The Criminal College

It is easy for him to credit himself with greater cunning than he actually possesses. After all, he knows nothing of LAW. He has heard of fingerprints only in a detective story.

Very well, the world has defaulted. He has been gypped. The job he was always led to believe he would get was only a mirage. Therefore everything else is a lie and society is bad in that it gives never a damn what happens to him as long as he stays out of the way.

Combined with that, he is bored. Life, he does not know, is a very drab and dreary affair as long as man stays on the wide but crowded sidewalk.

Thus he steps out and commits his first crime.

His hand is shaking so he can’t see the front sight of his rusty .22 pistol. He can only hear the roar of blood in his ears and sounds which were never sounded. He forgets where he should look for the money. He makes too much noise. He can’t control his voice.

Gasping with nervous exhaustion he runs away and behind closed doors stares at the few tattered bills. Still, they are his by right of possession. In getting them he has obeyed a natural need for excitement or food or clothing or that necessary front before his girl or his friends.

And now comes the deciding factor in his life.

The police either catch him or they do not.

If he eludes them he may try another "job" or two, emboldened by his first success. But in an astonishingly short space of time he will run up against a "tough one." In a stickup of park spooners, the man tells him to go to hell and grabs for the gun; the youngster gets away and vows to stray no more. In a filling station, the attendant reaches for a wrench and again the youth flees in terror. In a majority of these cases, the youngster thereupon lays away the .22 forevermore and a few years later looks back with a private grin and perhaps even an uneasy twinge about his "crime career."

If he is caught, he is doomed.

Standing soaked with nervous sweat, he looks up at the judge in a black robe remarkably like a vulture’s rusty wings. The youth is actually hearing, "You are hereby sentenced . . ."

As soon as he can bring himself to believe that this is really life and not a nightmare, he begins to believe the words really were, "Society wishes you had never been born." Not in those actual words, of course. But the feeling is there.

From the time he began to think about crime until now, the thought that the world did not want him was but partly felt. The whole impact of that truth strikes him now.

Society does not want him. He was right!

In a most lofty fashion, a judge on a bench, wondering what his wife will have for dinner, has completed the metamorphosis of the youth’s ideals.

He is a ripe freshman for the Crime College. No professor of hooeyology was ever confronted with such an ardent student.

In the big, sullen pile of gray rock, the youth discovers that there is a strata of society which actually wants him. He has never seen a real criminal before and the actuality awes him. He hears men talk pridefully of stickups. He receives the usual treatment meted out to all freshmen. He’s small time.

Through the courtesy of the state, in penitentiary or reform school, the youth receives a thorough working over. By the time he graduates, his life work is definitely planned for him. He is a snow-eater or a pervert or a tough case, but most certainly ready, in most instances, to prove himself worthy of the only fraternity which ever took any interest in him.

There comes a second crisis in his life.

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