The use and abuse of prison in the age of social insecurity
in Incarceration and human rights
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The prison returns to the forefront of the societal stage, when only thirty years ago the most eminent specialists of the penal question were unanimous in predicting its waning, if not its disappearance. The resolutely punitive turn taken by penal policies in advanced societies at the close of the twentieth century thus does not pertain to the simple diptych of 'crime and punishment'. Penal severity is now presented virtually everywhere and by everyone as a healthy necessity, a vital reflex of self-defence by a social body threatened by the gangrene of criminality, no matter how petty. For the true alternative to the drift towards the penalisation, soft or hard, of poverty is the construction of a European social state worthy of the name. As in the era of its birth, the best means of making the prison recede is to bolster and expand social and economic rights.

Incarceration and human rights

The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 2007

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