Sunday, February 08, 2009

The wafer thin line

To follow on from my last post (and some comments on it at The Hand Mirror), I wanted to outline more what I meant by a wafer thin line between opposing prisons and supporting convictions in some cases (not actually deconstruct it yet, just draw where it might be).

As I think I've said before, I've believed in prison abolition for years. In my early 20s I read Jessica Mitford's Kind and Usual Punishment, and was utterly convinced by her argument about the impossibility of prison reform. As I became more of an activist my analysis developed, until I thought I was pretty solidly anti-prison.

Then I actually went to a prison (or four). Now my opposition to prisons is total and visceral. I can barely read stories about prison in the news. I struggle to concentrate as I follow state highway one past Arohata. I couldn't write a post about Brad Shipton not getting parole, because I couldn't say that I thought he should stay in prison.


Before, and still, prison abolition is not the total of my politics. The (in)justice system shapes the way we talk about and understand rape, and it has huge impact on women who have been raped (whether or not they make a complaint). I believe that this impact is almost all negative. I think that if I wished away the prison system by magic tomorrow, then what would be left would be better for rape survivors than what we have now.

I no longer feel any ambivalance about jail itself. I hate jail and don't want anyone to go there ever. But sometimes, although rarely, I think a conviction is important even though it might result in jail.

When? Here's my list:

  • Police Officers
  • Rapists who use a consent defence
  • Police officers who use a consent defence to rape (for the avoidance of doubt, as we used to write in agreement negotiations).
There are possibly other examples, mostly around provocation defences to murder.

I want to make clear that even though I support (I'm not even sure that's the word I'm looking for maybe, hope for, wish for, don't oppose would be better) convictions in those cases, that doesn't mean i support the sentances that sometimes follow.

I'm not going to make any grand conclusions about why. I want to explore that in more depth in the rest of the series. I just wanted to make clear that though the line may be wafer thin, what's on the other side of it is very small.

1 comment:

  1. I really don't understand your post???

    So let me get this right your against prisons and think they should be abolished all together?

    Am I understanding correctly that you think the only people who should go to jail are

    Police officers.

    Police who use consent defense in rape cases

    Anyone who uses consent defense in rape cases.

    What would you have instead of prisons for criminals?

    I'm just totally confused by your post?