Crime, Harm and Justice: The Utopia of Harm and Realising Justice in a ‘Good Society’

Copson, Lynne (2021). Crime, Harm and Justice: The Utopia of Harm and Realising Justice in a ‘Good Society’. In: Leighton, Paul; Davies, Pamela and Wyatt, Tanya eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Social Harm. Palgrave, pp. 313–347.



The effectiveness of criminal justice systems for realising justice either in theory or practice, as well as their role in perpetuating and legitimating injustice have long been questioned by critical scholars. These concerns have also animated the search for alternative approaches to imagining and realising justice. This chapter explores the role of criminal justice systems in producing a particular and limited notion of justice, derived from the standpoint of white, socially and economically powerful males living in the western liberal democracies of the Global North, which, in practice, serve to embody and legitimise injustice. It explores approaches that have sought to either reform criminal justice or abolish it, but argues that both tactics often fail to tackle the problems inherent within criminal justice and, at worst, legitimise them. Instead, drawing on utopian theory, this chapter explores the potential of the social harm perspective for transcending the status quo and reimagining justice.

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