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"De plus, le roi et ses ministres jugeaient commode de proceder par
decisions individuelles, plus souples qu'une loi generate, plus faciles a
adapter aux circonstances de fait." Thus Boyer, in his La Liberte individuelle
sous L'Ancien Regime, rather delicately sums up the more
appealing motivations and the contemporary justification for that now
prominent exhibit in the criminological chamber of historic horrors
the king's lettres de cachet.' But if that particular variety of legal process
is now dead, the urgencies adduced to support it survive. Not only is
individualization of the disposition of offenders inscribed on the banner
of many a modern school of criminology. It is a primary article of
faith in a movement which, when it becomes possible to look back on
the present stage in the evolution of what we call criminal justice, will
probably be recognized as overshadowing all other contemporary phenomena
in its influence on that evolution. The movement consists in the
infiltration of psychiatry -and of psychiatrists-into the administration
of the criminal law. It is of course understood that participants in
this movement look to individualization for the fulfillment of perfectly
reputable ends which have nothing in common with that malevolent
despotism commonly attributed in our schoolbooks and on the Fourth
of July to the lettres de cachet and similar royal prerogatives. But so,
if Boyer and other informed interpreters of the Ancien Regime are to
be believed, were many contemporary proponents of the lettres de cachet.

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criminology, psychiatry, legal administration