- We need to consider what is in society's best interests when deciding on a sentence.
- Prison does not deter or reduce crime in any way and actually causes increased re-offending.
- Prisons are uncivilized in that they deprive individuals of their freedoms and liberty and rights.
- The only thing prison does effectively, is teach individuals how to conform to the norms and values inside prison.
- It is applied unfairly, as Aboriginals and other visible minorities are sentenced more harshly, which is why they are disproportionately over-represented in prisons.
- Those in power, the ruling class, decide what is deemed to be "illegal" and it criminalizes those in the lower classes.
- It is degrading.
- It is simply a quick fix, not a long term solution to the root causes of crime.
- With imprisonment, justice is not served as the victim is not involved. With restorative justice, the victim and offender can be involved.
- Prisons are the schools of crime, and when released, individuals have higher recidivism rates.
- Prisons DO NOT address the underlying causes and factors contributing to crime such as poverty, unemployment, lack of education, negative peer influences, addictions, abuse, neglect, etc.
- When offenders are released, they are released back into the same social and economic conditions which caused their criminal behaviour in the first place, therefore, causing more crime.
- Inmates become "institutionalized" because they must follow a rigid schedule and therefore, have difficulty with decision making and reintegration.
- When the courts over-rely on prisons as a sentence, overcrowding occurs. This leads to increased aggressiveness, hostility, violence and stress among inmates, increasing the probability to re-offend when released.
- Prisons do NOT reduce or deter crime in any way.
- Prisons draw on the rational choice theory and assume that individuals are free thinking, rational individuals who weigh the costs and benefits of their behaviour, which is completely untrue.
- Pro-criminal attitudes, values and behaviours exist in prisons, causing more crime.
- Gangs and drugs are prevalent in prisons
- It is cruel that inmates are separated from their families and friends.
- Prisons are not a proportionate sentence due to mandatory minimum sentencing (where all offenders are treated the same, with the same punishment, when really, offenders and their crimes are all very different and each have unique circumstances. MMS limits judicial discretion in considering all aggravating and mitigating circumstances in deciding on an appropriate and fair sentence).
QUESTION: If prisons and policing aren’t the answers, then what?
The answer lies in developing systems of harm prevention and when harm still occurs, because it will, systems of accountability and ways to address the causes of the harm that do not rely on the failed, back end response of locking someone up.
Even the most horrendous forms of harm do not happen without a reason. Awareness of why harm occurred is the first step in preventing future harms. For example, we know that people who commit acts of harm often have been harmed themselves in the past. We also can not see individual acts of harm in isolation, as disconnected with the larger the world, the social and economic conditions that lead to harm.
Abolition does not mean that we don’t hold people accountable for their actions. But punishment creates the opposite of accountability — a sense of social isolation instead of responsibility to others. If anything, punishment makes future harm more likely since it encourages people to lash out. People who have seriously harmed another need appropriate forms of support, supervision and social and economic resources.
We don’t claim to have all the answers. In reality, we know that the dominance of prisons as an response to harm has kept many alternatives from developing. But we also do know that alternatives exist. In post-apartheid South Africa, for example, rather than try, punish and potentially imprison those who had done harm to others under apartheid, the new government set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission heard testimony of people who took responsibility for their actions and were held accountable without imprisonment. While the system may not have functioned perfectly, it does provide an alternative model for even horrendous offenses such as the genocide that occurred under apartheid.