Radical media, politics and culture.

Prisons International

shoplift writes: "The International Corrections and Prison Association, a new group affiliated with the United Nations, recently finished its annual conference in Australia. The professional group is aggressively reformist and its trajectory is not yet clear. Its formation was preceded by the "Beyond Prisons" international symposium held in Canada, in March 1998. The symposium included a speech given by Stephen Carter, a principal at Carter Goble Associates, the least zealous architectural programming firm specializing in jails and prisons. The complete text can be found at www.icpa.ca.

"An entire paradigm shift is required in the perception and promotion of violence by citizens, elected officials, and information peddlers if the United States is to wean herself from a virtual complete reliance upon one form of community control. However, the change cannot be abrupt due to the massive existing investment in a national infrastructure that promotes the use of incarceration, but alternatives must continue to be debated and tested which expand awareness of the high cost-low return axis that currently defines our national policy.

As a culture, the citizens of the United States are comfortable with all forms of technology to improve the quality of life. Within the incarceration environment, the use of technology has reached the point of virtually eliminating human interaction, if desired, while maintaining absolute control. This is promoted as "advanced thinking" and wise use of the public resources, and unfortunately in many situations, applauded as an alternative to rehabilitation.

Only within the past decade has the use of "advanced" technology in community supervision begun to be considered to any serious degree. The omnipresent telephone was the first application of technology to community supervision, which was also the first real separation of the case manager and the offender. Each day new applications of technology are offered that "guarantee" the ultimate in control within a supervision environment. As this conference debates the status of and opportunities for a more effective use of community supervision, the role of technology must be addressed, but not without the awareness that the temptation to "widen the net" and reduce human interaction may be an unwanted, but unavoidable consequence. Accepting this "warning," the following objectives are offered for a discussion of the expanding role of technology in community corrections.

Only the most courageous criminologists are predicting that the growth in community control in the United States will dramatically decrease in the foreseeable future. As stated earlier, this has little to do with the decrease that is occurring in the national crime rate, and far more to do with public policy regarding the reluctance to use of community corrections in lieu of incarceration. The incarceration option simply seems the path of the least political resistance.""