Civic Repair: Why Trust is Important for Penal Reform

Civic Repair: Why Trust is Important for Penal Reform

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 13:30
Prof Vanessa Barker | Conference Room | Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation | High School Yards | EH1 1LZ | Edinburgh

As part of our series on Perceptions, the Public and PunishmentProfessor Vanessa Barker will be joining us to discuss the public role in generating penal reform, chaired by Professor Fergus McNeil.

It is entirely feasible to end this era of mass incarceration and de-carcerate young people by generating social bonds of trust. Trust is a basic building block of society. It is about having confidence in others, it is the “social glue” that holds communities and nations together.

Yet punishment debates are fraught with misrepresentations, false understandings and anxiety about the other, namely when we think of the punitive public, the populist politician and the dangerous prisoner. In other words, there is a lack of trust.

Our speaker, world leading criminologist, Prof Vanessa Barker’s work, which has meticulously investigated democracy and punishment in America and Sweden, concludes that higher rates of social trust and civic engagement were associated with milder penal sanctioning and lower imprisonment rates. Higher rates of social trust meant that polity members were less likely to inflict state coercion against others. Given Scotland has one of Europe’s highest imprisonment rates, what lessons can be learned in order to reduce the use of incarceration here?