the article discusses the contribution of adorno and horkheimer in the issue of crime and its punishment, according to "fragment of a theory of the criminal". first, considers the importance of discussing crime in the work of the institute for social research of the frankfurt university. then, the "fragment of a theory of the criminal" is analyzed in the light of the concepts of enlightenment and of mimesis. the idea of the criminal as a sick person is considered an ideological construction, therefore typical of the bourgeoisie society, and it does not find rational justification in a monopolist society. mimesis is considered the key concept for the understanding of the criminal as a sick person and it explains the changes faced by the penitentiary system in the post-fascist society.