Our criminal justice system shouldn’t be risk averse. Here’s why.

Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

By Chris Hay, Executive Director, John Howard Society of Alberta

We live in a risk averse society, where we are disinclined or reluctant to take risks. As a result, we create things in society that are risk averse, such as our current criminal justice system.  An argument might be made that there are reasons why our justice system has to be risk averse (e.g., to aid in public safety, monitor offenders, etc.) and these might be somewhat valid.

But one could argue that there are far more drawbacks to operating a risk averse system than there are benefits.  There are issues with operating a justice system in a risk averse way, and here is how that plays out. 

Most if not all crime develops from social ills.  In other words, there are root social causes of crime, such as addictions or poverty or cognitive issues, that set the stage for crime to be played out.  When we operate in a risk averse way, the best that we can do or hope for is to manage crime in our communities. 

Consequently, being risk averse does not allow us to solve social ills, and therefore prevent or reduce crime in any way.  Being risk averse means that we can only attempt to manage our social ills as best we can. Thus, the problem of crime will never really be solved.