In a column in Canada's Globe & Mail newspaper, writer Doug Saunders in Hurt the criminal or hurt the crime? raises the issue of dealing with criminals with revenge or rehabilitation.
Revenge or rehabilitation. In some countries, the United States, Great Britain and Canada, for example, more and more revenge is the purpose of prisons, notwithstanding claims to the contrary by politicians and prison officials. The problem is that revenge increases the risk to the public.If a neighbourhood kid grabs you on the street, slashes you with a knife and steals your wallet, once you get over the pain, the rage, the fear and the police bureaucracy, you’ll probably want him sent to prison.
But what sort of prison? That’s where you, as a victim, confront the question that most countries face today: Correction or revenge? Do you want to hurt the criminal, or do you want to hurt crime?
Norway takes a different approach, Saunders points out,
Personally, I think it is smart to treat prisoners as the Norwegians do and make communities safer. I would rather not be the victim of a crime in the first place rather than see society take some perverse pleasure in what amounts to torturing prisoners and returning even more violent, anti-social people to the streets to harm others....revenge and suffering have no place in the Norwegian prison system. “We want to build them up, give them confidence through education and work and have them leave as better people.”
Does that make you feel all warmhearted and hopeful for the kid who disfigured you? Are you yearning to give him the chance to become a better person? Probably not. There’s a good chance it infuriates you. Especially when you learn that it’s costing more money to keep him in this luxe prison than you earn in a year.
But consider this: Fewer than one in five prisoners in Halden will commit another serious crime after being released. In Canada, the United States and Britain, the rate is more like three in five.
It troubles me, in particular, that so many people on the Right, particularly those who profess Christian love. seem to take such giddy delight and joy in treating prisoners as brutally and cruelly as possible. This is certainly the prevailing attitude in the US, and it's growing in Canada and the UK.
The evidence is unequivocal. If criminals are afforded respect and dignity, and are given opportunities to earn a livelihood, communities and people are safer.
What say you? The perverse joys of revenge and increased crime or the wisdom of rehabilitation and reduced crime?