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(p. 138) 6. Delivering more with less: austerity and the politics of law and order 

(p. 138) 6. Delivering more with less: austerity and the politics of law and order
Chapter:
(p. 138) 6. Delivering more with less: austerity and the politics of law and order
Author(s):

Rod Morgan

and David J. Smith

DOI:
10.1093/he/9780198719441.003.0007
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date: 18 October 2019

The background to the contemporary politics of crime is the historical process between about 1850 and 1920 through which a purely punitive and retributive criminal justice system was replaced by a ‘penal-welfare complex’ involving a range of charitable organizations and public officials, with the aim of control through instruction, regulation, and support, as well as punishment. Despite shifting emphases, no political party has rejected the entire settlement. Trends in crime and public opinion show that political discourse is not driven by crime trends and that politicians have considerable scope to make the weather. After a period of expansion of the penal-welfare complex under Labour (1997–2010), policy under the Conservative-Liberal Coalition (2010–15) was driven by the need to cut expenditure following the financial crash of 2008. This led to the marketization of large parts of the penal system, most notably probation, a development accompanied by the ‘Big Society’ rhetoric about devolution of power to local people. Meanwhile, a hardline punitive rhetoric was accompanied by a remarkable reduction in youth custody. The new Conservative government in 2015 looked set to embark on radical and progressive prison reforms until the resignation of the prime minister following the EU referendum. Thus complex and conflicting policies and ideas did not map onto political parties and allegiances in a simple or coherent way.

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