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Article

Faye S. Taxman and Alex Breno

Alternatives to incarceration are more than options, they have evolved into sentences of their own accord. Originally, probation and prison were the two major sentences; however, the concept of intermediate or graduated sanctions emerged in the 1980s and evolved throughout the 1990s. While alternatives to incarceration were considered options, they are now recognized as intermediate sanctions, graduated sanctions, and just plain sentencing options. This emergence occurred during the time that probation-plus-conditions sentences spiked, so that the average probationer now has over 17 standard conditions. With Justice Reinvestment Initiatives as a national effort to reduce the impact of mass incarceration policies, the JRI policy effort the has served to legitimize sentences that used to be considered “alternatives” by incorporating risk/need assessments, legislation to reduce sentence lengths and incarceration sentences, and changes in practices to address noncompliant probationers and parolees. Here, a new conceptual model is proposed that integrates sentencing options with results from a risk and need assessment depending on various types of liberty restrictions. Given the need to reduce prison overcrowding, there is an even further need to examine how different sentencing options can be used for different type of individuals.

Article

This article analyzes the tension created between the lack of images and the imagination of alternative justice from the particular perspective of “restorative justice.” The most sustained justice discourse to propose significant differences to the criminal justice system, restorative justice nevertheless has not proposed differences necessarily on the “battleground of images,” but, as argued in the article, mainly on the subterrain of “imagination.” It does not, therefore, offer an image of alternative justice, but rather an alternative of justice that belongs to the realm of imagination, pointing simultaneously at the limits of representation and the necessity of developing new forms of imagination that go beyond images to incorporate alternatives at the levels of metaphors, language, architecture, and practices. Using a few exemplary cases, the text argues overall for the primacy of imagination over images of alternative justice.

Article

Therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ) is a multidisciplinary approach to assessing the impact of the law itself on the emotional and psychological experiences of all those who have contact with the legal system. Variously described as a theory, a method, a lens, or a process of analysis, its distinguishing feature is to conceive of the law as a “therapeutic agent.” That agency can cause both therapeutic and antitherapeutic consequences. By investigating and assessing the social, professional, and political contexts in which laws are made and applied, TJ seeks to identify how unintentional harms are caused and suggests ways to remedy them. It also identifies opportunities to enhance psychological strengths and positive emotional experiences to improve legal outcomes. It has commonalities with positive criminology, restorative justice, procedural justice, and other less adversarial approaches within the criminal justice system. Since being founded by David Wexler and Bruce Winick in the 1980s as a project to improve the experiences of those subjected to mental disability law in the United States, the theory and methodology of TJ has evolved, and its influence has expanded to virtually every major legal system and jurisdiction. TJ was at the core of the operating philosophy of the problem-solving court movement, which now operates across nine countries. It is increasingly influential in new approaches to probation and offender treatment models in the United States, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, and in influencing access to justice policies in India and Pakistan. It offers some common conceptual principles for the development of First Nations courts, tribunals, and dispute resolution programs seeking to eradicate systemic, monocultural bias in postcolonial criminal justice systems which tend to lead to intractable, carceral overrepresentation. TJ is currently undergoing a process of “mainstreaming” across disciplines and internationally. This involves encouraging lawyers and other criminal justice workers outside specialist court and diversion jurisdictions to adopt therapeutic outlooks and practices. So far there have been projects to mainstream TJ principles in police interviewing, risk assessment, diversion, criminal settlement conferences, bail, sentencing, conditional release from custody, and appeals. The sorts of reforms, innovations, and changes in mindsets suggested by TJ work has also sparked resistance and criticism. The latter ranges from constructive concerns about conceptual vagueness, risks of paternalism, and coercion to absolute ideological opposition on the grounds that TJ allegedly advocates for the complete abandonment of the adversarial system and strongarms defendants into surrendering their constitutional and due process rights.

Article

Contemporary societies are culturally diverse. This diversity can be the result of different historical and social processes and might affect the uniformity and efficiency of criminal justice systems. Colonization of indigenous populations that started in the 15th century later European colonization of Africa and migration flows following the Second World War have contributed to this diversity in different ways. The growing importance acquired by culture in the criminal law domain went hand in hand with the attention received by it both in the human rights field (especially linked to minority rights) and in the field of sociological and criminological theories. Nowadays, crimes such as female genital mutilation, forced marriages, and other behaviors grounded in “culture or tradition” form the object of several international human rights instruments and media reports. The way in which criminal justice systems deal with such cases, and more in general with cultural factors, varies greatly. Different instruments have been proposed to allow the consideration of cultural elements within criminal proceedings among which (in common law countries) is the formalization of an autonomous “cultural defense.” However, international human rights instruments, especially those protecting the rights of vulnerable subjects such as women and children, have repeatedly discouraged states to take into account “culture, religion, and tradition” as grounds for justification (see, e.g., the Istanbul Convention). Criminal proceedings are not the only setting to deal with culture and crime. More recently, the development of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and restorative justice both within formal and informal (community) settings have given an additional option to take culture into account in the resolution of disputes (in terms of procedures used and normativities in play). Concerns exist with regard to the substantive and procedural rights of participants to these programs. However, these alternatives could represent a way to allow a certain degree of legal pluralism and facilitate access to justice for minority groups.