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Human Rights as Risk: UK Prisons and the Management of Risk and Rights

NCJ Number
Punishment & Society Volume: 13 Issue: 2 Dated: April 2011 Pages: 123-148
Noel Whitty
Date Published
April 2011
26 pages
This article examines discourses of risk and human rights in the UK prison sector.
Discourses of risk and human rights circulate on a daily basis in the UK prison sector. Little attention, however, has been devoted to the overlap between the demands of organizational risk management and Human Rights Act compliance. This article highlights how the shift towards 'business risk' management in prison governance has occurred alongside increased recognition of the ability of human rights to manifest as significant organizational risks (for example, legal or reputational). Three 'rights as risk' prisoner case studies from across the UK are used to show how human rights violations can produce both legal risk and, what I term, 'legal risk+'. Contrary to pessimistic accounts of risk, the article concludes by calling for further scrutiny of the potential of organizational risk management to result in, or enhance, rights compliance whereby human rights are viewed through a risk lens, and not just a rights one. (Published Abstract)