Leftist Dreams of a World Without Prisons

If you ever wanted more proof that some members of the left are completely detached from reality and live in a utopian dream world then this latest policy proposal will blow your mind. There is a movement within leftist circles to abolish prisons. You heard that right, no matter what type of heinous crime a person commits they will not be removed from our communities to protect citizens from future crimes but instead receive what is called transformative justice which magically allows criminals to see the error of their ways without any form of punishment.

This was not some social media post by a random leftist, this was a published article on the online magazine version of the literary journal Overland. Its tagline is ‘progressive culture since 1954’ and describes itself as ‘Australia’s only radical literary magazine’. Worst of all, but of course not surprising is that this publishing operation is sponsored by our federal government and the Victorian state government through its various art funding bodies.

The article is entitled ‘Beyond Prisons’ by Ellen O’Brien. She begins by describing an event she attended called ‘Manifesting a world without prisons’ organised by a group called Queer Provocations. She describes the large attendance for the event as heartening, which is for us normal people it is somewhat horrifying.

The author starts by attempting to address the obvious objection to abolishing prisons, how would we deal with violent offenders such as rapists and murders? Her response is to note that not everyone who commits a violent offence ends up in jail. Most people would see this statistic and correctly note that it means we are probably too soft on crime. But O’Brien conclusion appears to be that since many criminals escape justice and are not locked up we may as well let them all out.

She then provides another statistic that fifty percent of people who were convicted of an offence reoffended within a decade as proof prisons don’t reform offenders. Yet this statistic only mentions convictions, not people sent to prisons. This statistic would most likely point to the fact that our sentences are too soft therefore not acting as a deterrent against reoffending, this is not even mentioning the impact soft sentencing has on community safety.

The next part of the article is where she brings out the usual leftist raging about oppression, power imbalances and brings in identity politics. She claims that prison is a form of structural violence which includes ‘settler colonialism, racism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia and sexism’ and that the existing justice system entails ‘exiling, isolating and punishing the individual who has caused harm’ and ‘impacts certain groups more than others’. So, she is basically claiming that criminals are also victims and blaming it on our cruel white racist society.

She brings up the Four Corners report last year on the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in the Northern Territory as proof that prisons unfairly victimize Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. This is only true if you completely ignore the fact that Don Dale had some of the most violent youth offenders in the nation and its poster boy Dylan Voller had 50 crimes within a five year period including bashing a victim unconsciousness with a mop handle and attempting to run over a police officer.

O’Brien then puts forward her alternative, the naively idealistic concept of transformative justice. This approach will magically help create ‘safe and healthy communities, where ‘members are able to hold each other accountable for any harm that occurs’. The process involves asking the questions ‘Who was harmed? How can we facilitate healing? How can we prevent further harm in the future?’ Apparently, it still ensures the safety of the community and prioritises the wishes of the survivor but will not resort to a punitive response, instead promoting accountability.

The rest of the article is just idealistic utopian ramblings about the wonders of responding to crime with love instead of what she calls further violence. O’Brien offers no actual examples of where transformative justice has worked, it seems to just be a dream of hers. I wonder if she has proposed prison abolition in front of actual victims of violent crimes? Some of them of course she cannot because they are dead, but I’m sure it wouldn’t go down well with their families.

Will O’Brien make the case in front of the daily victims of Victoria’s crime wave? Those who’ve had their homes invaded, had their cars jacked, business broken into. Doesn’t she know that the Victorian government has been trying the soft law and order approach that has had serious consequences? There have been regular riots at Victoria’s youth detention centres including one successful escape which resulted in a 24-hour violent crime spree. But friends of O’Brien have been more concerned with the fact that the detainees had been moved to adult prisons and that apparently violated their human rights. What about the rights of victims of crime? What about the right of the community to be safe from such violent offenders?

There is hardly any discussion in this article about physical and psychological trauma violent and sexual crime has on a victim. How would it make them and their families feel knowing that there is no deterrent set for criminals? What about the people who have no possibility of successful rehabilitation, should they not receive so called punitive sentences even though they pose a danger to community safety?

We hope that this idea of prison abolition and transformative justice remains just a leftist pipe dream. But it is yet again further proof that the left seems to care more about the rights of criminals than the victims. If somebody commits a crime it must be society’s fault for oppressing them in some way. The left has been successful at thwarting of various government attempts to create stronger deterrents for crime. Our message on this is pretty simple, spare a thought for the criminal’s victims. Listen to their voices instead of the delusions of the left.