The politics of imprisonment

Authored by: Richard Sparks , Jessica Bird , Louise Brangan

Handbook on Prisons

Print publication date:  February  2016
Online publication date:  February  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415745659
eBook ISBN: 9781315797779
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315797779-5

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Abstract

Prisons are not always and everywhere equally politically controversial, although they have provoked periodic moral and ideological argument since their inception in something like recognizably modern form in the 18th century. Sometimes – though given the often fevered condition of penal politics in Britain and the USA before and since the turn of the century it is sometimes hard to recall this – they slip well below the radar of political contention for long periods. Indeed, it has historically been a frequent lament of prison reformers and penal practitioners that politicians, journalists and the general public are characteristically not very interested in prisons unless and until things go sharply and visibly wrong. The adage ‘there are no votes in prisons’ expresses the frustrations implicit in this view, alongside a sense that there is little natural sympathy for prisoners – and perhaps not for their custodians either – in most quarters.

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