With prisons overflowing and penal policy the topic of hot debate, Punishment and Prisons: Power and the Carceral State presents a lively and accessible discussion of possible solutions to the current crisis, by one of the foremost scholars in the field.

Joe Sim traces the development of penal strategy over the past three decades, through a critical analysis of the relationship between penal policy and state power. Exploring the contested histories of punishment that are prominent in criminology, and its development in penal policy, the book analyzes four key dimensions of modern penal trends:

  • Continuity and discontinuity in penal policy and practice
  • Reform and rehabilitation
  • Contesting penal power
  • Abolitionism

Articulate, innovative, and theoretically informed, Punishment and Prisons offers a critical overview of contemporary penal politics that will prove a compelling addition to the criminological library.

The book is written for not only for students and academics but also for those involved in the debates on penal policy – including prison reform groups, politicians, and the media. It offers a series of suggestions for alleviating the current crisis, setting out a policy agenda for transforming the role and place of the prison in the criminal justice system.

Continuity and Contestation in Penal Politics

Continuity and contestation in penal politics

History … can help to pierce through the rhetoric that ceaselessly presents the further consolidation of carceral power as a ‘reform’. As much as anything else, it is this suffocating vision of the past that legitimizes the abuses of the present and seeks to adjust us to the cruelties of the future (Ignatieff, 1978: 220).

In 1979, in a typically elliptical and tantalising remark, Michel Foucault cautioned against becoming nostalgic about the criminal justice system. For Foucault:

… twenty years ago, or even a century ago, criminal justice was neither better organised nor more respectful … The transformations that are taking place before our eyes, and which sometimes leave us baffled, ought not to make us ...

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