Mapping the Conditions of Penal Hope
This article examines the conditions of penal optimism behind suggestions that the penal expansionism of the last three decades may be at a ‘turning point’. The article proceeds by outlining David Green’s suggested catalysts of penal reform and considers how applicable they are in the Australian context. Green’s suggested catalysts are: the cycles and saturation thesis; shifts in the dominant conception of the offender; the GFC and budgetary constraints; the drop in crime; the emergence of the prisoner re-entry movement; apparent shifts in public opinion; the influence of evangelical Christian ideas and the Right on Crime initiative. The article then considers a number of other possible catalysts or forces: the role of trade unions; the role of courts; the emergence of recidivism as a political issue; the influence of ’evidence based’/’what works’’ discourse; and the emergence of justice reinvestment (JR). The article concludes with some comments about the capacity of criminology and criminologists to contribute to penal reductionism, offering an optimistic assessment for the prospects of a reflexive criminology that engages in and engenders a wider politics around criminal justice issues.
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