The Rise of Therapeutic Justice and the Decline of Reintegrative Community Policing

Barry Goetz, Western Michigan University

Both the drug court movement and the community policing movement serve as examples of the ways that reintegrative forms of social control have been applied in recent decades. Drug courts have been called a method of "therapeutic justice" that replace the adversarial approach to justice with negotiated service plans linking offenders with an array of drug treatment and related rehabilitative services in a community setting as an alternative to incarceration. Community police officers have also been promoted as organizers who can similarly link citizens to an array of social services or at least help in the expansion of crime prevention programs. But while drug courts have been largely successful, at least in terms of transforming traditional occupational orientations and forging linkages with service agencies, this is much less clear where community policing is concerned. Why is this the case? The purpose of this paper is to first place the drug court and community policing movements within the theoretical context of reintegrative methods of social control, drawing on the work of Braithewaite and others and their distinction between methods of justice that stigmatize versus those that seek to bring offenders back into the life of the community. Second, I criticially examine both the drug court and community policing movements in terms of how well they apply reintegrative control strategies. In particular, I argue that the community policing movement has become skewed towards aggressive order maintenance, and that this has subverted the ability of police officers to act reintegratively where the problem of substance abuse is concerned. The research will combine extensive literature reviews with original case studies done on drug courts as well as specific community policing initiatives.

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Updated 05/20/2006