Politicians compete to see who can be the toughest on crime, because they think this gets them votes. The public insist that the criminal mayhem that spices up our media needs an appropriate response. So politicians come forward with a war on drugs, zero tolerance, mandatory sentencing and maybe a three strikes law to top it off. But is this political theatre or effective crime-fighting? Do we actually carry out these strategies and do they work? The ‘tough on crime’ approach assumes that all we can do is lock people up, preferably for profit. But if we look at the reality of drugs and violence, empirical evidence suggests that being soft on crime, or at least softer on criminals, can be a more effective approach.
Chair: Hamish Macdonald is an Australian broadcaster and news presenter. He is the host and creator of the Network Ten show The Truth Is…?, for which he travelled to Afghanistan, Chernobyl, and a Norwegian jail to reveal surprising truths about issues that seemed mistakenly settled in public debate.
Erwin James is a convicted murderer and Guardian journalist. James was released in August 2004 having served 20 years of a life sentence.
Peter Moskos is a former Baltimore Police Department officer and now Assistant Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at City University of New York. He is the author of In Defense of Flogging, and was named by The Atlantic as one of the “Bravest Thinkers of 2011.”
David Simon is a journalist, author, and television writer/producer best known as the creator and showrunner of HBO series The Wire and Treme. He spent twelve years on the crime beat for the Baltimore Sun. He also worked on the adaptations of his books Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood for NBC and HBO respectively.