Administration of Public Welfare

By R. Clyde White | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XIV
CARE OF THE ADULT OFFENDER

Some method of handling those who violate the laws or fundamental customs has always existed in organized society. Antisocial conduct might be deemed such because it endangered the life or well-being of any member of the social group, or it might be an act which threatened the status and prerogatives of a hereditary class or a revolutionary oligarchy. In any case something had to be done about the offender. A common way of handling such persons throughout history has been to put them to death. Ostracism from the tribe or community is another ancient method of dealing with the recalcitrant member of the social group. Either death or ostracism removed the dangerous individual from his group and terminated the threat which he had hung over the governing group. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a new theory about dealing with these recalcitrant members of society, who had come to be called felons or criminals, was put forward. This theory assumed that a criminal act did not necessarily render a person unsuited for life in society for all time to come but, on the contrary, might be accidental and merit not execution or cruel tortures but some punishment "suited to the crime." This theory was back of the early prison movement in this country and the efforts to abolish capital punishment for most offenses against the law. In recent years the emphasis in penology has shifted from "punishment to suit the crime" to "treatment to suit the offender." The protection of society is an important reason for apprehending persons who violate the laws, but, once the violator has been taken into custody and proved guilty, the question of how he should be treated in order to prevent his committing new crimes, when he is released after serving sentence, is paramount. Hence, the objectives of care of the adult offender are now conceived mainly to be the protection of society against irresponsible persons and the reform

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