The Justice System

You don't have to go that far back into my musical history to discover that I used to like Lostprophets. I listened to them a lot back in 2001 and 2002, even going so far as to brag about owning a first-edition before the major label re-record version of their debut album thefakesoundofprogress. For what it is worth, that album is still a very good record for it's time, inventive and sparky. 

Now, however, it is invariably tainted by what is probably the worst child abuse case to make the headlines in recent times. I even mentioned them with glee in a post back in 2007 (a post with a few odd jokes that now seem rather unsavoury).

I am absolutely shocked and beyond appalled at his crimes. As an old fan it belies belief that this is what happened to that band and the lead singer, one I would have happily said were my favourite band of a time (a long time ago mind you). And their first two albums did get occasional spins on Nostalgia trips (they have 219 plays on my Last.fm profile, for example, which is more than some artists I would consider to be my favourites at the moment).

I have seen a lot of correspondence online under articles (I know, don't go below the line), on Twitter and Facebook (seeking it out, mind you) that was mixed up, misplaced and disoriented. It has seen various "innocent" campaigns that were quite ludicrous looking back to the vilification of "he deserves to die" schools of thought, which brings me onto my point.

A discussion with a friend a few months back brought up something that I'd not considered regarding crime and their resulting sentence - is that the punishment, or is it something else? Do people go to jail to be punished or are they sent there to either be changed or rehabilitated, or for societies own protection?

The reason that this came up was the spotlight shone on the Norwegian prison system in the aftermath of the sentencing of Anders Brevik. At a prison in Norway, prisoners are "treated like people" - and these are rapists, murderers and the worst sort. Bastoy Prison island is somewhere the cells are fashioned with TVs, computers, en-suite showers, sanitation in cells that are not cells, but actually small hotels rooms, situated in clusters of a few rather than the rows and rows of cells that we have in the UK. The prisoners are put through college and university education, with real life skills training and the simple idea that even those in for the maximum 21 years shouldn't be dehumanised - the only thing that the prisoners don't have is their freedom.

My friend was appalled at this - he was adamant that those in jail should face hard time - implying that the current UK system of segregation, poor living standards, and the lack of luxuries should be kept because it is the punishment. I entirely disagree - the prison population in Norway is proportionally a lot less that the UK, but the most stark comparison is the reoffending rate - from the article "in 2007, 14 prisons in England and Wales had re-convictions rates of more than 70%" where as in Norway the rate is "...less than 30%, the lowest reoffending figures in Europe and less than half the rate in the UK".

Of course, we can't directly compare. We have vastly different cultures. But I think it is a good point to be made about the respect that we show the prisoners who our society has let down, where they have either decided to, been forced to, or chose crime that it is then that same society that deals them an even worse hand when in prison, and then they have to live a life without it afterwards. It just seems to me an absolutely absurd idea that people should be able to come out of the prison system and be expected to just survive without the support that the Norwegian system gives them.

To further qualify my post I am not talking about sentences or guidelines on who to jail and how - just that many people see prison as the punishment that fits the crime, but it's not in my eyes. The loss of freedom to do what you want and whenever you want is the punishment, and if those who are incarcerated are there anyway, we might do better to treat them with respect and help them out. It just feels like good practise.

Trying to tell that to someone who has been personally affected by a crime would be hard though, of course. Which is the exact reason that vengeance isn't allowed in our justice system.