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Progressive penality as performance

Buchan, Jamie; McNeill, Fergus


Fergus McNeill


Scotland's prison population remains stubbornly high despite reforms to sentencing and community penalties (most recently in 2016). Seeking to advance the debate on punishment in Scotland, we use empirical data to support a novel theoretical synthesis of the ‘agonistic framework’ and ‘performative regulation’. We argue that these reforms appear oriented towards decarceration, without substantively engaging with the drivers of imprisonment, and hence exemplify the ‘performative’ nature of much Scottish penal policy. The ‘performance’ is shaped by countervailing political constraints on the Scottish Nationalist government, amid continued debate over independence – but truly progressive penal policy requires radical and substantive responses to the problems that punishment seeks to address.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 10, 2022
Online Publication Date Feb 9, 2023
Publication Date 2023-09
Deposit Date Aug 11, 2022
Publicly Available Date Feb 9, 2023
Print ISSN 0265-5527
Electronic ISSN 1468-2311
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 62
Issue 3
Pages 325-340
Keywords agonistic framework, community justice, community penalties, penal field, penal policy, performative regulation, probation, Scotland
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