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CSPS Supervision 9 - Prisons and Parole I. PRISONS Crewe & Liebling - Reconfiguring Penal Power (2016)
? Within high-security prisons in England and Wales in the late 1980s, there was considerable divergence in the strategies adopted to generate order, in the degree to which prisoners assented to these regimes, and in the social consequences of these different models of order.
? Most problematically, absolutist cynicism about the nature of penal power and order makes it impossible to identify which forms of penal authority are more oppressive, destructive, or unreasonable than others, with what consequences for the daily lives and wellbeing of prisoners.
? Our aim in this chapter is to describe changing forms of power in contemporary prisons in England and Wales, and the impact of these changes on staff culture, staff-prisoner relationships, and prison order. How are recent changes in the organization and balance of penal power manifested, with what consequences? How can they be conceptualized?
? Different configurations of power are regarded by prisoners as more or less legitimate, and these evaluations have a direct impact on their behaviour, attitudes, and well-being.
? The assumption that prison staff are all-powerful is questionable. o Sykes (1958) highlighted the 'defects in total power' and 'cracks in the [institutional] monolith', in his study of a US maximum security prison, emphasizing the various ways in which the seemingly total power of prison officers was, in practice, compromised. o Some subsequent studies, such as McEvoy's (2001) account of paramilitary imprisonment in Northern Ireland, are consistent with Sykes' portrayal of the power balance between staff and prisoners. o In contrast, Mathiesen (1965) described prisoners within a medium-security, treatment-oriented correctional institution in Norway as feeling highly dependent on prison staff. Atomized and divided, from their position of weakness, they engaged in a form of 'censoriousness', in which they challenged prison staff not on the basis of an alternative value system, but for failing to correctly implement the rules of the institution.
? As Bottoms (2005) notes, these divergent descriptions in part reflect the lens through which power is observed. Sykes' account in effect assumes the perspective of prison officers. Mathiesen writes from the position of the atomized and dependent prisoner. Penal power and the weight of imprisonment
In a recent article (Crewe et al. 2014a), we argued that the concept of the 'weight' of imprisonment had been under-theorized within penological research.
? The terminology and connotations of weight, alongside the tendency among penologists to see power as inherently suppressive and preventative, meant that little attention had been given to the ways in which different formations of penal power might be damaging or dangerous or, conversely, reasonable and supportive.
? Study by Crewe et al. (2014) o All of the five private sector prisons within our study were described by prisoners in terms that we summarized as 'light'. o However, prisoners in the public sector prisons evaluated their overall quality of life more positively than those in three of the private sector prisons, in domains such as interpersonal treatment, as well as in relation to safety, policing, and staff professionalism. o In the less good private sector prisons, prisoners complained that interpersonal courtesy was less important to them than the forms of staff experience in the public sector that enabled their questions to be answered and their requests to be met. o While the very good private sector prisons were better than the public sector establishments in terms of overall quality of life for prisoners, they too exhibited some weaknesses with regard to matters such as policing and security. The public sector prisons delivered a well-oiled regime, in which prisoners generally felt safe, but did so without a great deal of care. o Many of these differences reflected different levels of staff experience o Our conclusion was that, to account for our findings, an axis ranging from 'heavy' to 'light' needed to be combined with one ranging from 'absence' to 'presence' o The private sector prisons were located within this quadrant, with those that were particularly poor-performing in its far corner. In such establishments, deficits in the exercise of con dent authority meant that the wings were chaotic, 'run' as much by prisoners as by staff, with power owing from 'below' from prisoners onto staff, and from prisoner to prisoner, in relatively unregulated ways.
? In contrast, the public sector prisons in our study sat in the 'heavy-present' quad- rant. Power was imposed onto prisoners by uniformed staff, often based on attitudes that were punitive or regressive, creating an atmosphere that was somewhat austere and oppressive.
? Forms of imprisonment that combine heaviness with absence are arguably its least legitimate variety. Implications
? Our findings indicated the need to revisit the idea of 'respect' within prisons, and to broaden its definition beyond conventional understandings (Hulley et al. 2012)
In our analysis, we formed two 'respect' dimensions: 'interpersonal respect', comprising honesty, trust, and fair- ness as well as courtesy, and 'organizational respect', which reflected levels of organizational competence and collective professionalism. o All of the prisons in our study scored more highly on the former measure than the latter, indicating that it is easier to achieve a 'thin' form of respect than to establish an organization that is responsive, fair in its expectations, and transparent in its decisions.
? A second contribution of our analysis---which follows from the first---
was to emphasize the centrality of staff professionalism in shaping prisoner outcomes. o In the public sector prisons, the attitudes of staff towards prisoners were less caring, trusting, and rehabilitative, on the whole.
? Third, our findings resonated considerably with the emerging literature on self- legitimacy---power-holders' recognition of, or confidence in, their own entitlement to power (Tankebe 2016). o Staff in the private sector were much more likely to express reservations about how to deploy their power than those in the public sector.
? Fourth, our analysis was an attempt to think through the different ways in which authority could be organized and experienced in general in contemporary prisons, and to reconsider the terms of penal power itself. Penal power in transition
? In the years since we undertook fieldwork for the study that informed this argument, prisons have undergone significant transition. Much of this transformation has been driven by the combination of resource reductions and the spectre of private sector competition.
? Budget cuts have been savage, and have inevitably been felt most keenly in relation to staffing levels. o Since 2010-11, the National Offender Management Service has reduced its costs by nearly a quarter (NOMS 2015), resulting in a 30 per cent reduction in the number of public sector prison staff (Prison Reform Trust 2016), during which time the prison population has been relatively stable. o Prisons have moved from high-resource to low-resource institutions; public sector prisons increasingly resemble their private sector counterparts; and the terms and conditions of work within the two sectors are more closely aligned than ever.
? Study carried out by Liebling and Crewe from 2015-16 from 3 MQPL
+ research exercises in prisons in England and Wales. o In Prison A---a public sector, category C training prison---we found both staff and prisoners in despair. Many prisoners were too fearful, despondent, or frustrated with regime inconsistencies to leave the wings, in order to attend training or education.
? At the same time, power was largely 'absent', both in terms of a lack of interactive engagement with prisoners, and an under-use of authority, with staff
preferring to stay in and around wing offices (where they felt safe) rather than patrol and police the wings (where they felt vulnerable, and were bombarded with prisoner requests, partly as a result of the longer hours spent locked up). o Prison B---a modern local prison, run by a private company, mainly holding prisoners on remand or serving short sentences---exhibited different characteristics. Staff were very rarely to be found hiding in wing offices.
? The nature of staff interaction with prisoners was such that the culture felt less absent than in Prison A, and considerably lighter. o Prison C, a Category B local prison was the best performing prison of the three. Discipline staff complained that they were too busy delivering the basic regime to do person-based work
? Compared to these A and B, it had a greater proportion of experienced and knowledeable staff, in part because its geographic location meant that its pay was competitive within the local jobs market but also because the prison had served many distinct and specialist functions in its past, and the long-serving officer body had worked in many of these units or areas.
? It is telling that Prison B outperforms Prison A on 'harmony dimensions': here, heaviness, is manifested in lower scores for dimensions such as 'respect/courtesy', 'staff-prisoner relationships' and 'humanity'. But it is also striking--- and consistent with our theorization---that Prison C outscores Prison B on these dimensions. o That is to say, even when staff attitudes are somewhat 'heavy', the presence and professionalism of experienced officers means that prisoners experience a greater level of respect and care than in an establishment in which frontline staff are benign but professionally ineffective. The outcomes of penal power
? Environmental conditions are reshaping prisoner behaviour in ways that are mainly undesirable. With regard to regime engagement, chaotic, unpredictable and indifferent regimes mean that feelings of resignation and demoralization predominate.
? Because of cuts to staffing levels, there is an increasing degree of power-sharing between staff and prisoners. o For our purposes, the return of power-sharing to prisons in England and Wales is significant chiefly because it represents a reconfiguration of penal order. o The quality of the prisoner experience is increasingly dependent on the prisoner's position in the prisoner hierarchy, and this hierarchy is reinforced by the ways that staff distribute their attention and authority. Conclusion: re-thinking penal power
? In our most recent research we have seen the extremes at both ends in single prisons. o In light-absent prisons, we find a 'stand back/ jump forwards' use of authority, as inexperienced and under-resourced staff struggle to enforce their power for the majority of the time,
and then go overboard in doing so because of their lack of confidence, or the knowledge that they have 'let power go'. o In 'heavy-absent' prisons, staff 'stand back' not because they cannot use their authority, but because they choose not to mobilize their relational power, either because of a lack of motivation, or because situational and coercive measures do much of their 'control work' for them. An underlying feature of these 'ideal types' is that officers hold either a 'tragic' or cynical perspective on prisoners. The 'professional' prison officer does not expect perfection from prisoners or from him or herself, but is reconciled to rather than over-enthusiastic or conflicted about the use of coercion. The new low-resource model may turn professionals into avoiders (see Lerman and Page 2016), or it may, on lower pay scales and with an incomplete understanding of what makes a good prison officer, recruit naive reciprocators who lack sufficient training or experience to com- bine their helpful orientation with the 'dynamic use of authority'.
The cost to legitimacy of prison cuts - Liebling (2011)???Lord Carter's 2007 Report 'Proposals for the efficient and sustainable use of custody in England and Wales', was commissioned to explore ways of saving money, and building new prison capacity in England and Wales. o It recommended the building of two to three 'larger, state of the art' or 'Titan' prisons accommodating around 2500 prisoners each. Considerable problems were foreseen, and I think, some problems experienced in securing sites. Private companies favour the large prison model (they argued that the Titan concept was workable). We could save a lot more money by reducing the prison population to what it was in 1992 --- half of what it is now. Reversing the fetish for long and indeterminate sentences would achieve that, if we really wanted change. Recently Ben Crewe has referred to the increasing 'grip' or 'tightness' of imprisonment, as prisoners are required to actively engage with the complex requirements of new sentences. Problems faced by contemporary prisons in England and Wales include overcrowding and unpredictable population growth, the need to control costs, expensive and unsuitable accommodation, prisoners located in the wrong parts of the country far away from their homes, high levels of risk of disorder and suicide, cultural resistance to change and in some cases, care for prisoners among (some public sector) staff, industrial unrest, and poor outcomes. There is continuing uncertainty about what is required of the contemporary prison: safe care, drug treatment, punishment, containment or future crime prevention. There are some 'essential features' of British prisons which are enduring and which emerge continually in research. o One of these is that prison staff identify strongly with their landing or houseblock and also very powerfully with 'their prison'. They have faith in 'what worked yesterday', but are
perturbed by future-oriented reorganisations of their work, and they need to feel safe in order to care for prisoners (Liebling and Price 2001) o Prisons are special, place-based communities whose form is shaped by social and political ideas held about crime, punishment, social order and human nature. They suffer from an 'inherent legitimacy deficit' and are susceptible to brutality, indifference to human needs, abuses of power and breakdowns in order. o Staff and prisoners frequently express the need to be individually known. Highly competent Governors capable of leading and motivating staff, keeping an eye on the detail, orchestrating an effective senior management team, of ensuring that sometimes competing targets are reached in ways that make sense, and who manage to be visible to staff, are in short supply. Actuarial models of justice risk neglecting the moral agency of persons. They prioritise the identification, classification, incapacitation and management of unruly risk groups rather than the understanding or handling of them as moral, psychological or economic agents. We need to be very wary of a preoccupation with efficiency that brings in its wake, moral indifference. o There are of course good moral arguments for being careful with and held accountable for public expenditure. But general questions of value have come to be replaced, rather than restrained, by questions of technical efficacy. o Bureaucracy and its framing of problems in a technicist language, geared towards the twin (internal) goals of efficiency and efficacy, 'kills' morality. The question of what kind of institutions, indeed prisons, we design, shapes the state of our society, civilisation and culture. o Larger, cheaper prisons are likely to become the new norm o The warning we should heed, already noted by classic prison scholars, is that large bureaucratic institutions tend to displace external goals with internal, self-maintenance purposes: internal order and security are prioritised over any rehabilitative aspirations. The Carter Review recommended an 'aggressive programme of cost and activity profiling across the public sector estate' resulting in an 'efficient cost' for each prison. It is clear that the financial management of prisons is going to become much tighter. More and larger prisons means more prison staff recruitment and training. Addressing the 'costly, outdated and inflexible pay and grading structure that currently exists' in the public sector is important, but we should also look closely at whether staff working in the private sector are too loosely bonded to their organisations and whether an unintended price is being paid for cheaper, high turnover labour. Very few prisons meet high standards of legitimacy, and most establishments suffer from 'value imbalance' of one kind or another. Current penal discourse risks sweeping the concept of legitimacy under the carpet, privileging 'economic efficiency' over morality.
The combined effects of this new 'economic rationalism', with a reemerging 'scientism' and unrestrained punitiveness in public and political thinking about offenders, is 'altering the contours of the penal realm' in ways that are troubling. Conclusion
? More prison, achieved cheaply, is one policy option but it fails to take account of David Garland's critique that the prison is a 'tragic' option, beset by irresolvable tensions and symbolising broken social relations.
? We are placing the law and the prison centre stage, and it simply cannot do, nor was it ever intended to do, this amount of work.
? Cuts are not a threat in themselves. Economic rationalism, punitiveness, and lack of intelligent deliberation, pose the real dangers.
Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile - Prison Reform Trust (2016) Introduction
? 324 people died in prison in the year to September 2016, the highest number on record. A third of these deaths were selfinflicted.
? Nearly half of the adult male prisons inspected in 2015-16 were judged to be failing on safety.
? Sentence lengths in the Crown Court have risen by a scarcely believable 30% over ten years.
? As a result, overcrowding still cripples the system's ability to provide a decent and constructive public service.
? An uncrowded prison system holding only those who really need to be there, and only for as long as punishment requires, has the potential to deliver the improved resettlement outcomes to which this and many previous governments have aspired. o But it seems the "inconvenient truth" that this can only be delivered through sentencing reform is more easily acknowledged after release from the pressure of high office than during it. The state of our prisons Sentencing and the use of custody
? England and Wales have the highest imprisonment rate in Western Europe---locking up 147 people per 100,000 of the population
? Prison sentences are continuing to get longer. The average prison sentence is now over four months longer than 10 years ago at 16.4 months. For more serious, indictable offences, the average is now
57.1 months---20 months longer than 10 years ago
? Increasing numbers of people in prison don't know if, or when, they might be released. 11,178 people are currently in prison serving an indeterminate sentence
? Furthermore, the use of community sentences has nearly halved (46%) since 2006---accounting for just 9% of all sentences in the year to June 2016, compared with 14% at the same time in 2006
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