The jury ought also to have the right of spontaneously finding in a sense less serious than that of the charge, even when no corresponding question has been put to them.
But at the same time it cannot be denied that these would only be palliatives, more or less efficacious.
The only positive conclusion is that, whilst retaining the jury for crimes of the political and social order, we should aim at its abolition for common crimes, immediately after securing stringent reforms as to the independence and capacity of the judges.
It needs no further demonstration that the modern organisation of punishment, based partly on the assumption that we can measure the moral culpability of criminals, and partly on an illusion as to their general amendment, and almost entirely reduced, in consequence, to imprisonment and the cell system, has absolutely failed to protect society against crime.
Holtzendorff, one of the best known of the classical school, frankly confessed that ``the prison systems have made shipwreck.'' So also in Italy we have had disquisitions ``on the futility of repression,'' and in Germany it has been held that ``existing criminal law is powerless against crime.'' Thus the necessity of taking steps to counteract this failure is forced upon us more and more every day. We must proceed either by way of legislative reforms, as effectual as we can make them, but always inspired by reaction against the established prison system, or by a propaganda on scientific lines. The most striking form which has been taken by the latter process is the International Union of Penal Law, which in 1891, two years after its foundation, numbered nearly six hundred members of various nationalities, and which in the second clause of its charter, in spite of the varied reservations of a few members, notably supported the positive theories.
The defects of the penal system inspired by the theories of the classical school of criminal law, and by the actual regulations of the classical prison school, may be briefly summed up. They are, a fallacious scale of moral responsibility; absolute ignorance and neglect of the physio-psychological types of criminals; intervals between verdict and sentence on the one hand, and between the sentence and its execution on the other, with a consequent abuse of pardons; disastrous practical effects of corruption and of criminal association in prisons; millions of persons condemned to short terms of imprisonment, which are foolish and absurd; and a continuous, inexorable increase of recidivism.
So that the tribunals of Europe, as M. Prins observed, with the absolute impersonality of modern justice, allow their sentences to fall upon unhappy wretches as a tap allows water to fall drop by drop upon the ground.
Without counting fines or police detention, there were sentenced in Italy, in the ten years 1880-89, to various terms of imprisonment, 587,938 persons by the Pretors, and 465,130 by the Correctional Tribunals. That is, more than a million terms in the minor courts within ten years!