top of page

The Ethics of Mass Incarceration and Its Impacts on Communities

Locally, the subject of heated debates, it seems only one side is provided any airtime or freedom of speech to discuss the ethics of mass incarceration. While many decry the system as inherently flawed, there's a side of the coin that warrants exploration: its positive impacts on communities.

The primary purpose of punishment should be deterrence, not vengeance. The justice system uses utilitarian principles to weigh the collective good against individual suffering, suggesting that if incarceration benefits the majority, it is justified.

The parallel in my training of front-line staff is of understanding human behaviour to predict and prevent harm. If the fear of incarceration can deter potential criminals, can we not argue that it serves a greater good?

However, before delving deeper, it's crucial to differentiate between mass incarceration as a concept and its implementation. Ethically, the idea that communities can be safer by removing those who pose a significant threat is defensible. But the challenge lies in ensuring that this system isn't abused.

I have constantly argued that a comprehensive approach to security isn't just about reactive measures but understanding and addressing the root causes of crime. If mass incarceration is used as one of the tools in a broader strategy that also includes rehabilitation, education, and community engagement, its ethical standing becomes stronger. However, it's obvious to me that rehabilitation must be "voluntary". Attempting to change someone by force does not work, the same could be said for both education opportunities and community engagement. I am constantly amused by the comments from grandmas and parents alike who spend more time visiting their children in lock-up than they have ever spent with them on the outside.

One cannot deny the palpable effects on communities that have felt the positive impacts of incarceration. Reduced crime rates, increased community cohesion, and a sense of safety are tangible benefits. The perception of safety, often enhanced by visible law enforcement measures like incarceration, can lead to real community development. This is well documented although hardly ever cited.

But what about the individuals incarcerated? The psychological facets of crime suggest that for many, crime becomes habitual due to circumstances, not inherent evil. Herein lies the crux of the ethical debate. Is it right to incarcerate individuals en masse without addressing the societal conditions that might have pushed them toward crime?

I would refer to one of my favourite authors, James Q Wilson's "broken windows theory" to offer a perspective. If visible signs of disorder, like minor crimes, are left unaddressed, they can lead to more severe crimes. Mass incarceration, in this light, can be seen as a method to restore order and send a strong message about community standards.

But, and this is crucial, the ethics of mass incarceration also depend on what follows. Is the system geared towards genuine rehabilitation? Or is it a cycle of punitive actions with no end in sight? As someone who has dedicated a large portion of my life to security, I believe that the true measure of a system's ethicality lies in its ability to provide opportunities to reform and reintegrate. However, this must be a voluntary choice by the offender; it fails when forced.

Mass incarceration, with all its complexities, requires balance. If used judiciously, with an emphasis on rehabilitation and reintegration, it might be a force for order and community betterment.

However, it's also essential to remain vigilant against potential abuses. Any system, no matter how well-intentioned, can become a tool for oppression if not kept in check. Just as the community is suffering from both economic and real criminal abuse by offenders and their ever-present sensationalist media supporters, the parasitic taxpayer-funded NGO's and bureaucrats alike.

For the hundreds I've trained in security, the message has always been clear: our duty is not just to protect but to serve as catalysts for positive change. Mass incarceration is part of this change. The ethics of mass incarceration challenge us to strike the right balance. In a world rife with complexities, our moral compass should guide us toward solutions that uplift every member of society.

Communities can thrive when there's a sense of safety, and if mass incarceration can provide that, their ethical standing is strengthened. However, as with all powerful tools, caution and oversight are paramount. The focus should always remain on the ultimate goal: creating communities where safety and justice go hand in hand. As we forge ahead, let us remember that the true test of any system lies in its ability to uplift, reform, and heal both the individual and the collective.

As we continue on our journeys, we remain steadfast in our commitment to justice, fairness, and the unwavering belief that everyone deserves a chance at redemption. After all, how a society treats its most powerful members is not a good indicator of how strong it is. But herein lies the current problem: the victims of crime currently have no power, no representation, and no avenues for redress.

The media, the bureaucrats, and an industry of NGO's are banking on the crisis remaining. The victims are relying on judges and lawyers who are financially incentivised by the proliferation of crime to "fix" the problem. In my honest opinion, that is like asking a pedophile to design a childcare center, and the evidence is that it is just as dangerous.

When crime is so rife in society, it is only reasonable that the citizens seek solutions, and mass incarceration is part of that solution; however, it benefits those who have the least amount of power the most, and that is obviously why no one wishes to discuss it.

Note from the author.

The opinions and statements are those of Sam Wilks and do not necessarily represent whom Sam Consults or contracts to. Sam Wilks is a skilled and experienced Security Consultant with almost 3 decades of expertise in the fields of Real estate, Security, and the hospitality/gaming industry. His knowledge and practical experience have made him a valuable asset to many organizations looking to enhance their security measures and provide a safe and secure environment for their clients and staff.

4 views0 comments


bottom of page