“Your true criminal”… remind you of anyone?

“Your true criminal,” [Robert] remembered Kevin saying one night, after a long discussion on penal reform, “has two unvarying characteristic, and it is these two characterics which make him a criminal. Monstrous vanity and colossal selfishness. And they are both as integral, as ineradicable, as the texture of the skin. You might as well talk of ‘reforming’ the colour of one’s eyes.”

“But,” someone had objected, “there have been monsters of vanity and selfishness who were not criminal.”

“Only because they have victimised their wives instead of their bank,” Kevin had pointed out. “Tomes have been written trying to define the criminal, but it is a very simple definition after all. The criminal is a person who makes the satisfaction of his own immediately personal wants the mainspring of his actions. You can’t cure him of his egotism, but you can make the indulgence of it not worth his while…”

Kevin’s idea of prison reform, Robert remembered, was deportation to a penal colony. An island community where everyone worked hard. This was not a reform for the benefit of theprisoners. It would be a nice life for the warders, Kevin said…and since most criminals hated hard work more than they hated anything in this world, it would be a better deterrent than the present plan which, in Kevin’s estimation, was no more punitive than a third-rate public school.

— From Josephine Tey’s The Franchise Affair (1948)

This entry was posted in Crime & Punishment, The Facts of Life and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.