Modelling Penal Transformation

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Abstract / Description of output

Using a systems analytical framework, this article explains how and why the Scottish penal system has followed a different trajectory to a number of its European and US counterparts. It highlights the manner in which penal-welfare values have continued to dominate all aspects of policy and practice in the face of the social and cultural factors that have been identified as prompting significant shifts in the nature and function of penality in other jurisdictions. The article argues that pressures for change within Scotland have been mediated by a number of localized political and cultural processes (relating specifically to elite policy networks and the characteristics of Scottish civic culture). These processes have facilitated a degree of boundary closure and self-reflexive modes of communication within the Scottish system and it is these which, to date, have mitigated against the sense of structural and cultural strain driving transformation elsewhere. The Scottish case suggests: that the environments which penal systems inhabit are complex and turbulent phenomena, containing a range of competing pressures with differential rather than uniform effects; and that small-scale penal systems have particular features which make them better able to ride out such turbulence without fundamental damage to their central principles and purposes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-302
Number of pages26
JournalPunishment and Society: The International Journal of Penology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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