Monday, April 2, 2007

Knife crime in Scotland

The (Glasgow) Herald has two items:

Professor Elliot Currie, one of America's foremost experts in crime and punishment, has heard all the arguments before in his own country. "I find it really discouraging," he admitted yesterday. "Being a criminologist for 30 years and given all the research all over the world, it frustrates me greatly to see this knee-jerk leaning towards imprisonment. "In the US we imprison more people than anywhere else in the industrial world. The US also has far and away the highest level of violent crime in the industrial world."
Professor Currie, who teaches at the University of California in Irvine, thinks the time has long since passed for politicians on both sides of the Atlantic to come up with something a bit more imaginative, "to be bold", and scale up existing and successful programmes of tough community sentences and restorative justice.

There are, of course, people who have to be locked away for a long time for reasons of public safety. But there are many individuals incarcerated in our prisons whose capacity for change is reduced every day inside the walls. Can we do something different?

This is what lies behind the Scottish Executive's proposed programme of "restorative justice" for adult offenders, following successful experiments with younger prisoners in Australia and America, as well as in Scotland.

Lots of offenders and victims will not want to be involved in this voluntary system. Some criminals can hardly face themselves, never mind their victims. A model developed in Texas, involving murderers on death row, has produced promising results. Some criminals have taken responsibility for their actions by apologising for what they have done, and making recompense where possible. Numerous victims and their families have been helped on the road to recovery by at last getting answers to questions.

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