The same evolution will take place in regard to the segregation of criminals as in regard to the seclusion of the insane; first, hospitals and prisons, with a terrible communion of corruption in both cases; then barrack life, in asylums or penitentiaries, vast and isolated; lastly, for the insane, a system of so-called village asylums, and even a free colony for harmless idiots who can be put to agricultural work and minor trades, as at Gheel in Belgium. Similarly for criminals, the sanitary ``elbow room'' of agricultural colonies will be substituted for the infectious barrack-life of the great prisons.
As for habitual criminals, their anthropological characteristics remind us that we must distinguish between the two crises of their criminal activity, and, as a consequence, between the methods of defence against them. That is to say, we must distinguish between the initial moment at which they commit their first crime and the subsequent period in which they become habitual offenders, recidivists, and even incorrigible.
Thus it is clear that at the initial moment of their criminal career they ought to be subjected to the measures which I am about to indicate for occasional criminals; whereas, when from occasional they have become, partly by their imprisonment, habitual offenders, they must be subjected to the measures already indicated for born criminals. The latter are incorrigible through congenital tendency to degenerate, and the former are incorrigible through acquired tendency; but they end in the same degree of anti-sociality and brutalisation. There is, however, this difference, that habitual offenders nearly always commit less serious crimes, such as theft, swindling, forgery, indecent assault, whilst the born criminals, though they may be petty thieves, or not very formidable swindlers, are more frequently murderers, footpads, guilty of arson, or the like. Thus the discipline of their segregation must vary accordingly.
For occasional criminals, social defence must have a character of prevention rather than of repression, so as to save them from being driven, by a mistaken prison organisation, to become recidivists, and therefore habitual and incorrigible criminals.
It is especially important in this category to discriminate between the young and the adults, for with the former, far more than with the latter, the preventive methods may have a sensible effect in diminishing crime. But we must take care, in place of the pedantic graduation of responsibility which satisfies the penal codes, to substitute a physiological and psychical treatment of children and young people, who are actual criminals or framing for crime.
Beginning with the physical and moral treatment of foundling children as one of the most effectual penal substitutes, and advancing to reformatory constraint and penal sentences upon the young, there is an entire system crying for radical reform, from which imprisonment for young persons should always be excluded. We must therefore abolish the so-called houses of correction; for, taking no account of the absurd and dangerous confusion created by the three classes of children committed for paternal correction, for begging and vagrancy, and for offences, no good can ever come of it, for the herding and crowding together are nowhere more productive of fermentation and putrefaction than amongst the young.
There is nothing for them but separate boarding-out with families of honest country folk, or else agricultural colonies with a discipline different from that of the colonies for adult criminals, but still based on the rule of isolation by night, work in the open air, and as little crowding as possible.
For adult occasional criminals it is unnecessary to insist any further on the absurdity and danger of short terms of imprisonment, with or without isolation in cells, which now constitute the almost exclusive mode of repression. A few days in prison, mostly in association with habitual criminals, cannot exercise any deterrent influence, especially in the grotesque minimum of one day, or three days, as provided by the Dutch, Italian, and other codes. On the contrary, they are attended by disastrous effects, by destroying the serious character of justice, relieving prisoners of all fear of punishment, and consequently driving them to relapse, under the influence of the disgrace already suffered, and of the corrupting and compromising association with habitual criminals in prison.