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From the Power to Punish to the Power to Heal

Huculak, Bria
June 4, 2015

Source: (1995) Justice as Healing Winter

In this discussion of sanctions, Huculak maintains that Canada uses imprisonment as a sanction second only to the United States of America in the western world. From its inception, imprisonment as a means of punishment for socially disapproved behavior has been a topic of concern and reform movements. Yet the prisons remain intact with greater numbers being built to meet the demand. The use of imprisonment as a legal sanction has a very complex conceptual base that is closely tied to the function and the purpose of law. The way a society deals with offenders has varied historically with diverse motivations: punishment; deterrence (both individually and general); retribution; the protection of society; incapacitation; humanitarianism; reform; treatment and rehabilitation. There is no consensus among contemporary authors as to the aims of legal sanctions. The philosophy of punishment has been described as a controversial, almost political subject. No doubt the concepts and methods used in dealing with offenders are interrelated and linked to the underlying view of crime and the criminal (free will vs. determination) which is bound up with the view of humans in the nature of society, culture, values and economics which are reflected in the law and other mechanisms of social control. Huculak goes on to discuss sentencing circles as an alternative to a punitive response to crime.


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