AGE AND PHYSICAL HEALTH IN RELATION TO CRIMINALITY
Our bodies act as they are acted upon. They respond to influences from without and are subject to conditions within, just as any machine, and we may express these reactions in terms of physical science. -- MARTIN
In this chapter we are continuing our study of factors that contribute to the making of personality in general, and, in particular, the personality -- at least the attitudes -- of criminals. We shall consider first the physical health of criminals. It is not unusual, in some situations at least, to admit the sickness of one who is charged with crime as an extenuating circumstance. This is equivalent to accepting sickness as having a causal relation to criminal behavior in the particular instance.
If those who admit the question of physical health to this relation were to frame the hypothesis or the theory that controls them it would probably run about as follows: a depressed level of health is a source of nervous and mental irritation -- all the more so if it is persistent over a considerable period. It therefore disorganizes those acquired attitudes that normally control one's behavior. One's usual inhibitions then work spasmodically if at all and one tramples upon the convenience and rights of other people in a manner that he could not allow himself to countenance in his usual state of normal health.
We need not go far to find some evidence in casual experience for the hypothesis. Many a one who is a model of kindness and patiently attentive to the convenience and needs of his family in ordinary circumstances is a martinet of the first order when he is sick. More than that an acquaintance of the writer who was recovering from a violent fever gave a bad check to a stranger in payment for a shotgun that he fancied he would enjoy in the mountain resort to which he was about to go for recuperation. Throughout his life prior to the incident and subsequent to his recovery he has been, apparently, a thoroughly honest man. Not until he was well on the road to health once more did he experience any remorse on account of his act. He