American culture tends to prioritize punishment and retaliation in various aspects of society, such as the criminal justice system and school discipline. It contrasts this punitive approach with the concept of restorative justice, which aims to repair harm and strengthen communities rather than seeking retribution.
The author highlights the ineffectiveness of harsh penalties in reducing recidivism rates and suggests that investing in prevention and support services can be a more constructive approach, mentioning a book by Bloustein professor Nancy Wolff “The Shadow of Childhood Harm Behind Prison Walls: Theory, Evidence and Treatment.” Professor Wolff discusses how she often does a word association game with groups of parole and probation officers, students and others, asking what words people associate with “criminal.”
The common responses she gets are fear-based and stigmatizing, and she rarely hears the word “victim” raised, except in relation to the people harmed by a criminal. Despite this perception, more than “half of male inmates (56 percent) reported experiencing childhood physical trauma,” and there are higher rates for incarcerated women.