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Rehabilitation, Rehabilitation, Rehabilitation by Dr Lee Salter

Rehabilitation, rehabilitation, rehabilitation. It’s the cry of so many in criminology and the criminal justice. When I first met Faith Spear it was her constant concern. Her comment in the film, Injustice haunts me: “so many wasted lives.”

Penelope Gibbs Transform Justice
Penelope Gibbs of Transform Justice

At screenings I was constantly asked “how can we do rehabilitation?” The problem, I would point out, is with the very concept of rehabilitation. Do we return a prison releasee to his or her habilitation prior to conviction? That doesn’t make sense if we take causal factors seriously. Those from less chaotic backgrounds get destroyed in prison. More to the point, whatever habilitation they had before is unlikely to exist after, so the notion of a return is absurd.

I came across Penelope Gibbs, another participant in the film, who runs Transform Justice, due to her research on multiple punishment. The baying mobs for whom no punishment is sufficient rarely consider convicts as people, with lives, homes, and families. The punishment they face extends far beyond the sentence. As she puts it in the film, for many any conviction is a life sentence. It really is.

Speak to any social worker, probation officer, drugs and alcohol worker and the story is the same – there’s virtually no rehabilitation on offer, despite the good will of those working in the system. It doesn’t take much effort to research this. Just today I was sat on a train next a woman, a social worker, with whom I got chatting. Within minutes of prison coming up as a topic she noted “there’s no rehabilitation.”

The problem is few really want it, and fewer are prepared to invest in it. There is too much at stake to try to make things better when there is so much to profit in making things worse. It takes minutes talking to a probation officer to hear the fateful words “I don’t even know their names”, as one told me. She has 60-70 clients to see.

She uses formulas into which wise academics, experts and campaigners stuff clichés that morph into formulas, with as much relation to the complexity of reality, as astrologers’ forecasts do to the complexity of an individual’s experience of a day generated by an impossibly complex world.

The intermixing of psychological bewilderment, self-satisfying ideological delusion and systemic constraint, not to mention the idiotic binary simplification of the court system, prevent the understanding of the complexity of situations in which things go bad. And so of course, attempts at rehabilitation fail before they start, built as they are on wonky foundations.

It was these concerns that led me to make the last trailer for Injustice which you can watch below. Failing to completely change the whole philosophical foundations of the social system and in the short term complete reform of the legal and punitive systems will mean we continue to fail to address crime and all of the harms it describes.

 

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