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The New York Times July 22, 1931
But Trifling Lawbreakers, He Says in Report Urging Confinement for Life in Institution.

Narcotic addicts far from being the dangerous vicious criminals they are usually considered, are in general "the most trifling and inconsequential of lawbreakers," Richard C. Patterson Jr., Commissioner of Correction, asserted in a report made public yesterday.

However, the problem of reclaiming them into useful citizens "is one of the most hopeless tasks with which society is confronted," he found after an analysis of hundreds of cases from records of his department. He recommended that addicts of the criminal class be confined for life in an institution suitably equipped for the purpose.

Of the 1,166 narcotic addicts received at the New York County penitentiary last year not a single one was convicted of a "serious" offense, Commissioner Patterson declared, adding that it was the opinion of physicians accustomed to dealing with addicts that "at least 95 per cent, if not a considerably larger number, are simply lazy or shiftless vagrants and petty thieves."

Declaring that the popular misconception of the narcotic user as a swaggering desperado is "entirely fallacious" and is the result of articles by "half-baked criminologists." Mr. Patterson said that "the big figures in the criminal world will have nothing whatever to do with addicts, knowing that it is easy to make them 'squeal' by withholding drugs from them for a day or two."

The generally prevalent idea that the continued use of narcotics has a ravaging physical effect also was questioned by Mr. Patterson, who pointed out that many of the inmates who have used narcotics steadily for twenty or twenty-five years were in good physical condition and that addicts had been known who have used narcotics regularly for more than fifty years.

The "almost complete futility of actually curing men of drug addiction" was shown by the records, which revealed hundreds of cases in which offenders had taken "cures" again and again, Mr. Patterson said. He said that in one instance and addict was known to have taken twenty-five "cures" in twenty-three years.

Suggesting that an institution similar to the State Institution for Defective Delinquents at Napanoch is the proper place for criminal addicts, Mr. Patterson said that this was "a harsh remedy, but it seems to be the only one, unless new methods of handling the problem should be evolved in the future which will upset all the experience of the past."

Mr. Patterson reported that his department received more male prisoners for all offenses last year than ever before. The total was 22,502, an increase of 5,612 over 1929 and of 2,646 over 1928, the previous high year. The increase, however, was attributed largely to greater activity on the part of the police in traffic cases.

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