This is one reason the United States, with 5 percent of the worldâ€™s population has 25 percent of the worldâ€™s prisoners: We lock up the people weâ€™re angry at, not just the people weâ€™re afraid of.
….If you want a kid to stop acting childish, wait long enough and heâ€™ll grow up. On the other hand, one way to turn a teenage thug into a thug-for-life is to lock him up in a prison full of adult thugs. Research is clear on this: Children who get caught up in the criminal justice system are far more likely to return to courts and prisons as adults.
Punishment alone doesnâ€™t rehabilitate criminals. â€œPunishment creates resentment and anger,â€ William Morrissette, chair of the Criminal Justice Program at Bay State College, told me this week. â€œThey think they have been victims of injustice.â€
So they spend their time in jail figuring out how they are going to get back at the people who put them there. They learn nothing about themselves, and walk out of prison more dangerous than when they went in.
Punishment motivated by vengeance doesnâ€™t do much for victims, either, though they often think it will. What crime victims really need is to understand why it happened to them. They want a sincere apology and some reason to believe the criminal has been changed by the experience, and wonâ€™t do it again.
That understanding between perpetrator and victim requires face-to-face communication, so they start to see each other as individuals. The victim learns that the perpetrator is a human with his own problems and issues, not an irrational, evil force that will forever haunt the victimâ€™s nightmares. The perpetrator sees the damage he has needlessly caused, and learns who the real victim is.
That communication, Morrissette explained, is at the heart of â€œrestorative justice,â€ which aims to heal, not just punish. It helps victims get closure and perpetrators attain self-awareness. The perpetrators must take responsibility for their actions, and repair the damage theyâ€™ve done, by apologizing, returning what theyâ€™ve taken or performing community service.
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