The State of Our Prisons

The State of Our Prisons

The State of Our Prisons

The State of Our Prisons

Synopsis

The State of Our Prisons reviews the changes in prisons policy and practice in England and Wales from the period following the May Committee to the present day, and presents the most authoritative and independent commentary on the work of the prison system to date. Based on previously unpublished original research spanning the years 1984 through 1991--all supported by the Economic and Social Research Council--Roy King and Kathleen McDermott chart the performance of five representative prisons for adult males drawing on the accounts and evaluations of those most intimately involved: prison staff, and prisoners and their families. The early reported finding of these studies, which have been described by ESRC's evaluators as "dramatic and unimpeachable", chart the extraordinary deterioration in prison regimes as the system devoted its increased resources to security and control. In this volume Professor King and Dr McDermott use "regime monitoring" data and the reports of the Chief Inspector of Prisons to bring their findings up to date, and present them in relation to each of the declared goals of the new Prison service Agency. They conclude that although many improvements have been made since the Woolf Report, performance still falls short of that achieved in the early 1970s in several vital respects. In some areas improvements are jeopized by the new concern with austere regimes and the authors argue that some of the most important "key performance indicators" are simply not adequate.

Excerpt

The State of Our Prisons is the fourth volume to be published since Clarendon Studies in Criminology was launched in 1994, as successor to Cambridge Studies in Criminology.

Clarendon Studies in Criminology, which is published under the auspices of the Cambridge Institute of Criminology, the Mannheim Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice at the London School of Economics and the Oxford Centre for Criminological Research, provides a forum for outstanding work in all aspects of criminology, criminal justice, penology, and the wider field of deviant behaviour. It welcomes works of theory and synthesis as well as reports of empirical inquiries and aims to be international in its scope.

It is widely recognized that the prison system has been passing through recurrent crises; crises of purpose, of resources, of security and control, of staffing and management, of accountability, and ultimately of its legitimacy. It is not surprising, therefore, that there has been a renewed spate of empirical research and theoretical reflections on the state of the prisons and that three of the four books so far published in this Series concern aspects of imprisonment. The State of Our Prisons follows Jon Vagg's valuable comparative study of accountability in European prison systems and Elaine Genders and Elaine Player's positive evaluation of the therapeutic prison at Grendon.

Roy King and Kathleen McDermott skilfully weave together their wide-ranging empirical studies of the realities of imprisonment in a variety of penal institutions during the past decade and interpret their findings in the context of changing policies and practices, including the Prison Service Agency's new 'key performance indicators. By painting an authentic picture of prison conditions in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they have provided both an analysis of changes over that period and a benchmark against which subsequent developments can be evaluated. King and McDermott have also provided a powerful analysis and critique of recent developments in penal policy in the wake of the Woolf Report . . .

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