Education Policy | Post Primary | Preschool | Primary | Tertiary | Search


Contrasts in Punishment


29 January 2013

Contrasts in punishment

A Victoria University researcher has explored the differences in the way modern societies punish offenders and the factors driving punitive and more tolerant approaches to crime and punishment.

In a unique research project that took nearly a decade to complete, Institute of Criminology Professor John Pratt investigated the reasons behind contrasting attitudes to punishment in Anglophone and Nordic societies. His research, carried out in Norway, Finland and Sweden on one hand, and England, Australia and New Zealand on the other, has been published in a new book, Contrasts in Punishment: An Explanation of Anglophone Excess and Nordic Exceptionalism, out now in the Routledge Frontiers of Criminal Justice series.

Professor Pratt says differences between the two clusters of societies are illustrated in their prison rates—the Anglophone countries have some of the highest in the OECD and the Nordic countries some of the lowest.

He says the differences are also seen in prison conditions.

“In the Nordic countries, there is a belief that prison conditions should resemble those in the outside world as much as possible. Norway’s recently opened Halden Prison is a high security jail where every cell has a television, a refrigerator, unbarred windows and designer furniture. The male and female guards are typically unarmed and prisoners complete questionnaires that ask how their prison experience can be improved.”

Time magazine, which interviewed Professor Pratt in 2010, described the prison as the most humane in the world. It has also won contemporary design awards in Norway.

It would be impossible to think of such a prison in the Anglophone countries says Professor Pratt.

“Here, prison administration has come to be dominated by issues of security and control, in conjunction with overcrowded, deteriorating conditions.”

Professor Pratt says the reasons punishment is thought about so differently in the two clusters lies in the pattern of social arrangements developed over the last 200 years.

“The Nordic countries—already very homogeneous—became very socially inclusive and put a high value on moderation, restraint and egalitarianism. In contrast, Anglophone societies became much more exclusionary. They emphasised individual responsibility and the accumulation of wealth and property which led to extensive class and ethnic divisions and barriers.”

He says the differences were further strengthened after 1945 by the development of very different models of welfare state.

“In the Nordic countries, welfare was universal with generous benefits paid for by high taxes. Welfare was much more limited in Anglophone countries—services were mean tested and benefits were at a lower level.”

The result, he says, is that Nordic countries have much higher levels of social capital leading to high levels of trust, self-regulation and strong interdependencies.

“That offsets the need to rely on the penal system to provide social order as is the case in the Anglophone societies.”

He says state power in Nordic countries tends to be used protectively and preventatively in the form of welfare, social and educational provisions.

“In the Anglophone countries, despite all the political emphasis on ‘getting the state out of people’s lives’, there have been few qualms about using state power negatively and punitively against those thought to be unwanted or troublesome.

“In these ways, the exclusionary characteristics of the Anglophone societies have been perpetuated and are reflected in the penal contrasts between the two clusters of societies today.”

Professor Pratt was awarded a Royal Society of New Zealand James Cook Research Fellowship 2009-2012 to carry out his research and a Fellowship at the Straus Institute for Advanced Studies of Law and Justice, New York University 2010-2011.

In addition, he has lectured on his research to audiences in continental Europe, England, South America, the USA and Australia. Earlier publications from the project received the prestigious Sir Leon Radzinowicz Memorial Prize from the Editorial Board of the Brtiish Journal of Criminology in 2009.


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Scoop Review Of Books: Before The Quakes

Remembering Christchurch: Voices from decades past: The Christchurch I lived in for my first 23 years was where four-year-olds walked alone to kindergarten, crossing roads empty of all but a couple of cars per hour. My primary school, Ilam, was newly built on a grassy paddock surrounded by rural land... More>>

6-11 October: New Zealand Improvisation Festival Hits Wellington

Wellingtonians will have a wide selection of improv to feast on with a jam packed programme containing 22 shows, three companies from Australia, two companies from Auckland, one from Nelson, one from Christchurch and seven from Wellington. More>>


Bird Of The Year: New Zealanders Asked To Vote For Their Favourite Native Bird

Te Radar, David Farrier, Heather du-Plessis Allan and Duncan Garner are just some of the New Zealanders championing their favourite native bird in Forest & Bird’s annual Bird of the Year competition, which kicks off today.. More>>


Werewolf Film: It Follows - Panic In Detroit

Philip Matthews: When you heard last month that Wes Craven had died and you wanted to pay homage, you could have sat down with any one of five of his films that helped reinvent American horror at least three times over three decades... Or you could just have watched one of the greatest recent horror films that would probably not exist without Craven. More>>


Werewolf Music: Searching For The White Wail - On Art Pepper, etc

If the word ‘hipster’ means anything – which it arguably doesn’t – it seems to be more of an impulse than a condition. One always headed for the margins, and away from the white-bred, white-bread mainstream... More>>


Scoop Review Of Books: Leonardo da Vinci - The Graphic Work

The breadth of da Vinci’s work is incredible: from animals to weaponry, architecture to fabric, maps to botany. The works have been divided into themes such as Proportion Drawings, Anatomical Drawings and Drawings of Maps and Plans. Each section begins with a short essay. More>>

Scoop Review Of Books: James Hector: Explorer, Scientist, Leader

Publication of this comprehensive 274-page account of the life and work of James Hector by the Geoscience Society of New Zealand marks the 150th anniversary of James Hector’s appointment as New Zealand’s first government scientist. More>>

Get More From Scoop



Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news