The Place of Punishment: Variation in the Provision of Inmate Services Staff Across the Punitive Turn
July 27, 2012
Journal of Criminal Justice 40(5): 348-357, 2012, doi: org/10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2012.06.012
Despite the growing literature on the punitive turn, knowledge of how the experience of American imprisonment varied across time and place remains limited. This article begins to fill that gap, providing a nuanced portrayal of variation in the practices of rehabilitation.
Purpose: To examine how one aspect of the rehabilitative ideal in practice — the provision of staff dedicated to inmate services — varied across time and place over the past 30 years.
Methods: The article presents statistics on the inmate-to-staff ratios for inmate services staff (including teachers, counselors, doctors, etc.) between the years 1979 and 2005 for all 50 U.S. states.
Results: The analyses reveal that while there was a substantial decline in the services staff ratio during the 1990s and 2000s, this shift across time paled in comparison to variation across place. Northeastern prison systems, for example, on average maintained higher inmate services staff ratios in 2005 than Southern states in any year. In addition, results suggest state variation is related to differences in prison crowding, inmates’ racial composition, and political cultures.
Conclusions: The findings suggest the punitive turn was more variegated and partial than is often assumed and highlight the importance of exploring state variation in penal practices.
Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: July 28, 2012
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