L. H. Knox to the Editor of the Chicago Tribune, December 7, 1920



Chicago, Dec. 7. -- {Editor of The Tribune.} -- Miss Jane Addams, in a letter to you dated Dec. 4, tries to justify her plea of mercy for a minor murderer and her opposition to capital punishment in general by reference to English justice. She chooses a boomerang for her argument.

English capital punishment for murder has been swift and sure. Consequently, it may be said that in normal times, compared to our record, there is no such thing as murder in Great Britain. Even now probably there are not as many homicides in a year in England, Scotland, and Wales as there are in the city of Chicago alone. Why? Because after a killing there the murderer is speedily caught, tried, convicted, sentenced, hanged -- without glorification. Result, every Briton is the embodiment of law; robbers do not carry weapons. Certain capital punishment has brought fear of justice to all, but most to criminals, who as a class are only terrified by the noose. Anything less is a victory to them.

In Chicago conditions are reversed. A morning murder is regularly served with our breakfast. Its perpetrator is seldom caught, seldom tried, seldom convicted, almost never hung; usually paroled or pardoned. Criminals exult in this. Their class is augmented incessantly by all ages, but chiefly by youths, who, by this laxity, are taught to despise the courts.

Of the 365, or more, homicides which will be committed in Cook County in 1921, probably 200 could be prevented if out of the first twenty caught fifteen were sentenced to the gallows, and out of these ten were actually executed.

Miss Addams and her class of penal theorists, in aiming at a social utopia, have enfeebled justice and encouraged crime. They are responsible.