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Preface

The major ideas in this little book are simple.

The reasoning is as follows: imposing punishment within the institution of law means the inflicting of pain, intended as pain. This is an activity which often comes in dissonance to esteemed values such as kindness and forgiveness. To reconcile these incompatibilities, attempts are sometimes made to hide the basic character of punishment. In cases where hiding is not possible, all sorts of reasons for intentional infliction of pain are given. One major effort in what follows is to describe, expose, and evaluate major features of these attempts, and to relate them to general social conditions.

None of the attempts to cope with the intended pain seems, however, to be quite satisfactory. Attempts to change the law-breaker create problems of justice. Attempts to inflict only a just measure of pain create rigid systems insensitive to individual needs. It is as if societies in their struggle with penal theories and practices oscillate between attempts to solve some unsolvable dilemmas.

My own view is that the time is now ripe to bring these oscillatory moves to an end by describing their futility and by taking a moral stand in favour of creating severe restrictions on the use of man-made pain as a means of social control. On the basis of experience from social systems with a minimal use of pain, some general conditions for a low level of pain infliction are extracted.

If pain is to be applied, it has to be pain without a manipulative purpose and in a social form resembling that which is used when people are in deep sorrow. This might lead to a situation where punishment for crime evaporated. Where that happened, basic features of the State would also have evaporated. Formulated as an ideal, this situation might be just as valuable to make explicit and to keep in mind as situations where kindness and humanity reign -- ideals never to be reached, but something to stretch towards.

I am grateful to so many friends and colleagues who have helped. All Souls College, Oxford, functioned as a sanctuary during parts of the work, and Roger Hood and Adam Podgorecki gave friendship and advice. Louk Hulsman and Herman Bianchi have acted as important sources of inspiration from Holland. Rick Abel, Kettil Bruun, Andrew von Hirsch, and Stan Wheeler have offered helpful criticism of a first draft of the manuscript. Grants from the German Marshall Foundation and the Scandinavian Research Council for Criminology, provided the opportunity for a meeting in June 1980 where examples of participatory justice were thoroughly discussed.

Nonetheless, it is a book from Scandinavia. By writing in a foreign language, one comes in a way closer to home. From here I have most of my experiences. And here I receive, year after year, generous criticism and encouragement. For this particular manuscript, I have received valuable help from Vigdis and Lindis Charlotte Christie, Tove Stang Dahl, Kjersti Ericsson, Sturla Falck, Hedda Giertsen, Cecilie H°igÔrd, Per Ole Johansen, Leif Petter Olaussen, Annika Snare, Per Stangeland and Dag ěsterberg. I have not always listened to my advisers, so none of them are responsible for defects in the final product.

Oslo, March 1981

Nils Christie

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