If the goal of our justice system is to reduce crime and create a safer society, then we must do better, argues Russell Marks in this provocative and eloquent call for change.
Drawing on his experience as a criminal defence lawyer, Marks takes us into the world of courts and jails, of offenders and their victims. The accepted wisdom is that severely punishing offenders reduces the likelihood that they’ll offend again. Why, then, do the criminal records of so many show a worsening of offending behaviour over time? What do we actually know about offenders and the reasons they break the law?
Marks describes the alienated underclass which fills our courts and jails - and which also provides most victims of crime. For many offenders, prison will only increase their chances of reoffending. And, contrary to expectation, harsh sentences do not help victims to heal. Marks contends that our justice system, in which the accused are encouraged to admit guilt and simply accept ever rising penalties, must change. He makes the case for restorative justice and community correction, whereby offenders are obliged to engage with victims and make amends.