Controlling Modern Government

Controlling Modern Government

Variety, Commonality and Change

Edited by Christopher Hood, Oliver James, B. Guy Peters and Colin Scott

Controlling Modern Government explores the long-term development of controls over government across five major state traditions in developed democracies – US, Japan, variants of continental-European models, a Scandinavian case and variants of the Westminster model.

Chapter 2: Prisons: varying oversight and mutuality, much tinkering, limited control

Oliver James and Christopher Hood

Subjects: economics and finance, political economy, politics and public policy, political economy


2.1 OVERVIEW Oliver James and Christopher Hood 1 Patterns of Control in Eight Countries As the introductory chapter noted, prisons are institutions that present particularly stark issues of control, because they are ‘total institutions’ (Goffman, 1961) exercising drastic state power. They separate individuals from society, and monitor and shape much of their inmates’ lives, including matters as basic as when and how to eat, work, sleep and exercise. They are frequently engaged in efforts to discipline, correct and rehabilitate their prisoners. The control of such institutions in a liberal democracy is problematic for various reasons, particularly because of minority-rights issues. Even in those countries, notably the USA, with comparatively high prison participation rates among the population, the experience of being an inmate is confined to a small minority of the population, as Table 2.1 shows, and indeed is typically concentrated in disadvantaged groups. So it is hardly surprising that control of prisons for purposes such as security, humanity and efficiency has been a hotly debated issue at least since Jeremy Bentham offered his famous authoritarian-rationalist blueprint for control in and over prisons in the 1790s (Bentham, 1791: letters II, VI and IX; see also Freeman, 1978; Vagg, 1994). Each of the primary forms of control that we took as our point of departure in Chapter 1 can be found in the prison sector, as Table 2.2 shows (but the controls are often ineffective, as this table also suggests), and Table 2.3 attempts to summarize some of their applications in each...

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