Hardened Offenders (13 july 1929)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Hardened Offenders is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Times on 13 july 1929.

See also his first letter on the same topic: Hardened Offenders (20 june 1929).

Hardened Offenders

The Times (13 july 1929, p. 15)


Sir, — Might I add one postscript to the discussion upon the subject of "hardened offenders"? I would have done so before but I wished to read all that others could say. The criticism, which has been widespread, divides itself into two contradictory assertions, the one that a measure of segregation would be too severe, the other (led by the honoured name of Sir Henry Dickens) that it would he too kind, and put a premium upon crime. This divergence of opinion seems in favour of the view which is attacked. Several papers have exclaimed that it is "un-Christian" but if we grant that any penal measures are justified, then it is hard to see why continuous segregation should be less Christian than a long succession of incarcerations with short intervals of crime against the community. As to moral reform, that is surely more likely to take place under the supervision which such a system would ensure than if the criminal returns to the society of other malefactors who are actively employed. I had a note of one case where a man had been condemned 30 times for physical assaults which involved severe injuries to the person assaulted. If this man had after the fifth offence been segregated, then it is clear that 25 people would have escaped broken heads. Why should we be so sensitive as to the fate of the criminal and pay no heed to his victims, whose persons or property are the forfeits paid for our own negligence?

Yours faithfully,

Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex, July 13.