Failure vs Truth in justice


Embracing failure is all well and good for a range of day to day challenges, but what about the truly important stuff. The mission critical domains where famously ‘failure is not an option.’ One would likely start such a list with safety and security services. And that ethos certainly pervades institutions chartered with such essential duties. But even there, as the piece “Embracing Failure – Lessons for Court Managers” by Greg Berman and Aubrey Fox cross-examines, there is big potential benefit to a more resilient attitude…

  • “Seattle Police Chief R. Gil Kerlikowske [points] to the unique pressure that criminal justice agencies are under to deliver results. ‘I don’t see anyone out there saying, ‘We tried this, it didn’t really work out, but here’s what we learned. Even good people doing good things can fall into failure traps, however.’ For example, in order to gain support for their programs, reformers at times promise results they cannot reasonably expect to achieve. When programs fail to reach these inflated goals, they set themselves up for failure. The importance of setting modest expectations was underscored by noted criminologist Joan Petersilia, who remarked on the ‘long history of over-promising and under-delivering that has contributed to the constant pendulum swings in punishment practices.’ As she puts it, ‘There’s nothing in our history of over 100 years of reform that says that we know how to reduce recidivism by more than 15 or 20 percent.’ She went on, ‘My sense is that we have not been publicly forthcoming because we’ve assumed that we would not win public support with modest results.’”