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Local Culture of Punishment: An Ethnography of Criminal Justice Worker Discourse

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 46 Issue: 4 Dated: July 2006 Pages: 661-679
Garry C. Gray; Abigail Tsionne Salole
Date Published
July 2006
19 pages
Following a review of the current theoretical debate in criminology about the nature and reasons for the unstable and contradictory policies of state-sanctioned punishment, this paper reports on a study that showed how the official classification of rehabilitation in local Canadian young-offender, open-custody facilities ignored the concept of rehabilitation originally intended for such facilities.
This study found that although "open-custody" was often officially classified as a rehabilitation type of disposition, in the Canadian open-facility examined, the disciplinary and punitive aspects of a secure facility were often applied by the personnel. Staff often showed a lack of faith in the rehabilitative value of open custody as they resorted to punitive, disciplinary techniques for managing residents. These findings show the importance of the subjective orientation of staff within the local culture of open-custody facilities and how this undermines the theoretical model of self-guided rehabilitation. In practice, rather than allowing the young offenders in the open-custody facility to develop their own rehabilitation plans as intended under the open-custody concept, staff imposed their own regimens on the residents as they saw fit. The analysis shows how both neo-liberal and neo-conservative philosophies of punishment operated in the stated policy and actual practice of the open-custody facility. The institution was a young-offender male facility operated by a nonprofit agency. The residents consisted of 16- and 17-year-old offenders who had committed serious offenses. A 6-month field study of facility practices was conducted. 2 figures and 41 references