2014-04-01  The stories of Ah-Won and Ah-Too


Ah-Won was 18 the first time he was arrested for drug abuse. He spent six months in a correctional centre where he befriended other drug users, and spent most of the day talking about drugs. On his release he again went back to using drugs.

Over the next 30 years he was arrested many times, and spent long periods in prison. Prison life made him lazy and bitter. Each time he came out of prison he was less and less fit for normal life in society. His court cases and time in prison, over 30 years, cost the government around half a million dollars. He died of an overdoes, aged 48. 

Ah-Too also was arrested for drug abuse when he was 18. He was referred to an Evangelical drug treatment centre where he met many former drug-users who had successfully come off drugs. After a rehabilitation course of about 12 months, he was free from drug addiction. He became a professional chef (after training begun at the centre) and lived a normal life in society.

Ah-Won's story involved what is called "retributive justice" - based on punishment as the best response to crime. Ah-Too's story involved what is called "restorative justice" - based on repairing the harm caused by crime. Restorative justice was a feature of traditional Chinese legal culture. I hope the Hong Kong government will soon save itself a fortune and save society many problems, by using restorative rather than retributive justice.