U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Politics of Prison Reform (From Issues in Criminal Justice Administration, P 139-155, 1983, Mark Findlay et al, eds. - See NCJ-92907)

NCJ Number
M Findlay
Date Published
17 pages
As long as prison reformers attempt to work within the existing correctional system to reform it, reform will be dissipated as the reformers inevitably are conditioned to accept the retention of the basic correctional structure in exchange for minor revisions.
It suits the state to have the prison stand as proxy for a wide collection of political and social ills. It diverts attention from more widespread abuses perpetrated in the name of social control, while it forestalls an overall critique of criminal justice. Through the rhetoric of reform, it can offer the prison as propitiation for the injustice, inequality, and partiality which racks the criminal justice system; however, while criticism of the prison moves from the symbolic to the functional, the reformist response of the state need not make the transition. The rhetoric of reform backed up by a few examples to portray the state's commitment to reform is often enough to satisfy the broadest public concern. Even when the system's hypocrisy of reform is revealed, the ramifications are of little consequence. The prison remains, to be shored up by future periodic outbreaks of reform. Ultimately, society tolerates persistent duplicity when it involves only its outcasts, rather than purge a system of rulers adept at manipulating the forces of change so as to preserve their own bureaucratic interests. Some case examples are provided to show how the correctional system resists reform through various political machinations.