Imprisonment and Social Control

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Imprisonment is one of the primary ways in which social control may be achieved; the Sage Dictionary of Criminology defines social control as a concept used to describe all the ways in which conformity may be achieved. Throughout time imprisonment and its ideas around social control have varied. Imprisonment has not always been used for punishment, nor has it always thought about the prisoners themselves. However when looking at imprisonment it is important to consider the new penology. Therefore, it needs to be clear what the new penology is. The new penology is said, not to be about punishing individuals or about rehabilitating them, but about identifying and managing unruly groups in society. It is concerned with the managerial processes, not the individual’s behaviour or even community organisation. All in all, its goal is to make crime tolerable, not to eliminate it entirely. (Feeley, M and Simon, J). Therefore the New Penology is not about the reform of individuals but the control of populations as a whole, with imprisonment focusing on particular offenders who are defined as ‘persistent’ or ‘high rate’. In light of this, the history of imprisonment, the purposes of imprisonment and indeed the question of whether it works as a form of social control or not all need to be addressed, as well as looking into the critics of the new penology.

Imprisonment has a number of purposes, the first being punishment, which brings with it the idea of retribution and revenge. The second purpose is incapacitation, this looks at the protection of society and the length of time the individual must serve in prison. Deterrence is the third purpose; it attempts to prevent the individual committing any future crime and goes some way to deter ...

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