Prison as a last resort. The “Fata Morgana” of criminal justice systems?
The acknowledgement of the negative impact of imprisonment on individuals, families and communities led, over the last three decades, to the development of multiple reports, policy recommendations and initiatives advocating for the reduction of the reliance on prisons.
Deprivation of liberty as a last resort is foreseen in the Council of Europe Recommendation R (99) 22 on Prison Overcrowding and Prison Population Inflation, in the Preamble of the European Prison Rules 2006, and in the draft Resolution VIII of the Eight United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (United Nations, 1990).
Despite all the efforts, this goal is far from being reached. The traditional desire for punishment and reparation keeps reinsuring prison as the default sentence, generating an over-use of prison systems.
In this issue of the JUSTICE TRENDS magazine, we invite you to learn how some jurisdictions around the world are responding to prison over-population and over-crowding (and its related problems) by changing their sentencing laws, increasing the use of community sentences (supported or not by technology), introducing and strengthening restorative justice, reparation and restitution for victims, and re-educating the public opinion about the effectiveness of new sentencing policies.
The promotion of community sentences – having in prison only the ones who really have to be in prison – is beneficial to individuals, their families and the community. Reducing the pressure generated by the prison overpopulation and overcrowding not only allows correctional administrations to focus on safety and security and on the individual needs of each person – and on the programmes that need to be put in place to promote their rehabilitation and social reintegration – but also to plan ahead, directing resources to deal with pressing problems (such as mental health, ageing, radicalisation and extremism, gangs and organised crime, as e.g.) while also tackling new challenges that every day arise from societal and technological changes.
Can imprisonment be the alternative sentence?
Enjoy reading the third edition of JUSTICE TRENDS magazine.
Pedro das Neves
JUSTICE TRENDS Magazine Founder & Director CEO of IPS_Innovative Prison Systems
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Fata Morgana is the Italian name for Morgan le Fay (meaning “Morgan the Fairy”), a sorceress of medieval legends. This sister of the legendary King Arthur is sometimes portrayed as the ruler of the island paradise Avalon and is said to have had a number of magical powers, with which she caused a great deal of trouble. Among her powers, say some versions of the legend, was the ability to change shape, and she has been blamed for causing complex mirages over bodies of water, especially in the Strait of Messina. Today we know that such optical illusions are really caused by atmospheric conditions, but we still sometimes use “fata morgana” as a synonym of “mirage.”