Punishing Not-for-profit, Implications of Nonprofit Privatization in Juvenile Punishment

Sarah Armstrong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While a lively debate rage sover the role of the private sector in the administration of punishment, this debate focuses nearly exclusively on for profit corporations, excluding the role that nonprofit organizations play. A study of the famous Massachusetts experiment in juvenile decarceration (in the early 1970s) and its aftermath provides information about how the nonprofit sector operates in juvenile justice. This information allows for an analysis of how reform rhetoric, and specifically the idealized concepts of 'community-based' and 'nonprofit', works in practice. 'Community' remains an undertheorized notion in criminology, and community-based treatment in Massachusetts often clones the disciplinary regimes of secure custody rather than play setting to less coercive forms of control that then link up informal with formal modes of social control. 'Nonprofit' evokes a number of positive images. However, the nonprofit contractors to the Massachusetts juvenile justice system behave in more complicated ways, displaying some characteristics in common with the for profit sector and some in common with the state bureaucracy. All of these qualities combine to create a unique dynamic of nonprofits, which I describe as 'entrepreneurial bureaucracy'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-68
Number of pages24
JournalPunishment and Society: The International Journal of Penology
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • community, deinstitutionalisation, juvenile justice, Massachusetts, nonprofit, privatisation, privatization


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