International conference on prison abolition

Year Published:  1983
Resource Type:  Organization
Cx Number:  CX2875

The Quaker Committee on Jails and Justice (QCJJ) recently sponsored an INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON PRISON ABOLITION. It took a serious look at prison abolition and how a society without prisons could function. It brought together activists in the prison fields and allowed them to share their ideas and experiences. The CONFERENCE marked an important moment in the development of the prison aboliton movement. Activists from across Canada, the U.S., and Europe examined such issues as, "Analyzing the System", "How to Get To Abolition From Here." and "True Alternatives to Prisons."

Our present judicial system is based on the adversary model. Every conflict is set up in such a way that there will be a winner and a loser. The aim of the system is to determine guilt. The guilty person is then "appropriately" punished. The result of the system has been largely negative. Instead of resolving dsiputes, it has fostered frustration, bitterness and anger.

A different way has been proposed to resolve crime, based on the negotiation model. The system is not new. It was used by North American native people prior to the arrival of the Europeans. It is still used in some African communities as the main way of resolving crime.

The negotiation model acknowledges that the crime is a conflict among parites. It is a personal thing and must be resolved at that level. It ought not to be taken away from those parties most directly affected.

For the negoitations model to work, it is not necessary to assess blame and guilt. Where guilt can be established and agreed upon, this knowledge may be useful in the negotiations. For the victim or the community to insist on an admission of guild can be a means of manipulating the outcome and of bargaining in bad faith. Negotiations do not requie a guilty verdict. They only require the willingness of both parties to make compromises. The advantage is that both parties can maintain their self-respect and dignity.

This abstract was published in the Connexions Digest in 1983.

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