It's true that many people are driven to crime either explicitly or implicitly through systemic influences, but not all. In the beginning of this piece you comment on the interplay of the general and the exceptions. Well what about criminal exceptions? What about the serial killers, the violent rapists, the terrorists? Should we truly abolish the prison system and even let the Ted Bundys and Ted Kaczynskis of the world roam free? It brings up the question of rehabilitation. I'd like to believe that at least through grace anyone can be rehabilitated, but I'm not sure reality bears this out. Maybe a pedophile can stop offending, but can they become truly safe adults for children?

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I agree that we need "a truly victim centred response [which] would not ask how we need to make the perpetrator pay". I agree that's not the most useful way to think about prison. But I think it's hardly reasonable to criticise a criminal justice system which includes prison as "[privileging] the perspective of the perpetrator [because] It sees the perpetrator as the central figure of the harm". Instead I think it's more accurate to say that it's recognising the perpetrator as the central figure in the cause of the harm. Now I grant you that, esp with lower level crimes like theft, we must recognise the wider causes of this in society, like poverty, and we should not use the prison system to abnegate our own responsibility. And yet we should not allow this to abnegate responsibility on the person who committed the crime (esp when we're talking about more serious and intentional crimes like abuse). I see the prison system as a useful tool in the prevention of harm. I am v critical of the American prison system, and I think the inhumanities within it are hardly helpful if we're seeking crime prevention (esp when it is used unnecessarily/disproportionately for low level crimes). But I think some form of a prison system is always going to be necessary to, at the very least, prevent perpetrators from perpetrating again. If you have a serial abuser for example, it's the responsibility of society to prevent them from perpetrating again and continuing that harm. Yes, it's bad when societies and institutions use the prison system to abnegate responsibility, but the problem is not necessarily the use of the prison system in those situations, it's the use thereof to abnegate responsibility, and in some situations, if we were not to send certain people to prison (like abusers), that would also be an abnegation of our responsibility, a failure to take the necessary action to prevent them from perpetrating the harm again.

Prison abolition always seems like me to be a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Yes, the American (and many other countries') prison system is broken, and is not only inhumane and unjust, but is also often unhelpful in the prevention of harm. And yet we can accept that whilst also accepting that a prison-system in some form will continue to be necessary in our society for the prevention of harm.

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Mar 1, 2023·edited Mar 1, 2023

I buy a lot of the arguments about why X or Y thing about American police or American prisons is bad, but to me, these are just arguments for why we should have Norwegian-style police and prisons rather than no police or prisons. Is that wrong? Maybe I should read these books and see if I'm convinced...

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