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10 J. Offender Counseling, Services & Rehab. xi (1985-1986)

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Preface


                    Sol Chaneles, PhD




  The prison, as a conceptual object, reflects civilization's
tangled conflicts and, like warfare, reflects civilization's dark,
destructive side. If there is anything good to say about prison,
no one for the past two centuries has been able to cast le mot
juste. Prison serves many social ends, all with superior civil-
ized and civilizing alternatives. No one's approbation of pri-
son over the past two centuries has commended more than
the assumption that no better alternative is available. Indeed,
the summum of that assumption was asserted by then promi-
nent philosopher Morris Raphael Cohen, teacher of future
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Felix Frankfurter, in
his 1938 influential essay in Reason and the Law, that the only
reason for prison arises from the fact that there is no better
alternative. But philosopher Cohen, like Justice Frankfurter,
were civilized by the lessons of the First World War and
the inexorable drift into the Second. Many believe that there
is no alternative to war. But there are, of course, alternatives
to both war and prison. The dilemma is not in the discovery
of better alternatives but in accepting the view that neither
war or prison are acceptable alternatives for resolving social
conflicts. And just as there are growing numbers, on a global
scale, acting on the belief that war shall not be used as an
instrument of social policy, there are growing numbers, on a
much smaller scale engaged in a struggle aimed at weaning
civilization away from the use of prison as an instrument of
social policy.
  People who have spent a long time observing the prison
notice but, typically, resist asking and attempting to answer
questions about the intractable nature of the prison. A sober
fact about the prison: alone among all the major social institu-
tions serving as the keystone of the American social structure
for the past two centuries, the prison has changed the least-

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