Cornhill Magazine,  7 (1863), 189–202.

The Punishment of Convicts

[J Fitzjames Stephen]




Crime, Taxonomy

    Contends that the 'criminal law is at present in the condition in which medical practice would be if, after bestowing the utmost possible care on the diagnosis of a disease, a physician took no trouble at all about his prescription', and 'after spending half the morning in finding out that his patient was consumptive, should politely show him the door, saying as he did so, "Go and spend 25l. in drugs at such a chemists"'. What is required is the 'classification of crimes, the classification of criminals, and the classification of punishments' in order to 'bestow upon the punishment of offenders a degree of care bearing some sort of proportion to that which is at present expended, wisely and properly, on the proof of the fact that they are criminals'. This 'classification of crimes ought to be based on the moral sentiment which the crime would excite in the public at large if it were an isolated act in the life of a man otherwise unobjectionable', and would ensure that offenders were always given a punishment appropriate to their particular crime. (195)

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