chapter  4
Governing in a changed context
Pages 26

Early researchers viewed ‘the society of captives’ (Sykes 1958: 79) as bounded by the prison wall and marked by its own conventions, codes of conduct and isolation. While prisons remain a ‘society apart’, the prison system today is far more responsive to the surrounding environment than earlier commentators like Sykes suggested. The prison boundary is far more flexible than it once was (see particularly Irwin and Cressey 1962; Irwin 1970 and 1980; Jacobs 1977 and 1983; Farrington 1992). Prisons are shaped by their wider environment and react to, and are acted upon by, the broader community. As one commentator put it, prisons are ‘affected by the forces of economics, politics, culture, and technology. For all their apparent autonomy, each one is situated within an ensemble of social forces and is structured by the values and social arrangements which form its effective environment’ (Garland 1990: 283). Governors, and their prisons, do not today operate in a vacuum, much as some Governors may wish that they did so.