The Penal System: An Introduction


Now in its fifth edition, The Penal System: An Introduction remains the most complete, accessible and authoritative resource for your studies in Criminal Justice and Criminology. Fully revised and updated to account for recent changes in the Criminal Justice System, the new edition includes:

  • Expanded material on restorative justice
  • An expanded section on gender and the ...
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Now in its fifth edition, The Penal System: An Introduction remains the most complete, accessible and authoritative resource for your studies in Criminal Justice and Criminology. Fully revised and updated to account for recent changes in the Criminal Justice System, the new edition includes:

  • Expanded material on restorative justice
  • An expanded section on gender and the Criminal Justice System
  • Greater coverage of comparative issues, focussing especially on Scotland
  • An annually updated companion website, keeping you up-to-date with relevant legislation and crucial developments
  • An accessible writing style balanced against a critical and scholarly approach
  • A glossary of key terms that you'll encounter throughout your studies
  • Continued critical coverage of the deepening penal crisis, including sections on the managerial crisis and the crisis of accountability

The Penal System consolidates and builds on the successful formula of the fourth edition, bringing the text in line with the key issues facing the Criminal Justice System today. It will prove essential reading across all undergraduate levels for modules on Criminal Justice and Prisons/Punishment.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
From its original publication onwards, The Penal System has proved itself a sure and authoritative guide to the post-war history and character of the penal system of England and Wales. Unrivalled as a textbook on the subject, its authors, now strengthened by the addition of George Mair, combine the analysis of trends with a clear sense of narrative and an eye for the telling detail. It is a masterly achievement, invaluable for students and teachers alike.
David Downes
Professor Emeritus of Social Policy, The Mannheim Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice, London School of Economics

I have read successive editions of The Penal System since I was an undergraduate. It has been an indispensible companion on my journey through the criminal justice system. Today it continues to be a vital resource for critically examining and understanding the use of punishment in England and Wales.
Dr. Jamie Bennett
Research Associate, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford

The Penal System, written by three heavyweights of penological study, is an excellent introductory text for anyone interested in this area. It is intelligently written and explains complex issues in an accessible and engaging way. I will definitely be recommending this to my Penology Students.
Dr. Karen Harrison
Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Hull

Gary Monaghan
While there is clearly a great deal of researched and developed expertisecontained in this book, it lacks experiential insights into the penal system whichmeans that some of the theories explored are untested. The book is, however, a positive contribution to undergraduate studies in terms of understanding the criminal justice system at a macro level; and it may represent a valuable resource to other authors and researchers. While I have outlined some of my reservations above I would, nonetheless recommend it as prerequisite reading for those wishing to further their theoretical understanding of the penal system.
Cavadino and Dignan (both: law, U. of Sheffield, UK) provide an overview of the English penal system operative in England and Wales. Although they have tried to outline differing viewpoints and offer a comprehensive overview of the literature, they have not been shy about sharing their opinion that the English penal system is unjustly and irrationally harsh, and that it needs radical revision. Reflecting the belief that the penal system can't be studied apart from criminal justice as a whole, chapters look at justifying punishment, explaining punishment, court decisions, community penalties, prison privatization, early release, the treatment of young offenders, and bias in the criminal justice system. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
British Journal of Sociology
"This book provides the reader with a fascinating insight into the factors that helped shape penal philosophies and approaches ot punishment across a variety of different countries." —Barbara Mason, London School of Economics and Political Science
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781446207253
  • Publisher: SAGE Publications
  • Publication date: 5/17/2013
  • Edition description: Fifth Edition
  • Pages: 386
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Cavadino, who is Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Central Lancashire, is an internationally known author and researcher in the fields of penology (the study of punishment) and mental health law. He is co-author of the leading textbook on the penal system of England and Wales (M Cavadino, J Dignan and G Mair, The Penal System: An Introduction, 5th ed., Sage Publications 2013). His other works include Mental Health Law in Context: Doctors' Orders? (Dartmouth, 1989) and M Cavadino and J Dignan, Penal Systems: A Comparative Approach (Sage Publications, 2006).

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Table of Contents

Companion Website
The Criminal Justice System
The Penal Crisis and Strategies for Criminal Justice
Notes on Terminology: 'Punishment' and 'System'
Crisis? What Crisis?
Is there a Crisis?
The Orthadox Account of the Crisis
The High Prison Population (The Numbers Crisis)
Bad Conditions
Staff Unrest
'Toxic Mix' of Prisoners
Riots and Disorder
Criticisms of the Orthodox Account
Improving on the Orthadox Account
The Crisis of Penological Resources
The Crisis of Visibility
The Crisis of Legitimacy
Responses to the Crisis
A Radical Pluralist Account of the Crisis
Justifying Punishment
Is Punishment Unjust?
Just Deserts: Retributivism and Denunciation
Restorative Justice
Schools of Penal Thought
The Classical School: Deterrence and the Tariff
Bentham and Neo-Classicism: Deterrence and Reform
Positivism: The Rehabilitative Ideal
The Justice Model: Just Deserts and Due Process
From Just Deserts to the New Punitiveness - and Beyond?
Philosophies, Strategies and Attitudes
Conclusions: Punishment and Human Rights
Explaining Punishment
The Sociology of Punishment
The Marxist Tradition
Economic Determinism: Rusche and Kirchheimer
Ideology and Hegemony: The Legacy of Gramsci
Structuralist Marxism and Althusser
Post-Structuralism, Discipline and Power: Michel Foucault
Humanistic Materialism: The Case of E. P. Thompsom
The Durkheimian Tradition
The Weberian Tradition
Pluralism and Radical Pluralism
Applying Penal Sociology
The New Penology and The New Punitiveness
Comparative Penology and the New Punitiveness
Sentencing: The Crux of the Crisis
The Crux of the Crisis
Who Are the Sentencers?
Constraints on the Powers of Sentencers
Judical Independence and Traditional English Sentencing
Confining Discretion
Checking Discretion: Appeals
Structuring Discretion: Principles and Guidelines
The Current Legal Framework of Sentencing
A Brief, Tangled Recent History of Sentencing
1991: From the Strategy of Encouragement to Just Deserts
1992-97: The Law and Order Counter-Reformation
New Labour, Mixed Messages
Coalition False Dawn
A Rational Approach?
Punishment in the Community
Community Punishment in a Rapidly Changing Penal Landscape
Non-Custodial Punishment: the Current Sentencing Framework
Nominal and Warning Penalties
Financial Penalties
Compensatory Penalties
Reparative Penalties and Restorative Justice Approaches
Supervisory Penalties and the Changing Role of the Probation Service
Community Payback (Community Service or Unpaid Work)
Surveillance and Restrictions on Movement: Curfews and Electronic Monitoring
'Hybrid Penalties'
Community Punishment: Strategic Issues
Changing Penal Strategies and their Impact on the Use of Imprisonment and Community Punishment
Enforcement of Community Sentences: Sticks or Carrots?
'Sentence Management' and the Changing Role of the Judiciary
Effectiveness of Community Sentences
Contestability and Privatization
Shifting Patterns of Penality: Theoretical Reflections
Scull's 'Decarceration' Thesis
Cohen and Mathiesen: the 'Dispersal of Discipline' Thesis
Bottoms' 'Juridical Revival' Thesis
Conclusion: The Future of Punishment?
Prisons and the Penal Crisis
The Aims and Functions of Imprisonment
Official Aims of Imprisonment
Social Functions of Imprisonment
The Prison System
The Prisons and the Prisoners
The Debate Around Prison Privatization
Privatization and the Crisis of Resources
Key Phases in Recent Prison Policy-Making
1995-1999: The Security and Control Agenda - Post-Woolf Backlash
1999-2002: 'Decency Agenda' and 'Effectiveness Credo' - The Quest for a Balanced Approach
2002-2006: Keeping the Lid On - Pragmatism Reasserts Itself
2006-2012: Where do we go From Here?
The Prison System and its Crises
The Managerial Crisis
The Crises of Containment and Security
The Prison Numbers Crisis and the Problem of Overcrowding
The Crisis of Conditions
The Crises of Control and Authority
The Crisis of Accountability
The Crisis of Legitimacy and How to Tackle it
Early Release: The Penal System's Safety Valve
Early Release: Useful, Controversial, Troublesome
History of Early Release
From Remission to Automatic Early Release
Parole (Discretionary Early Release)
Early Release Today
Fixed-term (Determinate) Sentences
Extended Sentences (Extended Determinate Sentences)
Life Imprisonment and Imprisonment for Public Protection
The Parole Board
Conclusion: Early Release Evaluated
The Youth Justice System
Young People, Crime and the Penal Crisis
Responding to Youth Crime: Models of Youth Justice
The Welfare Model
The Justice Model
Minimum Intervention and Systems Management
The Restorative Justice Model
Neo-Correctional Youth Justice, 1997
Responding to Youth Crime: the Youth Justice System in Operation
Concluding Assessment: No More Excuses?
Bias in the Criminal Justice System
Solving the Crisis?
A Grim Fairy Tale
Responses to the Crisis, 1970-2006
From Positivism to Law and Order with Bifurcation: 1970-1987
Just Deserts and Punishment in the Community: 1987-1992
Law and Order Reinvigorated: 1993-1997
'Tough On Crime, Tough On the Causes of Crime': New Labour, 1997-2010
Coalition False Dawn: 2010 Onwards
How to Solve the Crisis
Approaches to the Penal Crisis
Measures to Solve the Crisis
The Prospects
Glossary of Key Terms

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