 that Russia "is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma" can apply equally to the Russia of the 1860s when Dostoyevsky wrote Crime and Punishment. In the most simple terms, much of Russia's historical difference from the West has to do with the fact that for centuries it was cut off from Western Europe. The Reformation, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment that helped transform the countries of Western Europe from feudalism to modern nations with well-educated citizens and important cultural institutions barely touched Russia. Moreover, large-scale foreign invasions (from the Mongols in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to the Nazi armies in the early 1940s) periodically devastated the country. As a result, Russia has historically been suspicious of other nations. Also, early in its national history, Russia developed a tradition of government that centralized immense power in the hands of an emperor—the tsar—and a handful of his advisors. (The Russian title "tsar" derives from the Latin word "Caesar.") In the mid-1500s, Tsar. Ivan IV (known as Ivan the Terrible) established what for more than the next four hundred years became the model for Russian government, alternating short-lived periods of ineffectual reform with periods of severe repression.
Relatively "liberal" rulers such as Tsar Peter the Great (reigned 1682-1725) and Tsarina Catherine the Great (who was actually German; reigned 1762-96) pursued a policy of "westernization." They attempted to import modern technology and manners from Western Europe. At the same time,
however, they held tightly onto absolute power and ruthlessly suppressed any challenge to the established political order.
During the period when Dostoyevsky was receiving his education and then establishing his literary career—the 1830s into the 1860s—Russia was stirred by intense intellectual debate. The small class of the educated people recognized that major changes were needed if the huge but backward country was to address its social problems and find its way successfully in the world. One general approach to change was proposed by certain intellectuals collectively known as Westernizers. The Westeraizers were influenced by German philosophy and by social ideas that developed in Western Europe during the Industrial Revolution. They were also influenced by contemporary European revolutionary movements. The Westernizers were not united in their goals or methods. There were various factions. Some favored gradual democratic reforms, while others called for revolution to replace the tsarist government with a socialist regime. Among the leading Westernizers was Vissarion Belinsky (1811-48), the most famous Russian literary critic of his day. Belinsky praised Dostoyevsky's first book, Poor Folk (1846), and declared that Dostoyevsky was the literary successor of Gogol.
Another group of thinkers, known as the Slavophiles, proposed an entirely different approach to Russia's problems. Broadly speaking, the Slavophiles felt that Western ideals of rationalism and modernization were dangerous and alien to Russia. Rather than relying on a program of legislation and material improvement, the Slavophiles argued that Russia could only fulfill its destiny when Russians returned to their native spiritual values. Although they disagreed with the Westernizers, the Slavophiles were also opposed to the existing Russian government. By Western standards, the Slavophiles could be considered romantic and reactionary, but they made an important contribution to the debate over the future of Russia.
As a young man, Dostoyevsky was influenced by the Westernizers. In the mid-1840s he joined the so-called Petrashevsky Circle, a small group that met weekly to discuss socialist ideas. The group demanded political reforms and generally opposed the government of Tsar Nicholas I. In the spring of 1849 the members were arrested. Twenty-one of them, including Dostoyevsky, were sentenced to death but were pardoned at the last minute. During his sub-sequent imprisonment in Siberia, Dostoyevsky underwent a profound spiritual and political change. He renounced political radicalism and came to believe that Russia's hope lay in Slavic idealism. His travels in Western Europe in the 1860s and 1870s reinforced his distaste for modern industrial society. In the great novels of his mature period, including Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky expresses his sympathy with the Slavophiles and attacks the Westernizers and radicals. Raskolnikov reflects the viewpoint of the radical Nihilists (from the Latin word for "nothing"), who rejected all the traditional conventions of society.
By the time Dostoyevsky wrote Crime and Punishment Tsar Alexander II (reigned 1855-81) was in the midst of a significant reform policy. In 1861 the Tsar signed a proclamation that freed millions of Russian serfs (peasants who lived and worked in conditions similar to slavery). This was followed by reforms of local government, the courts, and the military. (The police inspector Porfiry Petrovich refers to these reforms.) However, these reforms failed to resolve the major problems in Russia and helped to create new problems. Again, the immense social problems facing Russia at the time—widespread poverty, ignorance, and social agitation—form the background to Crime and Punishment.
Compare & Contrast
1860s: Russia's government is a monarchy, with a head of state called the "tsar." But even at the time of Crime and Punishment's publication, changes in government were beginning to be seen with Tsar Alexander II's introducuction of reforms in the Russian military, the law courts, and local government.
Today: The Russian Revolution of 1917, which led to decades of oppressive rule under a communist government, has given way to a struggling democracy after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. President Boris Yeltsin has since introduced economic reforms, though his country's economy is still unstable.
1860s: The Russian novelists Dostoyevsky and Ivan Turgenev spend much of their time travelling abroad. Dostoyevsky eventually returns to Russia, but Turgenev decides to remain an expatriate.
Today: Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn, exiled from Russia in the early 1970s because of his opposition to the communist government, has returned to his native country. However, his calls for spiritual rebirth and a return to traditional Russian values have been met with little support.
1860s: Dostoyevsky notes widespread drunkeness is a major problem in Russian society.
Today: Alcoholism remains a serious national problem, affecting at least half of all Russian households, according to one survey. Government attempts to curb drinking face strong resistance from the Russian people.
Crime and Punishment in a Literary Context
In the words of historian Nicholas Riasanovsky, "Literature constituted the chief glory of Russian culture in the first half of the nineteenth century." Like most educated Russians of his time, Dostoyevsky knew and revered the work of the great Russian poets Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) and Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841). In his verse novel Eugene Onegin (written 1822-31), Pushkin cast a clear light on Russian society and its problems. Dostoyevsky was also familiar with the work of the novelist Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852), the most important Russian novelist before Dostoyevsky himself. Gogol was a master both of realism and of the fantastic. In his masterpiece Dead Souls (1842), Gogol examined the state of Russia with deep psychological understanding. Significantly, certain elements in Crime and Punishment can also be traced to two non-Russian writers whose work Dostoyevsky knew and admired, the French novelist Victor Hugo (author of Les Misrables) and the English novelist Charles Dickens (author of David Copperfield, which Dostoyevsky read while in prison). Indeed, Dostoyevsky frequently mentioned Dickens in his letters and notebooks. In Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky shares Dickens's concern with contemporary urban life, poverty, crime, and the sufferings of children and the innocent.
Among Dostoyevsky's Russian contemporaries, two other major novelists stand out. Ivan Turgenev (1818-83) sided with the Westernizers and lived in Western Europe for much of his life; however, his subjects are thoroughly Russian. In his best known novel, Fathers and Sons (1862), he examines the relations between the older Russian democratic reformers and the younger, more radical generation. He also coined the term nihilist. Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) is often placed as Dostoyevsky's equal, though he was very different. His epic novel, War and Peace (1863-69) began to appear in installments around the same time as Crime and Punishment. In his later years, Tolstoy developed a unique philosophy of nonviolence that has been compared to the philosophy of Mohandas K. Gandhi. Interestingly, both Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy knew and respected Turgenev although both disagreed with him, but Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy never met.
Crime and Punishment excited much attention when it started to appear in serial form in a Russian literary journal in early 1866. Reviewing the first installment, an anonymous critic declared that "the novel promises to be one of the most important works of [Dostoyevsky]." The British scholar and translator David McDuff notes that "as the sub-sequent parts of the novel began to appear it acquired the status of a social and public event." A Russian critic of the time, N. N. Strakhov, later recalled that Crime and Punishment was "the only book the addicts of reading talked about." Strakhov noted that the novel was so powerful that people became agitated when they read it.
Some Russian critics—especially liberals and "Westernizers"—disapproved of the book because of its implicit, controversial political viewpoint. They viewed the novel as an attack on the younger generation in Russia. One reviewer, G. Z. Yeliseyev, accused Dostoyevsky of "fanaticism." An anonymous reviewer in the journal the Week criticized Dostoyevsky for implying "that liberal ideas and the natural sciences lead young men to murder and young women to prostitution." D. I. Pisarev, a leading nihilist critic of the time, wrote an in-depth analysis of Raskolnikov's motives. Pisarev understood the conflicting emotions that drove Raskolnikov, but believed that Raskolnikov was basically a product of his environment. Emphasizing a social view of the novel, Pisarev rejected Dostoyevsky's insistence on redemption through suffering. Instead, he called for social change through a revolution.
N. N. Strakhov, mentioned above, praised the novel for its important treatment of universal themes and disagreed with the interpretations offered by the Westernizers. The book did not mock young Russian idealists, said Strakhov, but was a "lament" over the way that these young people were the victims of nihilistic ideas. When Strakhov's article appeared, Dostoyevsky wrote to him and told him that "you alone have understood me."
After Dostoyevsky's death, his philosopher friend Vladimir Soloviev gave several speeches about the meaning of Dostoyevsky's work. Soloviev distinguished between the outward (legal) and inward (moral) definitions of the terms "crime" and "punishment." Soloviev interpreted Raskolnikov's inward sins as "pride" and "self-idolatry, which can only be redeemed by an inner moral act of self-renunciation." Another important assessment of the novel was given by Russian critic Vasily Rozanov in 1893. Rozanov remarked on the power with which Dostoyevsky gave readers a glimpse into the criminal soul. According to Rozanov, the book "lets us feel criminality with all the inner fibers of our being." Rozanov found that "the general mood of the novel … is far more remarkable than any of its individual episodes."
As Dostoyevsky's work became more widely known, it began to influence writers outside of Russia. Robert Louis Stevenson was an early British admirer of Dostoyevsky. In 1886 he declared that Crime and Punishment was "the greatest book I have read in ten years." (Coincidentally, that same year Stevenson published The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which embodies the Dostoyevskyan theme of the double.) Stevenson went on to note, however, that "many find [Crime and Punishment] dull; Henry James could not finish it." James's dislike was shared by such British authors as Joseph Conrad, John Galsworthy, and D. H. Lawrence. However, Dostoyevsky was championed in England by the translator Constance Garnett (1862-1946). Between 1912 and 1920, Garnett translated Crime and Punishment and Dostoyevsky's other major novels into English. Despite the criticism of James, Conrad, and others, mentioned above, Garnett's translation proved enormously influential. It introduced this novel to a new generation of British and American readers, and the book's reputation soared. For many years, Garnett's translation remained the standard English-language version of Crime and Punishment. (Garnett's translation is now considered to be somewhat flawed and has been largely superseded by others, including the 1991 translation by David McDuff published by Penguin.)
Debate over the interpretation of Crime and Punishment has continued throughout the twentieth century to the present. Writing in 1939, scholar Helen Muchnic observed that what critics say about Dostoyevsky really tells more about those critics than about Dostoyevsky. McDuff agrees that "in many of the critical analyses of his work the operative factors are of an ideological rather than a purely aesthetic nature." Thus, Russian critics during the Soviet period hailed Dostoyevsky as a great writer, but they tended to overlook the book's Christian, anti-revolutionary, and anti-materialist sentiments. Instead, they praised it as an attack on the decadent bourgeoise society of pre-Revolutionary tsarist Russia. Similarly, the American critic Philip Rahv believed that the book's epilogue did not offer a satisfactory resolution. On the other hand, critics like Konstantin Mochulsky and Nicholas Berdyaev have emphasized the book's Christian and existentialist ideals. The French novelist Andre Gide believed that the ideas Dostoyevsky worked out in Crime and Punishment led directly to the author's subsequent novels. The Scottish poet and critic Edwin Muir wrote that "Dostoyevsky wrote of the unconscious as if it were conscious; that is … why his characters seem 'pathological,' while they are only visualized more clearly than any other figures in imaginative literature." Translator McDuff believes that "Raskolnikov, far from being a madman or psychopathic outcast, is an image of Everyman." And Ernest J. Simmons lauds the novel for "the characteristic spiritual glow that radiates through all the action and illuminates the darkest recesses of the minds of these tormented and suffering men and women."
In the following essay, Connolly, a professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Virginia, reveals how Raskolnikov's plight is symbolic of Dostoyevsky's belief that those who seek a rationalistic solution to society's ills are doomed to failure if they neglect to understand the spiritual and emotional needs of humanity.
In Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky created an unforgettable novel of haunting intensity. With its sustained focus on the emotions and thoughts of its young protagonist, Rodion Raskolnikov, Dostoyevsky's novel provides a harrowing portrait of human error and misfortune. Dostoyevsky had originally intended to write an account of murder from the perspective of the murderer himself. As he worked on the project in November 1865, however, he concluded that such a perspective might be too limited, so he chose an omniscient, third-person narrative mode instead. Yet traces of the original design remain: much of the novel offers direct insight into Raskolnikov's impressions and experiences. One of the ways in which Dostoyevsky allows the reader intimate access into his protagonist's mind is by describing Raskolnikov's dreams. Early in the novel, for example, Raskolnikov has a vivid dream in which he sees himself as a young boy accompanying his father on a visit to the grave of a younger brother who died in infancy. On the way to the grave, Raskolnikov and his father witness an enraged peasant beating an old, overburdened mare. The young boy is horrified to see how the peasant whips the horse across the eyes. Finally, the peasant kills the horse with an iron crowbar, and the shocked child runs over to kiss the horse's bloody muzzle. It is after he awakens from this dream that Raskolnikov utters aloud for the first time his plan to take an axe and smash open the old pawnbroker's skull. Clearly, Raskolnikov's vivid dream has brought to the surface his unexpressed, murderous intentions.
Dostoyevsky's treatment of this dream has additional significance, however. Some dream analysts might argue that every character in one's dream represents some aspect of the dreamer's personality or impulses. Therefore, not only does the figure of the murderous peasant evoke Raskolnikov's own murderous urges, but also, the figure of the murdered horse might represent some part of the dreamer. Indeed, Raskolnikov's crime not only has the effect of killing the pawnbroker and Lizaveta in a physical sense, it also has the effect of killing Raskolnikov himself in a spiritual sense. Long after the murder he would tell Sonya: "I killed myself, not that old creature!" Having "died" at the moment when he killed the pawnbroker and Lizaveta, Raskolnikov is faced with the challenge of being restored to "life," and much of the novel records his struggle with this problem.
Raskolnikov's interactions with Sonya play a significant role in this process. During the meeting in which he confesses his crime to her, Raskolnikov's conduct and words have the effect of creating a kind of psychological or emotional reenactment of the original murder. Just as Raskolnikov feels that he killed himself when he murdered the pawnbroker, so too must he now have a second victim: the innocent Sonya takes the symbolic place of the innocent Lizaveta. The unconscious aim of Raskolnikov's behavior during this scene is to see how Sonya handles the dreadful experience. Will she be devastated by her recognition of Raskolnikov's crime, or, on the contrary, will she find a way to go on living and thus serve as a model for Raskolnikov himself? Her religious faith and her love for Raskolnikov serve as a potent force for the criminal's regeneration.
Dostoyevsky's treatment of the theme of death and regeneration makes distinctive use of religious imagery, from the Gospel account of the raising of Lazarus (first mentioned to Raskolnikov by Porfiry Petrovich and then read aloud by Sonya to Raskolnikov) to the final scene of the novel, which takes place soon after the Christian holiday of Easter. During that final scene, Raskolnikov feels a surge of overwhelming love for Sonya, as if his soul has undergone a sudden cleansing or purification. Dostoyevsky's description of this moment emphasizes its religious dimensions. He writes that Raskolnikov and Sonya experience "a perfect resurrection into a new life" and that "Love had raised them from the dead."
What Do I Read Next?
- Dostoyevsky wrote Notes from Underground (1864) just before Crime and Punishment. Narrated by a tormented, alienated anti-hero, it introduces the moral, political, and social ideas developed in Crime and Punishment.
- Among Dostoyevsky's later novels, The Possessed (1871-72) is noteworthy for its critical portrayal of young Russian revolutionaries.
- Dostoyevsky's last novel, The Brothers Karamazov (1880), is generally considered his masterpiece. A family tragedy of epic proportions, it too involves a murder. However, it is best known for its philosophical treatment of the nature of good and evil and the existence of God.
- The hero of Fathers and Sons by Dostoyevsky's contemporary, Ivan Turgenev, is a young radical. Turgenev's political and social views were the opposite of Dostoyevsky's. This novel aroused much controversy when it was published in 1862.
- Leo Tolstoy's epic novel War and Peace (1863-69) came out in serial form at about the same time as Crime and Punishment. It portrays upper-class Russian society during the Napoleonic wars. Tolstoy's clear, lucid style is often contrasted with Dostoyevsky's more intense and abrupt writing style.
- The American scholar Joseph Frank has written a definitive multivolume biography of Dostoyevsky. Volume One, Dostoyevsky: The Seeds of Revolt (1976), covers the novelist's early life and his involvement in radical Russian politics. Volume Two, The Years of Ordeal, 1850-1859 (1983), covers Dostoyevsky's spiritual and political conversion in Siberia. Volume Three, The Stir of Liberation, 1860-1865 (1986), covers the years that led up to the writing of Crime and Punishment.
- Alexander Solzhenitsyn (born 1918) is the twentieth-century Russian writer most often compared to Dostoyevsky. His novella One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962; English-language translation published 1963) is an account of life in a Soviet prison camp in Siberia.
In addition to its religious imagery, Crime and Punishment also incorporates other symbolic systems. Landscapes and physical settings often suggest a character's emotional or psychological conditions. Raskolnikov lives in a tiny, cramped room, an evocative emblem of how constricted his lifestyle and thinking have become. He buries the items stolen from the pawnbroker under a huge rock. This rock serves as a reminder of the crushing burden of guilt that Raskolnikov carries with him. Recognizing the cramped nature of Raskolnikov's lifestyle and thinking, Porfiry Petrovich tells him that he needs "air" and that he should learn to be a "sun." The only time that Raskolnikov feels some sense of ease is when he leaves the stifling city streets behind and walks out into the country-side. His spiritual conversion at the end of the novel takes place on the bank of a river with a wide, pastoral scene displayed in front of him.
Yet it is not only the physical landscape that amplifies and reflects Raskolnikov's inner condition. Dostoyevsky's handling of other characters also plays a key role in the development and exposition of the central figure. As Raskolnikov moves through the city, he seems to move through a charged atmosphere in which every encounter triggers a resonant response in his soul. Thus, his chance meeting with Marmeladov introduces the concepts of suffering and self-sacrifice, concepts that will become so important to Raskolnikov later in the novel. More importantly, the characters who surround Raskolnikov often seem to serve as potential doubles or alter egos. That is, the traits that these characters embody represent potential directions for Raskolnikov himself. On one side stands the humble Sonya. She is willing to sacrifice herself for her family, and she puts the ideals of love and service to one's fellow humans above any notion of self-glorification. On the other side stands the corrupt Svidrigailov. He indulges in extreme forms of debauchery simply to relieve his boredom. Svidrigailov tells Raskolnikov that he considers the young man to be something of a kindred spirit. Although Raskolnikov does not wish to admit it, he senses that there may be some validity to Svidrigailov's assertions. When Svidrigailov informs Sonya that Raskolnikov only has two paths to choose from, either "a bullet in the brain" or "Siberia," he has effectively identified the choices that lie in front of the wretched young man. Only Sonya's appearance outside the police station at the end of the main section of the novel prevents Raskolnikov from emulating Svidrigailov's example and committing suicide. Instead, he follows her advice, confesses his crime, and with her love and support he ultimately finds redemption in Siberia.
In addition to the main characters who reflect and amplify Raskolnikov's conflicting impulses, several secondary characters appear in the novel to convey Dostoyevsky's scorn for certain ideological trends in contemporary Russian society. The pompous Luzhin, for example, has come to St. Petersburg to curry favor with the new "progressive" elements among the intelligentsia. Dostoyevsky uses Luzhin's simplistic praise for scientific thought and the virtues of self-interest to mock the popular ideas of the progressive writer N. G. Chernyshevsky. Even more satirical in this regard is the character of Lebezyatnikov, who has been so impressed with scenes from Chernyshevsky's novel, What Is to Be Done, that he tries to outdo the behavior of characters from that novel. He tells Luzhin that if he had a wife, he would encourage her to take a lover simply so he could show his magnanimity and understanding in refusing to condemn her.
Dostoyevsky's disdain for the radical movement was perhaps fueled by his own early exposure to progressive social movements. As a young man in the 1840s he had belonged to a small circle devoted to the discussion and dissemination of Utopian socialist thought. His participation in this group had led to his arrest and imprisonment in 1849. He was subsequently sentenced to prison camp and exile in Siberia, and a decade would pass before he could return to St. Petersburg. Through his portrait of the young Raskolnikov, Dostoyevsky wished to show the dangers of errant thought in contemporary Russia. Those who believed that society's ills could be cured through rationalistic schemes, without regard for the inner spiritual and emotional complexity of the human subject, were not only doomed to fail, but from Dostoyevsky's perspective, they represented a serious threat to society itself. Raskolnikov's crime, then, serves to illustrate the pernicious nature of the radicals' selfcentered and self-elevating intellectual schemes. Yet Dostoyevsky's novel offers much more than a partisan ideological tract. His haunting description of Raskolnikov's desperate struggles and aspirations has resulted in one of the most memorable and thought-provoking works in all of world literature.
Source: Julian Connolly, in an essay for Novels for Students, Gale, 1998.
William J. Leatherbarrow
For Leatherbarrow, the principle of uncertainty is prevalent in many of Dostoevsky's novels but particularly in Crime and Punishment. In the following excerpt, Leatherbarrow asserts that not only is the motive for the crime unclear to the reader and the perpetrator, but time, space, andpoint of view as well deliberately lack clarity and objectivity.
As the novel [Crime and Punishment] grew under Dostoevsky's pen, his notebooks and drafts show that he went from uncertainty to uncertainty in depicting Raskolnikov and his crime, even jotting down reminders to himself to elucidate the murderer's motives more clearly. It would be easy enough to conclude from this that Dostoevsky … had simply not suspected the full richness and potential of his character and his theme, but this would be too simple a conclusion. Uncertainty is an important artistic principle in much of Dostoevsky's work, and it is at the very heart of Crime and Punishment….
In Crime and Punishment Dostoevsky sacrifices to the principle of uncertainty many of the conventional prerogatives of the novelist: his most far-reaching sacrifice was that of omniscience…. In Crime and Punishment the narrator enjoys no consistent perceptual advantage over the participants: he sees the world through the same haze of subjective uncertainty as Raskolnikov does. It is this above all else that gives the novel its permanently nightmarish quality.
The most obvious manifestation of this kind of uncertainty is in the presentation of motive. Raskolnikov becomes a "criminal in search of his own motive"; he does not in the end know why he committed his crime, and neither does the reader. The narrator offers us no definite explanation, only a share in Raskolnikov's confusion…. Dostoevsky originally conceived Raskolnikov's crime as a means of exposing the absurdity of the moral utilitarianism characteristic of many leading intellectuals in the 1860s….
The utilitarian principle undoubtedly remains a major aspect of Raskolnikov's crime in the finished novel. Indeed, he does not finally renounce it until his conversion in the Epilogue. In a conversation with Dunya late in the novel he vigorously defends the morality of his crime in utilitarian terms: "'Crime? What crime!' he cried in a sort of sudden frenzy. 'That I killed a vile, harmful louse, an old hag of a moneylender of no use to anybody, for whose murder one should be forgiven forty sins, and who bled poor people dry. Can that be called a crime? I don't think about it, and I have no desire to wipe it out.'" But the utilitarian ethic alone can satisfy the demands of neither the reader nor Raskolnikov himself for a comprehensive explanation of his act. In a sense, this affirms Dostoevsky's point that the complex and often contradictory impulses behind human action cannot in the end be reduced to simple causal chains or primary motives. But Raskolnikov, as a "man of the sixties," cannot countenance the possibility that he has committed an irrational or irreducible act. He craves a comprehensive motive to restore his belief in the lucidity of human values and behavior. Yet rational utilitarianism is not adequate to the task, and he loses himself in the maze of his own personality. He embarks upon his crime ostensibly with the aim of robbery to further the fortunes of himself and other socially worthy people at the expense of a worthless parasite—a simple and logical adjustment of society's faulty arithmetic. Yet he fails to ascertain in advance the extent and whereabouts of his victim's wealth; he leaves with only a few cheap trinkets which he soon abandons under a stone and never reclaims. At no stage does he consider the possibility of appropriating the old woman's wealth without resorting to murder. It quickly becomes obvious that Raskolnikov has not murdered in order to steal; he has fabricated a shabby robbery in order to murder. He has only murder on his mind, not the appropriation and redistribution of wealth.
After the murder the utilitarian motive slips farther and farther into the background as Raskolnikov's probing intellect discerns the shapes of other and more disturbing implications of his act. It is worth remembering that he is rarely troubled by the murder of Lizaveta, the innocent victim of an unanticipated turn of events. This second killing does not engage his concern, for it was an unpremeditated, simple, even "innocent" slaying with a clear motive: Raskolnikov killed Lizaveta in order to escape. It is the "rationally justified" murder of the old hag that gnaws at his soul and that in the end he cannot account for.
Porfiry Petrovich, the examining magistrate, is the first to associate the murder with the ideas expounded in an article of Raskolnikov's on crime, and thus to open the way to an explanation of the crime, not in terms of Raskolnikov's professed utilitarian altruism, but in the light of his insane pride, egoism, and craving for power. Raskolnikov's article, published without his knowledge, is a product of the narrow, cloistered intellectualism which characterizes the young ex-student and makes it so difficult for him to enter the mainstream of life. It is composed of the cramped and arid thoughts engendered by the coffinlike room in which he leads only the ghost of a life. The article divides humanity into two distinct categories: the Supermen, such as Newton and Napoleon, who by virtue of their originality, strength of will, or daring, write their names boldly in the history of human achievement; and the Lice, the ordinary men and women who are the bricks and not the architects of history and who contribute nothing new. The former, according to Raskolnikov, have an inherent right to moral and intellectual freedom; they create their own laws and may overstep the bounds of conventional law and morality. The latter are condemned by their ordinariness to a life of submission to common law and common morality; their sole function is to breed in the hope of one day giving birth to a Superman.
Clearly belief in any such division of humanity must tempt the man of pride into a harrowing dilemma of self-definition; and Raskolnikov is a man of immense pride. Does he therefore murder in the conviction that, as a superior man, he has the right to brush aside conventional morality in order to expedite the contribution he must make to history? This is unlikely, for, although Raskolnikov is seduced by his pride into longing for the status of Superman, his persistent doubts as he plans and rehearses the murder reveal all too clearly his uncertainty and fear of the Superman's freedom. Is the crime therefore conceived as a grotesque act of selfdefinition, whereby by assessing his reaction to moral transgression Raskolnikov seeks to choose his true self from the differing options offered by his pride and his uncertainty? This affords a tantalizingly plausible explanation of the murder; after all, we would expect the abstract Raskolnikov to respond most readily to abstract motives. Somehow it is impossible to imagine this unphysical intellectual murdering in response to such physical needs as hunger or want; but we can imagine him chasing the specter of self-knowledge. Moreover, Raskolnikov's need of self-definition is acute; in the novel's early chapters he oscillates wildly between satanic pride and abject humility, between unbounded admiration for the strong and limitless pity for the weak….
But the crime could be an authentic attempt at the resolution of this duality only if Raskolnikov were genuinely uncertain to which category of humanity he belonged, and this is not the case. In his pride he might long to be a Napoleon, but he knows that he is a louse, knows it even before he commits the crime, as he later acknowledges: "and the reason why I am finally a louse is because I am perhaps even nastier and viler than the louse I killed, and I felt beforehand that I would say that to myself after I had killed her." The implications of this admission are startling: Raskolnikov embarked upon the murder of the old woman knowing in advance that he had no right to kill and no clear motive, and, moreover, clearly anticipating the destructive effect such an act would have upon the rest of his life. Perhaps it is this he has in mind when he later asserts: "Did I really kill the old hag? I killed myself, not the old hag! At that moment in one blow I did away with myself for good!" This feature of Raskolnikov's behavior illustrates the incompatibility of knowledge and pride. Raskolnikov's knowledge that he is ordinary and has no special right to overstep conventional moral limits cannot contain his proud and essentially irrational need to assert himself. In the end his crime is an act of terrifying inconsequence: a proud, petulant, and meaningless protest against the certain knowledge that he is not superior; a moment when the demands of frustrated pride are so insistent that he is prepared to sacrifice the whole of his future to them. "I simply killed; I killed for myself, for myself alone, and at that moment it was all the same to me whether I became some sort of benefactor of humanity or spent the rest of my life catching people in my web and sucking the life forces out of them like a spider."…
In Crime and Punishment the principle of uncertainty encompasses more than the question of motivation. Even the spatial and temporal coordinates of the novel are blurred and at times distorted by a narrator whose precise nature and point of view are neither clearly defined nor absolutely fixed. The notebooks reveal that the adoption of a narrative point of view presented Dostoevsky with his greatest difficulty in writing the novel. He originally planned to use the first-person confession form, which would have allowed direct and easy access to the thought processes of the hero, but which would have created real difficulties when it came to filling in the objective details of the world in which the murderer moves. Dostoevsky wrestled with this form until the third and final draft, when a new approach occurred to him: "Narration from point of view of author, a sort of invisible but omniscient being who doesn't leave his hero for a moment." The third-person narrator anticipated in this comment is retained for the novel itself, but his omniscience is open to doubt. Complete omniscience would have robbed the novel of its haunting uncertainty and provided the reader too clear an insight into Raskolnikov's behavior and motivation…. The first chapter illustrates this particularly well, as the alleys of St. Petersburg, with their stifling heat, dust, stuffiness, and smells, are conveyed to the reader in terms of the impression they make upon Raskolnikov. These details of the physical world, in passing through Raskolnikov's awareness, lose their tactile and sensual authenticity and are transformed into psychological stimuli….
In much the same way our sense of real space is distorted by this subjective third-person narrative. Many years after the appearance of Crime and Punishment Einstein argued that we cannot experience space in the abstract, independent of the matter that fills it; and it is Raskolnikov's consciousness that fills this novel. Like a gravitational field, it warps the space around it. For example, the description of Raskolnikov's room as seen through Raskolnikov's eyes at the start of the novel is uncomfortably inconsistent with objectively narrated events which occur in this same room later. The room appears to shift its size with the narrative point of view. The early description is clearly conditioned by Raskolnikov's own sensations of claustrophobia: he is oppressed and haunted by ideas, theories, pride, poverty, and illness, and the room he describes with hatred upon waking from a restless sleep resembles a tomb. A mere six feet long, not high enough for a man to stand, littered with dusty books, its yellow wallpaper peeling from the walls, it is dominated by a huge, clumsy sofa. The description accords so perfectly with what we know of Raskolnikov's state of mind that we hardly distinguish where his consciousness ends and the outside world begins. Yet a few chapters later, as Raskolnikov lies in bed semidelirious after the crime and the narrative adopts a more objective course in order to permit the introduction of several new characters, our sense of the room's size is quite different. As the sick Raskolnikov is visited by his maid Nastasya, his friend Razumikhin, the doctor Zosimov, and his sister's suitor Luzhin, the "tomb" seems to open out in order to accommodate each new arrival.
Distance is equally intangible. When, in Chapter 1, Raskolnikov visits his victim's flat, we have no real sensation of his physically moving from one environment to another. Dostoevsky tells us that "exactly seven hundred and thirty" paces separate the pawnbroker's flat from Raskolnikov's hovel, but the precision of this figure is entirely numerical. Locked inside Raskolnikov's consciousness as he rehearses a multitude of doubts and hesitations, we measure the physical distance only in terms of the number of thoughts which flash through his mind.
But the most uncertain quantity of all is time. Nearly all readers of Crime and Punishment experience the loss of a sense of duration in the course of the novel. It seems hardly possible, but the entire action requires only two weeks, and Part I a mere three days. Directed by the narrative mode into the inner world of Raskolnikov's turbulent imagination, we lose our temporal reference points. Absolute time ceases to be; we know time only as Raskolnikov experiences it. At moments it is severely retarded—indeed, in Part I, as Raskolnikov prepares for the kill, its flow is all but arrested; later the sense of time is violently accelerated as Raskolnikov undergoes the vertiginous fall from his crime to his confession. In this way time becomes a function of consciousness…. We might go further and suggest an analogy with Einsteinian time, which, like Dostoevsky's, depends fundamentally upon point of view. For Einstein there could be no absolute time: the time experienced by separate observers differed according to their relative motion. Dostoevsky seems to be suggesting something very similar in a cryptic remark in the drafts for Crime and Punishment: "What is time? Time does not exist; time is only numbers. Time is the relation of what exists to what does not exist." This remark might perhaps be interpreted as meaning that there is no abstract, absolute time. Time exists only when actualized in an event or series of events. The importance of this for Crime and Punishment is that events and their duration are experienced differently by different observers. Through Raskolnikov's consciousness the reader of the novel observes only the hero's experiences of intervals between events. There are no events narrated with consistent objectivity which form reference points against which to judge Raskolnikov's sense of time….
Despite all the uncertainties upon which Crime and Punishment rests, one overriding certainty is sustained throughout the novel: the conviction, shared by author, reader, and hero, that the crime is in the final analysis wrong.
Source: William J. Leatherbarrow, "The Principles of Uncertainty: Crime and Punishment," in his Fedor Dostoevsky, Twayne, 1981, pp. 69-95.
In the following excerpt, associate professor of English and Russian at Smith College, Gibian, offers an authoritative study of pagan and Christian symbolism in Crime and Punishment. Chief among them are the imagery of water, vegetation, sun and air, the resurrection of Lazarus and Christ, and the earth.
It may seem paradoxical to claim that critics have not sufficiently concerned themselves with Dostoevsky's attack against rationalism in Crime and Punishment; yet this aspect of the novel has frequently failed to receive adequate attention, not because it has been overlooked, but because often it has been immediately noticed, perfunctorily mentioned, and then put out of mind as something obvious. Few writers have examined the consequence of the anti-rationalistic tenor of the novel: the extent to which it is paralleled by the structural devices incorporated in the work.
Dostoevsky held that dialectics, self-seeking, and exclusive reliance on reason ("reason and will" in Raskolnikov's theories and again in his dream of the plague) lead to death-in-life. In Crime and Punishment he set himself the task of exposing the evils of rationalism by presenting a laboratory case of an individual who followed its precepts and pushed them to their logical conclusion. By working out what would happen to that man, Dostoevsky intended to show how destructive the idea was for individuals, nations, and mankind; for to him the fates of the individual and the nation were inseparably interlocked….
The underlying antithesis of Crime and Punishment, the conflict between the side of reason, selfishness, and pride, and that of acceptance of suffering, closeness to life-sustaining Earth, and love, sounds insipid and platitudinous when stated in such general fashion as we have done here. Dostoevsky, however, does not present it in the form of abstract statement alone. He conveys it with superb dialectical skill, and when we do find direct statements in the novel, they are intentionally made so inadequate as to make us realize all the more clearly their disappointing irrelevancy and to lead us to seek a richer representation in other modes of discourse….
Symbolism is the method of expression with which we are primarily concerned here, but it is far from being the only indirect, non-intellectual manner of expression on which Dostoevsky depends. Oblique presentation is another means which he uses; one example is the introduction of the subject of need for suffering. The idea is first presented in a debased and grotesque form by Marmeladov. His confession of how he had mistreated his family, of his drinking, and of the theft of money—to Raskolnikov, a stranger whom he has met in the tavern—is almost a burlesque foreshadowing of Raskolnikov's later penance, the kissing of the earth and his confession at the police station. Marmeladov is drunk, irresponsible, and still submerged in his selfish course of action; he welcomes suffering but continues to spurn his responsibilities; he is making a fool of himself in the tavern. His discourse throughout calls for an ambiguous response. Raskolnikov's reaction may be pity, agreement, laughter, or disgust; the reader's is a mixture and succession of all those emotions.
Thus the important ideas summed up in Marmeladov's "it's not joy I thirst for, but sorrow and tears" are introduced in a derogatory context and in an ambivalent manner, on the lowest, least impressive level. Yet the concept is now present with us, the readers, as it is with Raskolnikov—even though it first appears in the guise of something questionable, disreputable, and laughable—and we are forced to ponder it and to measure against it Sonya's, Raskolnikov's, Porfiry's and others' approaches to the same subject of "taking one's suffering."
A simple, unequivocal statement, a respectable entrance of the theme on the stage of the book, would amount to a reduction of life to "a matter of arithmetic" and would release the reader from the salutary, in fact indispensable task of smelting down the ore for himself….
In Crime and Punishment the reader, as well as Raskolnikov, must struggle to draw his own conclusions from a work which mirrors the refractory and contradictory materials of life itself, with their admixture of the absurd, repulsive, and grotesque….
Traditional symbolism, that is, symbolism which draws on images established by the Christian tradition and on those common in Russian non-Christian, possibly pre-Christian and pagan, folk thought and expression, is an important element in the structure of Crime and Punishment. The outstanding strands of symbolic imagery in the novel are those of water, vegetation, sun and air, the resurrection of Lazarus and Christ, and the earth.
Water is to Dostoevsky a symbol of rebirth and regeneration. It is regarded as such by the positive characters, for whom it is an accompaniment and an indication of the life-giving forces in the world. By the same token, the significance of water may be the opposite to negative characters. Water holds the terror of death for the corrupt Svidrigaylov, who confirms his depravity by thinking: "Never in my life could I stand water, not even on a landscape painting." Water, instead of being an instrument of life, becomes for him a hateful, avenging menace during the last hours of his life….
Indeed it will be in the cold and in the rain that he will put a bullet in his head. Instead of being a positive force, water is for him the appropriate setting for the taking of his own life.
When Raskolnikov is under the sway of rationalism and corrupting ways of thinking, this also is indicated by Dostoevsky by attributing to him negative reactions to water similar to those of Svidrigaylov. In Raskolnikov, however, the battle is not definitely lost. A conflict still rages between his former self—which did have contact with other people and understood the beauty of the river, the cathedral (representing the traditional, religious, and emotional forces), and water—and the new, rationalistic self, which is responsible for the murder and for his inner desiccation…. There is still left in Raskolnikov an instinctive reaction to water (and to beauty) as an instrument of life, although this receptivity, which had been full-blown and characteristic of him in his childhood, is now in his student days overlaid by the utilitarian and rationalistic theories….
But Raskolnikov also realizes that his trends of thought have banished him, like Cain, from the brotherhood of men and clouded his right and ability to enjoy beauty and the beneficent influences of life symbolized by water; hence his perplexity and conflict….
Related to the many references to the river and rain, and often closely associated with them, are two other groups of symbolic imagery: that of vegetation (shrubbery, leaves, bushes, flowers, and greenness in general) and that of the sun (and the related images of light and air).
In contrast to the dusty, hot, stifling, and crowded city, a fitting setting for Raskolnikov's oppressive and murderous thoughts, we find, for example, "the greenness and the freshness" of the Petersburg islands…. The natural surroundings reawakened in him the feelings of his youth, through which he came close to avoiding his crime and to finding regeneration without having to pass through the cycle of crime and punishment….
By the same token, vegetation exercised the opposite effect on Svidrigaylov: it repelled him. In the inn on the night of his suicide, when he heard the leaves in the garden under his window, he thought, "How I hate the noise of trees at night in a storm and in darkness." Whereas Raskolnikov received a healthy warning during his short sleep "under a bush," Svidrigaylov uses the sordid setting of an amusement park which "had one spindly three-year-old Christmas tree and three small bushes" merely for vain distraction on the eve of his suicide, and contemplates killing himself under "a large bush drenched with rain." In him all positive elements had been rubbed out or transformed into evil.
Similarly to water and vegetation, sunshine, light in general, and air are positive values, whereas darkness and lack of air are dangerous and deadening. The beauty of the cathedral flooded by sun-light ought to be felt and admired…. Before the murder, he looks up from the bridge at the "bright, red sunset" and is able to face the sun as well as the river with calm, but after the murder, "in the street it was again unbearably hot—not a drop of rain all during those days…. The sun flashed brightly in his eyes, so that it hurt him to look and his head was spinning round in good earnest—the usual sensation of a man in a fever who comes out into the street on a bright, sunny day." The sun is pleasant for a man in good spiritual health, but unbearable for a feverish creature of the dark, such as Raskolnikov had become….
Absence of air reinforces the lack of light suggestive of inner heaviness. Raskolnikov, whom Svidrigaylov tells that people need air, feels physically and mentally suffocated when he is summoned to the police-station: "There's so little fresh air here. Stifling. Makes my head reel more and more every minute, and my brain too." Later he tells his friend Razumikhin: "Things have become too airless, too stifling." Airiness, on the contrary, is an indication of an advantageous relation between outward circumstances and Raskolnikov's inner state. The warning dream of the mare comes to Raskolnikov in a setting not only of greenness but also of abundance of fresh air: "The green vegetation and the fresh air at first pleased his tired eyes, used to the dust of the city, to the lime and mortar and the huge houses that enclosed and confined him on all sides. The air was fresh and sweet here: no evil smells."
When we turn to specifically Christian symbolism in Crime and Punishment, we find the outstanding images to be those of New Jerusalem, Christ's passion, and Lazarus. New Jerusalem is an important concept throughout Dostoevsky's work…. Porfiry asks Raskolnikov, "Do you believe in New Jerusalem?" The significance of Raskolnikov's positive answer lies in the fact that the New Jerusalem which he means is the Utopian perversion of it, to be built upon foundations of crime and individual self-assertion and transgression (prestuplenie). It is the "Golden Age," as Raskolnikov called it in the draft version in Dostoevsky's note book: "Oh why are not all people happy? The picture of the Age of Gold—it is already present in minds and hearts. Why should it not come about?… But what right have I, a mean murderer, to wish happiness to people and to dream of the Age of Gold?"
The confession of Raskolnikov is described in terms reminiscent of Christ's passion on the road to Golgotha: he goes on "his sorrowful way." When Raskolnikov reads in his mother's letter of Dunya's having walked up and down in her room and prayed before the Kazan Virgin, he associates her planned self-sacrifice in marrying Luzhin with the biblical prototype of self-assumed suffering for the sake of others: "Ascent to Golgotha is certainly pretty difficult," he says to himself. When Raskolnikov accepts Lizaveta's cypress cross from Sonya, he shows his recognition of the significance of his taking it—the implied resolve to seek a new life though accepting suffering and punishment—by saying to Sonya, "This is the symbol of my taking up the cross."
One of the central Christian myths alluded to in the novel is the story of Lazarus. It is the biblical passage dealing with Lazarus that Raskolnikov asks Sonya to read to him. The raising of Lazarus from the dead is to Dostoevsky the best exemplum of a human being resurrected to a new life, the road to Golgotha the best expression of the dark road of sorrow, and Christ himself the grand type of voluntary suffering….
The traditional emphasis of the Eastern Church is on Resurrection—of the Western, on the Passion. In Crime and Punishment both sides are represented: the Eastern in its promise of Raskolnikov's rebirth, the Western in the stress on his suffering. Perhaps at least part of the universality of the appeal of the novel and of its success in the West may be due to the fact that it combines the two religious tendencies….
The Christian symbolism is underlined by the pagan and universal symbolism of the earth. Sonya persuades Raskolnikov not only to confess and wear the cross, but also to kiss the earth at the crossroads—a distinctly Russian and pre-Christian acknowledgment of the earth as the common mother of all men…. In bowing to the earth and kissing it, Raskolnikov is performing a symbolic and nonrational act; the rationalist is marking the beginning of his change into a complete, organic, living human being, rejoining all other men in the community. By his crime and ideas, he had separated himself from his friends, family, and nation, in one word, he had cut himself off from Mother Earth. By the gesture of kissing the earth, he is reestablishing all his ties….
Now that we have examined selected examples of symbolism in the novel, let us take a look at the epilogue as a test of insights we may have gained into the structure and unity of the novel, for the epilogue is the culmination and juncture of the various strands of images which we have encountered earlier….
If we approach the epilogue with the various preparatory strands of images clearly in our minds, what do we find?… [We] see the state of the soul of the unregenerate Raskolnikov, the Lazarus before the rebirth, expressed by Dostoevsky through the symbolic imagery to which the novel has made us accustomed—water and vegetation. The love for life (which Raskolnikov does not yet comprehend) is represented by a spring with green grass and bushes around it.
When the regeneration of Raskolnikov begins, it is expressed in a manner still more closely linked to previously introduced imagery. His dream of the plague condemns Raskolnikov's own rationalism. It shows people obsessed by reason and will losing contact with the soil…. This dream of the plague, coming immediately before the start of the hero's regeneration, may also be another reminiscence of the Book of Revelation with its last seven plagues coming just before the millennium and the establishment of the New Jerusalem.
The epilogue then goes on to emphasize that it is the second week after Easter—the feast of Christ's passion, death, and resurrection; and that it is warm, bright spring—the season of the revival of dead nature, again a coupling of Christian and non-Christian symbolism of rebirth such as we have encountered earlier in the novel.
The crucial final scene which follows takes place on "a bright and warm day," and "on the bank of the river." The river which Raskolnikov sees now is no longer a possible means for committing suicide nor a sight inducing melancholy; it is the river of life….
Then appears Sonya, and with her arrival comes the moment when Raskolnikov is suffused with love for his guide and savior…. Vivid re sponse to all that lives is a joining with the creator in creating and preserving the world; Sophia is a blissful meeting of god and nature, the creator and creature. In Orthodox thought Sophia has come close to being regarded as something similar to the fourth divine person. Love for Sophia is a generalized ecstatic love for all creation, so that the images of flowers, greenness, landscape, the river, air, the sun, and water throughout Crime and Punishment can be regarded as being subsumed in the concept of Sophia and figuratively in the person of Sonya, the embodiment of the concept. Sonya sees that all exists in God; she knows, and helps Raskolnikov to recognize, what it means to anticipate the millennium by living in rapt love for all creation here, in this world.
It was Sonya who had brought Raskolnikov the message of Lazarus and his resurrection; she had given him the cypress cross and urged him to kiss the earth at the crossroads. On the evening of the day when, by the bank of the river and in the presence of Sonya, Raskolnikov's regeneration had begun, the New Testament lies under his pillow as a reminder of the Christian prototype of resurrection which had been stressed earlier in the novel. Against the background of all the important symbols of the book, Easter, spring, Abraham's flocks, the earth of Siberia, the river, the dream, and Sonya, the drama within Raskolnikov's mind assumes its expressive outward form.
There follow several explicit statements of what happened. We read that "the dawn of a full resurrection to a new life" was already shining "in their faces, that love brought them back to life, that the heart of one held inexhaustible sources of life for the heart of the other," and that "the gradual rebirth" of Raskolnikov would follow. But the power of the general, overt statements depends on the indirect, oblique, dramatic, and symbolic statements which preceded them and prepared the ground for our acceptance of them. If we sense the full significance of the statement that now "Raskolnikov could solve nothing consciously. He only felt. Life had taken the place of dialectics," for example, it is because we have seen dialectics and apathy dramatized in Luzhin, Lebezyatnikov, Raskolnikov, and Svidrigaylov, and resurrection in Sonya and various symbols throughout the novel of which the epilogue is a climax and a recapitulation.
Source: George Gibian, "Traditional Symbolism in Crime and Punishment," in PMLA, Vol. LXX, No. 5, December, 1955, pp. 970-96.
David McDuff, introduction to Crime and Punishment, Penguin Classics, 1991, pp. 9-29.
Helen Muchnic, "Dostoyevsky's English Reputation (1881-1936)," in Smith College Studies in Modern Languages, Vol. 20, Nos. 2/3, 1939.
D. I. Pisarev, "A Contemporary View," in Crime and Punishment and the Critics, edited and translated by Edward Wasiolek, 1961.
Philip Rahv, "Dostoevsky in Crime and Punishment," in Partisan Review, Vol. XXVII, 1960.
Ernest J. Simmons, introduction to Crime and Punishment, translation by Constance Garnett, Dell Publishing, 1959, pp. 5-22.
Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, University of Minnesota Press, 1984.
Bakhtin's analysis of language and point of view gives particular attention to the way in which voices and perspectives intersect and intermingle in Dostoevsky's novel.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, edited by George Gibian, Norton, 1989.
This edition of the novel contains numerous essays and documents that illuminate various aspects of the novel, from its critical reception to its symbolic and literary attributes.
Summarizes Dostoyevsky's relationship to English literature, including his travels in England, his admiration of Shakespeare, Dickens, and others, and British reactions to his own works.
Donald Fanger, Dostoevsky and Romantic Realism: A Study of Dostoevsky in Relation to Balzac, Dickens, and Gogol, Harvard University Press, 1965.
Fanger explores the relation of Dostoevsky's novel to the literary tradition which preceded it, and he focuses on the treatment of the setting of the novel, the city of St. Petersburg.
Joseph Frank, Dostoevsky: The Miraculous Years, 1865-71, Princeton University Press, 1995.
Frank provides a detailed account of the novel's themes, its genesis, and its relation to the literary and historical events of its day.
Michael Holquist, Dostoevsky and the Novel, Northwestern University Press, 1977.
This book discusses the way in which Dostoevsky's novel reflects narrative patterns of the past, including detective tales and wisdom tales.
R. L. Jackson, editor, Twentieth Century Interpretations of Crime and Punishment, Prentice Hall, 1974.
This book contains over a dozen insightful essays that are devoted to major themes and patterns in the novel.
Malcom V. Jones, Dostoevsky: The Novel of Discord, Harper & Row, 1976.
Jones discusses the underlying theme of psychological and emotional disorder in Crime and Punishment.
Janko Lavrin, Dostoevsky: A Study, Macmillan, 1947.
Lavrin discusses Dostoyevsky's technique, including his ability to weave profound psychological and spiritual insights into his complex narratives.
Konstantin Mochulsky, Dostoevsky: His Life and Work, translated by Michael A. Minihan, Princeton University Press, 1967.
Mochulsky's biography of Dostoevsky highlights the writer's spiritual quest.
Richard Peace, Dostoyevsky: An Examination of the Major Novels, Cambridge University Press, 1971.
Peace focuses on the symbolic division within Raskolnikov's personality and the way in which this division is reflected in the characters surrounding him.
Gary Rosenshield, Crime and Punishment: The Techniques of the Omniscient Author, The Peter De Ridder Press, 1978.
This book offers a close analysis of Dostoevsky's manipulation of point of view and narrative perspective in the novel.
George Steiner, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism, Dutton, 1971.
Steiner places Crime and Punishment in the context of Dostoyevsky's lifetime achievement, stressing the novel's moral, dramatic, and psychological dimensions.
Edward Wasiolek, Dostoevsky: The Major Fiction, MIT Press, 1964.
Wasiolek's discussion of the novel focuses on its exploration of the central characters and their personalities.
Crime and Punishment
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. The occurrence and types of crime, as well as the development of institutions of trial and punishment during the years 1500–1800, may be described as moving along lines integral to general trends in the making of early modern Europe: the formation of stratified societies based on elements of class and patronage and the development of centralized states. It is easier to arrive at some general conclusions toward the end of the period than at its beginning.
By 1500 the power to define crimes had all but moved out of the realms of religion, family, and clan into a new and separate sphere, that of the state. Acts amounting to crime were increasingly determined, not by aggrieved parties arguing their case before some form of public assemblage, but by monarchs and princes assisted by combinations of trained professionals and appointed amateurs, operating ever more efficient bureaucratic institutions. Likewise, punishments were constituted in formal law codes and meted out according to standards reflective of societies constituted by groups of unequal individuals. People guilty of the commission of crimes were no longer viewed as ordinary members of society who had gone beyond acceptable behavioral limits acknowledged by religion and tradition (sinners), but as types of people whose lifestyle of poverty predisposed them to a life of crime, creating and spreading an "underworld" of deviants who threatened to overturn decent society. The function of the legal and punitive apparatus, therefore, was changing from capture, trial, punishment, and resolution to deterrence, surveillance, suppression, and exclusion.
At the beginning of the period, definitions of "crime" varied among a multiplicity of locales, regions, states, and between various jurisdictions—communal, seigneurial, ecclesiastical, and royal. There existed no uniformity of opinion as to what kinds of acts should be construed as crimes; therefore, the definitions of "crime" were as various as the many locations where it occurred. In areas where urbanization was the rule, as in northern and central Italy, large and small towns had criminal statutes on their books inherited from the Middle Ages, when communal governments had won their freedom from the jurisdiction of either the papacy or the Holy Roman Empire. Particularly in northern Italy, these laws derived from tribal law (Lombard Law), the criminal codes of Justinian, and the statutes deemed appropriate by local officials. To these were added, by the sixteenth century, the decrees of the princes, ruling over territorial states in increasing number, a power deriving from the Roman emperors. In other societies of Europe as well, tribal law was enshrined in written codes as customary law, along with the statutes of local officials with criminal jurisdictions, to which were added the laws of kings and princes.
This new sphere of state jurisdiction expanded considerably, squeezing to the margins ecclesiastical jurisdictions, its medieval predecessor in the definition and trial of most crime. From the sixteenth century on, ecclesiastical courts only exercised authority over transgressions such as, in England, for example (prior to the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1536), working on feast days and sexual misconduct (fornication), earning them the nickname of the "bawdy courts." After the Reformation reduced the size and scope of the Catholic clergy, it was only in Catholic countries that the church retained jurisdiction over its personnel, in Italy, for example, exempting them from trial in secular tribunals.
Despite the increasing authority and judicial power of the developing state, it would be a mistake to say that the law reflected only the interests and desires of princes. Even though members of the royal family and the princely inner circle were not tried and punished in the legal system for their transgressions, because to admit to bad behavior that the princes were attempting to discourage (in part by their comportment and that of their peers) among their subjects weakened their efforts to lead by example, their professed social values were often identical to those of their subjects. Everyone agreed that theft, assault, rape, and murder, for example, were not to be tolerated because all were disruptive of the conduct of everyday life. Likewise, laws that punished those who sold grain at exorbitant prices during famine should be punished (on the basis that such practice was a form of usury).
On the other hand, many laws clearly did protect the interests of the aristocracy at the expense of the masses of people. In the Tuscan Grand Ducal State, for example, the Medici grand dukes criminalized hunting and fishing in most of their state for everyone but themselves and their aristocratic comrades. Those others caught hunting or fishing could be punished by a series of fines. Clearly, from the sixteenth century on, from the anti-hunting and fishing provisions of the Medici to the infamous "Waltham Black Act" of 1723 in Britain—a series of about a hundred forest laws based in Windsor that prohibited the poor from hunting there under pain of execution—the power to define crime passed into the hands of the princes, becoming a matter of state.
THE TYPOLOGY OF CRIME
A list and discussion of all types of crimes is impossible, but two significant trends in the typology of crime can be addressed: property crimes and crimes against persons, violent and otherwise, and the incidence of these crimes in rural, compared to urban, environments. Historians of crime influenced by Marxist economic theory have argued that these conjoined issues ride atop the deeper and more profound current then transforming Europe from the medieval to the modern: the development of industrial capitalism. Because the economy of medieval Europe did not produce a plenitude of goods available for theft, nor were the means of production in this agrarian society concentrated in the hands of a few capitalists (thus causing widespread poverty and the need to steal to survive), these historians argue, the majority of crimes were crimes of violence against persons. The onset of capitalist society reversed the situation in early modern Europe, multiplying many times the availability of goods and the extent of poverty, so that thebroadtypology ofcrimeswitched from crimes of violence to crimes against the property of the rich and well-to-do committed by the desperate poor. The agrarian society of the medieval period, with its population scattered across a pastoral landscape, concentrated its violence in its few crowded and noisome cities. Conclusions based on the research of historians of crime since the 1970s, however, disprove this thesis.
More recently, historians of crime have produced research supporting a new thesis that requires a new explanation. Crimes of violence seem to diminish dramatically in frequency in the seventeenth century, but the trend in crimes against property seems to remain stable. So, while Europe became a much less violent place, the rates of property crime remained level. What is surprising is the conclusion that cities were not the locations for the majority of violent crime; that honor goes to the countryside. To explain this conclusion, historians of crime have resurrected Norbert Elias's arguments in The Civilizing Process (1939), which seem to better explain their results. Elias argued for the centrality of the royal courts in promoting the domestication of society from the sixteenth century on. The princes and their peers at court not only set the example for acceptable behavior, emphasizing self-restraint, but rulers also monopolized the means to commit violence within society. Consequently, increasingly complex European societies became peaceful on the domestic level, with low incidences of violent crime. (During this same period, it is also true that Europe engaged in vastly increased levels of violence in wars between its societies and in the larger world.)
Feuds and family honor. Explanation of the types and incidence of violent crime entails explication of a number of important social, political, and economic factors. One reason behind the incidence of violent crime is that assaults and murder were usually the result of the social importance of honor, particularly in Mediterranean Europe. Family and clan were the foundation of European society well past the sixteenth century, but these organizations of people were held together by more than ties of mutual affection: often these groups adhered together to achieve economic and political goals that also tested their mutual loyalty. Fulfillment of basic male roles—son, father, husband, and loyal friend—was required: these men were aggressive, out in society, and politically engaged. Females submitted to the protection and direction of their male relatives. Women were assigned more passive roles as daughters, mothers, and wives, even though many worked in agriculture, business, and industry (cloth workers in Florence, for example). These roles were defined by tradition and by religion; there is nothing surprising here. The reason for going briefly over this familiar ground is that these roles and their constraints shaped the reasons for and the participants in violent crime. Incidences of assault, murder, and rape (another violent, not sexual, crime even then) were overwhelmingly the provenance of males. Violence was often required in the fulfillment of male roles in defense of the honor (read: family or male honor) of women. Violence was necessary to achieve the political and economic goals of the family or clan, and this was true at every level of society excepting the most destitute in rural areas, whose poverty and lack of connections excluded them from the action.
In the Mediterranean region of Europe, family and clan competition, which extended across political borders as well as the physically defined lines between city and countryside, produced the endemic violence of the feud. In urban and in rural areas family- and clan-based feuding was both political and economic in nature. Political goals were often pursued through violence, while economic relations were also protected with violent means, especially in border regions. The cataclysmic episodes of violence that shook many of Italy's major cities during the Renaissance are legendary. By the sixteenth century, however, these violent eruptions, which usually paralyzed political life, had come to an end in the larger cities. In the smaller towns and centers of rural society, located in mountainous border regions, and at the borders of major territorial states, however, episodes of feuding continued to occur, even into the modern period. Feuding was endemic into the seventeenth century in the hinterland of the Tuscan Grand Duchy, periodically roiling the towns of the Romagna. In the mountains of Genoa, feuding continued on the fringes of the Genoese state, coming to an end only with the immigration to America of a significant portion of the population in the nineteenth century. The causes for feuding in these regions were economic and cultural: economic, because the poor quality of land available for agricultural production, and the remoteness from seaports where trade might have been engaged in, meant that subsistence was impossible without the supplemental activity of smuggling, which occurred over routes for which clans fought each other for control; cultural, in that honor came into play in these contests, and honor could only be defended with violence. In the major cities, consolidation of the ruling classes, achieved as a group as in Venice, or more commonly behind one family, as with the Medici of Florence, and the increasingly useful and more peaceful alternative of litigation, worked together to suppress this type of violence. Real and perceived slights continued to occur, but they were contested at a different level of violence.
Very little violence in early modern Europe was unstructured. The tensions, the competitions, the affairs of honor were always present but were pursued in low-intensity conflicts, constituting the larger explosions as the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Explosions of feuding broke out as individual incidents piled up or when a particularly heinous violation occurred or an important person was aggrieved. Even when pacification occurred, individuals and small groups continued to confront each other in the streets of major cities. Efforts to control this type of violence and to limit its effects, with the potential for rupturing the solidarity of the aristocratic class, were focused on supplying an alternative, the ceremonial duel. Historians of dueling agree that they were more often written and theorized about by princes than they were tolerated in actuality. Most famously, the France of Louis XIII, with Cardinal Richelieu as enforcer, absolutely forbade participation in the duel. Likewise, the Medici wrote more about dueling than they tolerated participation in it by their fellow aristocrats. Instead, systematic examination of criminal records in Florence demonstrates that men from good families confronted each other informally in armed street brawls, structurally squeezed into the space between the formal duel, the large-scale combat of earlier times, and the alternative of litigation. Honor would be satisfied, but the story does not end here. In smaller towns, incidents of insulting language and acts—rape, assault, and murder—were usually linked to a level of clan feuding that occurred below the notice of officials. It is easy to see why this was the case: these factions existed in social spaces so small that it was impossible for them to avoid seeing each other on a daily basis. There were, however, other sources of violence.
Aristocratic retainers, whether in urban or rural settings, were responsible for some assaults. If the particular lord whom they served happened to be a protected resident in a foreign town while in exile, his bravos may even have been formally exempt from punishment for their violence under local statutes. At home they were usually likewise protected. These men usually showed off their status and honor by roughing up local townspeople or peasants while they roamed about city streets or country lanes. Soldiers and militiamen were another source of violent behavior. Soldiers may have been completely exempt until the professionalization of armies in the eighteenth century; militiamen were punished in special court sessions in Tuscany.
Still less structured forms of violence, for example, commissioned assassinations, were carried out by men who may have been professional killers with more than one crime in their résumé, but they could just as likely be well-known ruffians who killed when the right price was offered to them. Rape was mostly a group experience in the city, when it did not involve slave and servant women, but was committed by lone assailants in the countryside. In either case, the primary motive was the exercise of controlling power over vulnerable women, not lust. At times, a rape was another expression of lowintensity feuding.
Banditry: theft and violence. The activities of robber bands, constituting a different type of gang violence, also occurred in rural areas far from the seat of centralized power from the sixteenth century on into the nineteenth. In form, banditry had its medieval antecedents in the robberies and kidnappings of merchants as they passed on roads beneath some lord's castle, and in the freebooting mercenary armies of the fourteenth century. These men have been lauded as "primitive rebels," the precursors of modern political revolutionaries, who robbed the rich while protecting the poor, who sang their praises.
But the targets of most bandits in the early modern period were not the rich. For example, in the Austrian Netherlands, the Bokkeryders (the Goat Riders, after a medieval myth), active in the Lower Meuse in the 1730s to 1770s, the politically fragmented area of northeastern Maastricht, were organized around a core group of skinners and ironworkers whom unemployment had hit hard. These men had ties to local elites, as bandits usually did, and preyed on local churches and peasants. In Italy, bandit groups were composed of a core of men who had literally been banned from their home areas as contumacious of criminal charges. Banditry attracted a lot of attention from state officials and princes in the early modern period, as their depredations combined a high level of violence with theft and destruction of property.
A neat distinction between violence and theft is not possible in every case, because theft is often accompanied by violence. In early modern Europe, violence usually accompanied theft in the countryside, where highwaymen employed at least the threat of violence by showing a weapon, along with actual violence. In cities, however, violence seldom accompanied thefts. The category of nonviolent crime consisted of a variety of offenses against various forms of property (everything from trade or farming implements, to money, merchandise, and land with and without buildings), the accumulation of which both determined a person's qualification to participate in political life and conferred social position, if not quite personhood, especially on the bourgeoisie. As the accumulation of wealth came to assume a major place in European society among bourgeois and noble alike, thieves became subject to punishment by capital penalties, even for crimes as petty and necessary as the theft of a fish from the market.
Common types of theft included pickpocketing, burglary of homes and businesses, and theft from markets. The first two were usually the work of professionals, who were constantly on the move between one location and another, although, on occasion, the records reveal the existence of a criminal gang led by a young rogue aristocrat. They disposed of their pilfered items through fences, often Jewish merchants operating secondhand clothes shops or shops where other items, such as weapons, could be sold. Ideally, the stolen items were taken to such a shop for sale in a different locale than that where the theft had occurred; otherwise, the chance that an item might be recognized by its owner was too great. In Florence and elsewhere dealers in secondhand merchandise were subject to regulation because of their role in dispersing the fruits of thefts. At times the poor stole edible goods to ward off hunger, or were accused by neighbors of stealing farm implements.
Other, more sophisticated forms of theft occurred in the world of business. Usury, for example, was both a crime and a sin. Because profit was the inevitable outcome of a good business transaction, merchants devised numerous clever schemes for hiding profits that rose above the levels deemed acceptable by medieval churchmen. At times, bankruptcies of businesses were criminalized because there was always the possibility that what was really going on was concealment from one's associates or creditors of the intention of making off with what remained of the value of an enterprise in financial trouble. Hoarding grain for sale at higher-thanallowed prices during famine or dearth was another form of usury. From the sixteenth century on, the focus on what constituted a criminal act turned to crimes committed by the poor.
ASSOCIATING POVERTY AND CRIME
In both medieval and early modern Europe it was believed that the poor and crime would always be present in society because of the inherent misfortunes of life and the defective character of human beings. Yet the early modern period witnessed the advent of a decisive and telling sociological change in perception of the poor and of crime that more closely associated the two than before. The medieval poor were the holy poor: women whom fortune had deprived of a husband, children similarly deprived of one or both parents, and the blind or crippled of both sexes. It was the church that ministered to the needs of these unfortunate few, by the early modern period in partnership with the state. Symptomatically, prostitution, which many came to regard as a moral crime in the sixteenth century (everywhere but in Italy, where it remained merely regulated), was tolerantly viewed by the medieval church as the inevitable resort of lone women without a man to financially support them.
From 1500 on, the perceptual gulf between rich and poor widened. One of the reasons, but by no means the only one, was the development of a new self-concept among the wealthy: the rich were coming to see themselves as self-composed, restrained in their behavior and appearance, which reflected their superior inner worth, while the condition, behavior, and appearance of the poor similarly demonstrated their lack of worth. Various religions as well as governments began to note what they described as a great increase in the number of wretched poor flooding the cities.
Historians are not yet certain about the reality of the alleged increase in numbers or about what might have been the cause if the cited rise was, in fact, a reality. There would have been a notable increase in population from the post–Black Death lows reached around 1450, but the curve would not reach its highest point until 1600. It can be argued that city dwellers in particular were seeing two things: first, a real increase in the number of people, many of them poor. But they were also becoming aware of a new phenomenon, the existence of persistent poverty among the working poor and the unemployed. Composed of able-bodied men, this group, which had come into existence during the medieval period, stood out among the growing crowd of holy poor.
Partnerships between the state and religious organizations, both Protestant and Catholic, formed in the sixteenth century in an attempt to find solutions to the problem of the teeming masses of poor people clogging city streets and flowing along country byways. Efforts were made to keep the poor in their home areas, dispensing aid to them there; no one wanted to bear the burden of supporting the nonnative poor. Numbers of wandering poor had been present in medieval Europe, too, which included an uncertain percentage of rogues, people banned from their home areas who had naturally gravitated to a style of life on the fringes of society. The image of the wandering rogue was a common motif of medieval literature.
By the sixteenth century, this image was apparently broadened and applied to explain the character and existence of larger numbers of able-bodied poor men, many of whom were not wandering rogues at all but were, in Florence, for example, recognized by churchmen as being unemployed and in need of assistance. However, in most areas of Europe they did not receive this help; the new state- and religion-based systems of assistance focused instead on the traditional holy poor and single women, marginalizing, sometimes criminalizing, unemployed men. Sir Thomas More, in the introduction to his Utopia, recognized that these men, many of whom were crippled war veterans, were in need of help and posed no threat to society. Unfortunately, this view did not then prevail: the increasing numbers of vagabonds were viewed as threats to rural and urban society alike in an age of warfare and suspicion that produced a demand for order above all else.
In this way, the association between systematic poverty and crime came into existence. But more was needed to produce this newly negative evaluation of the poor; more was needed to create the sociological concepts of "poverty" and "criminality" to replace the poor and those who violated the law but could be brought back into society. Poverty had come to be perceived as a "style of life" voluntarily adopted by those who were too lazy to work. In fact, the records reveal that, in the eyes of merchants and government officials, there was a widespread belief that the working poor abandoned their jobs because they had discovered that they could gather more money by begging in the streets. Criminality was thus characterized as the occupation of lazy men and women who made the decision to obtain money illicitly by disguising themselves as the deserving poor, depriving them of alms and deceiving those who provided those alms. Thus, dishonesty and immorality were learned and taught to the young by those who lacked stable family structures, the primary place where morality was taught during this period. As a result of such thinking, the concept of criminality as a self-replicating style of life that would corrode the underpinnings of decent society if it were allowed to spread unchecked appeared to spring into existence.
The sixteenth century also witnessed the birth of a fascination with the existence of a criminal "underworld," a topic that has also enthralled some historians of the poor and of crime. Some records of police interrogations of beggars from the period have been found, most notably for sixteenth-century Rome. In them, elaborate structures of this underworld of criminal beggars were outlined. By the seventeenth century, particularly in Spain, popular literary motifs of shady characters inhabiting this underworld became widespread. Police interrogations of frightened poor people were likely to produce confirmations of what the interrogators expected to hear. This is just as true of the images of the elaborately imagined structure of the under-world of beggars, where each type of begging scam was taught and practiced by members of something like craft guilds, who then federated together, as it is of the testimonies of women tried as witches, who confessed to truly incredible practices and occurrences under pressure. In this period and later, historians have also found evidence of special "languages" used by criminals to set themselves off from decent people. While this evidence cannot be completely disregarded, in criminal records assembled and examined by historians of crime, no proof of such an underworld exists. One must never underestimate the ability of literary motifs to affect the expectations and actions of educated elites. This was as true of the witchcraft phenomenon of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, where elite expectations were shaped by the fifteenth-century Malleus Malificarum, as it was of the documents confirming the expectations of the literate regarding the existence of a criminal underworld. One was as true, in fact, as the other.
SYSTEMS OF CAPTURE, TRIAL, AND PUNISHMENT
The police. Not much is known about the police in early modern Europe. In large part this is due to the informality of policing, often an ancillary responsibility of kings and lesser nobles, whose job it was to provide order in the realm. Italy led the way in forming urban and rural police agencies in the medieval period to deal with crime, while Great Britain joined in at the end of the period. Thematically there is a dual focus: on their effectiveness in capturing violators, and on the issue of police corruption, or what might be called the moral quality of officers.
The Italian cities displayed several different types of police units from the later medieval period. The main force, which was not large in number, was organized as a military unit under a captain of police (capitano del bargèllo or il bargèllo, in Florence), with one or more lieutenants under him and a number of men in squads. In emergency situations they might be aided in the capture of malefactors, or in suppressing crowd violence, by members of the military guard of nobles, which were routinely stationed outside palaces. These military units patrolled the city at night, carried various documents from the criminal courts and magistracies, and made arrests as necessary. To carry out these functions, they had to have achieved some level of literacy. The police captain, at least, kept his ear to the ground by maintaining close familiarity with a number of questionable personalities who served as informers. (Even this early in their history, the police faced the absolute necessity of relying on informants to make arrests.) Very small constabularies were established in the small towns of the countryside. In France, a marshal was established to control crime outside of the cities, while in Paris from 1667 on a lieutenant, a powerful official, was responsible for the control of crime. Great Britain formed centralized "French" police units in London with the establishment in 1770 of the Bow Street Foot Patrol in London, with a contingent also to patrol the countryside, and a similar force for Westminster.
Other squads specialized in the operation of the many jails (including debtors' jails) that the cities established with the extension of municipal control over what had been, in the high medieval period, privately operated places of detention. The most common purpose of jails was to hold suspects during lengthy periods of pretrial detention, which, in early modern Florence, averaged six months. There is some question as to how effectively the guard kept watch over inmates; the reason that Florentine government took over administration of jails was to stop the many successful escapes. Making the owners of these jails liable for financial reimbursement to the city for escapees had not served as an effective deterrent. Escapes still occurred, sometimes under mysterious circumstances. Guards often had contact with prisoners because they not only provided security but also sold food, bedding, and other items to those few who could afford them while they were being held. Prisoners or their families were responsible for meeting the costs associated with maintaining a person in confinement, so the better off the person was, the better he or she lived. The others—the vast majority—starved or marginally survived on meager alms provided by reluctant princes.
The last type of policing was directed at controlling banditry and vagabondage. In Italy banditry was dealt with by ad hoc militia units that conducted campaigns against bandit gangs, hanging as many culprits as they could catch. These campaigns were temporary because of their great expense. Vagabondage was controlled by local police forces: in France, for example, the marshals were charged with controlling vagabondage in the countryside.
Many experts on crime and punishment are harsh in their judgment of the effectiveness and corruptibility of the police in the early modern period, but they were too few and lacking in the technological advantages to match the effectiveness of modern police in the detection of crime and criminals and in the capture of malefactors. Many people charged with crimes simply left the area, becoming contumacious rather than submit themselves to the possibility of detention and punishment. Policemen were paid very little at that time. In fact, the state spent very little on the support of the entire system of criminal justice. As a consequence, the prison situation was designed to provide the police with opportunities to supplement their salaries with the proceeds of legitimate graft. Legitimate graft easily crossed over into illegitimate territory, however, when the police accepted payment for abetting the occasional escape, in falsely imprisoning women on charges of prostitution and then collecting payments to release them, and so forth.
Conversely, others were clearly dedicated to service. There are accounts, for example, of rural policemen who pursued men who had come into the center of towns and small cities to engage in the violence associated with feuding, increasingly using harquebuses (heavy portable matchlock guns) from the sixteenth century on, even though they were outnumbered and outgunned. Because the nature of their work allows them the sanctioned exercise of violence and restraint—thus, the job will attract some persons of questionable morals—and because they are too few in number (but who wishes to live in a police state?) and poorly paid (some police will succumb to opportunities for corruption) policing the police will always be a difficult challenge.
Trial. Many types of courts, tribunals, and magistracies exercised jurisdiction over the adjudication of early modern crime. Although centralization was occurring, it was not achieved in Europe's early modern period. Some courts were professionalized, in that they were staffed with actual judges trained in the law; others were not, as in the English system, where quarter sessions and assize courts were staffed with justices of the peace appointed from the merchant class. Some magistracies, like the Eight on Public Safety in Grand Ducal Tuscany, while having wide but not exclusive criminal jurisdiction, were staffed by selected citizens with no juridical background at all. In Catholic countries, the church retained jurisdiction over its personnel. Finally, some bureaucracies regularly convened as magistracies to adjudicate violations of their own regulations.
Procedure in criminal cases exhibited some important similarities across Europe, despite the simultaneous persistence of differences. Cases were initiated through either accusatorial or inquisitorial process. In the first and older of the two, a case commenced with a private denunciation; in the latter, developed in the medieval period by the church to investigate and adjudicate cases of heresy, the process was initiated by magistrates. Though both types of process existed side by side after 1500, inquisitorial procedure dominated on the Continent—in Spain, primarily in Aragón, in northern Italy, in Sweden, France, and Germany—by the middle of the century. Legislation of special interest occurs in the Carolina of 1532 in the German Empire, in the Royal Ordinance of 1539 in France, and in the Criminal Ordinance of 1570 in the Spanish Netherlands.
England was different in not adopting the inquisitorial process but developed instead, in the Marian Statutes of 1554–1555, its own process initiated by magistrates. The advantage to inquisitorial procedure was the investigative initiative and power conferred on magistrates who were appointed by princes. One need not wait for a complaint from an alleged victim to begin investigating a suspected crime, during the course of which witnesses and suspected culprits were held in jail if they could not make bond. Of course, the vast majority was poor people, who could not afford bond, or political enemies of the princes, who were held secretly. An important point to make is that inquisitorial process had its longer, more complex form, requiring the expertise of jurists, but it also had an abbreviated form that could be utilized by ordinary citizen-magistrates, appointed by the Grand Dukes, and advised only by a lawyer, as was the case with the Florentine Eight on Public Safety. One must be careful, therefore, not to automatically assume that the inception of the inquisition process indicated unidirectional progress toward modernity in every case. In Florence the medieval system, which relied on trained jurists acting as judges, was more "modern," while the early modern system, centered in the city, represents several steps away from professionalization.
Detention was a part of the trial procedure, as was some degree of torture. Defense lawyers were participants when the accused could afford them. Questioning was conducted while torture was being administered, then confirmed with the accused once it had ceased. Those found innocent were either freed without prejudice or provisionally acquitted with the state retaining the option of recharging them in perpetuity, even after their death. Most of those suspected of serious crimes simply fled, entering the state of contumacy despite the severity of the penalties that were statutorily applied in that instance. This was a good strategy, because the state was willing to negotiate lesser penalties with the contumacious in return for submitting themselves to justice.
Punishment. Punishment was effected through afflictive and pecuniary penalties, and forms of penal servitude, with increasing application of a fourth, incarceration and outright expulsion, depending on the polity and the time period. England is the easiest to discuss because, for the sixteenth through the seventeenth centuries, it relied heavily on capital penalties as punishment for a wide variety of crimes, from theft to murder. Great Britain relied on using capital penalties to terrify potential criminals as a deterrent because it did not have police forces to catch violators, and would not have them until the late eighteenth century.
In the Mediterranean countries, pecuniary penalties and forms of penal servitude predominated. In sixteenth-century Florence, imposition of afflictive penalties was heralded as an equalizing reform, because the rich would not be able to lessen the impact of justice by using their wealth. In fact, what occurred in Grand Ducal Tuscany, and in Spain, was the increasing reliance on forms of penal servitude as punishment. Penal servitude derived from the opus publicum ('public works') of antiquity, giving it a long history. Its common form in Italy was in galley service, or service in the mercenary armies that Italian princes were obliged to raise to support the northern wars of their Habsburg masters. The Florentines added internal exile, another punishment with an antique heritage, sending many convicts to reside in Livorno, then a pestilent swamp that the grand dukes would turn into their only port to the Mediterranean. The Spanish also employed convicts in galley service, adding service in mercury mines at Almadén, and presidios ('hard labor prisons') in North Africa and in their American possessions. By 1748 they had abolished galley service in favor of sentences in presidios as the most common type of punishment. The motivation for these types of punishment was the need for manpower to serve the needs of war and of empire.
The Enlightenment produced an interest in the reform of criminal justice and punishment. The most influential reformer was Cesare Beccaria, the Milanese dilettante. In Of Crimes and Punishments (1764), he proposed standardizing sentences in proportion to the seriousness of the crime without later modifying them, leaving aside consideration of the social differences between victim and culprit if there were any, and ending the practice of judicial torture and the infliction of capital penalties. The inflexible imposition of sentences would convince any potential criminal to weigh the likely result of committing a crime against the unlikely benefits, a calculation that Beccaria was confident would deter potential criminals. As a mode of punishment, he preferred penal servitude in the public interest: why should criminals not be put to use in making restitution to society for the losses caused by their violations? The barbarity of the old system, exemplified above all else by gruesome public executions, had to be brought to an end by a civilized society. During this same period, the English began to rely on a system of imprisonment in the decaying hulks of ships, before turning to a new system, expelling prisoners from Great Britain and Ireland to Australia, America, and Tasmania between 1787 and the end of the practice in 1868. The French also employed a system of expelling criminals to penal colonies in the Americas during roughly the same period.
The development of early modern crime and punishment ends with increasing reliance on excluding undesirable people from decent society. Commission of a crime had come to define an individual for life; exclusion was the proper response before the idea of reforming the criminal took hold in the nineteenth century. This is not to say that disciplinary institutions did not previously exist; the first prisons (as workhouses) were founded in the mid-sixteenth century, but the general adoption of the modern prison and its ideology of reform was not the teleological result of trends in the reform of criminal justice but the result of changes in the way that crime came to be conceptualized as criminality, and violators as criminals.
See also Authority, Concept of ; Banditry ; Beccaria, Cesare Bonesana, marquis of ; Capitalism ; Charity and Poor Relief ; Church and State Relations ; Cities and Urban Life ; City-State ; Class, Status, and Order ; Duel .Equality and Inequality ; Food Riots ; Honor ; Hunting ; Inquisition ; Landholding ; Liberty ; Mobility, Social ; Peasantry ; Police ; Poverty ; Property ; Prostitution ; Refugees, Exiles, and Émigrés ; Serfdom ; Torture ; Utopia ; Vagrants and Beggars ; Villages ; Widows and Widowhood ; Witchcraft ; Women .
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Hay, Douglas, et al. Albion's Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England. London and New York, 1975.
Johnson, Eric A., and Eric H. Monkkonen, eds. The Civilization of Crime: Violence in Town and Country since the Middle Ages. Urbana, Ill., 1996.
Kagay, Donald J., and Villalon, L. J. Andrew, eds. The Final Argument: The Imprint of Violence on Society in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Woodbridge, U.K., and Rochester, N.Y., 1998.
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Langbein, John H. Prosecuting Crime in the Renaissance: England, Germany, France. Cambridge, Mass., 1974.
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Thompson, E. P. Whigs and Hunters: The Origin of the Black Act. New York and London, 1975.
Williams, Alan. The Police of Paris, 1718–1789. Baton Rouge, La., 1979.
John K. Brackett
Crime and Punishment
Crime and Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
THE LITERARY WORK
A novel set in Saint Petersburg, Russia, around 1865; published in Russian (as Prestupleniye i Nakazaniye) in 1866, in English in 1886.
Raskolnikov, a young Russian intellectual, theorizes that superior men are justified in committing certain crimes. He proceeds to commit a brutal double murder, but the pressures of pursuit and conscience force him to confess.
The son of an army doctor, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-81) was educated to be a military engineer, but he rejected a career in the army for literature, publishing Poor Folk in 1846. Though this first novel was hailed by critics, several subsequent works were less well received. In 1849 the Russian authorities arrested Dostoyevsky for subversive activity. After spending ten years in exile in Siberia, he returned to Saint Petersburg and began writing again, beginning a major phase of his career a few years later with the novella Notes from the Underground (1864). Important works such as The Idiot (1868-69) and The Possessed (1872) came between two long masterpieces: Dostoyevsky’s first great novel, Crime and Punishment, and his last, The Brothers Karamazov (1879-80). Both focus on murder, guilt, and faith, but in different ways. While The Brothers Karamazov represents a more mature development of Dostoyevsky’s ideas, Crime and Punishment is generally considered to put those ideas in a more dramatic and gripping form. It also grounds them firmly in their immediate historical context, sweeping the reader into the dark mind of a murderer as it links his motivations directly to Russia’s intellectual climate in the mid-1860s.
Reform and reaction in nineteenth-century Russia
The specific concerns that spurred Dostoyevsky to write Crime and Punishment grew out of a larger pattern of reform and reaction that dominated Russian history throughout the nineteenth century. This pattern, in turn, stemmed from increased exposure to Western European ideas by the Russian upper class. Unlike Western Europe, Russian society continued to consist largely of peasants and lords, with a small, economically weak middle class. Dostoyevsky was alone among Russia’s major nineteenth-century novelists in belonging to that middle class, for the others all came from the small but powerful ruling class, or nobility. (Dostoyevsky’s contemporary Leo Tolstoy, for example, was a count.) Amounting to about one percent of the population, the nobility included large landowners whose estates subsumed entire villages, and who controlled vast numbers of serfs, the laboring peasants whose position resembled that of the slaves in the southern United States. Though nominally free, the serf was in fact bound to the land and the service of a lord. In Crime and Punishment the character of Svidrigaïlov (svih drih gai’ luhf), a landowner and serial child rapist who beats and sexually abuses his serfs, represents this system’s worst abuses. Serfdom remained the leading issue for Russian intellectuals until its
NAPOLEON’S LONG SHADOW
Though Napoleon’s ill-fated invasion of Russia occurred more than 50 years before the time of the novel, the French dictator cast a long shadow over Europe and Russia, and his image plays a central role in Crime and Punishment. A hero of the Romantic movement for his daring political and military exploits, Napoleon became an archetypal example of the superman, a superior and strong-willed individual celebrated by German philosophers such as Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). Like other Western European ideas, the concept of the superman was absorbed by the Russian intellectuals whom Dostoyevsky’s novel criticizes. Summarizing his motives for murdering the old pawn-broker, the novel’s Raskolnikov says, “I wanted to become a Napoleon, that is why I killed her” (Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment, p. 373).
abolition in 1861, but even afterwards Russian leaders continued the pattern of alternation between reforms aimed at modernizing on the European model, and harsh, oppressive reactions against those attempted reforms.
The pattern began with Tsar (Emperor) Alexander I, who came to the Russian throne in 1801 as an idealistic young man with intentions of reforming the nation’s backward institutions. Alexander met up with institutional inertia, the tsar’s conservative advisors, and the invasion of Russia by Napoleon in 1812, all of which combined to overwhelm his early reforming impulses. By the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the now-seasoned Tsar had turned authoritarian and repressive. Meanwhile, the wars had exposed a younger generation of the nobility to Western ideas, leaving them frustrated with Alexander’s abandonment of reform. Alexander died childless in December 1825, and progressive army officers (called the Decembrists) revolted to support Alexander’s brother Constantine—a liberal whom Alexander had excluded from the succession—against his younger and more conservative brother Nicholas, the designated heir.
Constantine, however, refused the throne, and the new Tsar Nicholas I easily defeated the Decembrists, but the experience hardened him further against reform and put him on guard against activity the government deemed subversive. Dostoyevsky was a boy of five when Nicholas I came to power. By the late 1830s and 1840s, when Dostoyevsky was a student and a young man, Nicholas I’s regime had settled into promoting “Russian” values such as absolute loyalty to the tsar and Orthodox Christianity, while his secret police monitored individuals and organizations that did not adhere to those values. By that time, too, intellectuals had split into two groups: Westernizers, who embraced new ideas coming from Europe, and Slavophiles, who endorsed the traditional “Russian” values espoused by Nicholas I.
Dostoyevsky, who at the time held mildly liberal views, fell into the Westernizing camp. Like many young Russians, he hated serfdom and was attracted by the idealism of European Romantic authors such as the German poet Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) and the British novelist Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832; see Ivanhoe , also in Literature and Its Times). In 1849 Dostoyevsky and several other members of the so-called Petrashevsky circle, a discussion group of intellectuals interested in a newly fashionable French ideology known as utopian socialism, were arrested.
Tsar Peter the Great founded Saint Petersburg in 1703, intending to replace Moscow as Russia’s imperial capital. Anxious to introduce Western European culture into Russia, Peter chose a site on the Gulf of Finland that would be easier to reach from Western Europe than remote Moscow. The city would do justice to Peter’s intention. It has always been celebrated for its European feel, as well as its great beauty. By the time of the novel, the city’s population stood at 550,000, and its thriving literary culture included most of Russia’s leading journals and newspapers. With its Western flavor and its large university (founded in 1839), Saint Petersburg attracted many of the leading figures of Russia’s intelligentsia (progressive intellectuals). It would continue to be a hotbed of revolutionary activity up to the Russian Revolution, which broke out there in 1917.
Emancipation of the serfs (1861) led large numbers of peasants to seek new lives and jobs in Saint Petersburg, and the city’s population was growing rapidly at the time of the novel (it would triple by 1900). Like impoverished gentry also drawn to try their luck in the city, many of these peasants lived in the squalid slum conditions that Dostoyevsky describes in the novel. While working on Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky himself lived in the poor neighborhood of the Hay Market, where he sets much of the action. He follows the literary fashion of his day in referring to many specific locations by only an initial, but scholars have been able to retrace Raskolnikov’s travels and to identify the locations of many episodes in the novel. Its opening sentence, for example, describes Raskolnikov as walking from his apartment on S. Place towards K. Bridge (near the pawnbroker’s); these have been identified as Stolyarny Place, near Hay Market Square, and Kokushkin Bridge, which crosses Ekaterinsky Canal several blocks to the west (Crime and Punishment, p. 1). A good discussion of the correspondences can be found in Gary Cox’s Crime and Punishment: A Mind to Murder (see p. 35).
Told that they were to be executed, they were led blindfolded to what they believed was a firing squad. Only at the last second did a messenger arrive with news that the tsar had spared their lives, commuting the sentences to imprisonment and lesser penalties. Alarmed by the revolutions of 1848 that had recently rocked much of Europe, Nicholas I himself had staged the incident in order to terrify the group and set an example to others. One of the men was driven insane by the cruel hoax.
As part of his sentence, Dostoyevsky spent four years in a Siberian prison camp and six more years in Siberia as a private in the Russian army. After his return to Saint Petersburg in 1859, he based a novel, The House of the Dead (1861-62), on his prison camp experiences, and they would continue to inspire episodes and characters in much of his subsequent writing. In fact, a fellow prisoner of Dostoyevsky’s in Siberia, an unscrupulous and depraved noble named Aristov, served as the real-life model for Crime and Punishment’s Svidrigaïlov, whom Dostoyevsky calls Aristov in early notes for the novel.
Nicholas I died in 1855, while Dostoyevsky was still in Siberia, and his reformist son Alexander II acceded to the throne. Even before coming to power Alexander II had made clear his intention to free the serfs, and, though the nobility mounted great resistance, his regime announced the abolition of serfdom in 1861, to go into effect in 1863. In the novel the lively and clear-headed Razumihin, Raskolnikov’s friend and former fellow student, recalls the recent emancipation of the serfs, calling it “the great hour” (Crime and Punishment, p. 137). Yet the end of serfdom did not mean the end of Russia’s troubles; already by the early 1860s new battle lines were being drawn.
The new radicals of the 1860s
In addition to providing rich material for his writing, Dostoyevsky’s Siberian exile profoundly altered his political and philosophical outlook. Rejecting the Westernizing liberalism of his youth, he now moved towards his own personal brand of Slavophile conservatism. Dostoyevsky scorned the lofty social engineering (planning of society
MAJOR CHARACTERS IN CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Russians use a first name and patronymic (middle name derived from the father’s first name) when addressing each other in familiar conversation. The patronymic has both masculine (–ovitch) and feminine (–ovna) endings. Also reflecting common usage, most characters in the novel have several nicknames (listed here in parentheses).
Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov (Rodya, Rodenka, Rodka)
A poverty-stricken writer and former student in Saint Petersburg. The word raskol means “split” or “schism.” The name reveals Raskolnikov’s conflicting dual natures (good and evil); also, a raskolnik was a religious dissenter.
Avdotya Romanova Romanova (Dounia)
Pulcheria Alexandrovna Raskolnikov
Semyon Zaharovitch Marmeladov
An alcoholic former clerk.
Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladov
Sofya Semyonovna Marmeladov (Sonia)
Marmeladov’s daughter by a previous marriage. The name Sofya comes from the Greek word for “wisdom,” a quality associated with holiness in Orthodox Christian tradition.
Dmitry Prokovitch Razumihin
Raskolnikov’s friend, a student. Razum means “reason,” reflecting Razumihin’s role as a rational counselor.
Pyotr Petrovitch Luzhin
Arkady Ivanovitch Svidrigailov
Dounia’s corrupt former employer.
A police investigator.
through, for example, state housing) of the progressive intellectuals. As a group, these intellectuals had come to be known by the Russian word intelligentsia (the group would grow to include educated professionals, such as doctors and lawyers). Proclaiming the native Russian dignity of the common folk as contrasted with the pretensions of the Westernizing intelligentsia, Dostoyevsky embraced traditional Orthodox Christianity, which he saw as the natural expression of the Russian people’s spirituality. Above all, he stressed the importance of freedom and the worth of the individual, declaring that our need for freedom is what makes each of us truly human.
While Dostoyevsky’s ideas had begun to change before he left Siberia, developments on the intellectual scene soon after his return strengthened his new convictions. His own movement towards conservatism came just as other Russian writers were also moving away from the old radicalism of the 1840s—but these writers were moving in the opposite direction, not towards conservatism but towards a new and more extreme radicalism. Whereas the old radicals, influenced by socialist ideas, had shared Dostoyevsky’s esteem for the common people, the new radicals, known as nihilists, elevated the intellectuals over the masses. They were led by the writer Dimitry Pisarev, who claimed that art was useless except to manipulate public opinion, and who trumpeted the right of the superior man to ignore the life and death of individual lesser beings in a scientifically inspired quest to improve society as a whole. (These Russian nihilists of the 1860s should not be confused with the later Western European nihilist school of existentialist philosophy.)
Pisarev and the other Russian nihilists were heavily influenced by the utilitarian doctrine of philosophers such as Britain’s John Stuart Mill, whose 1863 book Utilitarianism argued that actions should be judged not by any abstract moral standard, but by their consequences for society’s overall welfare. Pisarev extended (or perverted) Mill’s ideas to claim that the ultimate value of a person lies in his or her usefulness to society, and that because the masses generally contribute nothing of value, their existence has little meaning. Dostoyevsky implicitly criticizes the views of both the old and new radicals in Crime and Punishment. However, because he insisted on the individual worth of every human, however lowly, he found the new radicals particularly dangerous. Their ideas play a central role in the novel, by providing Raskolnikov with a theoretical rationalization for murdering the “useless” old woman Alyona Ivanovna, a greedy pawnbroker whom Dostoyevsky clearly wishes to portray as serving no good purpose in society (Crime and Punishment, p. 60).
Presented in six parts, Crime and Punishment is told in the third person, but the storytelling voice often temporarily shifts to follow the thoughts of major characters in a form that resembles first-person narrative. Usually it is the thoughts of the central character, Raskolnikov, that the reader follows in this way. Part 1 opens as Raskolnikov, a writer and penniless student whose poverty has forced him to leave the university, walks through the streets of Saint Petersburg on his way to pawn some items with the old pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna. Isolated and confused, he seems to be in a daze, and his business at the pawnbroker’s leaves him feeling humiliated. His nervous attempts to note the details of the pawnbroker’s flat make it clear that he is forming some plan involving the malignant old woman.
Leaving the pawnshop, Raskolnikov stops at a tavern, where he meets a down-and-out alcoholic, Semyon Marmeladov, who tells Raskolnikov his troubles. Marmeladov is married to Katerina Ivanovna, a woman of higher social rank, a widow with three young children. He himself has an older daughter from a previous marriage named Sonia. His ill fortune has become hers. After Marmeladov lost his respectable job as a government clerk because of his drinking, Sonia was forced to turn to prostitution to help feed the family. Marmeladov recently won the job back, but he went on a five-day drinking spree and now fears he has lost his job and ruined his last hope of supporting his family. Accompanying Marmeladov home, Raskolnikov sees the family’s dire living conditions and quietly leaves them some money.
The next morning Raskolnikov sleeps late, awaking only when his landlady’s servant, a friendly peasant girl named Nastasya, brings him morning tea. She tells him that the landlady is going to complain to the police because Raskolnikov has failed to pay the rent for the tiny, dreary attic room he inhabits. Nastasya also gives him a letter from his mother, Pulcheria Alexandrovna. The letter informs him that his sister Dounia has become engaged to a prosperous lawyer named Luzhin, and that mother and daughter will be visiting Saint Petersburg together so that Dounia can join Luzhin there. Raskolnikov’s mother also writes that Dounia, a governess, met Luzhin through her employers, the Svidrigaïlovs. Svidrigaïlov had attempted to seduce the beautiful Dounia, and his wife Marfa Petrovna had at first tried to bring the girl into disgrace by spreading vicious rumors about her through the town where they live. In the end, however, Marfa Petrovna publicly acknowledged Dounia’s blamelessness in the matter and introduced Dounia to Luzhin, a relative of hers.
Disturbed, Raskolnikov concludes that Dounia is sacrificing herself by entering a loveless marriage so that she can help support him financially. As he walks the streets pondering the situation, he sees an adolescent girl staggering around with an older man following her. The man has given her alcohol in hopes of seducing her, and Raskolnikov tries to have him arrested. After offering the girl money for a cab, Raskolnikov suddenly decides it is none of his business and moves on, planning to visit his one friend from the university, Razumihin. He changes his mind, however, and impulsively enters a tavern, ordering a glass of vodka. Making his way to a park, he falls asleep on the ground and dreams that he is again a young boy, walking with his father, and that they witness a drunken peasant angrily beating an old mare to death. In the dream, the tearful boy hugs the dying mare and kisses it. Awakening, Raskolnikov sees the dream as relating to a scheme to kill the pawnbroker, which the reader now learns he has conceived. Agonizing over his violent thoughts, he asks himself how he could ever take an axe to the old woman, for such is his particular plan. By chance, however, as he walks around the poor neighborhood of the Hay Market, he learns that the pawnbroker’s sister, a pious and simple-minded woman named Lizaveta who acts as her servant, will be absent from the pawnbroker’s the next evening at seven, and the old woman will be alone.
Raskolnikov remembers how, the previous winter, he had learned about the pawnbroker from a student he knew. Then, about six weeks ago, he had overheard a conversation about the woman between two young army officers, who agreed that it would be no loss to society if the woman were killed. Their words shocked Raskolnikov—because he was already thinking exactly the same thing.
Awaking late again the next day, Raskolnikov prepares himself by making a noose for the axe, which he will hang along his arm under his coat, and tightly tying up a parcel that he will pretend he wants to pawn. He will strike while the woman tries to untie the knot. Delayed by these preparations, he arrives at the old woman’s flat at seven-thirty. After he rings many times, she finally lets him in and takes the package, turning her back to him as she works on the knot. Raskolnikov smashes the axe into her head twice, killing her, but as he ransacks her apartment Lizaveta appears and he is forced to kill her as well. When he tries to make his escape with a few valuables he has found, he is held up at the building’s front door by the arrival of two pawn customers, and briefly hides in the newly painted flat below the pawnbroker’s. Making his way back to his own little room, he collapses in a daze before falling into a deep slumber.
The next day a policeman arrives with a summons that terrifies Raskolnikov, but at the police office he learns that the summons was instigated by his landlady. Then he hears the police discussing the murder and passes out. After he comes to, he fears the police will now suspect him and hides the few valuables from the pawnbroker’s under a stone in a park. After a brief visit to his university friend, Razumihin, the still agitated Raskolnikov is nearly run down by a coach on the street. Returning home sick, he falls into a nightmare-ridden sleep and remains ill and weak for several days, during which Razumihin cares for him. When he begins to recover, Raskolnikov learns that his mother has sent him 35 roubles, enough money to live on for several months. He also becomes aware that the police visited while he was ill and that he made delirious statements that aroused their suspicion. While a doctor checks on the convalescent Raskolnikov, the lawyer Luzhin, his sister’s fiancé, arrives and introduces himself. Luzhin leaves angrily when Raskolnikov treats him with contempt.
Later, while reading newspaper accounts of the pawnbroker’s murder in a restaurant, Raskolnikov encounters a policeman and again makes suspicious statements. After witnessing a woman’s attempted suicide and revisiting the pawnbroker’s flat, Raskolnikov decides to turn himself in. On his way to do so, however, he witnesses an accident in which Marmeladov, the drunk he met earlier in the tavern, stumbles under a carriage and is horrifically injured by the wheels and the horses’ hooves. He helps Marmeladov home in time to watch the man die in front of his grief-stricken family, and gives Marmeladov’s widow, Katerina Ivanovna, the money that remains from the 35 roubles his mother sent. Deciding that his life is not yet over after all, he changes his mind about confessing. He visits Razumihin, who accompanies him home, where they find Raskolnikov’s mother and sister waiting.
Uncomfortable with their presence, Raskolnikov asks Razumihin—who is immediately captivated by Dounia—to escort them both to the rooms that Luzhin has arranged for them. When the family meets again the next day, Raskolnikov quarrels with Dounia about her engagement. Marmeladov’s daughter Sonia, still a prostitute, arrives to invite Raskolnikov to the meal following her father’s funeral, and although she is embarrassed, he honors her by asking her to sit next to his sister. Later, he and Razumihin meet the subtle police investigator Porfiry Petrovitch, an uncle of Razumihin’s. Raskolnikov is shocked to hear Porfiry describe perfectly an article Raskolnikov published some time earlier entitled “On Crime”:
In his article all men are divided into “ordinary” and “extraordinary.” Ordinary men have to live in submission, have no right to transgress the law, because, don’t you see, they are ordinary. But extraordinary men have a right to commit any crime and to transgress the law in any way, just because they are extraordinary. That was your idea, if I’m not mistaken?
(Crime and Punishment, p. 234)
Raskolnikov haltingly attempts to clarify his theory by offering further details, but he is forced to concede that Porfiry has accurately summed it up. He leaves convinced that Porfiry knows his secret and is merely playing with him.
That night, Raskolnikov awakens from a nightmare to see a figure in his doorway. The man introduces himself as Svidrigaïlov, Dounia’s former employer, and asks Raskolnikov to persuade Dounia to see him. Svidrigaïlov openly boasts about how he beat his wife, Marfa Petrovna, who (it was earlier revealed) has recently died. Despite Raskolnikov’s refusal to let him see Dounia, he reveals that in her will, his wife left Dounia 3,000 roubles—a small fortune. Svidrigaïlov himself offers to give Dounia a present of 10,000 roubles as atonement, he says, for the pain he has caused her. Later that day, in a meeting between the Raskolnikov family and Luzhin, Raskolnikov makes a fool of Luzhin and Dounia proceeds to break her engagement to him, to Razumihin’s great pleasure. Razumihin suggests they all open a small publishing firm with the money Dounia has inherited from Marfa Petrovna, but Raskolnikov interrupts and suddenly declares that he needs to be alone. He says farewell to his mother and sister, explaining just enough to Razumihin to let his friend know that he is somehow involved in the pawnbroker’s murder and asking Razumihin to look after his family.
Raskolnikov goes to Sonia, and together they read passages from the Bible. He promises to tell her who committed the murder the next day, but his sister’s erstwhile employer, Svidrigaïlov, eavesdrops from nearby. The next day Porfiry Petrovitch officially interviews Raskolnikov at the police office, and again Raskolnikov feels exposed by the investigator’s insistent probing. Meanwhile, Luzhin plots revenge by attempting to frame Sonia for theft. Raskolnikov has been his biggest detractor to Dounia, and Luzhin believes that if he can discredit Raskolnikov, who has defended the prostitute’s character to Dounia, Dounia will take her old fiancé back. The plot backfires when Luzhin’s attempt to frame Sonia is exposed in front of everyone at Marmeladov’s funeral lunch. Afterward, Raskolnikov and Sonia meet in her room, and there he confesses his crime to her. She urges him to turn himself in, for he must suffer the punishment in order to atone for his crime: “Suffer and expiate your sin by it, that’s what you must do” (Crime and Punishment, p. 378). She tells him she loves him and promises to visit him while he is in prison. Shortly afterward, her stepmother, Katerina Ivanovna, becomes mentally unbalanced, forcing her children to beg on the streets. Wracked by tuberculosis, the stepmother dies, declaring that God will let her into heaven because she has suffered so much.
Raskolnikov is not ready to confess, but Svidrigaïlov has again eavesdropped and confronts Raskolnikov with knowledge of his guilt, adding to his growing panic. Svidrigaïlov also reveals many of his own crimes of lust and violence, including the seduction and rape of several adolescent girls and hinting that he had murdered Marfa Ivanovna after marrying her for her money. Yet he professes true love for Dounia. Porfiry Petrovitch comes to Raskolnikov’s room and tells him outright that he knows Raskolnikov committed the murder. He refuses to arrest him, however, because he believes in Raskolnikov’s greatness and in his potential to serve Russian society. Porfiry wants Raskolnikov to turn himself in on his own, thereby improving his chances of a lighter sentence and ultimate rehabilitation. Yet Raskolnikov still refuses to confess. Telling Dounia of her brother’s guilt, Svidrigaïlov attempts to blackmail her into marrying him, and when she refuses, he kills himself in despair.
Finally, supported by his family and by Sonia’s love, Raskolnikov confesses to the police, and after a trial he receives the light prison sentence of eight years in Siberia. Dounia and Razumihin marry and establish a small publishing house, and Sonia follows Raskolnikov to Siberia. There the compassion and piety she shows on her visits to the prison make her popular with the other prisoners, who call her “our dear good little mother” (Crime and Punishment, p. 488). Raskolnikov undergoes a period of continued religious skepticism and deep despair during his first year in prison, but Sonia’s faith and love ultimately lead him to embrace God and the future. Only then does Raskolnikov begin “his gradual regeneration” (Crime and Punishment, p. 492).
Extraordinary men: from Napoleon to Stalin
The motive for Raskolnikov’s crime has been the subject of much critical debate, since the novel’s artistic and psychological complexity presents the reader with a constantly shifting range of possibilities. Raskolnikov himself shows confusion about what drove him to kill. At first he dwells on money, suggesting that the murder will allow him to escape poverty and help his family, although in fact he never really tries to profit financially from the crime. After confessing to Sonia, he repeats the utilitarian rationale already familiar to the reader from his thoughts: he intended to benefit mankind by removing “a use less, loathsome, harmful creature” (Crime and Punishment, p. 374). Just a few minutes later, however, he puts forward a more egotistical but still flattering purpose: “I only wanted to have the daring, Sonia! That was the whole cause of it” (Crime and Punishment, p. 376). Significantly, Raskolnikov virtually ignores his second murder, the slaying of Lizaveta, which can only be attributed to an unflattering and selfish desire to escape detection.
One overarching consideration, however, connects each of these disparate impulses: Raskolnikov’s extraordinaryman theory, which is most concisely reflected in his desire “to become a Napoleon” (Crime and Punishment, p. 373). Regarding the financial motive, for example, Raskolnikov tells Sonia that, had Napoleon been faced with Raskolnikov’s poverty, he would not have hesitated to murder “some ridiculous old hag” in order to “get money from her trunk (for his career, you understand)” (Crime and Punishment, p. 373). Then, too, only a Napoleon would possess the drive and the daring to take the drastic step of killing for the benefit of society. Though he never attempts to do so, Raskolnikov could conceivably use this same theory to cover even Lizaveta’s murder, arguing that it would ultimately benefit society if a Napoleon could cover his tracks and therefore remain free to continue his historic mission.
The pattern of reform and reaction that characterized Russian history after Napoleon did not end with the accession of the reformist Alexander II in 1855, nor with the end of serfdom and the rise of the new radicalism in the 1860s. Indeed, despite his reforms, Alexander II would die at the hands of radicals in 1881 (the same year Dostoyevsky died), and his assassination would spark another round of repression by his successor, Alexander III. This round would, in turn, set the stage for one of history’s momentous events, the Russian Revolution of 1917, bringing to power the Soviet communist dictatorship of Vladimir Lenin, followed by that of Joseph Stalin.
Observers have noted the remarkable relevance of Crime and Punishment to this cycle of events. The Italian novelist Alberto Moravia, for example, has pointed out that the murderous commissars (officials) of Soviet Russia relied on the same arguments that provide Raskolnikov with his rationalization for murder. Along these same lines, the leading Dostoyevsky scholar Joseph Frank has suggested more recently that Raskolnikov represents Dostoyevsky’s prediction “of how such a human type eventually would come to be born and of what its arrival on the historical scene might presage for Russia” (Frank, Through the Russian Prism, pp. 122-23). That the novel appeared almost exactly midway in time between Napoleon and the Russian Revolution is but one indication of Dostoyevsky’s acute historical intuition.
Sources and literary context
Despite its unusual insights into the grand sweep of history, Crime and Punishment remains grounded in its own times, literally and philosophically. The Soviet commissars who insisted that the ends justify the means used arguments first made in Russia by the new radicals of the 1860s; as Joseph Frank observes, the novel’s ultimate origins lie in how Dostoyevsky’s outlook changed after his Siberian exile and how that changed outlook shaped his response to these radical arguments.
On a more literal level, in seeking inspiration for specific episodes and characters in the novel, Dostoyevsky found abundant contemporary source material both in the public record and in his own private life. For example, in the novel the investigator Porfiry Petrovitch holds the office of examining magistrate, a new law enforcement position created in 1860 to give investigators greater independence. Similarly, Dostoyevsky’s letters from the period mention recent news stories of murders committed by coldly calculating university students, which he writes persuaded him that his basic idea of a student murderer was believable. Dostoyevsky, who with his brother published two magazines in the early 1860s, had himself written news stories about a cultured French murderer named Pierre-Francois Lacenaire. Dostoyevsky attributed to Lacenaire some of the same qualities (such as fear of poverty combined with massive vanity) that he confers on the fictional Raskolnikov. Pavel Aristov, Dostoyevsky’s aristocratic but morally corrupt fellow prisoner in Siberia, inspired not only Svidrigaïlov but also a part of Raskolnikov as well, for Svidrigaïlov represents the dark side of what critics have seen as Raskolnikov’s dual character. (Sonia represents Raskolnikov’s positive side.) That his main character had two sides reflects Dostoyevsky’s particular attraction to the motif of the split personality, which is the subject of his earlier novel The Double (1846).
Other major characters based on real-life models include the combative and long-suffering Katerina Ivanovna, fictional wife to Marmeladov, considered a portrait of Dostoyevsky’s first wife, Marya Dimitrievna. Like Katerina, the real-life Marya was a vivacious woman, “a knight in female clothing,” said Dostoyevsky (Frank Dostoevsky, p. 65); she died of tuberculosis in 1864. Marmeladov is thought to have been based on Marya Dimitrievna’s previous husband Alexander Isaev, to whom she was married when Dostoyevsky met her. Like Marmeladov, Isaev was a government official who lost his job because of alcoholism, throwing his family into poverty. Despite Isaev’s addiction, Dostoyevsky saw kindness, intelligence, and nobility in the man, characteristics he gives Marmeladov. As part of the intelligentsia’s rising social consciousness, the causes and social consequences of alcoholism were being widely discussed in literary journals and newspapers of the 1860s; Dostoyevsky’s notebooks refer to many such articles on drunkenness. In fact, the Marmeladov subplot in Crime and Punishment originally formed the basis for a separate novel that Dostoyevsky planned to call The Drunkard.
Crime and Punishment was released in the middle of the Russian novel’s golden age, a period commonly held to have started with the publication of Ivan Turgenev’s Rudin in 1856 and to have ended with Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov in 1879-80. At work also were such masters as Leo Tolstoy, whose novel War and Peace (1865-69) was serialized concurrently with Crime and Punishment in the same journal, The Russian Messenger. Novels of the period rang with urgent social messages and theories, and critics have seen Crime and Punishment partly as a reply to an earlier novel, What Is To Be Done? (1863), by the radical author N. G. Chernyshevsky, who espoused an ideology called “rational egoism,” which combined elements of socialism and utilitarianism. In Crime and Punishment these ideas are put into the mouth of a minor character named Lebeziatnikov, a naive but well-meaning friend of Luzhin’s. Chernyshevsky’s book itself is seen as a reply to Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons (1862; also in Literature and Its Times), which dramatizes the conflict between the old radicals of the 1840s and the new radicals of the 1860s.
Crime and Punishment was well received in Russia both by contemporary critics and by the reading public, becoming Dostoyevsky’s first widely selling novel. Early critics praised its exploration of the contemporary issues that preoccupied Russians so urgently, applauding Dostoyevsky’s skill in weaving those issues into an artistically compelling tale. The critic N. Strakhov, for one, praised Dostoyevsky’s sensitive characterization of a nihilist central character. Unlike previous attempts of this kind, Strakhov observed, Raskolnikov “is not a phrasemonger devoid of blood and nerves; he is a real man.… For the first time, an unhappy nihilist, a nihilist suffering in a deeply human way, is depicted before us” (Strakhov, p. 485).
Despite both critical esteem and popularity during his lifetime, however, Dostoyevsky’s literary reputation suffered somewhat in the decades after his death. In particular, Soviet critics of the twentieth century condemned his conservatism and religiosity, which conflicted with the socialist atheism of Soviet doctrine.
More recent criticism has restored Dostoyevsky to the first rank of the nineteenth century’s great novelists. His fiction has been identified as a major inspiration for leading twentieth-century authors such as James Joyce and William Faulker, with Crime and Punishment’s influence extending to genres as diverse as suspense fiction (of which it has been called an early example) and existential novels such as Albert Camus’s The Stranger (1942; also in Literature and Its Times). Modern critics have particularly acclaimed Crime and Punishment for its subtle artistic complexity and psychological insight. Sigmund Freud (see On Dreams , also in Literature and Its Times) credited Dostoyevsky for fore-shadowing his revolutionary psychological theories, and scholar Gary Cox writes that the novel “has probably inspired more psychoanalytic criticism than any other work of literature, except perhaps Hamlet or Oedipus Rex (Cox, pp. 20-21; both also in Literature and Its Times).
Conradi, Peter. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. New York: St. Martin’s, 1988.
Cox, Gary. Crime and Punishment: A Mind to Murder. Boston: Twayne, 1990.
Crankshaw, Edward. The Shadow of the Winter Palace: Russia’s Drift Toward Revolution 1825-1917. New York: Viking, 1976.
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. New York: Modern Library, 1950.
_____. The Notebooks for Crime and Punishment. Ed. and trans. Edward Wasiolek. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967.
Frank, Joseph. Dostoevsky: The Miraculous Years 1865-1871. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.
_____. Through the Russian Prism: Essays on Russian Literature and Culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.
Hingley, Ronald. Russian Writers and Society 1825-1904. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967.
Strakhov, N. “The Nihilists and Raskolnikov’s New Idea.” in Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Ed. George Gibian. New York: Norton, 1989.
Wasiolek, Edward. Crime and Punishment and the Critics. San Francisco: Wadsworth, 1961.
Crime and Punishment
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Scenes of transgressions and consequences inform Western cultural discourse going back to the first story of humankind in the Bible, so it is not surprising that crime and punishment form the basis of a number of literary works in the mid-nineteenth century. Under this rubric one finds memorable criminals such as the narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849), scenes of imprisonment in fictions such as "Bartleby, the Scrivener" and Billy Budd by Herman Melville (1819–1891), and women described in fictions by Lydia Maria Child (1802–1880) and Catharine Sedgwick (1789–1867) who find themselves unjustly incarcerated. Perhaps one of the most celebrated literary efforts to document crime and punishment occurs in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864). The story of Hester Prynne begins at the prison door with a crowd of men and women, apparently waiting. The narrator provides a historical footnote to accompany the scene: "The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison" (p. 53). The inevitability of death and punishment mark their incorporation into both the Puritan community and this narrative of Hester's complex relation to those who punish her. Likewise, crime and its consequences occupied the minds of American reformers and writers during the antebellum period.
Eager to demonstrate the success of the republican revolution, Americans in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century worked toward reconfiguring a criminal justice system deemed inefficient and cruel in its procedures and punishments. Some abjured the death penalty as despotic, linking it with monarchy. Many reformers considered corporal punishments inhumane, preferring to effect a program of work and solitude for the convict as a means of rehabilitating character and habit. Supporting methods used in particular prisons, prison associations in Philadelphia (formed in the 1780s), Boston (1826), and New York (1844) advocated rehabilitating prisoners by instruction, silent reflection, and work. They differed over whether to allow convicts to see one another in the penitentiary, how to incorporate study of the Bible and other texts, whether to promote solitary or congregate work, and whether to depend on convict labor to subsidize the penitentiary. Even Americans not involved with criminal procedures or reforms read about crimes, trials, prisons, and disciplinary methods in periodicals and in sensational, sentimental, and realist fictions.
CULTURAL INFLUENCES ON PRISON REFORM
Antebellum anxieties about crimes reflected general unease concerning social change, including immigration, slavery, and class mobility. Carroll Smith-Rosenberg explains that the difficulties of establishing social cohesion for a mobile, increasingly diverse population prompted Jacksonian reformers in cities to develop institutional mechanisms of preventing crime, notably almshouses and workhouses. Prisoners were disproportionately black, Indian, and immigrant, groups assumed more likely to be deviant. As David Rothman discerns, whether fears of increasing crimes and ideas about predispositions toward criminal behavior were justified by actual numbers or not remains an open question because statistics from the period are suspect.
Penitentiary reforms were also affected by other cultural formations, including other reform movements, theological arguments about sin, emerging social scientific theories of moral character, and the national project of information diffusion. Whitney Cross describes how diverse religious sects promoted contradictory doctrines concerning free will and the sovereignty of God. Religious groups joined with philanthropists to advocate regulating the social environment in ways that would appropriately shape individual moral character. The Second Great Awakening (beginning in the 1790s and at its height from 1822 to 1844) encouraged the formation of missionary organizations and tract societies, which in turn supported institutions for the prevention and amelioration of poverty, unemployment, and juvenile delinquency.
Concerned citizens in the antebellum period pressed for new laws regarding abolition, women's rights, temperance, and prison discipline. Reformers were enjoined to employ a spirit of sympathy in their benevolence. In an 1811 speech to the Humane Society of Massachusetts, Lemuel Shaw, who was appointed in 1830 as chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, promoted "a habitual compassion for the wants and sufferings of others" (p. 6) as the necessary motivation for reformers. The Philadelphia publisher and bookseller Mathew Carey, whose politics exiled him to France from his native Ireland before he immigrated to the United States, argued in 1833 that those better off had a duty to help those less fortunate. Poverty could lead to prison, and once debtors were imprisoned, they were forced to subsist on charity (as were their families, who were left destitute), a situation that lasted until 1840, according to Frank Carlton, when "nearly every Northern State had practically abolished this relic of barbarism" (p. 344).
Some reformers argued that environmental influences produced crimes. In a column in the abolitionist newspaper the National Anti-Slavery Standard, the activist and journalist Lydia Maria Child described visiting New York's Blackwell's Island prison in 1842. She responded to a companion's inquiry of "Would you have them [the prisoners] prey on society?" by affirming "I am troubled that society has preyed upon them. I will not enter into an argument about the right of society to punish these sinners; but I say she made them sinners" (pp. 202–203). She posits that similar instincts motivate the soldier killing Indians, the frontier resident vindicating an insult, and a New York professional shooting someone who accuses him of dishonor, but that society nominates the first (Andrew Jackson) for the presidency, hails the second for bravery, and hangs the third. Sara Payson Willis Parton (1811–1872), writing as Fanny Fern about Blackwell's Island in 1858, pointedly asked readers if they were any less guilty in being "politic enough to commit only those [crimes] that a short-sighted, unequal human law sanctions?" (p. 305). She criticized the inefficacy of prison discipline: "I don't believe the way to restore a man's lost self-respect is to degrade him before his fellow creatures; to brand him, and chain him, and poke him up to show his points, like a hyena in a menagerie. No wonder that he growls at you, and grows vicious" (p. 306).
Reformers closely connected with institutions expressed greater confidence in penal techniques, arguing that because instinctive emotions influenced some to do good and others to transgress, habitual offenders ought to be carefully controlled. In her footnote to a criminal psychology text published in 1846, Eliza Farnham, women's matron at Sing Sing, describes "the inheritance of propensities" leading to "criminal indulgence" (p. 28). The book's author, M. B. Sampson, blames its possible biological cause: "a defective form of brain" (p. 7).
Most reformers were optimistic about the power of a controlled environment to improve individuals. The early nineteenth century witnessed a reading revolution, a popular lyceum movement, and a general disposition of Americans toward self-improvement and social progress. Richard Brown characterizes the diffusion of information during this period as "a great national enterprise," for the "seemingly inexhaustible market for this sort of personal improvement information . . . was driven by a popular desire to enjoy such material and psychological benefits as gentility afforded" (pp. 289, 274). Society's interest in encouraging moral improvement included developing rehabilitation methods in prisons to stop recidivism.
ORIGINS OF THE PENITENTIARY IN THE UNITED STATES
While the century witnessed a number of innovations relevant to the topics of crime and punishment, including establishing metropolitan police forces along with specialized detective units, the most celebrated landmarks of reform involved the construction of penitentiaries by various states in the Northeast. The transformation from prison to penitentiary began with eighteenth-century experiments and arguments advocated by Benjamin Rush and others in Philadelphia, where Eastern State Penitentiary, designed by John Haviland, was built in 1821–1823. New York also developed penal techniques and facilities, instituting a contract labor system in Auburn penitentiary in 1819; convicts worked silently in groups during the day and slept in solitary cells. Auburn's brief experiment with solitary cells permitting some convicts to work separately in the early 1820s was abandoned as unworkable, likely due to the poor conditions of the cells.
By 1828 the congregate Auburn penitentiary turned a profit, but its system of contract labor invited criticism from prisoners, most notably regarding the physical punishments employed to increase productivity. The ex-convict William Coffey's first-person account, Inside Out; or, An Interior View of the New-York State Prison (1823), indicted harsh disciplinary methods used during his incarceration and called for separating prisoners instead of requiring convict labor, a recommendation agreeing with the conclusions of an 1822 New York Senate report on prisons. Two works by Horace Lane, The Wandering Boy, Careless Sailor (1839) and Five Years in State's Prison (1835), respectively a first-person didactic account of his criminal life and a dialogue between two prisoners of Auburn and Sing Sing, also explore the inefficacy of corporal punishment.
Many reformers also objected to harsh corporal punishments as a way of forcing convicts to work. Philadelphia's inspector Richard Vaux, a frequent critic, argued in 1855: "It is believed that the congregation of convicts during their incarceration for crime-punishment, and their sale to the highest bidder as human machines, out of which profit is to be made, is of far greater evil to society, than society yet fully comprehends" (Staples, p. 33). Convicts were subdued with straitjackets, iron gags, the lash, and the cold shower-bath, punishments applied frequently in New York penitentiaries to improve productivity. Proponents of extreme punishments sometimes depicted blacks, immigrants, Indians, and certain white recidivists as more likely to be inured to pain, an argument also advanced by slaveholders. John W. Edmonds, a judge who founded the New York Prison Association in 1844, was one of many humanitarians opposed to flogging, which was finally outlawed by New York penitentiaries in 1847.
THE MODEL AMERICAN PENITENTIARY
Officials and philanthropists in the first half of the century built, managed, and theorized about penitentiaries based on principles of separation and solitary confinement. Americans acknowledged European predecessors, including Césare Beccaria, who argued that "it is better to prevent crimes than to punish them" (pp. 104–105) and John Howard, whose writings improved British prisons. Elizabeth Fry's work in British prisons and Alexander Maconochie's in Australian institutions were also lauded by Americans. The 10 April 1847 issue of the Literary World praised Fry as having "gone forth with a mission to complete the unfinished labor of Howard," reminding readers that "our own country is taking the lead, most honorably, in this humane science" ("Review of Memoirs," p. 226).
On 16 January 1843 the New York State inspectors of the state prison at Auburn reported to the New York State Senate on "reforms" in treatment of prisoners:
Within the last year the former mode of punishing the convicts, by whipping for infringement of the rules of the prison, has been almost wholly abandoned, and as a substitute the application of cold water in the form of showering or pouring upon the naked head and body has been adopted; and we are convinced that in a very great majority of cases it has the desired effect of subduing the disobedient and refractory, while at the same time the self respect of the man is preserved.
New York State Inspectors of the State Prison at Auburn, "Annual Report," 1843, p. 2.
Penitentiaries provided architectural and pro-grammatic models for visitors who wished to observe reforms in action. Scott Christianson describes the "inspection avenues" that allowed officials and visitors to Auburn to secretly observe convicts at work. Approved visitors to Eastern State, colloquially termed "Cherry Hill" because of its site in a former cherry orchard, were permitted to engage solitary inmates in conversations focused on moral rehabilitation. Norman Johnston argues that "over three hundred prisons worldwide show the direct or indirect imprint of Haviland's Philadelphia and Trenton prisons. It is on the basis of both contributions that Cherry Hill must be considered the most influential prison ever built and arguably the American building most widely imitated in Europe and Asia in the nineteenth century" (p. 105).
Touring the United States in the early 1830s as representatives of the French government, Gustave de Beaumont and Alexis de Tocqueville (who would also produce Democracy in America from this visit) reported on the American models of penal discipline in On the Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application to France (1833); they were succeeded in 1837 by their countrymen Frédéric-Auguste Demetz and Guillaume-Abel Blouet and the Spaniard Ramón de la Sagra, who visited in the mid-1830s. Visitors noted that prison discipline societies associated with the penitentiaries emphasized the virtues of their own system and the vices of the other. Eastern State's solitary system, with individual cells used for work, contemplation, and sleeping, was more expensive to administer and appeared to induce mental degeneration in some inmates. The congregate Auburn system was profitable but appeared less humanitarian in its reliance on corporal punishments and on independent contractors to supervise silent convict laborers. As Beaumont and Tocqueville state, "the Philadelphia system produces more honest men, and that of New York more obedient citizens" (p. 60).
In 1841 Dorothea Dix (1802–1887), a schoolteacher and a writer of childrens' didactic literature, became an advocate for prisoners and the mentally ill after teaching a Sunday school class for women in an East Cambridge jail. In 1843, after surveying conditions for the incarcerated and institutionalized in the state, she reported her findings to the Massachusetts legislature, and in subsequent legislative addresses she identified abuses in other states' facilities. In Remarks on Prisons and Prison Discipline in the United States (1845), Dix connected rehabilitating criminals and diminishing poverty as "the two great questions" and argued for making paupers "useful" citizens and for paying convicts for work to help them improve habits and conscience (p. 5).
The reformer Samuel Gridley Howe (1801–1876) noted in 1846 that the debate between the supporters of separate and congregate establishments reflected cultural differences between Europeans, who were reluctant to endorse corporal punishment, preferring the Philadelphia system, while most Americans approved the profitable Auburn system. Howe counted the Americans Francis Lieber (1800–1872) and Dorothea Dix as recommending Eastern State, while George Combe and Charles Dickens, visiting from Britain, were horrified by the degenerative effects of solitary confinement there.
Others also kept prisons in the public eye. Chaplains, philanthropists, and officials reported on penitentiaries in publications issued by prison discipline societies; excerpts from such reports and from related books were often reprinted in reviews appearing in popular periodicals. Francis Lieber, a German immigrant and professor of political science who translated Beaumont and Tocqueville's report on penitentiaries into English, later wrote his own book on the subject. In an 1847 book on prison discipline, the American Francis Gray responded to Howe's 1846 book, which had expressed a preference for solitary confinement, by arguing on behalf of the congregate Auburn system. John Luckey, a chaplain, published Life in Sing Sing in 1860, a brief history documenting how moral instruction improved several convicts.
In the mid-1840s Eliza Farnham and Georgiana Bruce reorganized the previously badly managed women's prison at Mount Pleasant, associated with Sing Sing. Nicole Hahn Rafter notes that their educational program permitted some conversation and allowed fictional texts. Barbara Packer notes that, during Farnham and Bruce's four-year tenure, the prominent transcendentalist Margaret Fuller (1810–1850) read excerpts from prisoners' journals sent by Bruce. With Caroline Sturgis and W. H. Channing, Fuller visited Mount Pleasant in fall 1844 and motivated friends to donate books to supplement religious tracts; the same year she spent Christmas with the female convicts.
Other writers also advocated for prisoners by noting how economic circumstances drive individuals to crime, the cruelty of particular punishments, and the poor prospects for released convicts. As noted above, Lydia Maria Child advocated improvements in the criminal justice system in her journalism. In her story "The Irish Heart: A True Story," published in Fact and Fiction (1846), she tells of the young Irish immigrant James, unfairly sentenced as a forger to Sing Sing, which fails to provide him with adequate skills to earn a living; upon release he receives tools and other help from the New York Prison Association. In the same anthology's "Rosenglory," Child describes Susan, a domestic servant corrupted by one employer's son who later steals money from another employer for not paying her wages. Susan is sent to prison and later receives assistance from a home for discharged women convicts. In Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811–1896) Uncle Tom's Cabin (serialized in 1851–1852), Marie St. Clare sends her slave Rosa to be whipped in a New Orleans jail despite her sister-in-law Ophelia's protests that to put a girl under a man's lash degrades her body and soul.
Other writers represented more positive views of how the law protects the innocent, emphasizing the speedy, efficient resolution of crimes. Catharine Sedgwick was involved with the Women's Prison Association and the Isaac Hopper Home for discharged women prisoners. She alluded to the unfortunate situation of the innocent convict in her novel Married or Single? (1857), in which Alice Clifford visits her brother Max in the Tombs because he has been falsely indicted for forgery. After Alice spends a night in a jail cell adjacent to his, Max is acquitted because several individuals help Alice prove his innocence at trial. Horatio Alger's (1832–1899) prototypical rags-to-riches tale Ragged Dick (1868) contains a subplot detailing how a fellow boarder steals Dick's bankbook; tipped off by the victim, the police set a trap for the thief, who is arrested, convicted, and sentenced to nine months on Blackwell's Island.
As Andie Tucher notes, American periodicals began printing crime news in 1820, shortly after certain London papers started columns reporting petty crimes. Economic fluctuations encouraged the editors James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald and Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune to develop a newspaper readership among the working class by castigating greedy, fraudulent entrepreneurs and corrupt politicians as well as alleged murderers and thieves. Periodicals printed descriptions of jails and prisons based on reporters' visits and collected reports of domestic and foreign crimes. The National Police Gazette (published 1845 to 1933 and claiming a circulation of forty thousand readers in its first decade) described famous crimes in history and noted recent crimes reported in the popular press in the United States and abroad. The Gazette summarized criminal trials, editorialized about political crimes, and printed articles about historical and contemporary criminals; the editor, George Wilkes, also published the latter in pamphlet form some reprinted decades later. Patricia Cline Cohen argues that newspaper articles about the clerk Richard Robinson, acquitted for the alleged murder of his lover, the New York prostitute Helen Jewett, in 1836, increased sales of the papers and fueled competition in the 1840s by retailing obsessions about sex and death.
Sensational, dime, and western novels incorporated lurid details also used in newspaper crime stories. According to David Reynolds and Kimberly Gladman, the first American city novel was George Lippard's The Quaker City; or, The Monks of Monk Hall: A Romance of Philadelphia Life (1844–1845). Inspired by Eugène Sue's Mystères de Paris, The Quaker City describes upstanding citizens and criminals conspiring to seduce young women. Reynolds characterizes journalistic aspects of the prolific George Foster's New York in Slices (1849), Fifteen Minutes around New York (1854), and New York Naked (1854) as "realistic exposés" of everyday life in the city. George Thompson's many novels, including Venus in Boston (1849) and City Crimes (1849), lasciviously describe the degenerative effects of drinking and promiscuous sexual habits, unveiling seemingly virtuous individuals as deviants working closely with vicious criminal gangs. Dime novels, including some published in Erastus Beadle's series beginning in 1860, and some westerns were also criticized as morally pernicious. Bret Harte's "The Luck of Roaring Camp" (1868) more optimistically depicts the rehabilitation of those inclined toward transgression in plotting how a baby civilizes miners on the frontier.
REPRESENTING CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
In addition to the works already cited, images of incarceration and punishment appear in a number of other texts, including Indian captivity narratives and Revolution-era captivity narratives such as Thomas Dring's Recollections of the Jersey Prison Ship (1829); narratives of slavery, including Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) and Harriet Wilson's novel Our Nig (1859); and anti-Catholic convent literature, such as Rebecca Reed's Six Months in a Convent (1835) and satires of the latter such as Six Months in a House of Correction (1835). After Henry David Thoreau resisted paying his poll tax in protest of the Mexican-American War, he described his night in the Concord jail in "Resistance to Civil Government" (1849).
Several American fiction writers refer to issues associated with historical and contemporary practices of crime and punishment, and some criticize contemporary reforms and reformers. Edgar Allan Poe's fictions represent transgressive anxieties and fears of incarceration; particularly chilling are depictions of murder in "The Tell-Tale Heart" (1843) and of an old man who "is the type and the genius of deep crime" (p. 272) in London, depicted in "The Man of the Crowd" (1840). In the first American detective stories, Poe describes Auguste Dupin's ratiocination in solving criminal cases in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841), "The Purloined Letter" (1844), and "The Mystery of Marie Roget" (1842–1843).
Nathaniel Hawthorne's works are more critical of criminal stereotypes and reform motivations. "Endicott and the Red Cross" (1838) and The Scarlet Letter (1850) characterize the cruelty of Puritan punishments directed at those who are different (Episcopalians, women, Indians). The House of Seven Gables (1851) denounces social conventions falsely accusing Clifford Pyncheon, foreigners, deviants, women, and the poor of transgressive behaviors. The Blithedale Romance (1852) suggests that reforms focused on moral rehabilitation fail in representing Hollingsworth's "impracticable plan for the reformation of criminals through an appeal to their higher instincts" (p. 36).
Herman Melville mentions the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry in The Confidence-Man (1857) and François Eugéne Vidocq, the French criminal turned detective, in White-Jacket (1850) and Moby-Dick (1851). Melville's other fictions note the imprisoning aspects of civilizing society (Typee, 1846) and colonialism (Omoo, 1847; Mardi, 1849). Images of captivity recur in Redburn (1849), The Piazza Tales (1856), and Israel Potter (1855), as protagonists experience diverse forms of captivity on land and sea. The last scenes of "Bartleby, the Scrivener" (1853) and Pierre (1852) take place in the Tombs, a New York jail, and in Billy Budd (1924) the title character is summarily executed in a hasty trial at sea.
Foreshadowing naturalistic depictions of crime and punishment, Life in the Iron Mills (1861), by Rebecca Harding Davis (1831–1910), depicts the wretched circumstances endured by poor ironworkers, who labor like convicts in that their lives and work are constrained by those in authority. In the novella, Deb picks the pocket of the rich observer who admires her cousin Hugh's ironwork, an action resulting in Hugh's conviction as a thief after he tries to return the money. Davis portrays the inevitable, cruel punishment heaped on the honest worker. Like Hawthorne and Melville, she suggests that Americans countenance social and economic inequalities as the byproduct of entrepreneurial spirit. Decades of investment in penitentiary programs and thousands of words endorsing moral rehabilitation in the antebellum period reflect and reconfigure reform ideals as inextricably tied to ideas of American progress.
Beaumont, Gustave de, and Alexis de Tocqueville. On thePenitentiary System in the United States and Its Application to France. Translated by Francis Lieber. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea, and Blanchard, 1833.
Beccaria, Césare. Essay on Crimes and Punishment. Translated by E. D. Ingraham. Philadelphia: H. Nicklin, 1819. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/18beccaria.html.
Carey, Mathew. Appeal to the Wealthy of the Land. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: L. Johnson, 1833.
Child, Lydia Maria. Fact and Fiction: A Collection of Stories. New York: C. S. Francis, 1846.
Child, Lydia Maria. Letters from New York. 1845. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries, 1970.
Dix, Dorothea. Remarks on Prisons and Prison Discipline in the United States. Boston: Munroe and Francis, 1845.
Farnham, Eliza. Preface to The Rationale of Crime, by M. B. Sampson. New York and Philadelphia: D. Appleton and George S. Appleton, 1846.
Fern, Fanny. Ruth Hall and Other Writings. Edited by Joyce W. Warren. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1991.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Blithedale Romance. 1852. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1964.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. 1850. Edited by Ross Murfin. Boston: Bedford Books, 1991.
"Review of Memoirs of Mrs. Elizabeth Fry." Literary World, 10 April 1847, pp. 226–227.
Poe, Edgar Allan. Great Short Works of Edgar Allan Poe. Edited by G. R. Thompson. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.
Sampson, M. B. The Rationale of Crime, and Its AppropriateTreatment. New York and Philadelphia: D. Appleton and George S. Appleton, 1846.
Sedgwick, Catharine. Married or Single? New York: Harper, 1857.
Shaw, Lemuel. A Discourse Delivered before the Members of the Humane Society of Massachusetts, 11 June 1811. Boston: John Eliot, 1811.
Six Months in a House of Correction; or, The Narrative ofDorah Mahony. 1835. Boston: Benjamin B. Mussey, 1835.
Brown, Richard. Knowledge Is Power: The Diffusion ofInformation in Early America, 1700–1865. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Carlton, Frank. "Abolition of the Imprisonment for Debt in the United States." Yale Review 17 (November 1908): 339–344.
Christianson, Scott. With Liberty for Some: 500 Years ofImprisonment in America. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998.
Cohen, Patricia Cline. The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Nineteenth-Century New York. New York: Knopf, 1998.
Colatrella, Carol. Literature and Moral Reform: Melville and the Discipline of Reading. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002.
Cross, Whitney R. The Burned-Over District: The Social andIntellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800–1850. New York: Harper and Row, 1950.
Davis, David Brion. Homicide in American Fiction1798–1860. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1957.
Friedman, Lawrence M. Crime and Punishment in American History. New York: Basic, 1993.
Johnston, Norman, with Kenneth Finkel and Jeffrey A. Cohen. Eastern State Penitentiary: Crucible of Good Intentions. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1994.
Masur, Louis P. Rites of Execution: Capital Punishment and the Transformation of American Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Packer, Barbara. "Diaspora." In Cambridge History ofAmerican Literature, vol. 2, 1820–1865, edited by Sacvan Bercovitch, pp. 495–547. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Reynolds, David S. Beneath the American Renaissance: TheSubversive Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989.
Reynolds, David S., and Kimberly R. Gladman. "Introduction." In Venus in Boston and Other Tales of Nineteenth-Century City Life, by George Thompson, pp. ix–liv. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2002.
Rothman, David J. "Perfecting the Prison." In The OxfordHistory of the Prison: The Practice of Punishment in Western Society, edited by Norval Morris and David J. Rothman. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Smith-Rosenberg, Carroll. Religion and the Rise of theAmerican City: The New York City Mission Movement, 1812–1870. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1971.
Staples, William G. Castles of Our Conscience: Social Control and the American State, 1800–1985. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1990.
Thomas, Brook. Cross-Examinations of Law and Literature:Cooper, Hawthorne, Stowe, and Melville. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Tucher, Andie. Froth and Scum: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and the Ax-Murder in America's First Mass Medium. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.
Crime and Punishment
Crime and Punishment
Mesopotamian Laws of Homicide. In ancient Near Eastern law collections, laws regarding homicide are rare. In fact, except for a mention in the Sumerian laws of Ur-Namma (circa 2112 - circa 2095 b.c.e.)—“If a man commits murder, that man is to be killed“—Mesopotamian legal collections assume but do not clearly state that homicide was illegal. The Laws of Hammurabi (circa 1792 -circa 1750 b.c.e.) include no direct statement outlawing homicide. They include hypothetical examples of situations and circumstances that distinguished between intentional murder and various unintentional forms of homicide. The case of a wife who acted as an accessory to the murder of her husband is one of these hypothetical examples.
Homicide as a Property Offense. In the ancient Near East, where there was no criminal law in the modern sense, homicide was considered a civil, rather than criminal, offense. Civil law addresses the rights of private individuals and the legal proceedings concerning those rights; the appropriate remedy for civil offense is usually some form of compensation. Murder was primarily viewed as a private affair within the community, a civil offense against property. By intentionally shedding the blood of another individual, the murderer “stole property” that rightfully belonged to the victim and his immediate family. The crime was communal rather than individual, and the family of the perpetrator was expected to atone for it. The deceased’s next of kin possessed the right to avenge their loss. The deceased’s family also needed to retrieve the victim’s corpse and ensure that it received a proper burial. If the victim’s blood was not retrieved, it was feared that his ghost might become one of the “evil ones,” the wandering dead, restless spirits troubled and roving, seeking to take revenge for their misery on the living.
Punishment by Revenge. It is not known what percentage of homicide cases were settled by private revenge. Sumerian legal and literary texts written circa 2100 - circa 1800 b.c.e. indicate that homicide and many other offenses were considered capital crimes and that the offenders could be subject to trial. At present the process and details of detention, trial, and execution are poorly understood. Individuals accused of capital offenses were brought to the “great house,” where a trial took place. If convicted, the offender could receive the death sentence and be placed in a dungeon prior to execution. Little is known about the actual execution. According to a text from the Old Babylonian period (circa 1894 - circa 1595 b.c.e.), a slave who killed a member of the landowning class was put to death for the murder he committed: “Because he (the slave) threw the boy into the oven, you (the master) throw the slave into the furnace.”
Compensation in Lieu of Execution. While the Old Babylonian codes do not deal directly with intentional homicide, they imply that the manslayer will be executed by the victim’s next of kin. Later texts, beginning at the end of the second millennium b.c.e., indicate that the formulary of “an eye for an eye” meant capital punishment to be viewed as a maximum penalty. In most cases “execution” was not to be taken literally. A member of the landed class had the option of reaching a monetary settlement with the victim’s next of kin. If a settlement was not reached, then the victim’s relatives could petition the courts to impose the death penalty. Legal formulas stating that a monetary payment could be made in lieu of revenge developed in the later part of the second millennium b.c.e.
Middle Assyrian Laws of Compensation. The clearest legal description of compensation for spilled blood is found in Middle Assyrian laws (MAL) dating to the twelfth century b.c.e., wherein the deceased’s nearest living relative could claim compensation for loss by negotiating a monetary settlement with the manslayer in lieu of spilled blood. If, however, a compensation settlement could not be reached, then the next of kin possessed the right to seek revenge by killing the blood shedder:
If either a man or a woman (intentionally) entered another man’s house and killed either a man or a woman, they shall give the murderers to the next of kin, and if he (the next of kin) chooses, he may spare them but take their property…. (MAL A §10)
If one among brothers … took a life, they shall give him up to the next of kin; if he chooses, the next of kin may put him to death, or if he chooses, he may be willing to settle and take his share. (MAL B §2)
THE LAWS OF HAMMURABI
The following outline shows the areas of law covered in Hammurabi’s legal code;
I. Basic Rules of Evidence and Testimony (§§1-5)
II. Property Law
1. Theft of Goods (§§6-13)
2. Kidnapping (§14)
3. Slavenapping (§§15-20)
4. Theft of Private Property (§§21-25)
B. Transfers and Forfeitures of Personal Property of a Public Servant (§§26-35)
C. Impairment of Landed Property
1. Fields (§§36-58)
2. Tenant Laws (§§42-52)
3. Damages to another’s field (§§53-58)
4. Orchards: (§§59-66)
a. Tenant Laws
5. Houses (§§67-78)
6. Not preserved (§§79-87)
D. Loans and Safekeeping-Deposits (§§88-126)
III. Marriage and Family Law (§§127-194)
IV. Torts (Property Damage)
A. Personal Injury Law
1. Personal assault (§§195-214)
2. Medical malpractice (§§215-225)
3. Removal of Slave Marks (§§226-227)
4. Personal Injury from Poorly Built Houses (§§226-227)
B. Fees and Damages
1. Boats (§§234-240)
2. Oxen (§§241-256)
3. Miscellaneous (§§257-260)
5. Miscellananeous Rates of Hire §§ (268-277)
A. Purchases and Claims (§§278-281)
B. Insolence (§282)
Source: Martha T. Roth, Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, second edition (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997).
Murder, Pollution, and Execution. Spilling human blood within the confines of the temple was an action that polluted the home of the deity. The manslayer and the temple were both stained by the murder. The pollution produced by such murders endangered the efficacy of rituals and imperiled the welfare of the immediate community. Because the temple was an institution that served the great gods and protected the community through the enactment of rituals against demonic forces, such an offense threatened societal order. It could not be treated as a private crime to be satisfied by a monetary payment to the victim’s family; it demanded expiation. Only execution of the offender would serve to sweep away the pollution. Similarly, the murder of a member of the royal house was considered an offense that created pollution imperiling the state at large. In a text written during the seventh century b.c.e., the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (680-669 b.c.e.) warned a vassal that if the crown prince, Ashurbanipal (who survived to rule Assyria in 668 - circa 627 b.c.e.), were killed during a rebellion, the vassal was obligated by the terms of the treaty to capture and put to death the instigators of the revolt. The execution of the rebel leader would avenge the death of the crown prince, by shedding blood for blood, and purge the land from the threat of rebellion by the rebel’s descendants.
Babylonian Laws of Unintentional Homicide. Babylonian law also treats homicide as injury to property. In cases of unintentional homicide—that is, when a person causes the death of another without any clear intent to do harm— the deceased’s next of kin could seek damages for their loss of property. As opposed to suits that dealt with murder (that is, intentional homicide), the plaintiffs actions in most instances of unintentional homicide were brought without the option of revenge. Only in cases where the offender was considered to be criminally negligent did the victim’s family have the option to put the offender to death. Babylonian laws of unintentional homicide are comparable to modern tort law, in which as a result of a private or civil wrong or injury, the court provides damages. Today, for example, in cases of death in automobile accidents or in claims for damages in medical-malpractice suits where there does not exist sufficient proof or evidence of intent for murder, damages are awarded to the plaintiff.
Tort Law. Instances of unintentional homicide are often grouped together in tort sections of Babylonian law collections. In tort cases the possible polluting consequence of property damage was not at issue; without intent, the assailant was not considered to be a manslayer, and there were no evil consequences to assess. Babylonian law centered on the amount of damages and subsequent level of personal-injury reward. The level of liability of the tort-feasoir—the losing defendant—was therefore assessed together with a determination of the amount of remuneration due to the victim’s family. By describing unintentional homicide in purely monetary terms, the law placed limits on the assailant’s liability and thus protected the offender and his family from unbridled revenge or outrageous damage claims by the victim’s next of kin.
Personal Injury Without Intent to Do Harm. Babylonian law examined the classic case of a fight to illustrate personal injury without premeditated intent to do harm. In the cases cited below two members of the propertied class became engaged in a brawl; blows were exchanged; and one of the combatants was hurt. The fight was not planned, and there existed no premeditated intent to do harm. Neither party was considered to be at fault, and thus no negligence was involved; liability was limited to physicians’ fees:
If a free man has struck a(nother) free man in a brawl and has inflicted an injury on him that free man shall swear, “I did not strike him deliberately,” and he shall also pay for the physician. If he has died because of his blow, he shall swear (as before), and if it was a member of the propertied class, he shall pay one-half mina (30 shekels) of silver. (LH §§206-207)
Court Decision. The Babylonian court in the Case of a Brawl established lack of intent to cause personal injury by instructing the assailant to swear under oath that he did not intend to cause harm. By establishing first that there was no intent to do harm, the offender was cleared of a charge of aggravated assault. Without premeditation or intent to injure the other party, the offender was also not considered to be negligent in his actions, and his liability was limited to compensating the injured party for damages. The court, therefore, ordered him to pay only for his victim’s doctor bills. If, however, the injured party died, then the assailant could compensate for the crime by paying a limited fee up to a maximum of 30 shekels of silver. There existed no evil and no pollution in this case, as death resulted from an unpremeditated blow.
Negligence. In the above case the court first established the circumstances under which the injury occurred (a fight) and found no intent to do harm. In a contrasting case, the law examined a different set of circumstances and came to a different conclusion. If a contractor’s work was so shoddy that a house that he had built collapsed and caused the death of the head of the household, the builder was considered to be liable and the amount of damage was assessed on the basis of his culpable negligence: “If a builder constructed a house for a man, but did not make his work strong, with the result that the house that he built collapsed and so caused the death of the owner of the house, that builder shall be put to death” (LH §229). In this case the court determined that, even though it was not his intention to kill the owner of the house, the builder must have been aware that he was responsible for the safety of the household. As a result of his unsafe substandard work, an individual died. The builder should have inspected his work for defects and foreseen the dangerous consequences of poor workmanship. The court viewed his actions as constituting gross negligence in reckless disregard for the safety of the household.
Culpable Negligence. Given his culpable negligence in this matter, the court reasoned that the builder could be subject to revenge by the next of kin if a proper settlement was not reached. The court’s ruling indicated that it did not think the builder intentionally designed the house to collapse; thus, he was precluded from a charge of intentional homicide. Nevertheless, the builder faced consequences that could potentially lead to his death if he did not agree to settle the suit. One may assume that the statement “that builder shall be put to death” acted as a powerful incentive to urge him to offer the deceased’s family a proper settlement.
Damage to Property. Ancient Near Eastern legal tradition examined the issue of damage to property without clear intent to do harm in the Case of the Goring Ox. This case was well known in both Mesopotamia and the Hebrew Bible. It appears in the Laws of Eshnunna, the Code of Hammurabi, and in the biblical Covenant Code (Exodus 21-23). The Laws of Eshnunna (LE §53) examine negligence and liability by describing a case of nonneg-ligent civil injury. “A’s” ox has gored “B’s” ox, and “B’s” ox has died. It is uncertain whether “B’s” ox was vicious or incited “A’s” ox to anger. There is also no indication that “A” was at fault. As neither party was liable, the law called for a division of damages. “B” therefore had the right to sue, but damages could be awarded only up to half of the value of the dead ox. By issuing a split decision, the court gave both parties due compensation so that both shared in their respective loss. “A” paid out 50 percent of the value of the dead ox, and “B” absorbed the rest. Here the assumption was made that the two animals involved in the incident were worth an equivalent amount of money. One may assume that if the animals had different market values then the owner’s losses would have been subject to negotiation based on the principle of equity.
The Case of the Vicious Dog. In the Laws of Eshnunna (LE) the Case of the Goring Ox was followed by the Case of the Vicious Dog. After having been warned by the authorities to keep his dog penned up, the owner allowed it to roam loose. The dog bit a man and caused his death:
If a dog is vicious and the local authorities have brought the fact to the knowledge of its owner, if nevertheless, he does not keep it in, and it bites a man and causes his death, then the owner of the dog shall pay out ⅔ mina (40 shekels) of silver. (LE §56)
The code examined this case to determine whether the owner of the dog was culpably negligent. Here the tort-feasor’s liability was determined on the basis of the owner’s prior knowledge of the special danger posed to the community by allowing his potentially vicious dog to wander at will. Once the owner has been forewarned, strict liability followed from the official notice.
The Case of the Collapsing Wall. The Code of Eshnunna also described a wall that was known to be likely to collapse. After the authorities informed him that his wall posed a public danger, the owner made no attempt to repair it. If the wall cllapsed and caused the death of a passerby, then the owner’s negligence bordered on being criminal:
If a wall is threatening to fall and the local authorities have brought the fact to the knowledge of its owner, if nevertheless he does not strengthen his wall, (and) the wall collapses and causes a free man’s death, then it is a capital offense (under) the jurisdiction of the king. (LE §58)
In the Case of the Vicious Dog, a pedestrian might be able to determine visually that a loose dog was vicious, but no warning was available for the danger of sudden death from a collapsing wall. By describing first the Case of the Goring Ox and by continuing with vicious dogs and collapsing walls, the legal tradition began with an instance of non-negligence and then moved into areas of culpable negligence arranged in order of increasing danger and liability. Even though the wall has caused the death of a nobleman, however, there is no mention of pollution or expiation—in contrast to the death of a member of the priest class murdered within the confines of the temple.
Laws of Hammurabi: The Case of the Goring Ox. The version of the Case of the Goring Ox in the Laws of Hammurabi begins with a case in which an ox accidentally killed a human being. The owner of the ox was not considered to be culpably negligent and was therefore not liable to a charge of contributory negligence. No indemnity was involved:
HITTITE HOMICIDE LAW
The Hittites of central Anatolia adopted the cuneiform writing system and used it to write out their distinctive Indo-European language. A Hittite law composed around the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries B.C.E. specifically refers to monetary payments to be made to the immediate heir or legal representative of the victim’s family:
If anyone kills a man or a woman in a [quarrjel, he shall [bring him] for burial and shall give four persons, male or female respectively. He shall look [to his house for it (that is, the victim’s heir is entitled to damages from the estate of the perpetrator)]. (HL §1)
In the Edict of Telepinu, written circa 1500 b.c.e., the Hittite king declared that compensation for homicide was the norm in his kingdom:
A matter of blood is as follows. Whoever does blood, whatever the owner of the blood says: If he says, “Let him die!” he shall die. If he says, “Let him compensate!” he shall compensate….
In a letter dated circa 1270 b.c.e., a Hittite king explained that the slaying of Babylonian merchants in Syria could be redressed only through compensation and that it was not customary for the Hittites to impose the death penalty for murder:
(You write me that) merchants are being killed in the land of Amurru and in Ugarit—nobody kills (merchants) in Hatti (but that) they the killer of the person and give notice to the companions of the murdered man, and his companions take the blood money for the murdered man, but they [let] the killer [liver?] and only purify the city in which the person was killed—but if his companions do not want to accept the blood money, they may make the killer of that person [their slave?].
Sources: Hany A. Hoffner Jr., “Hittite Laws,” in Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, by Martha X Roth, second edition (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997), pp. 213–245.
Hoffner, The Laws of the Hittites: A Critical Edition, Documents et Monu-menta Orientis Antiqui, volume 23 (Leiden&New York: Brill, 1997).
If an ox, when it was walking along the street, gored a man to death, that case is not subject to claim. (LH §250)
THE CASE OF THE MURDERED TEMPLE PRIEST
A cuneiform tablet written in Sumerian and containing a record of a trial a for murder was discovered in 1950 in an excavation in Iraq. The tablet does not contain the original trial record. It is a condensed summary and description of courtroom proceedings recorded for study and exposition in Mesopotamian schools. The text of the case describes a trial for murder that took place in the sacred temple city of Nippur during the reign of Ur-Ninurta (circa 1923 - circa 1896 B.C.E.) of Isin. Two men, Nanna-sig and Ku-Enlila, and a slave named Enlil-ennam were accused of killing Lu-Inana, a nishakkum-priest in the temple of Nippur. According to die record of the trial, the defendants had informed the victim’s wife diat they had murdered her husband, but the woman, Nin-dada, kept the identity of her husband’s murderers a secret and did not notify the authorities. The case was brought before the king, who assigned the trial to be 1 led before the judicial assembly at the temple of Nippur:
Nanna-sig, son of Lu-Suena, Ku-Enlila, son of Ku-Nanna the barber, and Enlil-ennam, slave of Adda-kalla, the orchardman murdered Lu-Lnana, son of Lugaluru the nishakkum-priest. After Lu-Inana, son of Lugal-uru had been killed, they (the murderers) told Nin-dada, daughter of Lu-Ninurta, wife of Lu-Inana, that Lu-Inana, her husband, had been murdered. Nin-dada, daughter of Lu-Ninurta, did not open her mouth, she covered it up (and kept silent). The case was taken to Isin before the lung. King Ur-Niurta ordered their case to be accepted for trial in the Assembly of Nippur.
The nine members of the court—Ur-Gula, son of Lugal-ibila; Dudu, the birdcatcher; Ali-ellati, the mushkenum; Puzu, son of Lu-Suena (possibly brother of the accused); Eluti, son of Tizkar-Ea; Shesh-kalla, the potter; Lugal-kam, the orchard keeper; Lugal-azida, son of Suen-andul; and Shesh-kalla, son of Shara-HAR—presented the case against the accused. They argued that the two men and the slave as well as the victim’s wife were all guilty of murder and should be slain before the priest’s chair (that is, symbolically in the presence of their victim).
(They) addressed (the assembly as follows): ’As men who have killed a man they are not (fit to be) alive. The males (all) three of them and that woman before the (official) chair of Lu-Inana, son of Lugal-uru, the nishakkum priest, should be killed.”
Two men in the assembly then spoke in defense of the victim’s wife. They pleaded that, although the wife may have been an accessory to the murder, as a woman, she had little choice but to hide her knowledge of the crime. They implied that if she admitted knowledge of the crime she would have placed her own life in danger. Shuqalilum, the erin-gal-gal of the infantry of Ninurta, and Ubar-Enzu, the orchard keeper, addressed the assembly: “Nin-dada, daughter of Lu-Ninurta, may have killed her husband; but what can a woman do (under such circumstances) that she is to be killed?”
The elders of the Nippur assembly replied that the wife kept silent in order to cover the fact that she was having an affair with one of the murderers. If she admitted knowledge of the crime, they implied, she would have been acknowledging her affair. Rather than have her affair become public, the victim’s wife conspired with her paramour and others to murder her husband. Her silence indicated her complicity. The elders concluded that the victim’s wife acted as if she were an adulteress. In their view, she—more than any other person—was responsible for the death of her husband:
A woman who does not treasure her husband, she may surely be the type who would have had intercourse with a stranger, and he the stranger would then murder her husband. Should he the (paramour) then let her know that her husband had been killed—why should she then not keep silent about him? It is certainly she (more than anyone else) who killed her husband, her guilt is greater than (those who actually committed the crime).
Spilling human blood in the temple polluted the home of the deity. The manslayer and the temple were both stained by the murder, which endangered the efficacy of rituals and imperiled the welfare of the community, threatening societal order. It could not be treated as a private crime, satisfied by a monetary payment to the victim’s family. The murderer’s transgression exposed society to danger, and it demanded expiation. The Assembly of Nippur condemned Nanna-sig, son of Lu-Enzu, Ku-Enlilla, son of Ku-Nanna, the barber, Enlil-ennam, slave of Adda-kalla, the orchardman, and Nin-dada, daughter of Lu-Ninurta, wife of Lu-Inana, to death.
Sources: J. J. Finkelstein, “Sumerian Laws, YBC 2177,” in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, edited by James Bennett Pritchard, third edition with supplement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), p. 542.
Thorlrild Jacobscn, “An Ancient Mesopotamian Trial for Homicide,” in Toward the Image of Tammuz and Other Essays on Mesopotamian History and Culture, edited by William L. Moran, Harvard Semitic Series, volume 21 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970), pp. 193–214.
Indemnity. The code continues by describing circumstances that clearly warranted a charge of negligence. Instead of assuming that the ox simply became frightened and panicked in the street or that it gored an individual by accident, the tradition now describes the ox as a habitual gorer, a known menace to the public safety. Being aware of this ox’s propensity to gore, the authorities warned its owner that his animal had to be kept penned and tied up at all times. If the ox were walked in the street, the owner was instructed to insure the public safety by padding the ox’s horns.
If a man’s ox was a gorer and local authorities notify him that it was a gorer, but he did not pad its horns (or) control his ox, and that ox gores to death a free man, he (the owner) shall pay one-half mina (30 shekels) of silver. (LH §251)
Court Decision. The owner of the ox failed to either tether his animal or to pad its horns, and as a result the ox ran amuck and killed a nobleman. Under these circumstances the owner was certainly liable for damages. He wantonly disregarded the authorities’ warning and therefore acted in reckless disregard for public safety. His actions, however, were not criminal in intent. The owner lost control of the animal in the street; he did not train the ox to be a gorer; that is, the owner probably thought that he could manage the animal when he let it out into the street.
Compensation for Loss of Property. In the Case of the Goring Ox, the family of the deceased was compensated for the loss of a human life. The value of the nobleman’s life was quantified, and liability was limited to a maximum of fifty shekels of silver. As the owner of the ox earned his living in agriculture, he was allowed to keep the animal as a means of sustaining his livelihood.
Death of a Slave. The life of a member of the landowning class was deemed proportionally more valuable than that of a slave. If a slave were killed by a vicious dog or a goring ox, the owner of the dog or ox was obligated to pay only the replacement cost of the slave and nothing more:
If it was a free man’s slave (that was killed by the goring ox), he shall pay one-third mina (20 shekels) of silver. (LH §252)
If (a vicious dog) bites a slave and causes its death, he shall pay 15 shekels of silver. (LE §57)
Theft in the Laws of Hammurabi. Rules regarding theft of valuable goods belonging to the temple or palace were treated as capital offenses (LH §6). The death penalty was also imposed for theft of a child (LH §14), breaking and entering (LH §§21-22), and theft of household furnishings taken during a fire (LH §25). Suspicion of theft was not determinative. The offender had to be caught in the act (that is, in the presence of witnesses) or in possession of another’s goods (LH §9). Laws regarding common theft (LH §§259-260) were punishable by multiple restitution.
Babylonian and Biblical Laws of Assault. As in Babylonian legal codes, cases of personal injury are also treated as damage to personal property in the Hebrew Bible. All part of the ancient Near Eastern common legal tradition, three major cases are described in the Bible: accidental injury resulting from a brawl (Exodus 21:18-19), an accidental blow to a pregnant woman resulting in a miscarriage (Exodus 21:22), and accidental death from a goring ox (Exodus 21:28-35).
The Biblical Case of the Goring Ox. Some scholars have argued that the biblical version of the Case of the Goring Ox was based on knowledge of its Babylonian counterparts. In both instances the laws deal with wrongful damage: a situation in which an individual is not directly responsible for a death but is an accessory in a circumstance that led to the death of a man. In both examples, the law sought to establish the fact that knowledge of a potentially dangerous situation is a condition of liability. As in Babylonian law, the Bible also deals with the complex issue of the habitually goring ox, citing circumstances that parallel the Law of Eshnunna (§§53 ff) and the Laws of Hammurabi (§§250 ff):
If, however, that ox has long been a gorer and its owner, though warned, has failed to guard it and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner too shall be put to death. He (the owner) may redeem his life, however, by paying whatever ransom (kofer) is laid upon him. (Exodus 21:29)
In the biblical version of this case the owner is responsible for the actions of his ox. The law establishes the fact that the owner had already been told his animal had a propensity to gore and that the owner had chosen to ignore this warning. If the owner did not heed the warning and did not take adequate precautions, such as padding the ox’s horns, he was subjecting the community to the peril of encountering a potentially homicidal animal. If the ox killed a man or a woman, the owner was not only criminally negligent but was an accessory to murder. In contrast to the Babylonian laws, in which the owner gets to keep the goring ox and pays a fine for damages, the Bible specifies that the ox is to be killed, and the death penalty is imposed on the criminally negligent owner. In the Bible, property can always be replaced, but a human life cannot.
The Biblical Rule of Ransom. Biblical law does indicate however, that the owner can redeem his life by paying a ransom—the only instance in the Bible in which a person sentenced to death can be ransomed by payment. Elsewhere, such penalties are expressly forbidden, even if a homicide is unintentional:
You may not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of a capital crime; he must be put to death. Nor may you accept ransom in lieu of flight to a city of refuge… (Numbers 35:31-32)
Expiation Payment. The kofer, or ransom payment, was an expiation offering, a ritual attempt to cleanse the guilt that lay on the sanctuary. This offering cannot be measured in pecuniary terms; it is not an award for damages to the victim’s kin, but a payment to expiate sin. By paying a kofer the owner ransomed his life. In Israel, as a noble man or woman could not have a market price, the amount of the kofer could not be quantified but was determined by reckoning. If the ox’s owner was not able to make payment, he could be sold as a slave (Exodus 22:2).
Inviolable Human Life. By describing the penalty for the death of a man or a woman in terms of the death of the ox and the payment of an offering by the owner, the Bible rejects the Babylonian concern over property indemnity and avoids the necessity of having to measure the value of a human life. Because it was inconceivable to place an assessment of value on an image of God, the value of the kofer was left purposely vague: “the owner may redeem his life by paying whatever is laid upon him” (Exodus 21:30).
J. J. Finkelstein, The Ox that Gored, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, volume 71, part 2 (Philadelphia: American Philological Society, 1981).
Samuel Greemgus, “Law,” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 6 volumes, edited by David N. Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), IV: 242-252.
Moshe Greenberg, “The Biblical Grounding of Human Value,” in The Samuel Friedland Lectures, 1960-1966 (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1966), pp. 39-52.
Claudio Saporetti, The Middle Assyrian Laws (Malibu, Cal.: Undena, 1984).
Raymond Westbrook, Studies in Biblical and Cuneiform Law (Paris: J. Gabalda, 1988).
Westbrook, ed., A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law (Leiden: Brill, 2003).
Crime and Punishment
Crime and Punishment
Medieval Origins. The English epic Beowulf is a tale of bravery and vengeance. The evil monster Grendel periodically kills Hrothgar’s warriors until the hero Beowulf arrives. In a heated battle, Beowulf tears Grendel’s arm off and forces the mortally wounded monster to flee. Peace is briefly restored, but Grendel’s mother soon appears seeking blood vengeance for the death of her son. She kills Hrothgar’s favorite adviser and thus the vendetta continues. Eventually, Beowulf kills Grendel’s mother, and the feud ends because Grendel has no living relatives.
Transition. The unwritten code of the blood feud demanded vengeance whenever kin or a knightly retainer was killed. These contests could end when one side was eliminated or when a killer paid wergild, or the price of a man, to the family of the victim. The money served as an example that the dead man’s kin had acted correctly by defending him. The use of wergild was an early step in the transition from blood feud to the modern court system. Medieval crimes were viewed as attacks on an entire family, and thus the family was required to pursue justice. Blood feuds were replaced with civilized court cases in the twelfth century because territorial lords had sufficient power to legislate kinship vengeance. Rulers redefined crimes as attacks on the state instead of mere attacks on the individual. These changes contributed to the distinction between criminal cases and civil cases. Individuals could still pursue civil cases, but the state became responsible for criminal cases. Twelfth-century changes in the notion of crime evolved over the course of the Renaissance and Reformation into new forms of justice, new beliefs about immorality, and new ways of handling perpetrators. These changes contributed to the origins of the modern prison system.
Refinement. Urban officials were also seeking ways to end private vengeance within their walls at the same time that powerful territorial rulers redefined the role of the courts. William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1594-1595) is a story of family vengeance that tears a city apart and creates unnecessary strife. Similarly, cities and territorial princes transferred the burden of justice from the family of the person wronged to the state: families ceased to accuse someone of wronging them and the state began to inquire into criminal activities and eventually to bring charges against criminals. This shift from accusatory justice to inquisitorial justice did not happen at the same time across Europe, and some areas never adopted inquisitorial trials. Yet, the rise of juries in accusatory systems, such as in England, corresponded with the rise of inquisition processes in areas that combined Roman and canon law traditions.
Ordeals. These changes originated in 1215 when the Fourth Lateran Council of the Roman Church outlawed ordeals from church courts and thus effectively eliminated them from secular courts as well. The ordeal was a way to test whether a person was telling the truth. An accused person would offer an oath certifying the honesty of testimony and then the person was physically tested, usually with hot water or hot irons. The ordeal was a natural development of the blood-feud mentality of Beowulf’s age: Beowulf fought three main battles, or ordeals, where he proved that God was on his side by killing his opponent. The shift from actual battle to the battle of oaths included a Christian component: oaths were sacred and it was believed that God would intervene and determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. The Fourth Lateran Council prohibited priests from participating in ordeals and thus the ordeal disappeared from church and state judicial processes. However, one remnant of the ordeal was the belief that torture was an acceptable form of extracting a confession. The ordeal was, after all, a form of torture meant to persuade the guilty to confess.
Marian Statutes. The elimination of the ordeal as a viable judicial process forced rulers across Europe to develop suitable replacements. The methods tended to develop along two lines: accusatory justice with trials in England, and inquisitorial trials based on a mixture of Roman and canon law for the rest of Europe. English accusatory trials were based on someone bringing an accusation against another person. If the accused was imprisoned, then the accuser was also usually imprisoned. The entire process attempted to be fair to both parties. To maintain impartiality, the trial was a public event with both sides sharing access to the evidence. Accusations were brought before a justice of the peace, a title that first appeared in the 1360s, a decade after the onset of the Black Death. Justices were usually local gentry who were initially called upon to deal with vagrancy and other local problems. Over time, they became responsible for all pretrial procedures. Justices of the peace would try minor criminal cases but more serious crimes were tried before juries. Jurors were initially citizens who came forward as witnesses before the monarch’s judges. By the fourteenth century, jurors assumed their modern role as evaluators of the case. Grand juries were used to hand the accused over to the court for trial and petty juries of twelve jurors rendered verdicts. After Henry VIII broke with the Roman Church, the crown attempted to use criminal law as a tool for enforcing conformity to the Church of England. The Court of Star Chamber (criminal cases) and the Court of High Commission (ecclesiastical law and doctrinal cases) sat without juries and adopted the inquisitorial methods of Continental legal systems. The two courts were highly partisan and were finally abolished in 1640 when Parliament gained sufficient power to do away with them. In 1554-1555, the Marian Statutes, named after Queen Mary, established the procedures upon which the modern English system of justice was built. The Marian Statutes demanded that justices of the peace examine suspects and witnesses, make a written record of any testimony, and certify that record to a trial court. Historians debate whether these developments were adapted from the Continental Roman-canon law tradition or if they were a natural progression of the English system. The exact degree of Continental influence may never be determined, but virtually all historians agree that the Marian Statutes established the foundation for a legal system in which the individual ceased to bring accusations, and the government began to replace the local community as the source of justice.
Joan of Arc, the French heroine of Orleans, was captured by the BurgxmdiaES at Cornpiegne and turned over to the English, who tried, convicted, and executed her for alleged witchcraft. She was burned at the stake on 30 May 1431, The following section is a description of her defense during her trial.
On Wednesday, May 9th of the same year , Joan was brought into the great tower of the castle of Rouen before us the said judges. And [she] was required and admonished to speak the truth on many different points contained in her trial which she had denied or to which she had given false replies, whereas we possessed certain information, proofs, and vehement presumptions upon them. Many of the points were read and explained to her, and she was told that if she did not confess them truthfully she would be put to the torture, the instruments of which were shown to her all ready in the tower. They were also present by our instruction men ready to put her to the torture in order to restore her to the way and knowledge of truth, and by this means to procure the salvation of her body and soul which by her lying inventions she exposed to such grave perils.
To which the said Joan answered in this manner: “Truly if you were to tear me limb from limb and separate my soul from my body, I would not tell you anything more: and if I did say anything, I should afterwards declare that you had compelled me to say it by force.” Then she said that on Holy Cross Day last she received comfort from St. Gabriel; she firmly believes it was St Gabriel She knew by her voices whether she should submit to the Church, since the clergy were pressing her hard to submit. Her voices told her that if she desired Our Lord to aid her she must wait upon Him in all her doings. She said that Our Lord has always been the master of her doings, and the Enemy never had power over them. She asked her voices if she would be burned and they answered that she must wait upon God, and He would aid her.
Source: The Trial of Jeanne D’Ard translated by W. P. Barrett (New York: Gotham House, 1932), pp. 303-304.
Burden of the State. After the Fourth Lateran Council, Continental Europe tended to follow the Roman law tradition while incorporating a strong dose of canon law. The resulting Roman-canon law system employed inquisitorial trials that were quite distinct from the open jury trials of the English accusatory model. This tradition evolved out of efforts at the Fourth Lateran Council to reform the Church and society. The Council attempted to control the beliefs and actions of the laity, reform the clergy, stifle heresy, deal with non-Christian minorities within society, and to institutionalize a process of church inquisition. The first four goals combined to provide a new impetus for the creation of inquisitional practices. In order to monitor belief and stop heresy, the Church needed a severe legal system that could sniff out and destroy heresy. Since heresy was the equivalent of treason against God, it was punished by death. The Roman-canon law tradition allowed the Church and the state to progress through inquisition trials that involved the authorities initiating legal procedures without actual accusations. Courts took the initiative and began investigations by collecting evidence and arresting suspects. The authorities ceased to be bystanders at trials and became the force of the trial. Communal self-regulation based on communal deliberations were replaced with a system of prosecution exerted from above. Moreover, the inquisitorial model called for two eyewitnesses or a confession; hence, torture became an accepted method of extracting confessions. Vengeance became a burden of the state.
Inquisition. In 1231 Pope Gregory IX gave a convent of Dominicans the right to form an inquisitorial tribunal. This right came directly from the papacy and was part of a trend in the Roman Catholic Church. The inquisition was not one uniform movement, rather it was a series of court proceedings aimed at destroying heresy. In the fifteenth century, territorial princes realized the political potential of inquisitions and used them to attack political enemies. For instance, Joan of Arc convinced the French dauphin that God had chosen her to save France, and subsequently the French rallied to her side. Her activities changed the course of the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453), yet the king of France did not intervene on her behalf when she was caught by Burgundians and sold to the English. While she was held by the English, French churchmen tried her as a heretic and witch. She was burned at the stake on 30 May 1431. Joan of Arc’s military career was unique, but she was one of many who were condemned and executed in the name of the Inquisition.
Auto-de-fe. The auto-de-fe was the public sentencing of heretics by the Inquisition. After sentencing, the convicted were turned over to the government for punishments that included public burning. The government was obliged to wait at least twenty-four hours but not more than five days. Heresy alone was not sufficient reason for burning at the stake. One needed to be obstinate in his or her belief, thus only relapsed or unrepentant heretics were burnt. While tied to the stake, the condemned usually had the opportunity to repent, and thus be strangled before being burned, or they could choose to remain obstinate and be roasted alive. The Church convicted a person of heresy, and then turned the person over to the state, so the Inquisition was not actually responsible for the burning. The church thus avoided pollution of the clergy by the shedding of blood. Burning was used in order to annihilate, or completely destroy, the person. This event exterminated forever any memory of the shameful person or the evil deeds and thus purified the community. Ultimately, the community would avoid God’s wrath against it by destroying all memory of the deeds. The auto-de-fe originated as a religious act of penitence and justice, but it evolved into a public spectacle. Bernard Gui held several famous auto-de-fe in early-fourteenth-century France. In all of these ceremonies, he was careful to exact an oath of obedience from royal officials and local magistrates. By the time the Spanish Inquisition held its first auto-de-fe in 1481, such oaths were not necessary because the state was part of the Inquisition.
Spanish Inquisition. In the mid sixteenth century, the auto-de-fe became a public ceremony of the Spanish Inquisition. The ceremonial auto-de-fe was developed by Inquisitor General Fernando de Valdés in response to the discovery of Protestant heretics in Spain in 1558. The first new-style auto-de-fe was in May 1559 in Valladolid. The presence and patronage of the royal court legitimized the procedures, which were incorporated two years later in the inquisitorial Instructions. The actual burning took place on large scaffolds in public squares. They occurred on feast days with an audience of leading officials and the public. Many spectators frequently traveled long distances to attend. For instance, thirty thousand people attended the 1610 Logroño auto-de-fe despite the fact that the town had only four thousand residents.
Procedures. Inquisitors usually would arrive in an area and announce a grace period where all could confess sins. Males over age fourteen and females over age twelve were required to offer personal confessions and to report any indiscretions in the community. The resulting atmosphere of suspicion would continue as the grace period was recalculated. Inquisitors then incarcerated potential heretics without offering explicit charges and without explaining who the accusers were and what they had said. Heretics were presumed guilty until proven innocent and thus lost all rights, including control over their own property. If heretics did not confess, then the inquisitors would show them the tools of torture and explain what would happen if they did not cooperate. Ecclesiastical inquisitors viewed heretics as the worst possible threat to society and thus they altered procedures in significant ways: names and testimonies of witnesses were withheld, the defendant’s access to counsel was limited, testimony from questionable witnesses was accepted, and the accused was offered false promises of leniency in attempts to win confessions. These changes were significant because government courts turned to the Inquisition as a model for actions. As a result, torture became a standard procedure in most of Europe.
Torture. The Roman-canon legal tradition called for two eyewitnesses or a confession. With the shift to ex officio cases, where the state brought charges against an individual, it was frequently difficult to find two eyewitnesses. Torture was not a means of proof, but rather of obtaining confession. If the court decided that a confession could be obtained, then the accused was given religious encouragement to confess. As in the case of the church investigations, a display of the instruments of torture would be made in order to encourage the accused to confess. Inquisitorial manuals of the late fifteenth century standardized when and how torture would be applied. Prior to that, judges turned to torture as a last recourse in the pursuit of truth. Only acceptable forms could be applied and only after appropriate protocol had been followed. Authorities frowned on innovations in torture and insisted that no blood be shed and that no permanent injury be inflicted. By the end of the fifteenth century, a person of any social class could be tortured, and thus torture served to make each individual equal under the law.
Forms of Torment. The most-common form of torture was the strappado, a pulley system whereby the hands of the accused were tied behind the back and a rope was placed through a pulley or over a beam. The accused was then lifted into the air. Weights were occasionally attached to the feet in order to increase the strain on the shoulders. Children, women, and everyone charged with less severe crimes would simply have their hands tied tightly, then
released and tied again. Other tortures included sleep deprivation and fire torture, where the feet were doused in grease or another flammable substance and then fire was applied to the soles. A victim could also be stretched on a rack or subjected to the water torture. Water torture involved restraining the accused and forcing the person’s mouth open. A piece of linen was placed in the mouth to conduct water down into the throat. The accused had trouble breathing and could die if blood vessels in the neck ruptured. In the sixteenth century, printed handbooks outlined procedures and clarified legal principles of torture. After 1600, more mechanical methods became popular, such as thumb screws and leg screws that were tightened to the point of crushing bones. Once a confession was obtained, the tortured person was given one day of rest and then asked to repeat the confession without further torture. Recanting was useless because the authorities simply reap-plied torture, this time with the conviction that a confession was inevitable because one had already been made.
Court Proceedings. Suspected criminals were taken to criminal courts of the local city or territory. They were placed in jails that served both as places of detention and physical suffering. Suspects were interrogated and encour-aged to confess immediately. Those who did not confess were tortured, and not surprisingly, most suspects confessed at this point. These events occurred without recourse to a defense attorney. The pursuit of justice had become the concern of local authorities, but sentencing was public and thus differed from community to community. Two main factors contributed to the sentencing: the deterrence of future crime and the appearance of merciful courts. Courts were eager to show the mercy of a judgment and they forced the guilty to swear “oaths of truce” stating that the guilty would not seek revenge for the decision. Those sentenced to death were given three days to prepare for death. Those not sentenced to death were usually punished in the part of the body that committed the offense, or they were banished from the community.
Actual Punishments. Mutilations, branding, and flogging were the most common forms of bodily punishment and they were frequently combined with social disgrace such as the pillory. Fines and church punishments involving penance were also issued. One historian has outlined four main levels of punishment: (1) church punishment that allowed the repentant to remain in the community; (2) disgrace that diminished one’s social standing in the community; (3) mutilations that marked one as dead within the community or actual banishment from the community; and (4) death. The last was always a ritualized ceremony. Executions by burning, drowning, and burying alive were common ways to purify the community because they destroyed all traces of the evil person. The bodies of those executed in these manners could not be buried in a churchyard and thus the corpses did not exist from the community’s perspective. In the seventeenth century, these purifying rituals began to disappear when beheading and hanging replaced burning, drowning, and burying alive as the most common forms of execution. Executions were public affairs that sent a mes-sage to the community. The community also participated by witnessing the execution and thereby showing communal consent. Residents who lacked strong social connections were treated more harshly because they lacked public support at the sentencing stage of trials.
Witchcraft. Individuals on the margins of the community were frequently the targets of witchcraft accusations. Charges of heresy were more common than charges of witchcraft, but after 1550 witchcraft became more common. Women who were neither married nor in a house-hold with a male head were especially susceptible to charges of witchcraft. These women frequently were not witches, but they became scapegoats for all types of natural disasters or communal tribulations. Two Dominicans, Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Cramer, wrote Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), a 1486 manual for witch-hunters that included theories about witches and steps for secular courts. Pope Innocent VIII commissioned the work at the same time that he issued a papal bull giving inquisitors license to stamp out witchcraft. Witchcraft was punishable by death according to the 1532 Constitutio Criminalis Carolina law code, but only in cases where harmful magic was documented. Few trials took place until the end of the sixteenth century, by which time legal scholars had redefined all witchcraft as a pact with the devil and thus punishable by death. Most witch trials were inside the Holy Roman Empire or in bordering regions such as France, Bohemia, Poland, and Switzerland. Relatively few trials occurred in areas with a strong inquisition presence such as Spain and Italy. Witchcraft was perceived as so serious a threat that political theorist Jean Bodin claimed that “one accused of being a witch ought never to be fully acquitted and set free” unless the person’s innocence is “clearer than the sun.” Bodin opposed any princely pardons of witches.
Le Stinche. In 1297 the city of Florence began construction of a public prison called Le Stinche. Florence also issued criminal statutes at that time and again in 1355 and 1415. The statutes regulated criminal justice and set guidelines for the prison. Children were occasionally placed in Le Stinche, but all inmates were divided by age, gender, degree of sanity, and the seriousness of the offense. The name Le Stinche became so common in Italy that other citizens of other cities, such as Siena and Pistoia, used Le Stinche as a slang term for their prisons. In 1559 Venice commissioned construction of a prison with four hundred cells for individuals whose capital sentences were commuted to life in prison. This shift toward punitive imprisonment was not consistent with Roman law, but it did share striking similarities with canon law. Royal courts across Europe had looked to Italian legal scholars for guidance when imposing new legal codes and by the end of the sixteenth century they turned to Italian models of punitive imprisonment.
Birth of the Modern Prison. Le Stinche was in many ways a large medieval jail that was also used for confining undisciplined adolescents. Other medieval forms of imprisonment included monasteries that were known to physically restrain monks who wished to leave; hospitals that housed the terminally sick; leper communities; and places of forced labor. The galleys were a common form of forced labor in the Mediterranean area, and across Europe forced labor was used on public building projects, such as fortifications and city walls. Simple banishment was more widespread than imprisonment until the late sixteenth century. The earliest prisons were built after 1550 in areas that did not have galleys, such as England, the Netherlands, North Germany, and Baltic towns. Bridewell was a prison in London, England, that was completed in 1555. Located outside the city walls, it has a prison for undeserving poor. Its mission was clearly punitive as inmates were forced to work to support themselves. Houses of correction established in other English towns frequently used the name Bridewell as a generic title. On the Continent, punitive prisons were constructed in the 1580s and 1590s for able-bodied poor who were forced to work. People were imprisoned for bad habits, such as laziness, instead of specific acts, such as burglary. Urban officials in the sixteenth century began to take control of what had been church charity programs. They were less tolerant of begging than the church and thus wrote elaborate ordinances regulating poor relief. Noncitizens who begged were removed from the city and able-bodied citizens, those deemed capable of working, were prohibited from begging. Idleness became intolerable and beggars were put to work. Early European prisons were not places for hardened criminals, but rather places where authorities could monitor and control people who preferred not to work.
John K. Brackett, Criminal Justice and Crime in Late Renaissance Florence, 1537-1609 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
John Langbein, Prosecuting Crime in the Renaissance: England, Germany, France (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1974).
Petrus Spierenburg, The Prison Experience: Disciplinary Institutions and Their Inmates in Early Modern Europe (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1991).
Spierenburg, The Spectacle of Suffering: Executions and the Evolution of Repression, from a Preindustrial Metropolis to the European Experience (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984).
Laura Ikins Stern, The Criminal Law System of Medieval and Renaissance Florence (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994).
Gerald R. Strauss, Law, Resistance and the State: The Opposition to Roman Law in Reformation Germany (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986).
Richard van Diilmen, Theatre of Horror: Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Germany, translated by Elisabeth Neu (Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1990).
Jonathan W. Zophy, ed., The Holy Roman Empire (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980).
Crime and Punishment
Crime and Punishment
Cities. The period from 1815 to 1850 witnessed important changes in the administration of criminal justice in the United States. These developments primarily reflected two factors. The first was the continued working out of the ideals that had prompted Thomas Jefferson and other leaders of the Revolution to identify criminal justice reform as a key element of the American republic. The second was the social restructuring that followed the War of 1812, particularly the rapid growth of cities that challenged the social order and deepened fears of crime. Many aspects of the city contributed to these apprehensions: the built environment of dark streets and alleys, the size and density of urban populations, the increasing ethnic diversity that accompanied immigration, and the desperate poverty of slums such as Five Points in New York or the Half-Moon District in Boston. Magnified by the city, although not unique to it in the highly mobile society, was the sense that Americans less and less often knew the people around them. The fascination with swindlers and other crimes of trust reflected this anxiety. The term confidence man originated in the United States shortly before midcentury, Herman Melville would use the expression a few years later as the title for a penetrating analysis of nineteenth-century America.
Sensationalism. The popular press that emerged in the early 1830s contributed significantly to developing attitudes toward crime. Penny newspapers such as the Boston Daily Times, the Philadelphia Public Ledger, the New York Sun, and, above all, the New York Herald angled for large markets with the most sensational material available. As Herald editor James Gordon Bennett explained, readers “were more ready to seek six columns of the details of a brutal murder, or the testimony of a divorce case, or the trial of a divine for improprieties of conduct, than the same amount of words poured forth by the genius of the noblest author of the times.” A survey of newspapers in the 1850s concluded that “no narrative of human depravity or crime can shock or horrify an American reader.” The scandal-mongering press was supplemented by such publications as the weekly National Police Gazette and by books and pamphlets narrating the most’lurid cases. The first demonstration of the new place of crime in the national consciousness was the famous “Salem Murder” of 1830, the brutal slaying of retired merchant Capt. Joseph White in Salem, Massachusetts. Brothers Frank and Joseph Knapp were convicted and executed for seeking to benefit from White’s will by hiring Richard Crowninshield to perpetrate the crime; mad with guilt, Crowninshield committed suicide in jail while awaiting trial. Other sensational cases of the era included the trial of Methodist preacher Ephraim K. Avery in 1833 for seducing and then murdering a girl after a camp meeting; the controversial acquittal of New York fop Richard P. Robinson for the murder of prostitute Ellen Jewett; the violent spree of a Kentucky gang led by brothers John and James Harpe; and the adventures of thief John A. Murrell, known as the “Great Western Land Pirate.”
Crime and Culture. The new crime literature was not only more graphic but also more morally ambiguous than the Puritan tradition of gallows sermons and confessions. A bold, charismatic outlaw such as Murrell could now become a posthumous folk hero in America. Some of the most gifted commentators of the age were fascinated by the depravity of notorious criminals. Prosecuting attorney Daniel Webster’s argument to the jury in the Salem Murder case, emphasizing the cool amorality of the Knapp brothers, ranked in cultural significance with his influential political and commemorative orations. Nathaniel Hawthorne took a deep interest in the Salem Murder and other sensational cases, incorporating aspects of them into his fiction. Similarly, Edgar Allan Poe found inspiration for his story “The Tell-Tale Heart” in the Salem Murder and the case of Peter Robinson, who was executed in 1841 after his victim’s corpse was discovered under a floor plank. The murder of New York cigar girl Mary Rogers provided the occasion for
Poe’s “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” one of the works in which he introduced the detective story as a literary genre. The classic detective, characterized more by shrewdness than by righteousness, and operating without the constraints of an official position, in many ways reflected the fascination that criminals had come to exert in American culture and transferred their appealing qualities to the side of justice.
Penitentiaries. The emergence of the penitentiary as a major social institution helped to define the character of the era. Since the Revolution incarceration had gradually displaced such methods of punishment as maiming, whipping, branding, exposure in public stocks, and the extensive use of Capital punishment. Imprisonment was considered not only more humane but also more respectful of the civic dignity of the individual than punishments that relied on public humiliation. Republican principles also called for an end to the practice of imprisoning debtors, which had been a central purpose of detention facilities; without the presence of debtors, prisons could be more thoroughly organized around the treatment of convicts. Consistent with the nineteenth-century faith in education as a panacea for the troubles of society, penitentiaries were to become schools that would effect the reformation of wrongdoers. The penitentiary was one of the first American institutions to draw extensive attention from Europe; Alexis de Tocque-ville came to the United States on an assignment from the French government to study the prison system. More than just a way to reform criminals, the penitentiary became a practical symbol of the broader promise of the republic to transform society.
Rival Systems. The promotion of the penitentiary as a social institution led to a lively debate between advocates of two approaches to prison management. On one side was the so-called Pennsylvania system, exemplified by the Eastern Penitentiary near Philadelphia, which ranked with the Lowell mills and Niagara Falls as one of the destinations most intently studied by travelers. The hallmark of the Pennsylvania system was the complete isolation of inmates in a solitary confinement that prevented them from corrupting each other and promised to break even the strongest will. Locked in separate cells with no distractions except a small gardening plot, prisoners ate, slept, and worked alone, wearing hoods when it became necessary to appear in front of each other. The leading alternative to the Pennsylvania system was known as the “Auburn system” because it had been developed at the New York penitentiary. Its principal champion was Louis Dwight, secretary of the Boston Prison Discipline Society, whose widely circulated reports for that organization made him the most influential prison reformer in the country. Under the Auburn system, prisoners lived separately but ate and worked together in silence enforced by the lash. Advocates of the Pennsylvania and Auburn systems managed to see a wide chasm between the two types of institutions and argued bitterly over which approach was superior. In the most acrimonious phase of the debate during the mid 1840s, the motives were personal as well as philosophical, as the Pennsylvania system became a rallying point for Boston reformers alienated from Dwight’s social circle, including Charles Sumner, Samuel Gridley Howe, and Dorothea Dix. In practical terms, the rivalry was not much of a contest, for the Pennsylvania system was too expensive to be widely adopted. Nor was silence easily maintained under the Auburn system. Reports indicated that it was no longer in force by 1850 at the Massachusetts state prison organized by Dwight, although a Sing Sing inmate of the
late nineteenth century recorded in his memoir that silence remained the rule in that institution.
Capital Punishment. The movement to abolish or sharply limit the death penalty had begun as a continuation of the Revolutionary upheaval. During the 1790s Pennsylvania eliminated capitol punishment for all crimes except premeditated murder, and Virginia restricted the death penalty to murder and certain offenses committed by slaves. The antigallows campaign resumed amid the great wave of reforms during the second quarter of the nineteenth century. New York narrowly decided not to abolish the death penalty in 1841 after an impassioned debate, and the legislature limited its application to murder, treason, and first-degree arson. Michigan, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island eliminated capitol punishment altogether. More completely successful was the effort to transform the ritual aspects of execution. Hangings had traditionally functioned as public spectacles; in 1827, for example, a crowd estimated at thirty to forty thousand watched the execution of Jesse Strang in Albany, New York. During the 1830s state legislatures provided for executions to be removed from public view and conducted within prisons. This reform partly reflected a growing fear of urban mobs sharpened by riots in every major city during the 1830s and early 1840s. Although a few citizens were invited to represent the public symbolically as witnesses at executions, and although the sensational press ensured that few lurid details would be lost, the privatization of executions eliminated an occasion on which large crowds could gather for a potentially inflammatory spectacle. Like the rise of the penitentiary, the secluded hangings transformed punishment into a ritual that underscored the value of discipline and moderation in republican America.
A VISIT TO THE EASTERN STATE PENITENTIARY
Standing at, the central point, and looking down these dreary passages, the dull repose and quiet that prevails is awful. Occasionally there is a drowsy sound from some lone weaver’s shuttle, or shoemaker’s last, but it is stifled by the thick walls and heavy dungeon door, and only serves to make the general stillness more profound. Over the head and face of every prisoner who comes into this melancholy house a black hood is drawn; and in this dark shroud, an emblem of the curtain dropped between him and the living world, he is led to the cell from which he never again comes forth until his whole term of imprisonment has expired. He never hears of wife or children; home or friends; the life or death of any single creature. He sees the prison officers, but, with that exception, he never looks upon a human countenance, or hears a human voice. He is a man buried alive; to be dug out in the slow round of years; and in the meantime dead to everything but torturing anxieties and horrible despair.
His name, and crime, and term of suffering are unknown, even to the officer who delivers him his daily food. There is a number over his cell door, and in a book of which the governor of the prison has one copy, and the moral instructor another: this is the index to his history. Beyond these pages the prison has no record of his existence: and though he live to be in the same cell ten weary years, he has no means of knowing down to the very last hour, in what part of the building it is situated; what kind of men there are about him; whether in the long winter night there are living people near, or he is in some lonely, corner of the great jail, with walls, and passages, and iron doors between him and the nearest sharer in its solitary horrors.
Charles Dickens, American Notes (Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett, 1961), pp. 120–122.
Police. The end of the first half of the nineteenth century saw the beginnings of modern police forces, a crucial innovation in the administration of justice and in the presence of government in the everyday lives of citizens. As in the privatization of the death penalty, fears of urban mobs played an important role in the replacement of daytime constables and volunteer night watchmen with an agency of full-time officers available around-theclock to maintain the peace and apprehend criminals. The organization of the London Metropolitan, Police in 1829 provided inspiration for the introduction of police forces in the United States, although British and American law enforcement agencies differed significantly from the outset. The London police recruited “bobbies” from the countryside to act as disciplined outsiders without attachments to the urban underworld. In contrast, New York and other American cities created police forces that were expected to be part of the communities that they supervised, which created greater opportunities for ambiguity in the relationships between police and criminals. Also unlike their British model, American police forces were important elements in the patronage networks of urban politics. Police agencies began to develop in the 1830s in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, spreading in the 1850s to New Orleans, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Baltimore. At first, police officers were unarmed and often refused to wear uniforms, which they considered too similar to servants’ livery to be appropriate for agents of a republican government, but the middle of the century saw the introduction of a significant new apparatus. Philadelphia established uniforms for officers in 1854, provided them with badges, and advised them to carry guns. The New York Metropolitan Police, breaking sharply with its London prototype, supplied officers with pistols in 1857. The police force, one of the most important American legal institutions, assumed its basic modern form.
Lawrence M. Friedman, Crime and Punishment in American History (New York: Basic Books, 1993);
Louis P. Masur, Rites of Execution: Capital Punishment and the Transformation of American Culture, 1776–1865 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989);
Wilbur R. Miller, Cops and Bobbies: Police Authority in New York and London, 1830–1870 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977);
David S. Reynolds, Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville (New York: Knopf, 1988);
David J. Rothman, Discovery of the Asylum: Social Order and Disorder in the New Republic (Boston: Little, Brown, 1971).
Crime and Punishment
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
"The severity of punishment itself emboldens men to commit the very wrongs it is supposed to prevent." These words, written in 1764 by the Italian political philosopher Cesare Beccaria (1738–1794), inspired America's founders and reformers to think about and act upon the problem of crime and punishment facing the new nation.
Lofty but limited idealists that they were, founders and reformers were concerned with more than solving the problem of crime and punishment; they wanted solutions that were just. They looked abroad for answers, believing that they found relevant solutions in the writings of their European counterparts, men of the Enlightenment. Of particular importance was book six of the L'Esprit des lois (The Spirit of the Laws) (1748), by Baron de Montesquieu (1689–1755), which explored the principles behind the civil and criminal laws, judgments, and punishments of various governments. His writings provided a general framework for conceptualizing a democratically legitimate legal and penal system. Beccaria contributed the idea that punishment should be proportionate to the crime. Corporal punishments such as whipping, pillorying, and other publicly administered penalties did not deter crimes, nor were they rational, he wrote; rather, they were retributive, arbitrary, and destructive displays of authority. Another influence derived from John Howard (1726–1790), the British prisoner visitor and reformer. In 1777 Howard published The State of Prisons in England and Wales, in which he proposed assigning offenders to cells or rooms where they would sleep, eat, and work to aid in their reform and return to society. The Society of Friends as well had long advocated these penal practices over those that were corporal and capital.
independence and a new model
The American War of Independence (1775–1783) gave rise to a new, if problematic, model for addressing the persistence of crime and the necessity of punishment. This model, however, would encounter numerous problems. American independence suddenly replaced the "arbitrary despotism" of the British Crown with the rule of law, grounding its legitimacy in reason as expressed by "the people." But founders and reformers were the people in legitimate positions, able to express and act upon their reasoned opinions as to what constituted crime and what was just punishment.
The incidence of crime, it was hoped, would diminish with independence. Well before they had settled upon declaring independence and changing their legal and penal codes, colonists complained of England's unjust laws. As early as 1751 Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) remonstrated against England for transporting convicts to the colonies, especially to Virginia and Maryland, a policy which led him to suggest that the colonists should ship their rattlesnakes to Britain. Colonial leaders resented, as well, the penal practices that had been in place since 1718, when England imposed its "bloody" penal code upon the North American colonies.
Rational punishment. In optimistic anticipation of independence, colonists actually began changing their penal codes before the war's conclusion. Traditional answers to questions about who committed crimes and why were no longer sufficient. An investigation into the origins of criminal activity now held reformers' attention. Maintaining order, not compassion for the condemned, was central to their ideals, because unchecked criminality threatened to wreak disorder in the fledgling democracy. But so too
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did inflicting the public and corporal punishments that had endured throughout the colonial era, punishments that were believed to arouse the sympathies of the spectators instead of inspiring dread and awe of authority. During the transition from colonial status to independent nation, explanations of crimes and punishments changed, shifting from crime as sin to crime as the result of correctable flaws in the individual.
In this process Americans took note of and attempted to incorporate their European counterparts' proposals. Between 1777 and 1779 Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), attempting to employ Beccaria's theories, drafted a bill that called for proportioning crimes and punishments in Virginia, and although this represented an advance over existing penal practices, punishment would have remained severe, especially for the black populace. In any case, he did not succeed. In his An Enquiry into the Effects of Public Punishments upon Criminals, and upon Society (1787), Benjamin Rush (1745–1813) advocated what he believed were "the true principles of liberty." Rush proposed erecting "a house of repentance" for people convicted of crimes, arguing that "liberty is so dear to all men that the loss of it, for an indefinite time, is a punishment." Rush and other reformers proposed that criminal law and penal practices assume a new and rational form. Their endeavors succeeded. Pennsylvania led the way, establishing the first state prison, which systematically incarcerated and categorized offenders according to their crimes; this new approach was supposed to reform individuals, and do so only after they had been found guilty of criminal offenses. This policy differed substantially from the colonial era, when people were held in jails to await trial, and, if convicted, received corporal or capital punishment.
Reformers aspired to create legal and penal practices that would improve the individual. However, they exhibited contradictory impulses toward those on whose behalf they worked. On one hand, they sought to abolish the arbitrary and public penalties to which offenders were subjected. However, most crimes in the early national era were committed against property and largely by people who otherwise lacked the means to acquire possessions legitimately. Therefore, on the other hand, reformers did not fundamentally challenge the conditions that created crime.
Imprisonment. The new American nation declared crime destructive to peace and social order. Underlying this explicit concern was an implicit one, the sanctity of property. Independence from England had economic consequences that shaped perspectives on crime and punishment. Society was becoming more mobile, both geographically and socially; increasingly, people moved to the cities and up and down the economic and social ladders. Mobility undermined earlier notions of localism and hierarchy that were believed by people of the colonial era to ensure societal stability. The law's emphasis shifted, therefore, from preservation of morality to protection of property. Reason, not the arbitrary exercise of authority, would impress upon disobedient individuals the misanthropic nature of their actions. Authorities would no longer deprive offenders of their life in most instances; rather, they could deprive them of their independence. From the vantage point of the reformers, then, imprisonment made perfect sense: in a nation that conceived of itself as free, what better punishment than to deny freedom to those who refused to obey its laws? But such an approach produced a conflict within a social order striving toward cohesion. Reformers and citizenry alike expressed alarm about the purportedly increased criminality that had arisen since independence. Public drunkenness, gambling, and prostitution appeared to them to be rampant. Burglary and larceny, however, were the most frequently committed offenses, though few from among the respectable sorts examined the causes for crimes against property.
States, rather than the federal government, invented imprisonment to solve the problem of crime. With the introduction of the first prison in 1790, the Jail and Penitentiary House at Walnut Street in Philadelphia, reformers and the Pennsylvania state legislature offered the systematic use of incarceration as a rational and just form of punishment. Imprisonment, they reasoned, would deter and prevent future crimes. The new prison and those that followed began as houselike structures that resembled colonial jails, but they differed from colonial antecedents in that convicts were theoretically separated by sex, kept from spirituous liquors, and no longer paid jail fees, amongst other departures from the past. The most conspicuous difference was that the colonial jails held people before capital or corporal punishment was administered. Shortly after the prison's introduction, individuals convicted of particularly serious offenses like arson or murder other than in the first degree received a portion of their sentence in solitary confinement, where they were expected to reflect upon their deeds and change their behavior. This system of incarceration proved to be a dismal failure, so that by the end of the early national period, a new generation of reformers waged internecine war over which type of incarceration, separate or congregate, would prevail.
Throughout the early national era, many states, including slaveholding Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia, and Maryland, established prisons similar in design and intent to the first prison. However, unlike most northern states, which were abolishing slavery during the Revolutionary period, southern states did not abolish slavery and therefore made little use of prisons for the black populace. Conversely, in northerly states such as Pennsylvania, the black population was becoming proportionately overrepresented in state prisons. While American reformers did not question why black people were overrepresented in prisons, European travelers did. These visitors from abroad, interested in the democratic experiment and its new institutions, saw what American reformers could not.
The history of crime and punishment is written in America almost exclusively from the perspective of those in authority and is sympathetic to the use of imprisonment to deter crime. In these accounts, prisoners are either an abstraction or are absent entirely. Fragments of evidence of prisoners' perspectives have survived, however, and historians are beginning to explore this dimension of crime and punishment. Some inmates wrote about their ideas and beliefs in letters and a few narratives. One such narrative captures the injustice of imprisonment as perceived by an inmate. The blacksmith Patrick Lyon, incarcerated at the Walnut Street prison in 1798, decried the legal and penal systems of the early national era, proclaiming "If the small fry get in the least entramelled in the meshes of the law, they are generally fastened in the net, and often times punished wrongfully."
See alsoPenitentiaries .
Beccaria, Cesare. On Crimes and Punishments. Translated by David Young. Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett Publishing, 1986.
Friedman, Lawrence. Crime and Punishment in American History. New York: Basic Books, 1993.
Howard, John. The State of the Prisons. London: J. M. Dent, 1929.
Jefferson, Thomas. "A Bill for Proportioning Crimes and Punishments. " In Thomas Jefferson: Public Papers. Edited by Merrill D. Peterson. New York: Library of America, Literary Classics of the United States, 1984.
La Rochefoucauld Liancourt, François Alexandre Frédéric, duc de. On The Prisons of Philadelphia, By An European. Philadelphia: Moreau de Saint-Méry, 1796.
Lyon, Patrick. The Narrative of Patrick Lyon, Who Suffered Three Months Severe Imprisonment in Philadelphia Gaol … Philadelphia: Francis and Robert Bailey, 1799.
Meranze, Michael. Laboratories of Virtue: Punishment, Revolution, and Authority in Philadelphia, 1760–1835. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat, baron de. The Spirit of the Laws. Edited by Anne M. Cohler, Basia Carolyn Miller, and Harold Samuel Stone. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Philip, Cynthia Owen, comp. Imprisoned in America: Prison Communications, 1776 to Attica. New York: Harper and Row, 1973. Rothman, David J. Discovery of the Asylum: Social Order and Disorder in the New Republic. Boston: Little, Brown, 1971.
Rush, Benjamin. An Enquiry into the Effects of Publish Punishments upon Criminals and upon Society. Philadelphia: Joseph James, 1787.
Teeters, Negley K. The Cradle of the Penitentiary: The Walnut Street Jail at Philadelphia, 1773–1835. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Prison Society, 1955.