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David Garland has argued that “punishment is a complex set of interlinked processes and institutions rather than a uniform object or event” (1990: 16). In the context of contemporary criminal justice, governmental officials activate these processes and institutions in response to crimes and victimization. Crime and punishment are costly social phenomena in human and material terms. In connecting punishment with crime as its logical consequence, one might reasonably assume that there would be some cost-benefit relationship. It is the context and causation of these economies that are complex.

One reason why cost-benefit analysis may not feature prominently in the evaluation of imprisonment, in particular, is the ambivalence of these concepts when employed against the ideological aspirations for punishment. Imprisonment is not essentially represented in popular culture ...

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