In this paper, read before the Dresden Forensisch-Psychiatrische Vereinigung last March, the author discusses the rather hackneyed question of the method of dealing with dangerously criminal lunatics. The arguments on the matter are too familiar to need re-statement, but some points brought out by the author may be of interest as showing the trend of ideas on the question in Germany. He deals in some detail with the system of lunatic wings attached to prisons, a system which exists in Prussia, Wurtemburg, Saxony, and Baden. This system he approves of so long as the special wings are used only for the temporary detention of offenders who have shown signs of insanity while undergoing the ordinary penal discipline. It appears, however, that a wider extension has been given to this method at Waldheim, where the lunatic block connected with the penal establishment serves for the treatment during indefinite periods not only of criminals who have become insane and of insane persons who have committed crimes, but also of lunatics who have shown dangerously violent tendencies in other asylums. It is suggested that this arrangement has not worked very satisfactorily at Waldheim, the explanation apparently being that the medical administration of the lunatic wing is unduly influenced by the lay authority of the prison. On this account the author is opposed to having such institutions used for the prolonged detention of insane patients of any class so long as the prisons with which they are connected are not under medical control and government; and this view appears to have commanded the support of the alienists who took part in the discussion. Regarding the other possible plans for meeting the difficulty created by this class of insane patient, the author very reasonably concludes that the choice between special criminal asylums and special blocks in ordinary asylums must be decided by the conditions in each locality. The former plan will be suitable in districts with a large industrial population, while the special blocks will be found sufficient in rural populations. Whatever system is adopted, it is urged that the criterion for bringing patients under these special means of control should be their distinctly dangerous disposition, and that no regard should be had to the pedantic consideration whether they had or had not been legally labelled as criminals.
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