Punishment.

Should the purpose of the criminal justice system really be punishment?

Is it not?

What is the PURPOSE of punishment?

How does punishment differ from retribution? And is retribution any different than vengeance? Is it appropriate for a government to take vengeance upon the lawbreakers of society? All of them? Some of them? None?

I think that the Canadian (and American) criminal justice system(s) are heavily reliant on punitive and retributive ideology that does not stand up to scrutiny. However, I have only been looking at this since I have been involved in criminology, and that makes me fairly biased, as my field considers crime and justice essentially the most important societal focus. I wish I could understand how the general public thinks. When you don’t think about crime, justice, punishment, and prisons every day, how does that make punishment more logical? What is going on in my country that we allow – ENCOURAGE – this type of ideology?

Is punishment harmful? Can vengeance hurt?

Can either be useful? Do they serve a practical purpose?

What do you think?

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The Elusive Teacher of Quebecois French!

Sometimes it’s just so hard to focus, isn’t it?

I have a few things on my plate right now, and they are (predictably) much more attractive to deal with than this presentation I should be concocting.

First question for any readers out there: How the hell do you learn Quebecois French when you aren’t in high school?!

I’m interested in doing a PhD at a school that requires you to pass passively in French at the end of the four year program. I want to work in Ottawa and/or in government, both of which essentially require French. Almost every plan of mine requires that I learn French.

Learning Parisian French would be just embarrassing, but the majority of tutors and self-learning programs/books teach Parisian French. Yes, tutors in Ontario teach Parisian French. Random and weird, I know.

So, what do I do? This dilemma is way more fun than working on my presentation…. although my topic is getting a bit more fun.

Our Schizophrenic Country

Oh, Canada.

I need to utilized you today, WordPress. I need to brainstorm.

For all of you Readers out there, present and future, I’m heading to Ottawa in a few days to present at the Critical Perspectives conference at Carleton University. Graduate students, professors, scholars, and working people all involved in criminal justice will be presenting over the weekend, and by some insane stroke of luck I managed to get myself put on the agenda.

Now, what am I going to talk about?!

I’m presenting a version of a paper I wrote for my penology class. That paper asked ‘What is the purpose of prison in Canada?’ and used a portion of Bill C-10 to try to answer that question. Problem is, 2/3 of that paper establishes the classical approaches to prison, what the various purposes of prison are, what the evidences of each of those positions are, etc. etc.

I cannot go to this conference and explain to these experts why long prison sentences reflect retributive approaches to prison, because in our world that’s obvious and elementary, my dear. I cannot spend time describing what rehabilitation looks like, because most of these people probably have a great deal more experience – both academic and first-hand – with rehabilitation than I do.

So, the bulk of my paper is out the window.

I want to use this blog to brainstorm. If you’ve come across this blog, even long after I present this, please let me know what you think of this issue, my ramblings, punishment and prison in general, or anything of the sort! Even if the literal need for this blog is over, this is still one of my main interests and fascinating to discuss.

So! Here is what we have to work with.

Canada and the criminal justice system in Canada appear to be in a state of flux. Our criminal justice system does not seem to have a universal approach to prison, punishment, or the breaking of the law. Considering this, establishing as a whole the purpose of prison in Canada is extremely difficult, and likely can change dramatically depending on which laws you use as evidence. Considering this, I do not aim to establish the general purpose of prison in Canada; rather, I aim to expose… what?

To begin this discussion, we must consider what is officially recognized as the purpose of prison in Canada for, of course, there are official missions and mandates. To get this information, I considered the website of the CSC.

There is an official 8-page document written and published by the CSC that establishes the official core values, approaches to ethics, responsibilities of employees, and other such mission statements. The four core values show that the CSC is committed to respecting the dignity of individuals, the rights of people in society, and the potential for human growth and development. They recognized that an offender has the potential to live as a law-abiding citizen.

These core values contain within them the seeds of rehabilitation. By establishing that the CSC respects the rights of people in society, the first core value protects against rehabilitative practices that could, in theory, harm the general community; however, overall this approach fits with a notion of prison that allows for growth and development, that exists to help inmates become law-abiding citizens.

This document was published in 2003. It is still in effect, and still available on the CSC website, although it is not easy to find. In fact, navigating to the section titled ‘Mission Statement’ does not provide a link to this information, or a summary of this information.

The ‘Mission Statement’, the one paragraph mission statement on the CSC website, seems to provide an alternate interpretation of these key goals. Or are they new goals? If anyone here knows how these two conflicting mission statements can exist, please talk to me.

This is the Mission Statement on the CSC website.

“The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), as part of the criminal justice system and respecting the rule of law, contributes to public safety by actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens, while exercising reasonable, safe, secure and humane control.”

I think it is crucial to note that the word ‘control’ is not in the 2003 Mission. This portion of the website was last updated in 2010 and, while it still contains the seeds of rehabilitation with the mention of encouraging offenders to become law-abiding citizens, places much more emphasis on the control and security of these offenders in addition to public safety.

Okay, that’s enough for now. I’m pretty sure I’m rambling. Need to back it up, read this over, and condense! Thanks for bearing with me.

 

Edit a few hours later:
Holy crap, that was boring. Good to know!! Wow.

New approach. Focus on the BILL, not the CSC. It’s hard to make it sound interesting, because it gets into word-by-word analysis which seems smart on paper but brutally dry when I’m speaking out loud.

Not sure how to make this memorable. Ugh. Lots of work to do tonight.

Will blog about it tomorrow! 🙂