From mass incarceration to mass supervision?

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the American Society of Criminology Annual Conference in Chicago. While I was there, I also took the opportunity to visit Chicago re-entry projects which work with released prisoners to help them resettle in the community. I had already blogged about that experience — you can read that post here:

At the conference, I took the opportunity to introduce some of those attending to the work of tho COST Action. The paper I presented was based on a book chapter co-authored by Gwen Robinson, Shadd Maruna and me, and published recently in the Sage Handbook of Punishment and Society, edited by Jonathan Simon and Richard Sparks (see

In the paper, we argue that scholars and students of ‘Punishment and Society’ need to look beyond their understandable preoccupation with mass incarceration, and to engage in analysing the emergence of mass supervision. We seek to begin to explain the apparent paradox of the remarkable growth in the use of supervision (and of the variety of its forms) during the period when its legitimacy and credibility seemed most threatened. We highlight four forms of adaptation — managerial, punitive, rehabilitative and reparative — which help us to understand why supervision seems to have thrived in a hostile penal climate.

If you are interested in finding out more, you could buy the book (it is a great book) or you could listen to an audio recording of a class I taught today, based on the conference paper. That recording and the associated powerpoint are available on the ‘Documents and Resources’ page and here:

Mass supervision (audio)

Mass supervision (PowerPoint)

If you do listen in, please let us know what you think, by leaving a comment.



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