A Criminologist's Testament

Submitted by Reddebrek on July 15, 2016

But the men and women, who dedicated themselves to the asocial persons, had two opponents: the asocial persons themselves and society. They succeeded in transforming the asocial, but they did not succeed in transforming the attitude of society. It is painful to hear of all the persecutions to which these true philanthropists were subjected and to read of all the difficulties which were put in their way …
Society opposed the innovators with determined resistance … Society did not wish to abandon the principle of an eye for an eye; it did not wish to be deprived of its long observed relations to the criminal and it did not wish to have the 'contrary ones' taken from it. When I wrote a small article upon the 'Effect of Non-Violence and Self Government in Prison and in Institutions for Neglected Children', a Swiss friend, who had great experience in education and methods of upbringing, wrote to me: "but what a pity it is that there are so few personalities capable of bringing the miracle to pass." But why are these people not to be found? Why do we not have these important educators? Because we do not want them. And why do we have our asocial persons? Because we want them, in just the same way as the neurotic person wishes to hold on to his illness from which he suffers, and from which he cannot allow himself to be freed. The reader, who has learnt of the results produced by non-violence and self-government and of the resistance accorded to those who advocated them, will find it easier to understand why criminal psychology begins for me not with the criminal, but with the society which inflicts the punishment. These people, who did not have to give anything whatsoever to the prisoners, were in fact capable of hindering others in their work of assistance.
In effect there is today an unequivocal answer to the question, what can be substituted for aggression in criminal law: non- violence and self-government as a means of education …
Forel, the great Swiss scholar and philanthropist, answered the question concerning the future of criminal law, plainly and simply: "in my opinion the future of criminal law lies in its abrogation, that is, in the removal of all right to punish."
That also is our answer.
– PAUL REIWALD: "Society and its Criminals" (1949)