Let’s not jail non-vi­o­lent of­fend­ers

The Week Middle East - - News | Best articles: International -

L’Obs (Paris)

Last month, an Is­lamist in­mate wield­ing a pair of scissors at­tacked and wounded three guards at a lock-up in north­ern France, says Matthieu Crois­sandeau, and as a re­sult prison guards across France went on strike de­mand­ing re­forms. They want there to be more guards, higher pay and the seg­re­ga­tion of ex­trem­ist prison­ers. But while Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron has now agreed to all their de­mands, it won’t solve the cen­tral prison prob­lem: over­crowd­ing. The num­ber of prison­ers has dou­bled in the past 40 years. And a size­able mi­nor­ity are rad­i­cal Is­lamists, “who feel they’ve noth­ing to lose” and so are far more likely to turn vi­o­lent, and their ma­lign in­flu­ence on cell­mates has con­trib­uted to an ex­traor­di­nar­ily high rate of re­cidi­vism. But what if we fol­lowed the Nether­lands and stopped jail­ing non-vi­o­lent of­fend­ers al­to­gether? The Dutch halved their jail pop­u­la­tion in just ten years by us­ing “al­ter­na­tive crim­i­nal sanc­tions, rang­ing from fines to elec­tronic bracelets and com­mu­nity work”. Of­fend­ers who avoid jail also avoid con­tact with Is­lamist in­mates, break­ing the cy­cle of prison rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion. If we re­ally want to curb crime, that’s the di­rec­tion we need to take.

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