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Values, Practices and Outcomes in Public and Private Sector Corrections

  • Start date: 01 March 2007
  • End date: 31 December 2009

Problems of prison quality and management have been the focus of considerable concern for most of the last twenty-five years. Privatisation has emerged as a cornerstone of the modernisation project in this sphere of public service provision. Yet we know relatively little about the relative quality and effectiveness of public and private prisons, their respective strengths and weaknesses, the cross-fertilisation of public and private sector practices, the objectives and aspirations of managers and staff in each sector, the ways that organisational values are expressed in practice at all levels of the prison organisation, and the impact of privatisation (and its threat) on the everyday culture and terms of imprisonment. There have also been few successful or systematic attempts to link differences in prison organisation and culture to important outcomes (such as reconviction). Debates about such issues have remained largely rhetorical, and there is a dearth of reliable evidence on which to base claims about the process and impact of privatisation and market testing. This study will draw on our substantial experience and expertise in the sociological study of prison life to offer the first systematic, empirical investigation of the values, practices, organisation and consequences of public and private sector corrections.