"What is the function that people have to be separated from their family? What function does it serve that people can't get jobs and employment in prison? What function does it serve that people do not have access to heterosexual or even homosexual loving relationships? What purpose does it serve to pit people in small living quarters? So, outside of you want people to suffer, what function do you have?"
These are some of the questions discussed in "Should we Abolish Prisons," Episode 4 of the YouTube series Office Hours with Abbie and Juwan, two Criminal Justice PhDs "dishing it out about all things social, racial, and criminal justice."
In the United States, the criminal justice system is predicated on punishment, vengeance, and revenge. In a system overdetermined by violent institutions and an uncaring public, militarized policing, and an eviscerated social state, even rehabilitation becomes part of the punishment regime. Can models from other countries have import and utility in the United States? What would need to change in a culture that venerates violence and vengeance and is structured by criminalization to consider transformative justice as a central element of healing and redress?
"Office Hours" is the accompaniment series to the Whatsjust podcast Critical Conversations, also hosted by Dr. Abigail Henson and Ph.D. candidate Juwan Bennett. Like when you visit your teacher outside the classroom for follow-up and clarification. But don't be intimated by office hours or their credentials; these folks are down to earth and break down complicated ideas in accessible ways while interviewing people making material changes in the world, and engaging with transformative ideas.
In the context of addressing these provocative and important questions, Episode 4 of "Office Hours" engages and discusses the Whatsjust podcast Critical Conversations, also hosted by Drs. Abigail Henson and Juwan Bennett, featuring Are Hoidal, former warden of the Halden Prison in Norway.
"For 14 years, Are served as the prison warden at Halden prison, known to be the most humane prison in the world. In this episode, we discuss: the importance of rehabilitation versus retribution how to lower recidivism rates in the United States; why treating incarcerated individuals with respect and dignity creates positive outcomes; [and] whether the Halden model can be incorporated into the abolitionist agenda."
Hoidal is also the author of The Norweigan Prison System: Halden Prison and Beyond.
In Critical Conversations, now in season 3, "Dr. Abbie Henson dives into critical conversations with those who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system- whether through lived experience, research, or both. These conversations get into the weeds on complex justice-related issues and encourage listeners to think critically, challenge existing narratives, and cultivate change through dialogue. Guided by the belief that systemic change stems from individual change and individual change stems from exposure to new ideas and a heightened awareness of self and others, the purpose of this podcast is to ultimately inspire the widespread transformation of the criminal justice system."
For more from Abbie and Juwan on prison abolition, check out this Episode of Critical Conversations, "Abolition, the Purpose of Punishment, and Defining Justice in America."