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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 10. 24 May 1972

Does Deterrence Work?

Does Deterrence Work?

It cannot be said that the planners of Witako have not tried to face up to the difficulties of creating a truly reformative prison; they have faced up to an impossible task. Playfair places the blame in the laps of the legislative and the judiciary. Crimes are punishable by fixed sentences, more chosen to fit the crime than the criminal The legislature has fixed the sentences to fit in with an idea of deterence, and the judges impose the sentences with the legislatures' intention in mind. Yet deterence has been shown innumerable times to have no effect on crime. Even if it did, there is no way to measure how deterent a particular measure is, and whether it will deter one crime and not another. Does 14 years jail for page 11 drug pushing deter that crime as much as does death for treason? Obviously there is no way of telling. Even if the sentences do have the required effect, the very fact that they must sometimes be invoked means that the prison system is landed with prisoners whose sentience has been placed on them to deter others, not to provide them, as individuals with a chance for rehabilitation. Thus, if the prisons can rehabilitate, it is only a matter of chance whether the prisoner they get will be in jail either for a long enough time to be rehabilitated, or for such a long time that all chances of rehabilitation are lost, and only a legacy of bitterness can ensue. The rehabilitative effect can only operate in a minority of cases — near impossibility is heaped on near impossibility.