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Sociology, Social Policy and CriminologyPart of Economic, Social and Political Science

Can decency survive in our prisons?

Published: 17 March 2014

The Institute of Criminal Justice Research (ICJR) hosted a public lecture on the relevance of the Prison Service’s ‘decency agenda’. Eoin McLennan-Murray, the President of the Prison Governors’ Association argued that the growth in ‘managerialism’, the performance and audit culture, management restructuring and political initiatives are having an impact.

The decency agenda came from the findings of the 1991 Woolf Inquiry into the Strangeways Riot and other disturbances. In part Lord Woolf’s report attributed the worst prison riot in British history to ‘wholly unacceptable and inhumane conditions’ and ‘arbitrary and oppressive staff behaviour’.

Eoin served in ten prison establishments, twice as Governing Governor, as well as spending four years in Prison Service Headquarters where he was Staff Officer to the Director General and then the manager responsible for development and national roll out of the accredited cognitive skills and sex offender programmes. He was elected as President of the Prison Governor’s Association in 2010 and continues this role while governor of HMP Coldingley.

Professor Jenny Fleming from Criminology and Phil Palmer from Law are co-directors of ICJR. “One of our core aims is to examine the relationship between criminal justice research and practice from an interdisciplinary perspective,” says Jenny. “These public lectures are also a great way to bring practitioners, students and academics together”. “Eoin gave us much food for thought.” Phil adds: “As our speaker has personal knowledge of the prison system, listening to his perspective on the development of the decency agenda was of great interest. His observations could also be extended to other arms of the criminal justice system.”

The ICJR is led by both Social Sciences and Law at the University of Southampton. It was originally founded in the Law School in 1986 by Professor Andrew Rutherford, now Emeritus Professor of Law and Criminal Policy.

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