Formal Bargaining in the Prison:In Search of A New Organizational Model

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Yale Review of Law and Social Action, Vol: 2, Issue: 1, Page: 1

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A.F. Rutherford
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In the last few years it has become somewhat unfashionable to be associated with the problems of prison organization. The zealous optimism of those earlier generations which drew up plans for model prisons would be hard to find today. In addition to the increased awareness of the complex organizational issues involved there is a widespread unease about incarceration in both mental health and criminal justice systems. Reflected in this unease is a growing dismay concerning post-discharge behaviour combined with a concern about the impact of the experience of incarceration upon the individual's self-definition and upon his role in society. Goffman's Asylums, appearing in 1961, found an immediate reception. The book became part of a trend, especially in the United States, that led to a view of the criminal justice and social welfare apparatus not as a counter to deviance but as part of the problem, if not its very basis. Of greater practical significance in current challenges to the legitimacy of imprisonment is imprisonment's very high cost. The success of the California probation subsidy scheme in reducing committal rates and closing penal institutions has depended on considerable political support for the savings in State expenditure that the scheme has produced. Despite these development it would appear that the prison will remain a significant part of the social control apparatus of most countries for many years to come. While acknowledging the importance of finding alternatives to imprisonment, it is also essential that the task of developing more appropriate organizational models is not neglected. Prison organizations have been remarkably inflexible in developing structures suited to the resolution of conflict and to the goal of inmate betterment. It is the argument of this paper that the traditional model, the Caste-Prescriptive Prison, is in need of radical change. Its structure has not been much affected by the arrival of the treatment ideology, and the role position of the inmate has remained that of the passive and subordinate recipient. Attempts to develop an alternative model, based upon milieu therapy, will be reviewed, some suggestive leads will be pursued, and finally the outline of a model, based upon formal bargaining, will be presented.