|JHSA - The Reporter||Spring 2008 Edition|
Game Theory… con't.
In the Spring 2007 Issue of The Reporter, we talked about the symbology of “tough on crime”, and quoted professor Franklin Zimring, from his book, Three Strikes and You're Out in California: Punishment and Democracy, as:
In that Issue, we were quoting Professor Zimring to illustrate the point of the symbology of the whole “tough on crime” agenda. But the other key point that the learned professor makes in this short passage references the transformation of the criminal justice process into a zero-sum game, where the “players” are the victims and the offenders.
Of course, while this “version” of the zero-sum game within the criminal justice system may well be appealing to some, it is nonetheless fallacious in that it is based on false premises.
The reality is that this is not a zero-sum game, nor even a non-zero-sum game; it is a negative-sum game. That is, “everybody loses”.
So, to this point, game theory can help us to better understand the actual outcomes of a retributive criminal justice system, and in this regard help to inform the development of future criminal justice policies with the goal of achieving positive outcomes.
But can it do more? Can it help us to devise criminal justice policies that not just avoid negative outcomes, but actually yield positive outcomes?
If we return to the concept of the non-zero-sum game, where the desired outcome is that all participants in the game come out as winners (at least in some sense), it may well be that this too can prove instructive in the future development of criminal justice policy and procedure.
In the non-zero-sum game, the desired outcome for the participants is not that, at the end of the game, there is one winner, and everyone else loses. Rather, in the non-zero-sum game the desired outcome is that all participants come away from the game having “won” something.
Is there a precedent in the criminal justice system for dealing with a matter in such a way that everyone comes away from the process having “won” something?
Well, yes there is. It's called “Restorative Justice”.
The John Howard Society of Alberta has been researching and writing about the strengths of the Restorative Justice (RJ) process for almost 2 decades. During that period, the body of scholarly literature, around the word, has continued to grow, and continues in unanimity that this is a process that is, to stay with our theme, a “non-zero-sum game” – everyone wins!
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