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Healy, W. (1949). Case Studies in the Psychopathology of Crime. A Reference Source for Research in Criminal Material. Volumes III and IV: By Ben Karpman, M.D. Washington, D. C.: Medical Science Press, 1948. 834 and 875 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 18:250-253.
(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:250-253
Case Studies in the Psychopathology of Crime. A Reference Source for Research in Criminal Material. Volumes III and IV: By Ben Karpman, M.D. Washington, D. C.: Medical Science Press, 1948. 834 and 875 pp.
Review by: William Healy
Very likely it is because the reviewer is retired and hence supposed to have time to read them that he is asked to review these two immense volumes. With double columns on oversized pages they equal in word content at least eight ordinary books. While it is no small task to go through them, what a prodigious labor it must have been to assemble this material over the years, working under the restrictions that Dr. Karpman describes. Each volume is devoted to four cases, all men presumably guilty of or convicted for murder, and as insane—though later proved not to be chronically psychotic—committed to St. Elizabeth's.
These last two series of case studies, dated four years after the appearance of the second volume, are each introduced by a new, lengthy preface, well worth perusal, where Karpman tells of the difficulties—which we can well appreciate—he encountered in obtaining the life stories of these men. He had to work in the seclusion of the prisoner's cell, listening and often able to make notes only afterward. There was no possibility of recording their outpourings verbatim and very little material is published in its original version. Evidently in some instances of the better educated, they did a great deal of writing in response to questions or topics proposed, but even then what was produced had to be edited and organized. It is not clear in what cases this writing, and how much of it, was undertaken by the patients themselves.
Psychiatric interpretations as given for therapeutic purposes in these cell interviews are entirely omitted from the text. Karpman purposely refrains from any interpretations. There is one notable exception: in the record of the Negro poet, Caesar, Karpman cogently expounds his reasons for considering this a classical case of paranoia developed as a prison psychosis. The central idea of these documents is to present 'raw material' for elucidations of the psychogenics of criminality. Since his aim is clear and he knows full well the genetic import of influences in early life, Karpman candidly deplores the fact that in some instances nothing whatever is known of the family and childhood.
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