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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 77000 Find in a Library
Title: Decarceration and the Economy of Penal Reform
Author(s): J B L Chan; R V Ericson
Corporate Author: University of Toronto
Centre of Criminology
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 101
Sponsoring Agency: University of Toronto
Toronto, Canada
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A1, Canada
Sale Source: University of Toronto
Centre of Criminology
Publications Officer
130 St George Street
Rm 8001
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A1,
Language: English
Country: Canada
Annotation: This Canadian research report on policies for controlling criminal offenders by using community alternatives to incarceration explores the origin, impact, and consequences of this 'decarceration' movement.
Abstract: Time-trend data on governmental expenditures, criminal control agency employment, and incarceration rates are analyzed and are interpreted within a framework which emphasizes the importance of economic, political, ideological, and organizational elements. The analysis suggests the limitations of an interpretation restricted to the influences of economic structure. Criminal control expenditure and employment rates have shown an uninterrupted pattern of increase in the face of growing government deficits. Moreover, the burgeoning of community alternatives to imprisonment has not resulted in a decrease in the prison population, nor has the expansion of the social welfare budget resulted in contraction elsewhere. On the contrary, there has been a similar growth of other forms of policing. In other words, decarceration is not cheaper, since 'alternatives' to prison are not substitutes, but add-ons to the system. The use of prisons among other forms of control is apparently influenced by competitive, and often contradictory, demands on the state in its perpetual efforts to reproduce order, preserve its legitimacy, and satisfy the demands of the organizations which constitute the control industry of welfare state capitalism. The apparent 'returning' of deviants to the community and the 'privatization' of social control also obscure the fact that the state is in control. For example, private agencies often become co-opted and absorbed into the formal state bureaucracy and are dependent on it for space, referrals, accountability, and sponsorship. Reforms appear contradictory because they do, in fact, reflect these contradictory needs of the system, and the results often turn out to be different from what was originally intended. Tabular data and over 90 references are provided. (Author abstract modified)
Index Term(s): Canada; Community-based corrections (adult); Correctional reform; Corrections effectiveness; Political influences
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