My impression of this system is that it long ago abandoned any component of rehabilitation and has become more focused on fear, intimidation, hatred and lately it has disturbingly turned these tools of destruction towards a profit motive.
So I'm going to throw something into the æther and see what sticks.
I don't claim to be an expert in any way -- I only claim to be a fairly compassionate human being (not that I'm perfect there either). I just want to have the discussion.
The current all-or-nothing criminal justice system we have now is destructive & largely ineffective—what I believe we need is a more nuanced & layered system.
There needs to be more options between a person who has done harm running around free to continue to harm others and full, institutional imprisonment.
Very roughly, one idea I had was to Occupy the person, not have the person occupy a prison cell -- people to sit with a person and watch, educate, assist, and protect others. Show the person a better way to live, and don't tolerate inappropriate behavior. Temporary incarceration certainly will be necessary with some people at some times, but we need to work to improve people, not JUST punish them. Love for humanity should be our guiding principle. And I don't think this would be 'soft' on crime either, I think it would be incredibly difficult on most people to be monitored like a 2 year old.
As it turns out, I'm not the first person to think along these lines (shocking, I know). Apparently the term 'Transformative Justice' has been used with ideas along these lines (thanks to this article by Mia McKenzie and this article at Feministe for introducing me to the term, I had previously written this entry calling it Loving Justice).
I would like to add one additional component to that mix beyond what I think most people would, that is the idea of psychotropic drug treatment. And I don't mean treatment for addiction, we already have that (and we need to do better there). I mean using powerful psychotropic agents such as Peyote, Ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, Ibogaine, LSD, and MDMA under proper medical supervision (psychiatry combined with psychotherapy, see some of the MAPS research for background in this area, once again, I'm not making this up, just pulling things together).
Another component to all of this is to end the stigma and social out-casting that comes with being a damaged person. Just consider the current typical progression:
- person has a violent episode and/or does something stupid
- they are imprisoned for an extended period of time
- they lose most or all of their social support network
- they suffer further additional mental and often physical abuse in prison
- they are eventually released and usually cannot get a job or are only offered extremely undesirable jobs
- they lose access to government programs like education assistance and housing, things that might actually help them get back on their feet
- they are treated as a pariah by most of society
- they return to crime, WELL DUH
How about mandatory education to a 2-year-degree level before release for violent crimes? How about mandatory job training and psychotherapy? How about hope for employment in some capacity other than menial laborer?
This does NOT mean that people get away with anything they want to do, recovery is, at best, arduous and difficult. It doesn't mean I think criminals should go free, it means I would like to see a path where at least some criminals can get out of the cycle they are locked into by our current system of 'justice'.