The ‘Great Decarceration’: Historical Trends and Future Possibilities

25 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2020 Last revised: 15 Oct 2020

See all articles by Pamela Cox

Pamela Cox

University of Essex

Barry Godfrey

Keele University - Department of Criminology

Date Written: September 2020

Abstract

During the 19th Century, hundreds of thousands of people were caught up in what Foucault famously referred to as the ‘great confinement’, or ‘great incarceration’, spanning reformatories, prisons, asylums, and more. Levels of institutional incarceration increased dramatically across many parts of Europe and the wider world through the expansion of provision for those defined as socially marginal, deviant, or destitute. While this trend has been the focus of many historical studies, much less attention has been paid to the dynamics of ‘the great decarceration’ that followed for much of the early‐ to mid‐20th Century. This article opens with an overview of these early decarceration trends in the English adult and youth justice systems and suggests why these came to an end from the 1940s onwards. It then explores parallels with marked decarceration trends today, notably in youth justice, and suggests how these might be expedited, extended, and protected.

Keywords: crime history, decarceration, prison, youth

Suggested Citation

Cox, Pamela and Godfrey, Barry, The ‘Great Decarceration’: Historical Trends and Future Possibilities (September 2020). The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice, Vol. 59, Issue 3, pp. 261-285, 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3704840 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/hojo.12377

Pamela Cox (Contact Author)

University of Essex ( email )

Barry Godfrey

Keele University - Department of Criminology ( email )

Staffs ST5 5BG UK
Keele
United Kingdom

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