Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Alternatives to the punitive

I used to regularly contribute to the Guardian's Comment is Free and did so again this week in a thread entitled: At least Bob Ainsworth dares to speak about drugs

Whilst on the site I started rereading my previous contributions and thought I would share this one from January 2008

@ BigFaceDog

"What do these young people have to guide them in life? What have faux liberals such as John Moore put in place of what he and his fellow travellers have destroyed? Perhaps one of you can answer that simple question?"

Two responses

I regret I have destroyed very little. We retain a punitive criminal justice system that fails to address the crimes of the powerful (which cause the greatest harms) and focus instead on the powerless and most vulnerable in our society. Criminal justice interventions create more crime than they solve. Politicians follow policies they know will increase the number of victims and then (often successfully) seduce those very victims with tough words and promises of more of the same.
On a personal level what have I tried to create as alternatives?
Well I spent 20 years working directly with men and women leaving prison and forensic mental health services, managing and developing services that enabled them to escape the destructive grip of the penal syste. Services that treated them with respect, helped them access community resources, find housing, get jobs, sort out their money, become integrated into our communities and live ok lives.
I know that there are a couple of hundred women and men living ordinary lives away from prison and contact with the police as a result of that work. They benefited from our efforts to create opportunities for them to become socially included AND as a direct result there are at a guess many thousands of other members of our community who as a result were never victimised.
Its easy to condemn, demand more violence and more pain, but if you want to make things better you have to admit that what works to stop the anti social behaviour of the vast majority of people in our criminal justice system is community based services that facilitate intergration, inclusion and which respects them as fellow members of our society.

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