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The University of Southampton
Public Policy|Southampton

Locked In? Achieving penal change in the context of crisis and scandal: A discussion paper


Project Team

Professor Harry Annison , Professor in Criminal Justice at Southampton Law School

Dr Thomas Guiney , Assistant Professor of Criminology at University of Nottingham

Assistance from Dr Zoe Rubenstein , Postgraduate Research Student in the School of Sociology and Social Policy at University of Nottingham

A collaboration with the Prison Reform Trust Building Futures Programme, supported by an ESRC IAA Award.

Project Overview

Drawing on interdisciplinary literature and comparative case studies, the project paper ‘Locked In?’ encourages an open, honest and constructive debate about crisis and scandal, and the role they play in shaping policy and practice within the criminal justice system.

By shining a light on these subterranean features of all criminal justice systems, the project aims to support those with a stake in the penal system to better understand the forces at work during these periods of intense contestation, and help individuals, organisations and institutions to reflect upon the tools and resources they will need to navigate a more principled course during times of extraordinary turmoil.

It is only by thinking systematically about crisis and scandal, by learning from past experience and by drawing upon the collective knowledge and wisdom of policy makers, practitioners, penal reformers, prisoners and academic researchers, that we can hope to minimise harm, and in some cases, achieve progressive penal change in the context of crisis and scandal.

Initial Findings

People in prisons often experience the effects of knee jerk responses from politicians who react to crises and scandals. Participants noted prison life involves a cycle of crises and scandals which prompt rule changes in prison, often harming prisoner’s well-being from collective punishment.
It is noted crises and scandals emerge as key components of the policymaking cycle, providing a powerful reminder of the impact crises and scandals have long-lasting, real-world consequences.

Policy Impacts

This project engages with a range of stakeholders in order to encourage dialogue, and reflection, upon the impact of crisis and scandal on criminal justice, and how one might best respond. Activities will aim to make a modest contribution to the better governance, and politics, of crime and justice.

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