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The Oxford Handbook of Criminology

The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (6th edn)

Alison Liebling, Shadd Maruna, and Lesley McAra
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date: 29 January 2022

p. 91440. Marketizing criminal justicelocked

p. 91440. Marketizing criminal justicelocked

  • Amy Ludlow


Provision through government bureaucracy has been replaced widely by ‘delivery’ through ‘service providers’ who compete against each other in markets for public sector business. Marketization promises to enable governments to provide lower cost, higher quality, and better managed public services. This chapter describes and explores the substance and detail of how market mechanisms are being used in the commissioning of criminal justice services in England and Wales, focusing especially upon prisons. A nuanced account of marketization is articulated, which positions market mechanisms as malleable, instrumental rather than mechanical, and more varied, both in their design and in their impacts than the new penology thesis might suggest. The implications of changes in marketization policy and practice are explored, reflecting especially upon consequences for future market making, service quality, and the professional and moral identities and practices of criminal justice practitioners. It is argued that the current use of marketization to pursue a model of ‘bigger and cheaper’ criminal justice is disabling, rather than enabling, legitimate penal order.

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