Prisons are everywhere. Yet they are not everywhere alike. How can we explain the differences in cross-national uses of incarceration? The Politics of Punishment explores this question by undertaking a comparative sociological analysis of penal politics and imprisonment in Ireland and Scotland.  

Using archives and oral history, this book shows that divergences in the uses of imprisonment result from the distinctive features of a nation’s political culture: the different political ideas, cultural values and social anxieties that shape prison policymaking. Political culture thus connects large-scale social phenomena to actual carceral outcomes, illuminating the forces that support and perpetuate cross-national penal differences. The work therefore offers a new framework for the comparative study of penality. 

This is also an important work of sociology and history. By closely tracking how and why the politics of punishment evolved and adapted over time, we also yield rich and compelling new accounts of both Irish and Scottish penal cultures from 1970 to the 1990s. 

The Politics of Punishment will be essential reading for students and academics interested in the sociology of punishment, comparative penology, criminology, penal policymaking, law and social history.

chapter 1|9 pages


chapter 2|26 pages

Comparative penal culture

section Section 1|68 pages

Irish imprisonment regimes and political culture, 1970–1999

chapter 3|25 pages

Pastoral penality

Addressing the pains of imprisonment

chapter 4|18 pages

Pastoral penality losing ground

chapter 5|23 pages

The power to imprison

section Section 2|67 pages

Scottish imprisonment regimes and political culture, 1970–1995

chapter 6|23 pages

The dismissive society

Discipline and exclusion in Scottish imprisonment

chapter 7|11 pages

Crisis management

chapter 8|16 pages

Civilising Scottish imprisonment

chapter 9|15 pages


Comparing the politics of punishment