This week we imagine a future where restorative justice and rehabilitation takes precedence over retribution and the prison-industrial complex. It’s a dream, that doesn’t imagine any criminals (we wish), but rather a different way of dealing with them.

Throw Forward Thursday with Graeme Codrington. Welcome to tomorrow’s world, today.



Come with me to the future, hopefully, a future that happens as soon as possible, where we don’t have prisons, jails, anywhere anymore.

My name is Graeme Codrington, this is Throw Forward Thursday, where we jump into the future and stretch our strategic imagination, to see if we can imagine a different world and then wonder what the implications might be for us today. And today is a little bit of a philosophical one because what we need is to change our justice system in the world.

In most countries around the world, when we catch somebody doing something wrong, something that is deemed to be very wrong, so wrong that we need to take that person out of society for at least a period of time, we put them in jail or prison, however, you want to define that. This is called retributive justice, it’s about retribution, it’s about punishing somebody and making them realise that what they did was wrong and sort of giving them if you’ve got small kids, you might have the timeout corner where they go and sit, and the idea is they think about what they’ve done, and they get better because they take some time out.

Problem is that pretty much all the research we’ve ever done anywhere tells us that that doesn’t work. It might work for a four-year-old, but it certainly doesn’t work for almost any category of criminal. I know you’ll find that it works for one or two people here and there, but in general, those people who know what they’re talking about, and I’ll put a few links into the show notes with some of the research that I’ve looked at. They pretty much say it doesn’t work, and often people who are sent to jail get worse while they are there because, well, they spend all day, every day with other criminals, and sometimes that doesn’t make them get better, it makes them get worse.

Countries that have experimented with reconciliation, with other forms of justice, with justice that is about the rehabilitation of people, where maybe people are put into programmes that include things like looking at their medical situation, like giving therapy and psychiatric and psychology support and a variety of different things. I’m not going to go into detail for a short video like this, but countries that have done that have found that those people then emerge from those systems, again not everybody, but in most cases are rehabilitated. There is hope that we can change people and that they can become contributing members of society. Countries that have moved to decriminalise criminalise things that often get you to jail have seen really great results.

Probably the best example of this is Portugal and to a lesser extent Spain. Decriminalise drug use and serious drug use like heroin and cocaine just said, you’re not going to go to jail if you use it, and in fact, if you go to government agencies, they’ll even give you clean syringes. We want to help you to get off of the drugs, we want to help you to get clean, we want to help you not get sick while you’re taking the drugs because you’re addicted, and we want to help you out the other side. We won’t throw you in jail if you talk about it, sort of open things up, allow people to talk about it, allow people to acknowledge they’ve got a problem, and allow people to get the help that they actually need. Going to jail is not that helpful. Countries like Portugal have seen incredible stories that they can tell about plummeting, drug use, and rehabilitation to people then functioning well in society again.

So, for all sorts of reasons, we know that jails and prisons are wrong, and I’m going to put a link to an episode of Last Week Tonight by John Oliver, who’s got a much bigger research budget than I do, a much bigger team than I have, and does a much better job than I do of these sorts of things. You can have a look at 20 minutes of him talking about especially the United States prison industrial complex and how just horrible it is that this has essentially become a privatised, capitalistic, money-making institution that isn’t about helping criminals to get better or fixing society. It’s about making money for the people who own the prisons, and that’s got to be about the worst thing you’ve heard this week.

So, come with me to the future as soon as possible, in the future, when we’ve changed how we engage with people who are not acting according to the way we want people to act in our society, and when we’ve found a better way to help people to understand what it means to be a good contributing citizen of society, that would be wonderful, wouldn’t it?

Throw Forward to Thursday, sometimes we just dream, and sometimes we think about a wonderful world that’s possible. I hope you enjoyed listening to what that world might look like.

I’ll see you next week when we go to the future again.


Here are some additional resources to go with this week’s “news bulletin from the future”.

John Oliver on Prison
John Oliver on Prison Labour

Principles of Restorative Justice:

What is restorative justice? | Restorative Justice Council
Principles of Restorative Justice

Portugal’s Drug Policies:

Portugal’s radical drugs policy is working. Why hasn’t the world copied it?
Want to Win the War on Drugs? Portugal Might Have the Answer.
The decriminalization of drug use in Portugal and its impact in the criminal justice system.


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Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.

For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.


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