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Orwellian Connection - A Comment on Recent Correctional Reform Literature

NCJ Number
Canadian Criminology Forum Volume: 6 Issue: 2 Dated: (Spring 1984) Pages: 177-188
R Sarre
Date Published
12 pages
This review and analysis of literature on correctional reform argues that each correctional reform, including deinstitutionalization and sentencing reform according to the justice model, has widened rather than narrowed the net of social control.
The overall purpose of penal policy has always been to achieve social control through the use of broad bureaucratic discretionary power. Although the overt emphasis shifted from punishment and deterrence to rehabilitation and decarceration, this shift has produced an equally or more pervasive intrusion into people's lives. The use of punishment during the 19th century, the treatment model, and more recent reforms have all maintained or increased State intervention. Reformers have had high ideals and lofty rhetoric as parts of their proposals: the due process model, decarceration, diversion programs, decriminalization, and the just deserts model. However, internal organizational dynamics and political and economic forces combine to defeat the original purposes. Instead of strengthening the liberty of the individual and expanding the rights of prisoners, each program adds to the system and both widens and strengthens the net of social control. Proposals for reform will continue. Reformers should require the State to justify any given degree of intrusion into individuals' lives and should be aware of unfair expenses to the individual which may occur under the disguise of benefits for the many. Notes and 31 references are included.