Penal Systems: A Comparative Approach

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Michael Cavadino & James Dignan

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    List of Associate Authors

    Australia – Andrew McLean Williams (formerly Griffith University, Queensland)

    Finland – Raimo Lahti (University of Helsinki) (assisted by Perttu Puro)

    France – Robert Cario (Université de Pau et des Pays de l'Adour)

    Germany – Frieder Dünkel (Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität, Greifswald)

    Italy – Vania Patané (Universität degli Studi di Catania)

    Japan – Tadashi Moriyama (University of Takushoku)

    Netherlands – Wim Valkenburg (Universität van Tilburg)

    New Zealand – John Pratt (Victoria University of Wellington)

    South Africa – Dirk van Zyl Smit (University of Nottingham and University of Cape Town)

    Sweden – Hanns von Hofer (Stockholms Universitet)

    USA – Don Anspach (University of Southern Maine)

    Foreword

    by DavidDownes

    The comparative study of crime and punishment, which languished for much of the past century, underwent a marked revival over the past two decades. The case for comparative method is overwhelmingly strong. Robust, commonsensical beliefs, such as that capital punishment ‘obviously’ deters people from murder, can only be tested and, in this case, found to be hugely misconceived, by painstaking contrasts over time and between different societies. But the pitfalls facing comparative study are immense, and help to account for its relative rarity. Gathering data about different societies, with their varying languages, cultures, and institutional structures, is far more complex than focusing on one society alone, difficult as that may be. It is all too easy for comparative projects to run into the sand, gathering mountains of data with no clear basis for their analysis, or falling prey to ‘criminological tourism’, a resort to superficial indicators of what is going on in crime and punishment terms in a range of societies. And some ‘comparative’ studies do not really compare but merely collect together singular and largely unrelated studies of crime and punishment in different societies. These may be valuable in their own right, but they do not add up to more than the sum of their parts. This is precisely what the present authors have achieved. In surmounting these pitfalls, they demonstrate how the promise of comparative penology can be fulfilled.

    Mick Cavadino and James Dignan deal successfully with these pitfalls by several key methods. They have evolved from the work of their predecessors, not least Rusche and Kirchheimer (1939), a broad theory of the likely links between criminal justice policies and penal systems, on the one hand, and the nature of a society's political economy, on the other. They weigh this perspective against a selected range of societies, at least one from each continent, avoiding ethno-centrism by working with colleagues who are leading experts in the field in the societies concerned. They thus maintain a common authorial voice, allow for diverse opinions about the interpretation of key developments, but do not ‘lose the plot’. They also gain greatly from the inter-disciplinary character of their work. Their typology of political economy is highly informed by recent work in comparative social policy. Overall, the book is knitted together, despite the wealth of meticulous detail, by a style which conveys complex ideas and analysis with fluency and apparent ease.

    All in all, this is a major, and should prove a seminal book, providing a template for the analysis of penal policy and political economy, which in future could be fruitfully extended both to other societies and to changes in those studied here. It could hardly be more timely, as penal policy in the USA at least is now a factor in international relations. The 2000 presidential election pivoted on the results in Florida, which were crucially influenced for Bush and against Gore by the huge numbers of pro-Democrat black and hispanic constituents denied the chance to vote by penal and felon disenfranchisement.

    For the first time since the transportation of prisoners came to an end, penal policy is no longer a purely domestic affair, but a field that has ramifications for world politics. It is also now so big a factor that domestically it has become a force for changing the political economy rather than simply being a peripheral outcome. The relation has become a two-way, interactive process, as the authors stress, with the prison budget severely denting those for health and education in states such as California.

    It would be all too easy, given this scale of penal increase in the world's most powerful nation, to end on an apocalyptic note. And it is indeed a key question as to whether the USA is a harbinger or an outlier in terms of penal futures for societies which have traditionally embraced far more sparing penal policies, practices and regimes. Cavadino and Dignan resist that lure. They are rightly measured and judicious in their predictions, all too aware of the dangers of mass imprisonment but also of the scope for resistance and reform. Some societies, Sweden, Finland and Japan, for example, despite recent increases in their prison population, and despite their chapter on Japan being an eye-opener for those who thought its low crime and imprisonment rate stemmed from ‘reintegrative shaming’, present a very different set of possibilities. It is for its attention to the peculiar character of each country's penal culture, which is replete with fascinating variations, as well as for its analysis of over-arching trends, that this book should command a close reading and a wide readership.

    DavidDownes Mannheim Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice London School of Economics January 2005

    Preface

    The Nature of This Book

    Most comparative penology books to date have fallen into one of two categories. Some (for example, Muncie and Sparks, 1991; Vagg, 1994) cover a relatively limited subject such as imprisonment. Others contain separate chapters from different authors in a range of countries, with the result that (to caricature somewhat) a chapter on parole in Poland might be followed by one on imprisonment in Indonesia or community service in Colombia. In less common vein, van Kalmthout and Tak (1988) is a valuable but relatively atheoretical reference work on the details of different European criminal justice systems, while Downes (1988) is a comparison between just two systems (English and Dutch). Van Zyl Smit and Dünkel (2001) contains individually-authored reports from 26 countries plus a number of chapters by different authors on comparative aspects of imprisonment while Hamai et al. (1995) contains individually authored reports on probation in various countries. This book differs from all of these others. We present and analyse information from a wide variety of countries representing Western Europe (England and Wales, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland), the non-European English-speaking world (USA, Australia and New Zealand), the fascinating but rather special case of South Africa, and a single representative of East Asia in the shape of Japan. We hope this width of coverage leads to some interesting comparisons without over-stretching the book hopelessly. However, apart from Japan, these are all broadly speaking ‘Western’ countries, and although we hope we have in places raised some interesting questions about the relationships between punishment in the ‘West’ and what happens in the varied areas of the ‘East’ we can only hope to scratch the surface of some of these broader issues.

    Rather than having separate chapters relating to different countries by different authors, we have organized the book more thematically. Parts 1 and 4 attempt an overview of all the countries studied, while Part 3 contains five chapters about two specific aspects of penal theory and practice: youth justice and prison privatization. In these three parts, the comparisons between countries are drawn within each chapter, giving the reader a more synoptic and genuinely comparative vision of penality in different jurisdictions. Part 2 does admittedly contain nine chapters about the individual countries and the historical trends in their penality, but even this part is organized around the concept of ‘penal crisis’, with the aim of comparing the different countries’ tendency to this prevalent malady. The chapters have all been written by the two principal (English) authors (Cavadino and Dignan), our analysis being based on information supplied by our eleven associates in the other countries. The intended result is a work combining a certain level of theoretical depth with a degree of overall coherence which could be easily lost in a book with several authorial voices. (We have found to our gratification that our associates usually agree with our analyses and general outlook, but entire unanimity of viewpoint – let alone prose style – would be too much to hope for, unless we were all members of some disciplined international Marxist organization. Which, we hasten to add, we are not.) So we have included the occasional note of dissent from our associates where appropriate.

    Most of the information was gathered by sending a series of questionnaires (six in total) to each associate, asking them all the same detailed questions about the penal systems with which they were familiar. Where necessary, the principal authors followed up subsequently with requests for further or more detailed information from individual countries or accessed information directly from internet sources. Preliminary analyses and drafts were submitted for comment to associates, and this book is the result. The principal authors are of course extremely grateful to all our associates for the wealth of fascinating information they submitted, only a fraction of which is directly used in this book. (Where information about a penal system is unattributed, it was as likely as not provided by one of our contributors. Unless it's wrong, in which case we probably just imagined it.) Cavadino and Dignan take responsibility for the facts, interpretations and values expressed in this book.

    This book is designed to complement our textbook on the penal system of England and Wales (Cavadino and Dignan, 2002); we have tried to minimize the degree of repetition between the two volumes while cross-referring to the other as appropriate.

    Some Words of Explanation, and an Explanation of Some Words

    There are various words and concepts which we will be applying repeatedly throughout this book, and it seems helpful to explain some of them here. Not, however, the vital distinction between different types of modern state – neo-liberal, conservative corporatist, social democratic and oriental corporatist, for whose definitions the reader must wait until Chapter 1.

    Penal Philosophies and Penal Aims

    Penal philosophies, or philosophies of punishment, are ideas about what might morally justify practices of punishment. Typically such philosophies also indicate the aims that a morally justified practice of punishment should pursue (and perhaps, should actually achieve if the punishment is to be justified.) (See Cavadino and Dignan, 2002: Chapter 2 for an introduction to penal philosophy.) Such aims include the prevention or reduction of crime through deterrence of offenders and potential offenders and the ‘incapacitation’ of offenders by physically preventing their reoffending through such means as imprisonment. Punishment can also seek to reduce crime by denouncing the offence and sending out moral messages as to the wrongfulness of the offence, and by reforming or (a near-synonym) rehabilitating the offender. We shall at times be distinguishing between reform and resocialization – both of these if successful should lead to an offender ceasing to offend, but the latter is conceived of as a more social process, in which society as a whole plays an important part. (The terms ‘welfare model’ and ‘penal welfarism’ also refer to this rehabilitationist approach.) On the other hand, the retributivist philosophy of punishment seeks not to reduce crime so much as to ensure that offenders receive their ‘just deserts’ in terms of suffering in return for the wrong they have done. One important school of retributivist thought is the ‘justice model’ with its emphasis on due process and the need for proportionality in punishment, which has influenced penal thinking since the early 1970s. Finally, the approach known as restorative justice seeks to ensure that offenders perform reparation to their victims and to the community, that relations are restored and that offenders are reintegrated into the community.

    The word ‘positivism’ refers to the theory that criminal behaviour is determined by forces (such as genetic predisposition, upbringing and social situation) beyond the control and responsibility of the individual offender, whose crimes are not therefore seen as resulting from an exercise of free will. Consequently, offenders should not be blamed or given their supposed ‘just deserts’ but given treatment that will reform them, while if necessary incapacitating them from committing crimes for the time being. The contrary approach, classicism, holds the opposite: that offenders are and may be held responsible for their crimes and visited with retributive and/or deterrent punishments.

    Penal Strategies and Approaches

    The penal strategies that governments and policymakers might pursue are related to these penal philosophies, but not as neatly as one might suppose (see Cavadino and Dignan, 2002: 53–4). With Iain Crow, we have developed a three-fold typology of penal strategies (Cavadino et al., 1999). Strategy A is an extremely harsh and punitive approach influenced by ‘law and order ideology’ (Cavadino and Dignan, 1997) or ‘populist punitiveness’ (Bottoms, 1995), which involves punishing offenders as severely as possible. Strategy B represents the application of modern managerialism to punishment to attempt to make the criminal justice system as effective, efficient and economical as possible. Strategy C seeks to protect and uphold the human rights of individuals, including offenders, victims and potential victims of crime. This approach has several variants, since there has been (and remains) a wide range of views and schools of thought about what it should mean to respect human rights and to be humane in the penal context. Some proponents of Strategy C favour measures to reform and resocialize offenders; others favour restorative justice; still others propound the retributivist ‘justice model’ approach as the best way to safeguard human rights.

    A slightly different but related typology of approaches to punishment (or ‘models’) is one which we shall make particular use of in Chapters 12 to 15. This distinguishes between the welfare, justice, minimum intervention, restorative justice and neo-correctionalist models. The justice and restorative justice models have already been briefly explained, and we shall expand on the minimum intervention model (and indeed, all the others) in Chapter 12 in the context of youth justice. The ‘welfare model’ is a version of ‘positivism’ (see above), which stresses the importance of taking action which will be for the benefit of offenders and which will ensure their reform or resocialization.

    ‘Neo-correctionalism’ is a broad term, which we use to characterize an approach that has been increasingly adopted in many countries in recent decades; sometimes almost to the exclusion of others. This approach embodies the uncompromising punitiveness of Strategy A (see above), and is put forward, in particular by increasingly influential right-wing commentators and politicians, as the real answer to problems of law and order. Sometimes the harshness of Strategy A is relatively unalloyed by any other approach – simple harshness, and in particular a growing reliance on the sanction of imprisonment, is seen as the answer to crime. Sometimes this ‘toughness’ is combined with the managerialism of Strategy B, to produce an approach we have called ‘punitive managerialism’ (Cavadino et al., 1999: 54).

    We should also indicate and explain a general dimension that encapsulates many of the detailed differences between philosophies, strategies and approaches. ‘Exclusive’ or ‘exclusionary’ approaches deal with offenders by rejecting them as members of the community and shutting them out of mainstream society by measures such as imprisonment or by stigmatizing them. The exclusionary approach favours punishments such as imprisonment (or even the extreme exclusion of the death penalty), and is allied to Strategy A and to notions of deterrence, incapacitation and an illiberal version of retributivism. The ‘inclusive’ or ‘inclusionary’ approach, on the other hand, seeks to maintain offenders within the community and reintegrate them into mainstream society. It can be found embodied in notions and practices of reform, resocialization, restorative justice and more liberal versions of retributivism (such as the ‘justice model’). (See further Cavadino et al., 1999: 48–50; see also Sanders, 2002).

    Penality: Harsh and Lenient

    We use the word ‘penality’, in accordance with established academic usage, to refer not only to the practice of punishment but also to ideas and discourse about punishment.

    Finally, a word of explanation prompted by the horrified reaction of our Swedish associate Hanns von Hofer when we suggested entitling the section on Sweden and Finland ‘Nordic Social Democratic Leniency’. When we use words like ‘harsh’ and ‘lenient’ in relation to punishment we mean them relatively and neutrally. That is, what we call a ‘harsh’ or ‘lenient’ punishment is one which is more harsh or lenient than what is usually found, and does not necessarily mean that we approve or disapprove. Our general opinion, however – as those who know us are well aware – is that a great deal less ‘harshness’ and a great deal more ‘leniency’ would not go amiss in any of the countries we study in this book, for reasons we have explained elsewhere (Cavadino and Dignan, 2002: Chapter 2; Cavadino et al., 1999: Chapter 2).

    Acknowledgements

    As well as our associate authors, thanks are also due to Anton van Kalmthout (Netherlands) and David Moore (Australia), who helped get our research on their countries off the ground, to Yasu Watanabe, who provided additional feedback in relation to Japan, and to David Downes, David Greenberg, Julian Roberts and Tony Bottoms.

    And, of course and as ever, to Lucille Cavadino and Angela Dignan for their love and support.

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