“To Make Live and Let Die”: the State of Capital Punishment

With news of the recent governor-issued moratorium on the death penalty in my former home of Washington State, I have found it an interesting time to explore the reality of capital punishment today. With this moratorium, Washington joins seven other states under either a de facto or de jure suspension and echoes the on-going trend towards abolition of the practice on a global level. Continue reading →


Cost-Benefit of Non-Violent Incarceration

One of the UK’s leading newspapers, the Daily Telegraph, recently published an article featuring scathing criticism of the country’s inadequate rate of incarceration for “sex attackers, violent criminals and burglars”.  Like many groups or people who abhor the perceived liberalization or relaxation of the justice system, the Telegraph went on to identify this as a failure of the government to address so-called “soft” sentencing for the worst categories of offenders. The reality of what these numbers reflect may be quite different, however. Richard Garside of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies provided a sound rebuttal to the alarmist tone of the Telegraph article, suggesting that the numbers presented do not tell the whole story, both in terms the reason for sentencing discrepancies (e.g., was the crime committed one that actually involved violence or was this offender otherwise a threat to public safety?) and the overall rate of crime. Continue reading →

Redefining Global Drug Policy: Uruguay’s Move to Legalize Marijuana

General consensus that the War on Drugs has failed is growing. As many communities establish a consensus that the War on Drugs is unsuccessful, alternative approaches to addiction and drug-related violence are being adopted. In the past 40 years, the United States has spent roughly $1 trillion on the War on Drugs, with limited positive results to show for it. Thus, a new approach must be taken to combat addiction issues and drug trafficking, as well as the human rights abuses related to criminalization tactics. Uruguay presents a prominent new example; on December 12, Uruguay became the first country to legalize the production, distribution and sale of marijuana, initiating a new approach to the War on Drugs. Continue reading →

The Privatization Let-Down

Whilst there is a long history to the use of private companies to transport or house prisoners, the use of for-profit prisons in modern times emerged quite recently in the 1980s and 1990s. The governments of countries such as Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have relied increasingly on the use of for-profit private facilities to house inmates, in addition to other services. There has, however, been a momentary stoppage to the utilisation of private services for “tagging” – the post-conviction electronic monitoring of offenders—in England and Wales, as private security giants Serco and G4S have been stripped of these previously-contracted responsibilities after damning investigations into allegations the firms overcharged the UK government. At the same time, damning allegations have been made against HMP Peterborough, a Sodexo-run prison in the UK. These apparent failures and questionable practices have in part led UK Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan to voice support for the “renationalization” of private prisons who fail to meet rigorous inspection. Continue reading →

New technology for a new police

The reality that there is often tension between law enforcement bodies and the public is no secret, and it may be that new technology provides an opportunity to both reduce incidents of misconduct and increase transparency and accountability in police-public interactions.

Reports and accusations of police victimization of minority communities and general conduct emerge with relative frequency in many Western countries like the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, the most recent of which appears to be police-directed “humiliation” of mentally ill black men in suburban Detroit. Continue reading →

The stigma perpetuated by the War on Drugs

As criticism of the War on Drugs continues to grow, it is essential to analyze the relationship drug policies have had on imprisonment and the impact of the methods used on social perceptions of drug use and substance abuse. In the 1980s, the U.S. held 150 prisoners for every 100,000 citizens. Today, 760 out of every 100,000 adults find themselves behind bars. The War on Drugs has been cited as the primary cause for this drastic increase. With rates significantly higher than all other developed nations combined, one has to question the tactics attributed to upholding the War on Drugs. Continue reading →

Incorporating the Scandinavian system

With the news that Sweden has reduced its overall prison population enough to warrant the closure of four prisons and a remand centre, the ‘liberal’ Scandinavian prison model is again under the spotlight. Countries like Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are often lauded for their humane and distinct prison systems; Bastøy, Norway’s island prison, is often noted for its communal living quarters, extensive access for inmates to education, and, derisively by critics, its “holiday camp”-like atmosphere. Indeed, it appears that this system is at least partially effective – the Council of Europe’s study on Europe-wide rates of recidivism shows that Scandinavian countries have among the lowest rates of both re-offence and incarceration in the region. Continue reading →