The case against prisons

Authored by: Jordan Anderson , Andrea Black , Emmet Maclaurin , Tania Sawicki Mead

The Routledge International Handbook of Penal Abolition

Print publication date:  March  2021
Online publication date:  March  2021

Print ISBN: 9781138354098
eBook ISBN: 9780429425035
Adobe ISBN:


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Amongst the public, there are several prominent arguments that drive the belief in prisons as institutions that promote and maintain public safety. These include assumptions that prisons are necessary to deter offending, to rehabilitate, and to grant restitution to victims and survivors. All of these assumptions are contradicted by research and by the experiences of people who have been directly affected by this system. This chapter briefly examines these arguments from a theoretical perspective and looks to contribute to the conversation by critiquing the evidence behind the use of prison as a criminal justice tool. While this chapter does not focus on current prison practices in Aotearoa, JustSpeak acknowledges the historical and cultural context that has resulted in the hyperincarceration of M?ori within the New Zealand prison system. Although criminal justice policies of the past may lead some to believe that prisons promote public safety, they in fact promote significant and self-perpetuating harm. JustSpeak hopes that this chapter helps to debunk the idea that prisons facilitate safety for the public and that it will make a contribution to broader work which focuses on investing in genuinely effective efforts to reduce harm in our communities.

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