In a revealing exploration of the criminal justice system, Benjamin Perrin, a UBC law professor, author, and harm reduction advocate, presents powerful insights into the need for transformative justice. Prof. Perrin's work delves deep into societal issues, drawing a clear line connecting past traumas, substance use, and systemic incarceration.
Often, we perceive the criminal justice system as a tool for retributive justice. Break a law, face the punishment – this is the shared view. However, Prof. Perrin's research highlights a fundamental question surrounding this prevailing practice. Are producing justice, or are we pushing affected individuals further into a cycle of crime and punishment?
His compelling case-in-point is Halden Prison in Norway, a crusader for humanistic corrections. At Halden, the focus isn’t just on penalizing the inmates but reforming them. Remarkably, this approach led to a substantial drop in re-offense rates from 60-70% to a mere 20%. A compelling argument for the reformation of our traditional prisons.
However, restructuring our prisons will only work with a more nuanced law enforcement approach. Implementing a 24/7 non-police mobile crisis response team could be highly effective in de-escalating situations, as demonstrated in numerous global communities. The introduction of such teams holds immense potential in reducing community harm.
The focus under the spotlight currently is our pursuit for a more balanced society. Prof. Perrin’s arguments provide a compelling rationale on how the criminal justice system could be reinvented to not only deliver justice but also to alleviate existing societal issues. The amalgamation of transformative justice, the reshaping of traditional prisons, and empathetic crisis handling could gradually steer society away from punitive measures to more rehabilitative methods.
While this is a shift that necessitates effort and a change in the societal narrative, Prof. Benjamin Perrin’s discourse inspires hope for a society where justice doesn’t merely penalize but offers a chance for individuals to transform for the better.