Punishment, treatment or management? : policy and strategy towards prisoners with mental health problems in England and Wales between 1987 and 1996
In Britain, the last three decades of the twentieth century have seen a series
of profound social, economic, cultural and penal transformations which have
been described by some as indicative of a shift from modernity to late
modernity. The principal and overarching research question for this thesis is
whether these transformations have also led to a reconfiguring of the ways in
which the 'mad' and the 'bad' are defined, categorised and divided. Focusing
on the 1980s and 1990s, the research looks specifically at the government of
those 'mentally disordered offenders' who are deemed more 'bad' than 'mad',
more suitable for punishment than treatment and more appropriately sent to
prison rather than hospital. The 'problem' for investigation is how this group of
prisoners, who had since the 1930s been seen as potentially suitable for
treatment or therapeutic responses, came to be viewed increasingly as
sources of 'risk' requiring 'management', containment or control.
The findings from this research show that the 1980s and 1990s did indeed
see a reconfiguring of 'dividing practices' aimed at 'mentally disordered
prisoners'. Some novel governmental rationalities and technologies were
inserted in to strategies. However, there was not a wholesale paradigm shift,
with a new strategy succeeding and replacing the preceding penal-welfare
strategy. Rather, this period saw a complex and rapidly-changing multifaceted
strategic 'mix' of a range of elements, including, managerial ism,
humanitarianism and 'penal populism'. An increasing focus on risk
management was particularly evident.
It is argued that, at the start of the twenty-first century, a new 'kaleidoscopic'
penality has emerged in which apparently new strategic patterns are endlessly
created through the rotation and re-orientation of the same constituent parts
(punitive, neo-liberal and humanitarian rationalities). The thesis has also
developed a theoretical and methodological approach which significantly
advances methods in socio-historical research.