Non-punitive policy, minimising use of prisons

. Can we formulate a position statement, trying to persuade at least moderates who think punishment is an unfortunate necessity, even if not hardliners?

1. Replace ‘If you commit a crime you should be punished’ by ’If you harm someone you should make up for it’ – sounds equally ‘common-sense’ and just about as ‘tough’.

2. Replace ‘punishment’ by ‘consequences’ – also sounds quite tough, but opens the door to reparation and rehabilitation.

3. Consequences should include ‘reparation’, and where appropriate restorative justice, which can include apology, making amends, but also making the effort to take part in rehabilitation: Education, training, therapy, and so on.

4. Stress that this imposes obligations on ‘us’, society in general, to make it possible for the offenders by providing courses (preferably in the community! hence the interest in Day Training Centres, and possibly tags).

5. Stress that ‘consequences’ can also be unpleasant, but they are not imposed for that reason – the unpleasantness is a by-product.

6. The aim should be to make offenders feel the ‘right sort of pain’, remorse at having hurt someone else, not the ‘wrong’ sort, trying to minimise pain inflicted on themselves.

7. Insist that what we do to offenders who are caught is focused on their own future, not on trying to deter other people.

8. Quote research showing that many (most?) victims want ‘their’ offender not to do it again, more than they want him/her to be harshly treated.

9. Insist that crime reduction should (a ) concentrate on social and physical preventive measures, and (b ) recognise that deterrence lies primarily in increasing the probability of being caught.

10. Separate the concept of containment of those likely to abscond or commit further serious crimes from the other purposes of dealing with offenders.


Could that form the basis of a credible policy?