This review sets out four main explanatory paradigms of penal policy—focusing on, in turn, crime, cultural dynamics, economic structures and interests, and institutional differences in the organization of different political economies as the key determinants of penal policy. We argue that these paradigms are best seen as complementary rather than competitive and present a case for integrating them analytically in a comparative political economy framework situated within the of technology regime change. To illustrate this, we present case studies of one exceptional case—the United States—and of one substantive variable—race. Race has long been thought to be of importance in most of these paradigms and provides a pertinent example of how the different dynamics intersect in practice. We conclude by summarizing the explanatory challenges and research questions that we regard as most urgent for the further development of the field and point to the approaches that will be needed if scholars are to meet these challenges and answer these questions.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Literature Cited

  1. Aaronson E. 2014. From Slave Abuse to Hate Crime: The Criminalization of Racial Violence in American History New York: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  2. Alexander M. 2012. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness New York: New Press [Google Scholar]
  3. Allen WR, Farley R. 1986. The shifting social and economic tides of Black America, 1950–1980. Annu. Rev. Sociol. 12:277–306 [Google Scholar]
  4. Am. Acad. Arts Sci. 2010. Introduction: the challenge of mass imprisonment in America. Daedalus 139:35–7 [Google Scholar]
  5. Barker V. 2009. The Politics of Punishment: How the Democratic Process Shapes the Way America Punishes Offenders New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  6. Barker V. 2013. Nordic exceptionalism revisited: explaining the paradox of a Janus-faced penal regime. Theor. Criminol. 17:15–25 [Google Scholar]
  7. Beccaria C. 2009 (1764). On Crimes and Punishments Huntington, MA: Seven Treasures Publ. [Google Scholar]
  8. Becker H. 1973 (1963). Outsiders New York: Free Press [Google Scholar]
  9. Beckett K. 1997. Making Crime Pay New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  10. Beckett K, Herbert S. 2009. Banished: The New Social Control in Urban America New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  11. Beckett K, Western B. 2001. Governing social marginality. Mass Imprisonment: Social Causes and Consequences D Garland 35–50 London: Sage [Google Scholar]
  12. Bentham J. 1996 (1781). An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation London: Athlone Press, 2nd ed.. [Google Scholar]
  13. Birkel C, Dern H. 2012. Homicide in Germany. Handbook of European Homicide Researched. MCA Liem, WA Pridemore 313–28 New York: Springer [Google Scholar]
  14. Boggess S, Bound J. 1993. Did criminal activity increase during the 1980s? Comparisons across data sources Work. Pap. 4431, Natl. Bur. Econ. Res Cambridge, MA: [Google Scholar]
  15. Bound J, Freeman R. 1992. What went wrong? The erosion of relative earnings and employment among young black men in the 1980s. Q. J. Econ. 107:201–32 [Google Scholar]
  16. Bourdieu P. 1992. The left hand and the right hand of the state. Variant 32:3–4 http://www.variant.org.uk/32texts/bourdieu32.html [Google Scholar]
  17. Brown v. Plata, 563 U.S. 493 (2011)
  18. Campbell MC. 2014. The emergence of penal extremism in California: a dynamic view of institutional structures and political processes. Law Soc. Rev. 48:377–409 [Google Scholar]
  19. Cavadino M, Dignan J. 2006. Penal Systems: A Comparative Approach London: Sage [Google Scholar]
  20. Charles CZ. 2006. Won't You Be My Neighbor? Race, Class and Residence in Los Angeles New York: Russell Sage Found. [Google Scholar]
  21. Cheliotis L, Xenakis S. 2016. Punishment and political systems: state punitiveness in post-dictatorial Greece. Punishm. Soc. 18:3268–300 [Google Scholar]
  22. Cusac AM. 2009. Cruel and Unusual: The Culture of Punishment in America New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  23. Davison DM. 2005. Jim Crow Moves North: The Battle over Northern School Segregation, 1865–1954 New York: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  24. De Giorgi A. 2006. Rethinking the Political Economy of Punishment Aldershot, UK: Ashgate [Google Scholar]
  25. Downes D. 1988. Contrasts in Tolerance Oxford: Clarendon Press [Google Scholar]
  26. Downes D, Hansen K. 2006. Welfare and punishment in comparative perspective. Perspectives on Punishment S Armstrong, L McAra 101–18 Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  27. Downes D, Morgan R. 2007. No turning back: the politics of law and order into the millennium. The Oxford Handbook of Criminology M Maguire, R Morgan, R Reiner 201–40 Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. , 4th ed.. [Google Scholar]
  28. Durkheim E. 1893. The Division of Labour in Society Transl., WD Halls, 1997 New York: Free Press [Google Scholar]
  29. Durkheim E. 1902. Two laws of penal evolution. L'Année Sociol 4:65–95 [Google Scholar]
  30. Elias N. 1978 (1939). The Civilising Process 1 The History of Manners New York: Urizen [Google Scholar]
  31. Elias N. 1982 (1939). The Civilising Process 2 State Formation and Civilization Oxford, UK: Blackwell [Google Scholar]
  32. Enns PK. 2014. Replication data for: the public's increasing punitiveness and its influence on mass incarceration in the United States Harvard Dataverse Cambridge, MA: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/24827 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  33. Enns PK. 2016. Incarceration Nation New York: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  34. Esping-Andersen G. 1990. The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism Cambridge: Polity Press [Google Scholar]
  35. Esping-Andersen G. 1996. Welfare States in Transition London: Sage [Google Scholar]
  36. Fagan J, Freeman R. 1999. Crime and work. Crime Justice Rev. Res. 25:225–90 [Google Scholar]
  37. Fed. Bur. Investig. (FBI). 2017. Uniform Crime Reporting Washington, DC: FBI https://ucr.fbi.gov/ [Google Scholar]
  38. Fischel WA. 2004. An economic history of zoning and a cure for its exclusionary effects. Urban Stud 41:317–40 [Google Scholar]
  39. Fischel WA. 2005. Politics in a dynamic view of land-use regulations: of interest groups and homevoters. J. Real Estate Finance Econ. 31:4395–403 [Google Scholar]
  40. Foucault M. 1977 (1975). Discipline and Punish transl. A Sheridan Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin [Google Scholar]
  41. Frankenberg E, Orfield G. 2012. The Resegregation of Suburban Schools: A Hidden Crisis in American Education Cambridge, MA: Harvard Educ. Press [Google Scholar]
  42. Freeman RB. 1996. Why do so many young American men commit crimes and what might we do about it. ? J. Econ. Perspect. 10:125–42 [Google Scholar]
  43. Gallo Z. 2015. Punishment, authority, and political economy: Italian challenges to Western punitiveness. Punishm. Soc. 17:5598–623 [Google Scholar]
  44. Gallo Z, Lacey N, Soskice D. 2017. Comparing serious violent crime in the US and England and Wales: why it matters, and how it can be done. American Exceptionalism in Crime and Punishment K Reitz New York: Oxford Univ. Press. In press [Google Scholar]
  45. Garland D. 1985. Punishment and Welfare Aldershot, UK: Dartmouth Press [Google Scholar]
  46. Garland D. 1990. Punishment and Modern Society Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  47. Garland D. 1996. The limits of the sovereign state. Br. J. Criminol. 36:4445–71 [Google Scholar]
  48. Garland D. 2001. The Culture of Control Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  49. Garland D. 2010. Peculiar Institution: America's Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition New York: Oxford Univ. Press and Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  50. Garland D. 2017. Penal power: its forms, functions and foundations. J. Br. Acad. 5:1–35 [Google Scholar]
  51. Gatrell VAC. 1994. The Hanging Tree: Execution and the English People Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  52. Gottschalk M. 2006. The Prison and the Gallows Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  53. Gottschalk M. 2015. Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  54. Gould ED, Weinberg BA, Mustard DB. 2002. Crime rates and local labor market opportunities in the United States: 1979–1997. Rev. Econ. Stat. 84:145–61 [Google Scholar]
  55. Hall PA, Soskice D. 2001. An introduction to the varieties of capitalism. Varieties of Capitalism P Hall, D Soskice 1–68 Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  56. Hay D. 1975. Property, authority and criminal law. Albion's Fatal Tree D Hay, P Linebaugh, EP Thompson 17–63 Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin [Google Scholar]
  57. Ignatieff M. 1980 (1978). A Just Measure of Pain: The Penitentiary in the Industrial Revolution 1750–1850 Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin [Google Scholar]
  58. Iturralde M. 2007. Order first, justice later: emergency criminal policy as a path towards development. The Colombian case. Oñati J. Emergent Socio-Legal Stud. 1:255–76 [Google Scholar]
  59. Iversen T, Soskice D. 2006. Electoral institutions and the politics of coalitions: why some democracies redistribute more than others. Am. Political Sci. Rev. 100:165–81 [Google Scholar]
  60. Iversen T, Soskice D. 2009. Distribution and redistribution: the shadow of the nineteenth century. World Politics 61:3438–86 [Google Scholar]
  61. Johnston R, Poulsen M, Forrest J. 2005. Ethnic residential segregation across an urban system: the Maori in New Zealand 1991–2001. Prof. Geogr. 57:115–29 [Google Scholar]
  62. Johnston R, Poulsen M, Forrest J. 2007. The geography of ethnic residential segregation: a comparative study of five countries. Ann. Assoc. Am. Geogr. 97:4713–38 [Google Scholar]
  63. King DS. 2000. Making Americans: Immigration, Race and the Origins of the Diverse Democracy Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  64. King DS, Smith RM. 2005. Racial orders in American political development. Am. Political Sci. Rev. 99:175–92 [Google Scholar]
  65. King DS, Smith RM. 2011. Still a House Divided: Race and Politics in Obama's America Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  66. Lacey N. 2008. The Prisoners' Dilemma: Political Economy and Punishment in Contemporary Democracies Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  67. Lacey N. 2010. American imprisonment in comparative perspective. Daedalus 139:3102–14 [Google Scholar]
  68. Lacey N. 2012. Political systems and criminal justice: the prisoners’ dilemma after the coalition. Curr. Legal Probl. 65:1203–39 [Google Scholar]
  69. Lacey N, Soskice D. 2015. Crime, punishment and segregation in the United States: the paradox of local democracy. Punishm. Soc. 17:4454–81 [Google Scholar]
  70. Lacey N, Soskice D. 2017. American exceptionalism in crime, punishment, and disadvantage: race, federalization, and politicization in the perspective of local autonomy. In American Exceptionalism in Crime and Punishment K Reitz New York: Oxford Univ. Press. In press [Google Scholar]
  71. Lappi-Seppälä T. 2007. Penal policy in Scandinavia. See Tonry 2007a 217–95
  72. Lappi-Seppälä T. 2012. Criminology, crime and criminal justice in Finland. Eur. J. Criminol. 9:2206–22 [Google Scholar]
  73. Lijphart A. 1984. Democracies: Patterns of Majoritarian and Consensus Governments in Twenty-One Countries New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  74. Lijphart A. 1999. Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  75. Loury GC. 2003. The Anatomy of Racial Inequality Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  76. Loury GC. 2010. Crime inequality and social justice. Daedalus 139:134–40 [Google Scholar]
  77. Lynch M. 2009. Sunbelt Justice: Arizona and the Transformation of American Punishment Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  78. Machin S, Meghir C. 2004. Crime and economic incentives. J. Hum. Resour. 39:4958–79 [Google Scholar]
  79. Malinowski B. 1966 (1926). Crime and Custom in a Savage Society Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Allanheld [Google Scholar]
  80. Massey DS, Denton NA. 1993. American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  81. McAra L. 2011. The impact of multi-level governance on crime control and punishment. International and Comparative Criminal Justice and Urban Governance A Crawford 276–303 Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  82. Mead GH. 1918. The psychology of punitive justice. Am. J. Sociol. 23:577–602 [Google Scholar]
  83. Melossi D, Pavarini M. 1981. The Prison and the Factory London: Macmillan [Google Scholar]
  84. Miller LL. 2008. The Perils of Federalism: Race, Poverty, and the Politics of Crime Control New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  85. Miller LL. 2016. The Myth of Mob Rule: Violent Crime and Democratic Politics New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  86. Muller C. 2012. Northward migration and the rise of racial disparity in America incarceration, 1880–1950. Am. J. Sociol. 118:281–326 [Google Scholar]
  87. Natl. Res. Counc. 2014. The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences Washington, DC: Natl. Acad. Press [Google Scholar]
  88. Nelken D. 2010. Comparative Criminal Justice: Making Sense of Difference London: Sage [Google Scholar]
  89. Nelken D. 2016. Comparative legal research and legal culture: facts, approaches, and values. Annu. Rev. Law Soc. Sci. 12:45–62 [Google Scholar]
  90. Newburn T. 2007. “Tough on crime”: penal policy in England and Wales. See Tonry 2007a 425–70
  91. Newburn T. 2010. Diffusion, differentiation and resistance in comparative penality. Criminol. Crim. Justice 10:4341–52 [Google Scholar]
  92. N.Z. Dep. Correct. 2007. Over-Representation of Māori in the Criminal Justice System: an explanatory report Wellington, N.Z: N.Z. Dep. Correct. [Google Scholar]
  93. OECD. 2013. OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills Paris: OECD Publ. [Google Scholar]
  94. Orfield M. 2002. American Metropolitics Washington, DC: Brookings Inst. Press [Google Scholar]
  95. Pattillo-McCoy M. 1999. Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Classes Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press [Google Scholar]
  96. Pattillo M. 2007. Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press [Google Scholar]
  97. Pfaff JF. 2012. The micro and macro causes of prison growth. Ga. State Univ. Law Rev. 28:41237–71 [Google Scholar]
  98. Peterson RD, Krivo LJ. 2010. Divergent Social Worlds: Neighborhood Crime and the Racial-Spatial Divide. New York: Russell: Sage
  99. Pratt J, Clark MC. 2005. Penal populism in New Zealand. Punishm. Soc. 7:4303–22 [Google Scholar]
  100. Pratt J. 2008a. Scandinavian exceptionalism in an era of penal excess: Part I: the nature and roots of Scandinavian exceptionalism. Br. J. Criminol. 48:119–37 [Google Scholar]
  101. Pratt J. 2008b. Scandinavian exceptionalism in an era of penal excess: Part II: Does Scandinavian exceptionalism have a future?. Br. J. Criminol. 48:275–92 [Google Scholar]
  102. Pratt J, Eriksson A. 2013. Contrasts in Punishment: An Explanation of Anglophone Excess and Nordic Exceptionalism London: Routledge [Google Scholar]
  103. Radzinowicz L, Hood R. 1990. The Emergence of Penal Policy in Victorian and Edwardian England Oxford: Clarendon Press [Google Scholar]
  104. Reiner R. 2007. Law and Order: An Honest Citizen's Guide to Crime and Control Oxford: Polity Press [Google Scholar]
  105. Reiner R. 2016. Crime: The Mystery of the Common-Sense Concept Cambridge: Polity Press [Google Scholar]
  106. Roth R. 2009. American Homicide Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press [Google Scholar]
  107. Rothman D. 1971. The Discovery of the Asylum: Social Order and Disorder in the New Republic Boston: Trans. Publ. [Google Scholar]
  108. Rusche G. 1978 (1933). Labor market and penal sanction. Crime Justice 10:2–8 [Google Scholar]
  109. Rusche G, Kirchheimer O. 1968 (1939). Punishment and Social Structure New York: Russell Sage [Google Scholar]
  110. Sampson RJ. 2012. Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press [Google Scholar]
  111. Sampson RJ, Wilson WJ. 1995. Toward a theory of race, crime and urban inequality. Crime and Inequality J Hagan, RD Peterson 37–54 Palo Alto: Stanford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  112. Savage JR, Bennett R, Danner M. 2008. Economic assistance and crime: a cross-national investigation. Eur. J. Criminol. 5:2217–38 [Google Scholar]
  113. Savelsberg J. 1994. Knowledge, domination, and criminal punishment. Am. J. Sociol. 99:911–43 [Google Scholar]
  114. Savelsberg J. 1999. Knowledge, domination and criminal punishment revisited. Punishm. Soc. 1:45–70 [Google Scholar]
  115. Scheingold SA. 2010 (1984). The Politics of Law and Order: Street Crime and Public Policy New Orleans, LA: Quid Pro Books [Google Scholar]
  116. Schneider BR. 2013. Hierarchical Capitalism in Latin America: Business, Labor, and the Challenges of Equitable Development New York: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  117. Simon J. 2007. Governing through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  118. Sparks R, Melossi D, Sozzo M. 2011. The Travels of the Criminal Question. Cultural Embeddedness and Diffusion Oxford: Hart Publ. [Google Scholar]
  119. Spierenburg P. 1984. The Spectacle of Suffering: Executions and the Evolution of Repression Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  120. Stuntz WJ. 2011. The Collapse of American Criminal Justice Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  121. Sutton J. 2004. The political economy of imprisonment in affluent Western democracies, 1960–1990. Am. Sociol. Rev. 69:170–89 [Google Scholar]
  122. Tonry M. 1995. Malign Neglect: Race, Crime and Punishment in America New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  123. Tonry M. 2004. Thinking about Crime: Sense and Sensibility in American Penal Culture New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  124. Tonry M. 2007a. Crime and Justice: A Review of Research 36 Crime, Punishment and Politics in a Comparative Perspective Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press [Google Scholar]
  125. Tonry M. 2007b. Determinants of penal policies. See Tonry 2007a 1–48
  126. Tonry M. 2011. Punishing Race: A Continuing American Dilemma New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  127. Tonry M. 2013. Crime and Justice 42 Crime and Justice in America, 1975–2025 Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press [Google Scholar]
  128. Tonry M, Lappi-Seppälä T. 2012. Crime and Justice 40 Crime and Justice in Scandinavia Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press [Google Scholar]
  129. UNICEF. 2012. Measuring Child Poverty: New League Tables of Child Poverty in the World's Rich Countries Florence, Italy: UNICEF Innocenti Res. Cent. [Google Scholar]
  130. UNODC (UN Off. Drugs Crime). 2014. Global study on homicide 2013: trends, contexts, data UN Publ. 14.IV.1 Vienna: [Google Scholar]
  131. von Hofer H, Lappi-Seppälä T, Westfelt L. 2012. Nordic Criminal Statistics 1950–2010: Summary of a Report Stockholm, Swed.: Kriminol. Inst. Stockholms Univ, 8th revised ed.. [Google Scholar]
  132. Wacquant L. 2009. Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  133. Western B. 2006. Punishment and Inequality in America New York: Russell Sage [Google Scholar]
  134. Western B, Beckett K. 1999. How unregulated is the U.S. labor market? The penal system as a labor market institution. Am. J. Sociol. 104:1030–60 [Google Scholar]
  135. Whitfield J. 2016. Other neoliberal penalties: Marching Powder and prison tourism in La Paz. Theor. Criminol. 20:3358–75 [Google Scholar]
  136. Whitman JQ. 2003. Harsh Justice Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  137. Wilson WJ. 1987. The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass and Public Policy Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press [Google Scholar]
  138. Wilson WJ. 1996. When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor New York: Knopf [Google Scholar]
  139. Wilson WJ. 2009. More than Just Race New York: Norton [Google Scholar]
  140. Wilson WJ. 2012. The Declining Significance of Race: Blacks and Changing American Institutions Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press, 3rd ed.. [Google Scholar]
  141. Zimring FE. 2007. The Great American Crime Decline Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  142. Zimring FE. 2012. The City that Became Safe Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  143. Zimring FE, Johnson D. 2006. Public opinion and the governance of punishment in democratic political systems. Ann. Am. Acad. Political Soc. Sci. 605:266–80 [Google Scholar]
  144. Zimring FE, Hawkins G. 1997. Crime Is Not the Problem: Lethal Violence in America New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error