Mapping the Conditions of Penal Hope

  • Queensland University of Technology


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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Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Published: 2013-11-01
Pages:27 to 42
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How to Cite
Brown, D. (2013) “Mapping the Conditions of Penal Hope”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 2(3), pp. 27-42. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.v2i3.126.

Author Biography

Queensland University of Technology

Professor David Brown taught Criminal Law, Advanced Criminal Law, Criminal Justice, Crime Prevention, Community Corrections and Penology courses at the University of NSW in Sydney from 1974 to 2008. He is a co-author of the major and innovative Criminal Laws (1990), (2nd edn 1996) and (3rd edn 2001) (4th edn 2006) (5th edn 2011) which has become the leading student teaching text in criminal law in universities in NSW.

David is very widely published across the broad areas of criminal law, criminal justice, criminology and penology, both in Australia and internationally. He has co-authored or co-edited 10 books; published 33 chapters in books, and over 100 articles in journals and in conference proceedings published; given 120 conference papers or public addresses all over the world; and is a regular media commentator on criminal justice issues.