The Birth of the Post-Rehabilitative Prison: A Case Study of Arizona's Penal System

Mona Lynch, San Jose State University

Through a case study of the recent, rapid development of Arizona's correctional system, the proposed paper explores the contours, impacts, and practical operations of a state penal system which has largely developed in the post-rehabilitative age of the new penology. The case study is grounded in a broader question which asks: What happens when a state penal system has in essence been born in the post-rehabilitative age of penal crisis? Using secondary data sources, interview data, and primary archival materials related to the development and rapid expansion of Arizona's prison system over the past several decades. I examine state legislative action on criminal sentencing, authorization of penal funding, and administrative and physical expansion of the system itself, including the decision to create a formal state corrections department in 1968. I look at how the geographical and historical roots of the jurisdiction's penal system, as it developed in its particular social, cultural, and political context, may have shaped its present incarnation. Because Arizona's Department of Corrections has in many ways grown up in a "tough on crime" political environment (both in terms of timing and particular state politics), an explicitly punitive (and incapacitative) approach, unmediated by any "old" penological ideals like rehabilitation, appears to underlie the general mission and philosophy, priorities in resource allocations, and actual institutional operations in the state.

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Updated 05/20/2006