Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Tackling prison overcrowdingBuild more prisons? Sentence fewer offenders?$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Mike Hough, Rob Allen, and Enver Solomon

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9781847421104

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781847421104.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of
date: 19 August 2017

The prisoners' dilemma in England and Wales

The prisoners' dilemma in England and Wales

Chapter:
(p.9) 2 The prisoners' dilemma in England and Wales
Source:
Tackling prison overcrowding
Author(s):

Nicola Lacey

Publisher:
Policy Press
DOI:10.1332/policypress/9781847421104.003.0002

Across the developed world today, there exists striking contrasts in the level and quality of imprisonment. In 2006, the imprisonment rates per 100,000 of the population ranged from about 36 in Iceland to 725 in the U.S. This striking difference is generally agreed not to stem from crime rates. Rather, this contrast in imprisonment rates was caused by the differentiated model of varying forms of capitalist economy and democracy. Individualistic ‘liberal market economies’ such as the UK, US, Australia, and New Zealand have over the last 50 years experienced striking increases in the imprisonment rate, while ‘coordinated’ market economies such as those of northern Europe and Scandinavia have seen much more stable levels of imprisonment. Within this context, it is argued that the liberal market economies have found themselves in the grip of a ‘prisoners' dilemma’, in which electoral arrangements and other institutional features of the political and economic organisation have created a scenario wherein the strategic capacity for economic and political coordination to reduce punishment is lacking. This chapter focuses on two specific questions. First, what can a comparative political-economy analysis reveal about the purposes of imprisonment in the UK? And second, what reform options would it suggest that might be available to the UK's politicians: Can the high imprisonment levels of the UK be reversed? Is it possible to resist the tendency to use the prison system as a dumping ground for those in respect of whom more reintegrative economic and social policies have failed? And could the economic and political dynamics that feed the populist penal service be countered? In the chapter, it is argued that a proper appreciation of the institutional make-up underpinning the rise in punishment can aid in determining solutions that may be beyond the grasp of contemporary politicians.

Keywords:   imprisonment, capitalist economy, democracy, liberal market economies, prisoners' dilemma, punishment, reform options, prison system, penal service

University Press Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .