Wednesday, August 3, 2011

reformative justice, prisons and fear

In the wake of the horrible crimes committed in Norway, many in the US think that the Norse will modify or change their prison system. Yet, it is a system that has worked in comparison to our very broken punishment based prison system.

Reading this article:

I was struck by a question in the last paragraph:

"Now, in light of the July terror attacks that left 77 people dead, can Norway's humane approach to prison truly reform mass murderers? And -- more importantly -- should it?"

Should it? WTF? I am not sure that it is possible to "reform" mass murders, but why would the failure to rehabilitate a very small group of offenders call into question the track record of a very successful prison system?

"Norway has a significantly lower recidivism rate than the United States." 

That statement was made in the preceding paragraph (and it is true). So, what Norway is doing is working. Yet, the author has the gall to ask if this humane approach should be continued in light of one individual's actions? This demonstrates what is wrong with the "justice system" in the United States. In the US exclusion form society is valued over re-entry, rehabilitation and education. This model creates more criminal activity and fracturing of society, perpetuating the insecurity and fear of the citizenship. 

I would put forth that the system in the US is fatally flawed. It is based on controlling individuals without giving them any reason to reintegrate into the "normal" social fabric. Not only do convicts lack marketable job skills, they are shunned by society and are frequently have been victimized in prison or at the least have suffered the dehumanizing effects of a violent and broken prison system.  

Supposedly we want a society that is free from fear. To be free of fear we must trust our fellow citizens. Right now we don't. We are a fear based society that has imprisoned, according to a US Department of Justice report published in 2006, over 7.2 million people. That means roughly 1 in every 32 Americans are held by the justice system or almost 3 million more people than the total population of Norway. 

Per 100,000 the US has 743 adults to Norway's 71incarcerated as of 2009 and 2010 respectively. 

The US system has little if any rehabilitation programs or processes. Recidivism in the US is close to 65% as of the 2007 Department of Justice report.  

In the US we have had more individuals attack defenseless targets in mass shootings (10+) than anywhere else in the world. We have a prison system that doesn't work and definitely doesn't "deter" violence, in fact, it perpetuates it, at least against anyone in the system. However, we think the Norse should adopt our system because of one violent individual?

I think there is adequate demonstration in the US society that our prison system is not working.  Perhaps we should look at adopting some of the Norse rehabilitative programs to heal our society rather than suggest that they adopt our very broken system.