The Wisconsin Prisoner (1946)

John Lewis Gillin
The University of Wisconsin Press

Sociologist Gillin gathers data on 486 male prisoners in the Wisconsin prison system according to three types of crime: murder, sex crimes, and property crimes.  Can similarities in background be gleaned, either within a category or across all three?  Many charts and variables are considered, leading to the following conclusion: "The conditions that seem to create a hazard are low income of the parents; inferior intelligence; mental deficiency; queerness; and insanity; and drunkenness and disharmony in the parental home."  The study is especially concerned with contrasting a criminal and his non-criminal brother, leading to many "Goofus and Gallant" case studies: "(B) drank moderately, never got drunk; (P) drank heavily and was drunk at the time of most of his arrests.  (B) had a respected position in a group of high-type friends; (P) associated with loafers, saloon hounds, and bums."  There is also an interesting nod to Freud throughout the study--typical of mid-century attempts to understand particularly "odd" crimes, as in the case here of a 64-year old farmer convicted of having sex with his goat (an act that is ultimately pinned on his promiscuous wife and her conniving mother. Rather unfairly, the allure of the goat is not even considered). 

If you believe Wisconsin to be the nation's most wholesomely deviant state, and if you already own a copy of Wisconsin Death Trip, you will undoubtedly find these accounts of wayward badgers interesting. If you are actually from Wisconsin, perhaps one of these distant criminals is in your family tree. 

Popular Posts