Co-production, governance and practice: the dynamics and effects of user voice prison councils

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16 Citations (Scopus)
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Drawing on Bevir’s (2013) decentered theory of governance, and Donati’s (2016) theory of the relational subject, this article explores how User Voice Prison Councils in England have contributed to shifts in aspects of prison governance and practice. It discusses the cultural and policy context in which the Councils emerged and operate before exploring their perceived purposes, dynamics and effects. User Voice Prison Councils represent an important example of different actors co-producing alternative patterns of governance through innovations in democratic participation. Interviews with Prison Council participants, User Voice and Prison staff revealed that the development of such ‘bottom up’ participatory governance practices require and restore interpersonal trust, the mechanisms of which are interactions underpinned by a distinct manner of relating and the establishment of a network of relations oriented to the common good. The effects include enhanced institutional legitimacy; improvements in prison officer-prisoner relations; and greater quality of life for prisoners. Revealing the ‘how’ of coproduction, from the ‘inside’, the argument advanced here is that while the effects of coproduction may be more ameliorative than transformative, such collaborative and dialogic approaches can enable differently situated people to forge new norms of interactions and forms of democratic participation to achieve collective goals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-264
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Policy and Administration
Issue number2
Early online date5 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2019


  • coproduction
  • user voice
  • governance
  • prison
  • decentered theory
  • criminal justice


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