David Scott and Helena Gosling

The aim of this paper is to critically engage with the idea that Therapeutic Communities (TCs) can be promoted in England and Wales as a radical alternative to prison for substance users who have broken the law.

After grounding the discussion within the normative framework of an ‘abolitionist real utopia’ (Scott, 2013), the article explores the historical and theoretical underpinnings of TCs.

Existing literature advocating TCs as a radical alternative to imprisonment is then reviewed, followed by a critical reflection of TCs’ compatibility with the broader values and principles of an abolitionist real utopia.

To conclude, the article suggests that although TCs could be a plausible and historically immanent non-penal real utopia for certain people in certain circumstances, we must not lose focus of wider social inequalities.

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David Scott, Helena Gosling