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Utopian Prison: Contradiction in Terms?

NCJ Number
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice Volume: 28 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2012 Pages: 60-76
Joycelyn M. Pollock; Nancy L. Hogan; Eric G. Lambert; Jeffrey Ian Ross; Jody L. Sundt
Date Published
February 2012
17 pages
This article revisits the concept of a utopian prison.
Given the often disquieting history of correctional institutions, the authors question the notion of a utopian prison and, instead, make suggestions for simply improving existing institutions. First, prisons should adopt a clear commitment to the principles of restorative justice and rehabilitation. Second, the recruitment, training, and retention of staff should be reformed so that staff members are more likely to have a high commitment to such principles. Third, the physical, social, psychological, and moral/ethical safety of the prison must be improved so that individuals can concentrate on change rather than mere survival. Fourth, the evidence supporting rehabilitative programming should be consulted, but, in addition, a more nuanced measure of success should also be considered. Finally, it is necessary to understand the barriers to improving prisons, including the vested interests that profit from the "prison-industrial complex," public opinion, and budgetary restraints. In conclusion, the authors argue that prisons will never be utopian, but they can be more just, more humane, and more effective as a place to change lives. Evidence suggests this is what the public wants. (Published Abstract)