Pentonville: A Sociological Study of an English Prison

Pentonville: A Sociological Study of an English Prison

Pentonville: A Sociological Study of an English Prison

Pentonville: A Sociological Study of an English Prison

Excerpt

Times have indeed changed where prison research is concerned. Forty years ago, when Hobhouse and Brockway began to collect information for their English Prisons Today the Home Office did not disguise its hostility to the idea, and attempted to warn them off by a threat of prosecution under the Official Secrets Acts. The present study, begun in 1958, was conducted with the active co-operation and encouragement of the Prison Commission and financed by a Home Office grant. But the Official Secrets Acts remain in force, and in consequence the draft of this book had to undergo some modification, not only to accord with their requirements, but to ensure the complete anonymity of prison officials whom it would have been unreasonable to subject to a personal and public scrutiny. The same is also true of prisoners, so that while both they and the staff are frequently mentioned, all identities have been most carefully disguised by the use of wholly fictitious names. It must be acknowledged, however, that the Prison Department of the Home Office has gone far in allowing us to publish material which indicates that Pentonville is by no means a 'model' prison. Such a policy is, we think, an optimistic sign, a recognition that applied sociology has relevance for the day-to-day issues of penal practice, and that whatever the present shortcomings of English prisons, those responsible for their administration are anxious to identify and remedy them.

The social scientists who read this book may argue that it contains generalizations which go beyond the published data. In certain respects this is true, but no statement is made which is not based on evidence collected in the process of research. Where it is absent, our colleagues will have to take what we say on trust.

Throughout the course of the work we have had the constant oversight of one of the greatest criminological scholars of our day, Dr Hermann Mannheim. To him, as a supervisor, our debt is indeed considerable. Mr Arthur Peterson, Chairman of the Prison Commission, was instrumental in providing us with virtually unlimited and hitherto unparalleled facilities for research, and made many valuable comments and amendments to the text. To our great regret his predecessor, Sir Lionel Fox, whose generous interest first made . . .

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