Punishment Doesn’t Work

By Christopher Moraff / NextCity.orgImage courtesy shouselaw.com

There’s a reason it’s called corrections and not punishment,” Rick Raemisch said. “Punishment doesn’t work.”

Raemisch, who is executive director of Colorado’s Department of Corrections and was part of a panel discussion on prison reform hosted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice earlier this year, was responding to a question on retributive incarceration. Yet, despite that simple and profound statement, since the 1960s, the U.S. criminal justice system has taken on an increasingly Puritanical streak with mandatory minimum sentences, dozens of new classes of felony, and repeat offender laws.

Now, as part of an effort to reverse more than four decades of broken prison policy, several states are beginning to look overseas for alternative models.

In February 2013 (a year before Raemisch took over his position), his predecessor, Tom Clements, joined delegations from Pennsylvania and Georgia on a fact-finding trip to Germany and the Netherlands sponsored by the Vera Institute of Justice. Both countries have largely replaced retributive and deterrence models with one whose primary goal is reintegrating inmates back into society as law-abiding citizens.

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