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Legitimacy, accountability and private prisons

Genders, E; (2002) Legitimacy, accountability and private prisons. Punishment & Society , 4 (3) pp. 285-303. 10.1177/146247402400426752.

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HMP Dovegate, which opened in 2001, is one of the latest in what is fast becoming a long line of privately managed prisons. But Dovegate is no ordinary prison: within its walls it accommodates a therapeutic community for 200 prisoners. This development calls for a critical appraisal of the predominant view that privatization seals the demise of the rehabilitative ideal (Beyens and Snacken, 1994), and a re-examination of the argument that it constitutes a means of breathing life back into the doctrine (Taylor and Pease, 1989). In a liberal democracy, the potential for the private sector to deliver rehabilitative regimes depends on its ability to demonstrate that it can do so effectively and efficiently while meeting the requirements of openness, accountability and legitimacy. Although much headway has been made in assuaging concerns about issues relating to accountability and legitimacy in the context of the private management of prisons generally (see Institute for Public Policy Research, 2001) these matters take on a special significance in the specific context of the private administration of a therapeutic community prison. Some of the problems raised in this article exist only because of certain idiosyncratic features of the organization and operation of the therapeutic community model of treatment. However, other difficulties are more generally applicable and need to be addressed in relation to any privately managed prison that has the declared aim of rehabilitation. The article begins with a brief description of the growth of prison privatization and of how it has flourished in the wake of a return to a ‘just deserts’ philosophy and an expansionist penal policy. This is followed by a discussion of the ideological objections concerning the legitimacy and accountability of prison privatization; how these matters have been addressed, in practice, by the state; and what residual problems remain for the private contracting of a therapeutic community prison like Dovegate in particular, and for the private management of a rehabilitative system more generally. © 2002, Sage Publications. All rights reserved.

Type: Article
Title: Legitimacy, accountability and private prisons
DOI: 10.1177/146247402400426752
UCL classification: UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences
UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Laws
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/11902
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