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The Penal System

The Penal System
An Introduction

Sixth Edition
  • Michael Cavadino - University of Central Lancashire, UK
  • James Dignan - formerly Professor of Comparative Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Leeds
  • George Mair - Liverpool Hope University, UK
  • Jamie Bennett - Youth Justice Board, UK, University of Oxford, UK, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
Additional resources:

December 2019 | 472 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Now in its Sixth Edition, this remains the most comprehensive and authoritative book on the penal system, providing students with an incisive, critical account of the punitive, managerial and humanitarian approaches to criminal justice.

Fully updated to cover the most recent changes in the Criminal Justice System, the new edition: 

  • Outlines contemporary policy debates on sentencing, staffing, youth custody and overcrowding.
  • Explores growing inequalities in the criminal justice system including issues of race, religion, gender and sexuality, with new content on faith, and transgender prisoners.
  • Considers the impact of privatisation on the probation service.
  • Discusses the most recent debates around the parole process, including high-profile cases and attempts at reform.

The book is supported by online resources for lecturers and students, including chapter PowerPoints, sample syllabus, summaries of key legislative acts and bills, official reports, a list of recommended further reading for each chapter, and links to important Penal Agencies and Organisations, Law Reform Organisations, and other useful academic sites.

Essential reading for students of criminal justice and criminology, studying penology, punishments and the penal system.

Chapter 1. Crisis? What crisis?
Chapter 2. Justifying punishment
Chapter 3. Explaining punishment
Chapter 4. Sentencing: the crux of the crisis
Chapter 5. Punishment in the community
Chapter 6. Prisons and the penal crisis
Chapter 7. Early release: the penal system's safety valve
Chapter 8. The youth justice system
Chapter 9. Diversity and bias in the criminal justice system
Chapter 10. Solving the crisis?


Click for online resources

Instructor Resources (Log-in needed)

  • A Sample Syllabus to help lecturers devise a course plan according to the book’s content
  • PowerPoint lecture slides to be utilised as guidelines for course presentations and adapted as needed for the module’s necessities

Student Resources (Free to use)

  • Weblinks to Penal Agencies and Organisations; Penal Reform Organisations; Law Reform Organisations and Reviews, and other useful academic sites.
  • Annotated further reading for each chapter
  • Updated summaries of key legislation, White Papers, consultation documents and other official reports

A welcome update to a seminal text highlighting the continuing challenges and pressures of the contemporary criminal justice system. An important text for students, scholars and practitioners alike, and an essential reference point for policy makers. The book outlines the historical, sociological and political background to this “crisis” and offers some suggestions and best practice to achieve a just and humane penal system for the future. A must read for anyone interested in this often controversial area.

Dr Lynn Saunders OBE
Governor of HMP Whatton

The Penal System comprehensively addresses one of the core facets of Criminology: How does society deal with those who break the law? The new edition reinvigorates the conversation about how we construct, utilise, and implement processes of punishment and social control. It is a must read for students, academics, and the wider public.

Dr Jason Warr
Lecturer in Criminology & Criminal Justice, De Montfort University

This sixth edition of The Penal System continues the tradition of incisive analysis of the state of the nation in relation to the penal system.  This is a well-crafted book which gives an excellent overview of the key challenges and directions in the contemporary English and Welsh penal system.    In particular, the authors offer clear attempts to locate the crux of the problems in sentencing system, and they address key issues of how to solve the various crises of conditions in the prison system, community-based sentences, and provision for young people in conflict with the law through the youth justice system.   The book also addresses the various crises of conditions, control and authority, accountability and legitimacy.   This is a must read for those who wish to better understand and appreciate the complexities, the principles and practices of the penal system.   Students and policy-makers alike will benefit from this extremely well-informed and insightful explanation of penal affairs.

Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe
Director, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge

This is a fantastic resource. Easy to access information and covering a wide variety of issues related to prisons and penal system.

Mrs Tara Davies
Social Science, Petroc College
December 2, 2021

Good book for providing students with a book that outlines the system, but also challenges the students to think critically about the issues involved.

Miss Anna Waistnage
Department of Criminology, York St John University
September 27, 2021

Not that relevant to Scottish context

Dr Katrina Morrison
School of Health & Social Care , Edinburgh Napier University
September 27, 2021

Good comprehensive and easy to understand book for 1st year students in particular.

Dr Helen Baker
Department of Law & Criminology, Edge Hill University
October 29, 2020

We have used this book (in its successive editions) for many years now. It is an excellent resource for undergraduate students and this latest addition is by far the best yet!

Miss Victoria Gadd
Dept of Humanities and Social Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University
March 19, 2020

Clear and concise, but critical reading for undergraduate students. Contains helpfully updated material

Mr William Hughes
School of Social Sciences, London Metropolitan University
December 20, 2019

Key text which provides critical overview of criminal justice issues. Really pleased to have this new edition.

Ms Sarah Sein
Health & Life Sciences, De Montfort University
March 2, 2020

Mick Cavadino

Michael Cavadino, who is Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Central Lancashire, is an internationally known author and researcher in the fields of penology (the study of punishment) and mental health law. He is co-author of the leading textbook on the penal system of England and Wales (M Cavadino, J Dignan and G Mair, The Penal System: An Introduction, 5th ed., Sage Publications 2013). His other works include Mental Health Law in Context: Doctors' Orders? (Dartmouth, 1989) and M Cavadino and J Dignan, Penal Systems: A Comparative Approach (Sage Publications, 2006). More About Author

James Dignan

George Mair

George Mair is Professor of Criminal Justice and Head of the Department of Social Science at Liverpool Hope.  Previously (1995-2012), he was Professor of Criminal Justice in the School of Law at Liverpool John Moores University; and prior to that (1979-1995) he was a member of the Home Office Research and Planning Unit, latterly as Principal Research Officer leading a team carrying out research and policy-advice on community penalties.  He has been a member of the Merseyside Probation Board (2001-2007), and a member of the Liverpool Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (1999-2006). More About Author

Jamie Bennett

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ISBN: 9781526460691
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