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Proskauer Urges More Psychology in Administration of Criminal Justice

May 24, 1929
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Psychology and Psychiatry as the twin assistants in the administration of criminal justice were advocated by Supreme Court Justice Joseph M. Proskauer.

Addressing 700 social workers, attending the annual New York City Conference of Social work at the Beth Israel Hospital, Justice Proskauer declared that if less law and more of the science of psychology and psychiatry were applied to criminal cases, more effective rehabilitation would occur.

The administration of criminal justice can and should be changed to correspond to the new teachings of the psychiatrist and the psychologist,” he said. “We have arrived at a time and place when we must tell the jurist and the lawyer as well as society in general that criminal justice is in a bad way and to improve it we must graft the teachings of science into our work of handling the wrongdoer.”

The function of the law, he stated should not be to punish the criminal as it too often seems to be, but to remedy conditions which breed crime.

“About 75 per cent of the inmates of our prisons are boys and girls under twenty-one years of age,” he stated. With scientific handling, these young people could be redeemed to good citizenship. Instead our administration of criminal justice often converts them into veteran crime makers.

“The trouble is that we deal out punishment according to the severity of the crime. We must learn that the crime itself is one of the less important factors in the problem of determining the malignity of the criminal. We must deal out punishment not according to the crime but according to the criminal, especially with regard to his environment, mental hygiene and other teaching of psychology and psychiatry. When we do that we shall have ceased to turn out men and women from our prisons, more serious menaces to society than on the day when they entered prison,” he concluded.

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