Criminals Due to Environmentby PR Sarkar
Many people in society do not become criminals because of physiological or hereditary factors.
Nor do they become involved in criminal activities due to the influence of base propensities, or due to lack of education or social control.
Yet today civilized society looks down on them because they are criminals when they could have been revered as ideal human beings had they had been given a proper environment.
- They are glaring examples that honest people can become dishonest as a result of environmental pressures.
The sensitive, honest son of a villainous father is compelled to participate in antisocial activities out of fear of paternal abuse.
- This creates a habit which eventually becomes part of his nature.
The daughter of a prostitute, despite her best efforts to live a virtuous life, is forced to lead the life of a social outcast due to unbearable maternal abuse or circumstantial pressure.
At first, we usually censure the parents or guardians for the helpless condition of such women.
- But the parents are not always completely to blame.
Sometimes personal difficulties, such as financial hardship or poverty, compel them to take such steps, even when they know that what they are doing is wrong.
- Due to circumstantial pressure they encourage their children to do wrong and force them to commit crimes.
Refugees encourage their children to act in an antisocial manner only because of the lack of money.
But antisocial behaviour is not always caused by lack of money.
Where the parents or guardians are evil by nature, they try to infect the other members of their family with their disease.
An upper-middle-class lady used to encourage her son to steal clothes, etc., from her neighbours by offering him money for cinema tickets if he did.
- This is an example of applying indirect pressure.
- When the incident became public, it was discovered that her family was not in financial difficulty.
- The lady was merely infecting her son with her own mental disease by putting pressure on her son.
There are many parents who, due to miserliness or whatever reason, deprive their children of delicious food and drink.
- They do not explain the reason for this deprivation to their children.
- They serve such food and drink to others in the presence of their children without explaining why they are being deprived.
- As a result, the children, under the pressure of circumstance, steal to try to satisfy their natural desires.
Many families eat delicious food and drink but provide poor-quality food to their servants.
- The servants subsequently develop the habit of stealing out of greed.
There are many parents who directly encourage their children to fight and abuse others.
- I have observed quiet-natured children who often disagreed with the opinions of their parents.
- These are forced to follow their parents’ orders out of fear of physical abuse.
- In a remote village, I once observed a young man, a member of a social group which followed the Dáyabhága system,(2) abuse his innocent wife and torture her at the instigation of his cruel father, out of fear of losing his right of inheritance.
These are just a few examples of crimes due to environment.
During the trials of criminals due to environment who have not yet turned into habitual criminals, the judge should not attach too much importance to the provisions of the penal code.
If, after thorough investigation, it is discovered that particular people or circumstantial pressure have caused these criminals (whatever their age) to take part in antisocial activities, the judge should remove them from that environment with the help of sociologists and psychologists.
- Such cases rarely require further corrective measures.
But if those who are criminals due to circumstantial pressure become habitual criminals as a result of a long-standing habit, a change of environment alone will not suffice. Corrective measures in accordance with the provisions of the penal code will also be necessary.
Some people often unwittingly take to the path of dishonesty because they keep bad company.
- 99% of people say: “I do not need to bother about the company I keep, as long as I am good myself. I can remain good in all types of company. I am old enough to understand the difference between good and bad.”
- In other words, such people do not like to think, or rather feel piqued at the thought, that somebody should try to dissuade them from keeping bad company.
If a less-educated person advises a more highly-educated person to avoid bad company, the latter will do it all the more.
In society, people who regard themselves as superior in status, wealth or education generally believe that it is entirely unwarranted for others to give them advice.
- That is why an educated but wayward son often disregards the good advice of his parents.
The natural characteristics of the human mind, however, tell a different story than what that 99% think.
A person of any age between 7-70 is invariably influenced by the company he or she keeps.
In other words:
- where goodness is predominant, bad people will slowly but surely become good.
- where evil is predominant, good people will become bad.
Even a saintly person will go astray after a few days of close association with bad people.
Suppose a teetotaller mixes regularly with a group of alcoholics.
- The frequent anti-teetotaller gibes and the positive portrayals of the wondrous virtues of wine by the alcoholics will one day tempt the teetotaller to taste a little wine.
- His or her drinking friends will say, “We don’t want you to become drunk. But what’s the harm if you just taste a little! This surely won’t make you a bad person! What a moralist you are! Oh friend, to be such a moralist in the world today is ridiculous!”
- So one day the teetotaller tastes wine and this becomes the cause of his or her downfall.
- But on the day the unsuspecting teetotaller took wine, he or she did not realize that from that very day wine would become the cause of his or her degeneration.
Similarly, by keeping bad company people become debauched, slanderers and thieves. Men or women who have to do little or no household work, who fail to cultivate high ideals in life, who are unable to evolve a spiritual outlook, or who do not have to work hard for a living, generally develop an extremely critical nature.
By constantly associating with such people, those who possess high ideals or a diligent nature will gradually begin to spend their leisure time in slanderous gossip. If the parents or older members of a family are quarrelsome, the children will also become quarrelsome due to constant association. Similarly, if the women of a family have a highly critical nature, the children will invariably become critical because they will learn how to criticize from their elders.
Children will also tend to become depraved if they associate too closely with older children in schools or colleges.
- When they stay among children their own age, however, they generally play in an innocent, joyous way.
Childhood companions should be selected with great care.
- Young children are incapable of doing this.
The base propensities which lie dormant in everyone are easily stimulated by constant association with bad people.
- Through the united efforts of parents, people living in the locality and educators, it may be possible to save children from bad company.
But it is very difficult to save them from the evil influences which reside in their own homes or preponderate in their neighbourhood.
The only way to overcome such influences is to:
- popularize the ideals of dharma
- spread moral education
- train an honest police force
In the modern world there is a wide variety of films which:
- excite the passions and
- have a degrading influence on boys and girls, adolescents and young men and women.
Such films create in cinema-goers the desire to emulate in their individual lives the criminal activities, the vulgar expressions of love, or the adventurous behaviour that they see enacted on the screen. This is another example of how keeping bad company causes depravity.
Many cinema-goers imagine that the movie characters are their actual acquaintances. When they try to emulate these characters, they discover that the real world is much tougher than that portrayed by the cinema.
If their family ties are weak, if they are their own guardians or if they have no high ideals to inspire them, it will be extremely difficult to save them from bad influences.
As long as those who become criminals due to keeping bad company are not transformed into habitual criminals, they will return to their normal good behaviour as soon as they give up the bad company.
Therefore, during the trials of such criminals, corrective measures should be taken only after giving due consideration to the company they keep and the influence of this company on their behaviour.
But in the case of those who have become habitual criminals, simply removing them from bad company will not suffice, because they themselves are their own bad company. For them, stricter measures will be needed.
Nearly all deceitful acts, such as swindling, fraud, gambling, looting, seducing women, and travelling without a ticket, are commonly a result of the influence of bad company.
In prisons also, those criminals of this type who have already turned into habitual criminals should be housed with great care, otherwise their disease will spread to others.