Invariable principles

September 7, 2011

“What I found most disturbing was the sense that the hardcore of rioters came from a feral underclass, cut off from the mainstream in everything but its materialism. … Punishment alone though is not enough … Locking people up without reducing the risk of them committing new crimes against new victims the minute they get out does not make for intelligent sentencing. … It’s not yet been widely recognised, but the hardcore of the rioters were, in fact, known criminals. … That is the legacy of a broken penal system – one whose record in preventing reoffending has been straightforwardly dreadful. In my view, the riots can be seen in part as an outburst of outrageous behaviour by the criminal classes – individuals and families familiar with the justice system who haven’t been changed by their past punishments. … I am introducing radical changes to focus our penal system relentlessly on proper, robust punishment and the reduction of reoffending. This means making our jails places of productive hard work … However, reform can’t stop at our penal system alone. … fix not just criminal justice but education, welfare and family policy.” (Ken Clarke, “Punish the feral rioters, but address our social deficit too”, The Guardian 5 Sept 2011)

“The answer to these criticisms [of the prison] was always the same: the reintroduction of the invariable principles of penitentiary technique. For a century and a half [make that two] the prison had always been offered as its own remedy: the reactivation of the penitentiary techniques as the only means of overcoming their perpetual failure; the realization of the corrective project as the only method of overcoming the impossibility of implementing it. … Word for word, from one century to the other, the same fundamental propositions are repeated. They reappear in each new, hard-won, finally accepted formulation of a reform that has hitherto always been lacking. … One should not see in delinquency the most intense, most harmful form of illegality, the form that the penal apparatus must try to eliminate through imprisonment because of the danger it represents; it is rather an effect of penality (and of the penality of detention) that makes it possible to differentiate, accommodate and supervise illegalities. … There is no penal justice intended to prosecute all illegal practices which, to do so, would use the police as an auxiliary and prison as a punitive instrument, and not leave in its wake the unassimilable residue of ‘delinquency’.” (Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish)


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