Now you retire from your official position in the University. Your friends offer you a book, I am happy to be part of it. Our ways crossed so often in so many different projects and it is a pleasure to remember these events at this occasion. I retired from my official University position already 19 years ago and am the living proof that these ‘retirements’ do not imply necessarily an end to common professional projects. I hope we continue to meet.
At this moment we experience in many countries an enormous increase in criminal justice activities, which we see as illegitimate and harmful. They do not contribute to safety and peace. I contribute to this book by some reflections on this phenomenon. These reflections are not new, but because they are so seldom taken into account in the present public debate, it may be useful to repeat them.
Different ways of participation in the criminal justice systems
People in industrialized countries participate in different ways in a criminal justice systems. For some this participation is a part of their direct experience. The participation takes place in their ‘literal’ day-to-day activities. The most extensive experience of this kind is concentrated mainly in the group of registered offenders and their immediate environment. Officials belonging to the different organizations which ‘carry’ the criminal justice systems have a comparable type of direct experience of the reality of the system. Their direct experience is however -contrary to that of the offender- generally restricted to a certain small compartment of the criminal justice systems. Policemen have no direct experience of corrections. The correctional official has no direct experience of police and court activities.
Most people in our society participate most often in the criminal justice systems in a way which we can compare best with the way we participate in a dramatic production. This is even true for those people for whom the activities of the criminal justice systems are sometimes (when they are accused or official) a ‘literal’ activity and a direct experience.
Dramatic productions play an important part in the life of people in our society. Desires and needs we cannot satisfy in our literal everyday activities, can be pursued in a vicarious participation in a dramatic production.
Many of the dramatized worlds which are available for vicarious participation have a clear and simple internal structure which is known...