No. V (1972)

The Results of Invesigations on Recidivists Alcoholics

Published 1972-09-04


  • recidivists,
  • alcoholics,
  • delinquency,
  • criminological research

How to Cite

Szelhaus, S. (1972). The Results of Invesigations on Recidivists Alcoholics. Archives of Criminology, (V), 228–268.


  1. In 1965 - 1966, when studying the data on the delinquency of 440 recidivists aged 26 - 35, who had been convicted many (at least 4) times, it was ascertained that only 50 of them (11.4 per cent) had their criminal records started when they were already 25 or more. It was decided to investigate the delinquency of these 50 recidivists and the most important events of their life, important particularly for the estimation of the extent of their addiction to alcohol and of the degree of their social maladjustment, in the light of data contained in the registers, in court records and in those of the police (1/3 of these recidivists could be closely investigated in prison).

The data obtained during the follow-up studies until August 1971, when the average age of these recidivists was already 38, were then taken into consideration.

With the above-mentioned data on 50 recidivists were then compared those on the delinquency of 390 (from among the 440) recidivists whose delinquency had started early. 63 per cent of them had started to perpetrate offences before they were 17. Moreover, the results concerning the 50 recidivists were also compared with the data on the delinquency of 61 alcohol addicts of the group of 777 ones who had been submitted in 1960 - 1961 to treatment (mostly compulsory) as out patients and in-patients.

The 61 ones had also been convicted at least 4 times only from the age  of 25. In 1971 their average age was already 45.

The selection of these 2 groups of recidivists to be compared. with the mentioned category of recidivists-alcohol addicts was made to verify the hypothesis, that the extent and the rapidity of their recidivism distinguish them both from the not numerous category of recidivists also convicted at least 4 times, occuring among the treated alcohol addicts, and from persistent recidivists who were convicted being very young, among whom there is a considerable percentage of alcohol addicts already in an advanced stage of addiction.

Before we discuss the differences between the delinquency of these 3 groups of recidivists, we shall present here certain data  characterising 50 repeatedly convicted “late” recidivists among whom 92 per cent are alcohol addicts.

Only half of them lived in Warsaw, some at small towns, not far or at some distance from Warsaw, and some in the country. But those living outside Warsaw were, as a rule. at least intermittedly also working in Warsaw.

Nearly of them were learning at school only for 1 - 4 years, only a half have supposedly completed  their primary education; the majority had no acquired trade. On the basis of data on most of them, the course of their work may be characterized as follows: When they  were aged 17 – 25, i.e. before their criminal records, ¾ of them had been working, on the whole, regularly; but when they were 25 – less than 1/5 of them continued their regular work and the rest were employed only at odd jobs (for instance conveying coal, unloading railway carriages). However, it is worth mentioning that a considerable part of them were ill reputed at their working places already before they were 25, i.e. at the time when they were working comparatively regularly, (absented themselves from work, were drinking alcohol at working places etc.). After they were 25, they were, as a rule, very ill reputed and dismissed, and the data on their frequent indulging in alcohol appear constantly. As the years go by, their visible degradation in work and giving up employment are noticeable, which, in the light of the court records and those of the police, should be connected with their increasing addiction to alcohol.

We should like to mention  again that probably among ¾ of these recidivists the initial symptoms of addiction to alcohol dated since they were at least 23 – 25, and among the remaining ones–since 27–28; ¾ from among them had used strong drinks several times a week when they were aged under 21.

It should be stressed that the marital life of as many as ¾  of these recidivists was broken up, as a rule already when they were under 30.

  1. When investigating the delinquency of 50 recidivists alcohol addicts, (hereinafter called group A), and of 61 alcohol addicts submitted, as a rule, to compulsory treatment, also convicted at least 4 times, (group C), it should be stated that among those of group A there are considerably fewer of those convicted only 4 – 5 times (26 per cent, although they were aged, on the average, only 38), than in group C (44 per cent) in which the average age of alcohol addicts is already 45. The fact that among the 50 recidivists there are much more individuals convicted several times, cannot be explained by the argument that the alcoholics of group C are considerably older and, recently, already less inclined to commit offences. The investigation of the delinquency of these 2 groups, when they were aged only 25 – 35, showed that while in group A 60 per cent of recidivists were convicted 4 – 5 times and 40 per cent – 6 and more times, most of those of group C (56 per cent) were at that age convicted fewer than 4 times, and only 7 per cent of them – 6 and more times.

The delinquency of the alcoholics of group C starts much later than that of the 50 recidivists of group A. In group C, 52 per cent were convicted for the first time when aged under 30, and in group A – as  many as 96 por cent.

The rapidity of recidivism is considerably greater in 50 recidivists of group A than in those of group C. While in as many as 52 per cent of the former group their stay at liberty between two arrests did not exceed one year – in group C such a rapid recidivism occurred only in 13 per cent. Even as regards the 390 persistent criminals whose delinquency and social degradation started very early (B), and among whom 46 per cent did not stay at liberty for more than one year on the average – we do not notice so many short stays at liberty between successive arrests.

Nearly a half (46 per cent) of alcoholics convicted several times (C) were at liberty between arrests at least for 5 years. Such cases do not occur in group A and do not exceed 11 per cent in group B.

As regards the structure of delinquency, offences against property amount in group A to 47 per cent, in group B to 60 per cent and in group C to 45 per cent, and acts of violence – to 21 per cent in all 3 groups. As anyone can see, the structure of delinquency in 50 recidivists, whose delinquency is connected with their addiction to alcohol, is identical with that of 61 alcoholics (out-patients and inpatients), also repeatedly convicted recidivists. Yet it should be stressed that as regards offences with violence in group A, the victims of about half of them are next of kin, while in group C this proportion is only 1/3 and in group B only 10 per cent. In this category of delinquencies more serious crimes of violence, both in group A and C, represent only an insignificant proportion (7 per cent).

It should be stressed that the thefts committed by the 50 recidivists-alcoholics caused comparatively slight losses; the losses of 50 per cent of the thefts did not exceed 500 zł, and only those of 16 per cent amounted to more than 2,000 zł.

Among such recidivists-alcoholics (A) who perpetrated exclusively or chiefly offences against property, as many as 86  per cent of them committed thefts connected with their alcoholism: they either acted in a state of intoxication or spent immediately the stolen money for alcohol.

Taking into consideration all categories of recidivists, one may state the existence of a great percentage of such recidivists-alcoholics among whom predominate offences of violence or of verbal aggression and other offences connected with alcoholism (besides thefts). There are 56 per cent of them in group A, 46 per cent in group C, while only 28 per cent in group B.

Yet it should be stressed that the percentage of such recidivists in whom offences of violence against strangers predominate, does not exceed 8 per cent of the totality of recidivists in group A, or about 10 per cent in group C. If we consider such recidivists, who were convicted 4 times for offences of violence against strangers, to be dangerous violent criminals  – there were (taking also into account convictions for robbery) – 6 per cent of them in group A and 8 per cent in group C.

Among persistent offenders who started to commit offences much earlier in life (B), there were more such recidivists (14 per cent), and some of them were even convicted for violent offences 5 and more times.

The results of the above investigations evidence the fact that those recidivists whose delinquency started comparatively late and who are alcohol addicts (A), in whom, as a rule, symptoms of addiction to alcohol preceded delinquency – distinguish themselves by an exceedingly rapid recidivism, which does not occur either in alcoholics (even in those submitted to compulsory treatment) (C) – or even in persistent offenders in whom the beginning of social degradation appeared early (B), in spite of the fact that among them there also appears a considerable percentage of individuals who showed symptoms of addiction to alcohol being comparatively young.

The offences of these alcoholics, both against property and against person, are not serious and are connected with their addiction to alcohol.


  1. Batawia S., Młodociani i młodzi recydywiści w świetle badan kryminologicznych, „Archiwum Kryminologii” 1965, t. III, s. 9-95,
  2. Ostrihanska Z., Wielokrotni recydywiści o wczesnym i późnym początku karalności, „Archiwum Kryminologii” 1969, t. IV, s. 59-104,
  3. Szelhaus S., Analiza przestępczości wielokrotnych recydywistów, „Archiwum Kryminologii” 1969, t. IV, s. 11-58,
  4. Szelhaus S., Młodociani recydywiści (społeczne czynniki procesu wykolejania), Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Warszawa 1969.
  5. Szelhaus S., Wyniki badan przestępczości 777 alkoholików 1963 r. (niepublikowane)