Civilizing imprisonment: the limits of Scottish penal exceptionalism

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Focusing on imprisonment in Scotland during the 1980s–1990s, and drawing on extensive archival research, documentary analysis and interviews with seven retired civil servants and prison governors, this article is the first to provide an historical and analytical account of Scottish penal exceptionalism. It is argued that although not being punitive in its penal transformation, Scotland cannot rightly be defined as a historically moderate and humane exception when it comes to its prison system. Instead it is shown how the Scottish power to imprison was modernized and made more civilized, allowing prisons inevitable pains to be denied and submerged.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)780-799
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
Issue number4
Early online date3 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2019


  • British penal history
  • Scotland
  • prison policy
  • penal transformation


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