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Penal welfarism - myths and realities?

  • 1 Jun 2017
  • 2 Jun 2017
  • Oñati

Workshop at the IISJ:

Coordinators: Kjersti Ericsson. University of Oslo

Sverre Flatten. Oslo Police University College

Per Jørgen Ystehede. University of Oslo

In his famous book The Culture of Control from 2001 David Garland postulates a paradigmatic change in the penal culture of the western world from the 1970s on. While the postwar decades were characterized by an optimistic belief in rehabilitation, treatment and individual prevention, coined penal welfarism, the ideological climate has changed to an emphasis on punitive sanctions, often of a harsh nature. The prison population has increased, both in the US and in most European countries. Garland’s main interest is in describing and analyzing the new ‘culture of control’. The same is true for other authors interested in the field. There has been less interest in in-depth descriptions and analyses of the realities of ‘penal welfarism’ in the 1950s and 60s. Did ‘penal welfarism’ really differ as sharply from today’s ideology and penal practices as is often supposed? And what, exactly, were the differences? According to Garland, the rehabilitative ideal was ‘the hegemonic, organizing principle, the intellectual framework and value system’ for the practitioners of penal welfare. (Garland 2001:35) In the 1970s, penal welfarism came under heavy critique, which served to undermine its credibility and prestige, preparing the ground for a transformation of the field of crime control and criminal justice. Social changes also played their part in making the old penal paradigm seem obsolete. Among the defining characteristics of the new penal paradigm, Garland mentions the decline of the rehabilitative ideal, the re-emergence of punitive sanctions and expressive justice, the return of the victim (‘any untoward attention to the rights or welfare of the offender is taken to detract from the appropriate measure of respect for victims’), emphasis on protection of the public, politicization and the new populism (ibid: 8 -13) The new paradigm is also seen, by Garland and others, as related to the development of welfare policies, which has taken a more punitive turn as well, from welfare to “workfare”. Welfare provisions are shrinking, while prisons are expanding. Some authors (Christie 1993, Wacquant 1999) point to the tendency that imprisonment and related criminal justice measures are becoming the main form of control (at least in the US context) of marginalized sections of the population, who are not needed/useful as part of the labour force. Garland’s context is mainly Britain and the US. However, his work has struck a note in several other societies (among them the Scandinavian countries), where the paradigmatic shift towards a more punitive criminal justice policy is discernable, if not as marked. The aim of the proposed Onati workshop is to scrutinize the ‘penal welfarism’ as concretely as possible. We would welcome perspectives from various regions and nations, to get varied images of the penal realities of the 50s and 60s. We will also include research on measures and institutions outside the criminal justice system in a strict sense, if they have relevance for the broader picture of ‘penal welfarism’. The overarching question posed will be the following: How and where did penal welfarism differ in significant ways from what we believe and do today? What are the continuities? We will explore this overarching question by delving into the following topics, with today’s ideologies and practices as a comparative background: • Penal welfarism in the courts. Can welfare penalism be discerned in the sentences that were passed by the courts? • Penal welfarism in the prisons. In what way (if any) was penal welfarism shaping prison regimes? • Penal welfarism and the police. Is penal welfarism discernible in police practices of the time? • Penal welfarism, preventive measures and the extra-legal interventions in the name of rehabilitation, education and treatment. Such interventions were to a large degree, but not exclusively, aimed at juvenile delinquents. Do they deserve their bad reputation? • Penal welfarism and the position of the victim. It is assumed that while penal welfarism concentrated on correcting and rehabilitating the offender, today support and justice for the victim has gained a more central place in criminal justice policy, to the detriment of the offender. What was the position of the victim in penal welfarism? Is there a gender dimension to this question? • Penal welfarism is said to have been ruled by professional experts, while today’s criminal justice policy is shaped by politicians trying to adapt to the sentiments of a mass public, nourished by the media. Is this a correct picture? • Penal welfarism and ‘the other’. Today, immigrants are regarded as a special crime risk. Juliet Stumpf (2006) has coined the term ‘crimmigration’ to denote the association between immigration and crime. Did penal welfarism also perceive some groups as ‘the other’, representing a special criminal danger to society? Not only scholars and researchers, but also many practitioners and politicians today feel that the punitive and harsh trends create as many problems as they solve. What kind of criminal policy changes are needed? Could we learn something from the ideologies and practices of ‘penal welfarism’, or do they represent a dead end, while the solutions to today’s problems should be sought elsewhere? This last question will also be raised at the conference. References: Christie, Nils (1993) Crime control as industry: towards Gulags, Western style. London: Routledge Garland, David (2001) The Culture of Control. Crime and the Social Order in Contemporary Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press Stumpf, Juliet (2006) The crimmigration crisis: immigrants, crime and sovereign power. American University Law Reviews, 56 (2), 367-419 Wacquant, Loïc (1999) Les prisons de la misère. Paris : Raisons d’agir éditions.

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