Social inclusion / social exclusion as a dimension for comparing criminal justice policies of Western developed countries
In recent years there has been a strong tendency to compare different national criminal justice systems according to their degree of punitiveness. However, Professor Díez-Ripollés proposes a new dimension of comparison based on social inclusion/ social exclusion.
Why? In his opinion, building comparative analyses of criminal justice policy around the rigorismness of the different national crime control systems has a number of significant shortcomings, at both the theoretical level (because its ideological context is too scant) and the methodological level (because the indicators used are too limited).
Díez-Ripollés proposes that comparative analyses of criminal justice policy be conducted based on the differentated capacity of the national crime control system to minimise the social exclusion of the individuals who enter into conflict with criminal law. This entails evaluating the system’s ability to obtain, recover, consolidate, or at least not deteriorate, an acceptable level of social inclusion for suspects, offenders and ex-offenders.
Thus, the social inclusion/ social exclusion dimension reflects two contrasting approaches to the aim of preventing the criminal behaviour of individuals prone to enter into conflict with criminal law:
- A crime control system will be socially inclusive if its intervention on the suspect, offender or ex-offender primarily seeks the social reintegration of such persons, which means placing the relevant subject in individual and social conditions that enhance -or at least do not worsen- their ability to voluntarily conduct in the future a life in accordance with the law.
- In contrast, a crime control system will be socially exclussionary if its intervention on the suspect, offender or ex-offender primarily seeks the incapacitation of such persons, that is, placing the relevant subject in individual and social conditions where it will be materially more difficult for them -if they wish to do so- either to break criminal law or to avoid being discovered.
The social exclusion/ social inclusion dimension is understood as an evaluative continuum, in such a way that low levels of social inclusion will usually give rise to medium or high levels of social exclusion, while low levels of social exclusion will usually imply medium or high levels of social inclusion.
To empirically test which of these approaches is more promising, it is important to have accurate descriptions of the degree to which a national criminal justice system is socially exclussionary. To this end, indicators capable of identifying the typical features of this dimension must be developed. Only then will it be possible to design a research activity aimed at drawing possible correlations between the more or less inclusive/exclusive nature of a crime control system and its achievements in preventing crime under socially acceptable parameters.
Which indicators can be used to measure the social inclusion/ social exclusion generated by the criminal justice system? The model identifies nine pools of indicators, each of which contains various punitive rules and practices:
The objectives of this project are to validate indicators included within this pool to ensure they can be used for comparison between countries, to test the selected indicators by applying the instrument to the Spanish criminal justice system and to disseminate the instrument and its findings at the international level.