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Although it might help us to achieve a fuller understanding, we do not need to dig deep into the realm of the unconscious or debate the merits of psychoanalytical insights in a post-Freudian world to recognize the conflicts inherent in the practice of punishment. As I have explained, the idea and the practice of punishment are driven by conflict and contradiction, most of which is close to the surface and needs little excavation. At the end of his historical and sociological analysis, David Garland concludes with this sobering reflection:

[Punishment is] an institution which has a last resort necessity in any society -- authority must in the end be sanctioned if it is to be authoritative, and offenders who are sufficiently dangerous or recalcitrant must be dealt with forcibly in some degree. But however necessary it sometimes is, and however useful in certain respects, punishment is always beset by irresolvable tensions. However well it is organized, and however humanely administered, punishment is inescapably marked by moral contradiction and unwanted irony -- as when it seeks to uphold freedom by means of its deprivation, or condemns private violence using a violence which is publicly authorized. Despite the claims of reforming enthusiasts, the interests of state, society, victim, and offender can never be "harmonized," whether by rehabilitation or anything else. The infliction of punishment by a state upon its citizens bears the character of a civil war in miniature -- it depicts a society engaged in a struggle with itself. And though this may sometimes be necessary, it is never anything other than a necessary evil. (at 292)

The image of the practice of imprisonment as a form of civil war is not a comforting one. But then, and this is Garland's point, we should never be comforted or complacent about our prisons. Even though this imagery is far removed from the professional language of corrections, increasingly it is the preferred language of governments and law enforcement agencies in describing and seeking public vindication of their crime control policies. The "war on crime" is not an ambiguous rally to arms. As Canadian criminologist Laureen Snider has observed, "Note the language employed: who could take the side of 'enemies,' or advocate half-measures in a war?" (Laureen Snider, "Understanding the Second Great Confinement" [Spring 1998] 105 Queen's Quarterly, at 39) But even in wars there are rules of engagement, and there are international human rights standards designed to protect those who are captured and imprisoned. Even in war -- and perhaps especially in war -- the law provides a bulwark against the abuse of human rights.

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