The Myth of Punitiveness

Roger Matthews, Middlesex University

The perceived surge in punitiveness is widely believed to account for the rise in the prison population. The concept of punitiveness, however, is under-theorised and many of the explanations which are centred around this concept either gravitate towards naive empiricism or rampant idealism. In this paper the concept of punitiveness is examined and it is argued that it provides a superficially plausable point of references for explaining recent changes in crime control but is ultimately a less significant factor than is often suggested.

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Updated 05/20/2006