Posts Tagged ‘therapeutic jurisprudence’

It’s been a great first year, and I want to thank all of you for taking the time to read, post, comment, share, and otherwise support this blog. I especially want to thank Brittius.com for all the reblogs of our content and the comments they’ve shared over the past months. Much appreciated, friends. You can read their blog here.

Image courtesy of jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Our blog began simply as an information project, primarily to help my students. I referred them here for more info on topics that commonly came up in our discussions and the other work we were doing together. Not only was it helpful to them, and a springboard for further discussion and learning, but I soon found that other people were interested in these topics as well.

That lead to additional topics, some guest posts, experiments with different approaches, and even a shot at a podcast (I plan to revive that in the new year). We also upped the game with a new and improved research blog, also supported by the company that sponsors this blog – Æquitas Educational Services – and a new weekly news site for parents: Social Web Safety.

Our Blog — Æquitas Educational Services 2013-12-14 08-28-44

So, to wrap things up, I’ve pulled together the top ten posts from Crime & Justice in terms of views, comments, and reblogs for 2013. I look forward to another year of growth and experimentation in 2014, and we’ll continue striving to provide you with the types of content you’re seeking.

If you have suggestions, story ideas, or just some feedback you’d like to share, let me know. And, as always, please spread the word about our blog and what we’re up to.

Top Ten Posts of 2013
  1. How Many Innocent People are in Prison?
  2. Why do Non-violent Felons Lose the Right to Bear Arms?
  3. Female Sex Offenders – Hidden in Plain Sight?
  4. Compliance with Authority and The Strip Search Prank Call Scam
  5. What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
  6. The Legal System’s Non-Response to “Revenge Porn” (Updated 11/7/13)
  7. Friday Crime Vids – The Failed War on Drugs
  8. Why Therapeutic Jurisprudence?
  9. Does Privacy Still Matter?
  10. Kratom – Wonder Drug or Potential Health Threat?

Thanks again, and have a happy and safe holiday season!

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I read an excellent blog post over the weekend by Rick Horowitz, “I’m a Prosecutor. This is What We Do,” that lays out a clear argument against the mindless, overzealous enforcement of the law by some prosecutors. His point was that, too often, thoughtless actions on the part of the State’s attorney can result in serious injustices that not only do real harm to individuals, but also erode public confidence in the system’s ability to functional at all.

Court

It’s not just prosecutors, though, who can act like “energizer bunnies,” to use Horowitz’s term for those who too aggressively pursue a barely articulated goal of “justice.” It’s also the police officer who oversteps his authority and injures or kills someone without just cause. It’s the judge who hides behind his robe when handing out sentences he knows are disproportionate to the crimes committed. It’s the correctional officer who uses excessive force just because he can.

We (meaning criminal justice practitioners) can all too easily forget that the justice system is operated by human beings for the purpose of protecting and serving other human beings. Inherent in that is the idea that our humanity should shine through, no matter the situation. Undoubtedly, this is messy work with few clear answers. Pretending, however, that the answer is to simply maximize the vengeful impacts of our limited role as a way to bring predictability and structure to the chaos is wrong-headed.

It will only serve to steer us further away from the goal of seeking justice. On this point, Horowitz concluded:

We, the People — not “the People” as mouthed by prosecutors and judges in the show trials that make up 95% of courthouse trials these days, but we, the actual People — need to wake up. When prosecutors forget that “not merely to convict” is intended to be a brake on vengeance, a reminder that true justice requires looking at the bigger picture, to see how we can make the world a better place, it is not merely the convict who suffers. Our whole society is dragged down by this attitude.

None of this is to say that police officers, prosecutors, judges, or correctional workers are inherently bad. They’re not. They’re essential, in fact, to maintaining public safety. At the same time, though, we need to look more deeply at what we’re doing as a whole, not just at what goes on within the self-enforced vacuum of our own little silos.  We need to look beyond the arbitrary boundaries we’ve established and work together to improve society overall through our actions.

So, how do we do that?

One place to start is to give more attention to integrated approaches to justice, such as Therapeutic Jurisprudence, a term coined by legal scholar, David Wexler, in the 1980s to describe what he referred to as:

a perspective that regards the law as a social force that produces behaviors and consequences. Sometimes these consequences fall within the realm of what we call therapeutic; other times antitherapeutic consequences are produced. Therapeutic jurisprudence wants us to be aware of this and wants us to see whether the law can be made or applied in a more therapeutic way so long as other values, such as justice and due process, can be fully respected.

While this is most typically applied to the court room, there’s no reason that it needs to be limited to any one part of the justice system. What if all elements of the system focused on increasing therapeutic effects while reducing harm to the maximum extent possible? What if we all operated not from a retributive perspective, but from a rehabilitative one as well?

Would that be more just and more likely to instill confidence in the system as a whole?

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below and share your perspective.

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