Parole In The Penal System: Towards A Relational Theory Of Penality

McAra, Lesley (2001). Parole In The Penal System: Towards A Relational Theory Of Penality. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis aims to develop a theoretical model which explains how the penal realm functions qua system. A second aim is to use this model to challenge a number of contemporary theories of penal transformation (as advanced in the works of Malcolm Feeley and Jonathan Simon, David Garland and Tony Bottoms). Using empirical evidence from the Scottish Parole System, the argument is developed over the course of three case studies, each of which explores a different dimension of systemic functioning: the development of penal policy, the implementation of penal policy; and the decision-making practices of agents working within the system. The findings from the case studies suggest that the penal system functions in a manner akin to an eco-system in which there is a high level of interdependency and struggles for power and control between key sites in the system. The relative balance of power between these sites is determined by both extra and intra-systemic processes. The nature of these processes, in turn, indicates that penal transformation is more contingent and nuanced than contemporary theories would suggest. Transformation is most likely to occur under conditions of extra or intra-systemic strain; where tensions between the cultural practices of the system and the physical and conceptual space within which it is located, become too great to be sustained.

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