I so, so badly want to believe in transformative/restorative/rehabilitative justice, I really hate the idea of punishment*, but…
It seems like so many attempts that I’ve been personally involved in have ended one of two ways:
1. ”Our ‘let’s all just hug this out’ community mediation process that works so well for minor disputes will totally work for major violence.”
2. “Here’s your rehabilitation. It looks exactly like regular prison.”
I still believe in the ideas, but they don’t do any good if people just use them as new labels to slap on old injustices.
*”Punishment” meaning an action done for the purpose of causing suffering. If actions that are necessary to make reparation, to protect people, or to enforce people’s personal boundaries happen to make the offender unhappy, that’s not punishment by my definition, that’s just time to sing the “you can’t always get what you waaaant” song.
Isn’t the idea that we can forcibly improve people through the justice system kind of absurd and full of hubris? Especially considering the justice system is possibly the least efficient and effective institution in the country, full stop.
Usually violent people are violent because they’re impulsive and don’t think their actions through - very little violence is calculated, because the penalties for being violent in a civil society (even if the justice system overlooks you) are so severe that there are almost no circumstances where someone will calmly and soberly decide ‘yeah, punching that guy is totally worth it.’
There isn’t really anything we can do to deter impulsive acts of violence aside from separating the people inclined to impulsive acts of violence from the rest of society, so they can commit them against each other instead of the rest of us. They don’t have a problem with their souls we can fix through Jesus; they don’t have a problem with their thinking we can fix through education; they have a problem with their brains that we don’t know how to fix. Yet.
I agree that punishment qua punishment is worthless in the pursuit of justice (it’s popular because there are a lot of sadists out there who need a better outlet for their fetishes than voting) but forcing someone to make restitution to their victims and keeping them apart from society so they can’t just keep committing crimes are both worthy goals. Prison does one of those and tort law does the other, but with unbelievable inefficiency. For what it’s worth I think they did a much better job in the Dark Ages with the institutions of outlawry and weregild, which served the same purposes.