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Against Penal Instrumentalism

Blad, John
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) Paper presented at Building a Global Alliance for Restorative Practices and Family Empowerment, Fourth International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices, set for 28-30 August, 2003. Downloaded 11 September 2003.

John Blad points out that for many decades the Netherlands criminal justice system approached punishment as a last resort. Moreover, incarceration decreased to an all-time low around 1975. In the 1980s, however, the Dutch government turned to more punitive policies in the face of crime, especially a rise in property crime. Correspondingly, a significant increase occurred in building prisons. Blad characterizes this Dutch approach as “penal instrumentalism.�? It refers to viewing and using punishment as an instrument of social policy. It also refers to ignoring conditions under which punishment can indeed be an instrument to achieve certain aims, as well as ignoring the limits to be imposed on the use of punishment. Blad critiques this approach and asserts that, in this atmosphere, restorative justice has little or no chance of being accepted in the Dutch criminal justice system.


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