Security Imperative, Reformation and Compliance: Understanding the Prison System in China


This article reviews the evolution of the legal framework and policy basis of the prison system in socialist China. The discussion will also trace the dual goals in the implementation of prison sentences, i.e., punishment and reformation. Stability and security have been the top priority in China’s prison management. Commensurate with the scheme, recent prison reform initiatives include several legal and policy reforms to institutionalise and professionalise prison management. On the one hand, reforms set out to separate the administration of prison finances from prison-run enterprises. On the other hand, the Ministry of Justice reconfigures the reformation programs to encourage the attitudinal compliance of inmates. However, the inextricable links between security and compliance might inflame tensions over the preservation of stability/security and the cultivation of inmates’ autonomy/independence.

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Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Published: 2023-09-01
Pages:54 to 63
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How to Cite
Yang, X. (2023) “Security Imperative, Reformation and Compliance: Understanding the Prison System in China”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 12(3), pp. 54-63. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.2353.

Author Biography

Nanjing Normal University

Xue Yang is a lecturer of the Institute for Chinese Legal Modernization Studies, Faculty of Law at Nanjing Normal University in China. She received her Ph.D. degree from the Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy at Ghent University in Belgium. Her research focuses on the comparative study about penal system.    

Yang. X. (2020). Community corrections under the principal sources of sentencing decisions in China: The challenges in sentencing practice. International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy 9(3): 144-158.

Yang, X. (2019). Changes in European instruments as a reflection of a shift in legal philosophies relating to community sanctions and measures. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 25(2), 153-169.