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 Based on previously unpublished original research spanning the years 1984 through 1991--all supported by the Economic and Social Research Council--Roy King and Kathleen McDermott chart the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.

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