Mr. D.M. Clouston, President The John Howard Society
St. John’s, Newfoundland
My dear Mr. Clouston:
I wish to thank you for your forceful letter on the subject of your testimony as it may be given before a Royal Commission of Canada on the subjects of “Insanity as a Defense” and “Criminal Sexual Psychopaths.”
You state that the Royal Commission of Canada has been set up for the purpose of inquiring into and reporting upon two questions:
As I understand it, you intend to advance the fact that only a trained therapist with those detectors which may be at his disposal is competent to make a fair analysis of a person’s degree of sanity and in the second case that you intend that, for arbitrary punishment now being imposed, periods of detention should be set during which the prisoner should receive therapeutic treatment (preferably Scientological) and discharged only when found free from the criminal tendencies for which he was detained.
It is very encouraging that a Royal Commission should see fit to inquire into these ranges of justice, and it is quite heartening to find that it would invite a man of your caliber to express his views. It may be that something definite may emerge from this and it would appear to be a very hopeful view.
You asked me whether or not I think your approach is sound and invited appropriate suggestions as I may care to make. And I wish to thank you for this opportunity and your courtesy.
On page 401 of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health there begins a three-page essay on “Judiciary Dianetics” with which, I believe from your letter, you seem to have some acquaintance.
For whatever they may be worth to you, may I give you my general comments on this matter.
The whole subject of “insanity” in law is adrift since it is a chip launched into the already existing definition of criminality. Any confusion as to where to place insanity in law comes about through the basic definition in law itself of insanity and criminality.
Law defines criminality more or less as “action despite knowledge of right and wrong” and “insanity” as an inability to differentiate between right and wrong. If law is based upon the idea that all people are selfish and self-centered, then we can differentiate between criminality and insanity. But if law were to consider Man a social animal, basically it would have to consider that any act which was intentionally harmful would stem from a frame of mind which omitted differentiation of right from wrong. No man, in other words, who was sane in the fullest sense of the word would be motivated by actions which victimized his group or community since he would realize that he, with the others, would suffer for these activities. And even in a practical sense it is apparent that the thief in committing criminal acts strengthens the necessary force of law in the area and so further inhibits his own freedom.
This is a problem, mainly, of the degree of enlightenment of law itself. It is a matter of what standard the law or the society, the will of which is represented by the law, is willing to recognize — a higher standard of conduct than that enforced by law these many years past. Society is more and more inclined toward the understanding of criminality as “antisocial.”
Jurisprudence may content itself to remain with its definition that insanity is the inability to differentiate right from wrong. But this view may be broadened through such inquiries as that of the Royal Commission and by the public’s own pressure, which actually such a Commission represents, to account insanity as, simply, the inability to differentiate.
In the United States certain patterns of thought of recent years have obstructed the growth of justice. Chief amongst these has been a dwelling upon the “criminal mind” as a mind which is strangely distinct and different from the minds of others who are not criminal. But a slightly clearer view should demonstrate that even the “criminal mind” falls within law’s own definition for insanity: the inability to differentiate right from wrong. It is obviously wrong for a being to harm his own species, his own group, his own society. Therefore, a being who would commit harmful acts is not differentiating between right and wrong and must at least savor of insanity.
Here we have a problem of “where to draw the line.” At what point does an individual cease to be sane and become criminal? At what point, then, does he cease to be criminal and become insane? Custom from which law itself was born has long proposed the solution to this problem in its own definition for insanity.
In order to classify criminals, we would have to classify crime. We would discover that crime was subdivided into accidental and intentional crime. Society punishes crime only when it considers the crime to be intentional. If the crime is intentional, then the intent also included the intention of harming the society. Thus a criminal action, by a broad sweep, could be said to be an insane action — and all within the definition of law itself. It could be defined that when a man descends to intentionally harmful action against his fellow he has descended at least into the upper band of insanity. Law could cleave open a path for itself by applying the classification of “insane” to criminals. In view of the fact that past systems of punishment have not reformed criminality or abated it, law seems more inclined to take this view and would take it could it be demonstrated to them that this inability to differentiate right from wrong could be altered to the betterment of society. As prison systems have been found to produce even more hardened criminality than they have remedied, it is entirely possible that law might comfortably entertain a change of view on the subject and treat criminals for what they are: mentally deranged persons.
With this other choice law finds itself often betrayed. That choice is the permitting of criminals to escape law by reason of “insanity.” If a criminal is proven insane he is permitted, at least to some degree, to escape the penalty which would ordinarily be incurred by his act. Law, by retaining this segregation, defeats its own ends and deprives itself of its prey. Only in the face of an almost complete misunderstanding of insanity could the people engaged in government be persuaded that the label “insane” should permit criminals to escape punishment. Thus, to that degree, insanity itself seems to be feared and is tolerated.
The blunt and terrible truth is that so long as insanity can continue to be used as a defense it will invite criminals into that state of being. Further, such laws as provide an escape from punishment thus unharness the energies of many against their fellow men who would otherwise be curbed. For example, a slightly insane person by reason of his “mental state” might feel it unnecessary to obey law which actually was within his full understanding. It is far from right that law should provide an escape for the guilty on such grounds.
By concentrating its attention upon the fact that insanity, if proven, will permit a person to escape justice, law is overlooking the fact that crime apparently stems uniformly from an inability to differentiate to a degree which a sane man would ordinarily consider sane. Law is faced with the enigma of insanity as a means of thwarting justice. And thus insanity must continually be disproven in the field of criminality. Whereas, it is time that criminality be proven to be insanity. I have worked with many criminals and have been, in order to observe criminality, a police officer for a short time. And it is my very close observation that anyone subject to criminal tendencies is, in a much broader sense, insane, and that his insanity reaches much wider than the field of crime, but invades hallucination, persecution and mental disabilities which are in themselves symptoms of insanity.
The insanity of the criminal has its incidence in a conviction that the first group, the family, has no function or need for him and develops upon the recognition that the society does not want him. This is apparently the genus of that antisocialness we call criminality. The insanity is further developed by continuous association with others who are of the same conviction and who form groups, which groups are motivated by a need for revenge against the society. Current methods of punishment and police handling only deepen this conviction, and it can be said so far as jail sentences are concerned that the more punishment a criminal receives, the more insane he becomes on the very subject of his criminality. Thus the society victimizes itself by bringing from the realm of delusion into the starkness of reality the fact that the individual is not wanted by any of his fellows save a few of his most intimate associates. By joining hands in their thirst for revenge against the society which rejects them, these criminals then form societies of their own. And the final result of this dwindling spiral is the deterioration of the society as a whole under duress of laws which, seeking to repress the few, suppress the many. Without such criminal gangs people such as Hitler, who depended utterly upon them for his ascent to power, would themselves be powerless. Thus the subject of criminality moves intimately into the field of government.
We might find then that insanity should be prohibited as a defense, but that at the same time all criminality defined as intentional harm against the society should be classified as a greater or lesser extent of insanity and that the criminal should be, as you suggest, uniformly detained for treatment. And we find also, as we examine this problem and see the disastrous effects of early and unqualified releases from prison upon the society, that a criminal should be detained until it could be ascertained with great certainty that he would not further victimize the society. This last strikes directly at the parole system which is an unhappy one at best, and would make it the complete responsibility of parole boards to insure the society against further criminal acts on the part of the released prisoner.
In the absence of a remedying treatment and practical means to effect it, such a course as this would be considered inhuman in the extreme. Even a hardened judge might recoil from the idea that insanity should never be used as a defense, and the intention to incarcerate criminals for their lifetime, if necessary to insure society against their depredations. These are very strong measures.
Today, however, several experiments have demonstrated that treatment for criminality can be administered at very little cost to the state. This cost is as small as a few cents per prisoner. By means of group processing a great deal has been done in this field. The treatment itself is administered by magnetic tape recordings. The problem could not have been solved as long as individual application of therapy remained a necessity by reason of technology. But with the advance of group processing, the majority of criminals could be rehabilitated and freed by parole boards using sanity as their criteria without injury to the society. Even though this processing would not be effective upon all criminals to which it was administered, according to present standards and practices, it would at least be effective upon the majority.
With regard to the second part of the purposes of the Royal Commission of Canada, it is my own opinion that laws relating to “Criminal Sexual Psychopaths” should be no different from laws relating to other criminalities. For the sexual psychopath, as Sigmund Freud long ago recognized, is a mentally ill person.
In both these matters, we find the law capable of advancing to the degree that it is willing to accept its responsibility to the society at large. It is the purpose and function of law to safeguard the citizens of the society against the depredations or criminal practices of the few. If the law is totally responsible it would act to totally insure the citizenry against crime. This cannot be done by suppression of the citizenry at large, for this is the regulation of the many to monitor the few.
Even without Scientology, without adopting its practices, law could be far more effective in safeguarding the society as a whole simply by reclassifying what it means by “criminal” and firmly observing its own definition for “insane.” With Scientology, once it has segregated out the criminals and the insane, once it has made its purpose distinct and clear, its detention of criminals until they were once more social could be resolved by the administration of tested processes to the criminals and the release of those who had responded on a group level. This, however, is a very long view and is far too firm a stand to expect from the judiciary, as these cannot but go by the customs of the people whom they serve. A long mile could be commenced upon this road, however, by demonstrating that groups of prisoners detained in prisons could undergo individual change by a rearrangement of their ideas and by releasing those so benefitted into the society and by tracing their course until it was firmly established whether or not they had become social. With this step and with the evidence thus brought into being it might very well follow that a broad evolution in law would ensue.
I wish to thank you very much for writing me. I hope you will let me hear more about this as I am intensely interested.
My very best,