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The Penal System

The Penal System
An Introduction

Sixth Edition
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December 2019 | 540 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Now in its Sixth Edition, this book remains the most comprehensive and authoritative 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, seminar plans, summaries of key legislative acts and bills, White Papers, consultation papers and official reports, regular updates on policy developments, a glossary, useful weblinks and links to further reading.


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?

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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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