David Garland

David Garland teaches law at the University of Edinburgh. His most recent book is Punishment and Modern Society: A Study in Social Theory.

Designing criminal policy

David Garland, 10 October 1991

Until relatively recently, criminal justice history was written not by professional historians but by the system’s practitioners – retired prison officials, civil servants, criminologists, reformers of various kinds. The widely shared conviction that the penal system was being shaken free of the irrationalities of the past and brought closer to the professional wisdom of the present tended to permeate even the best of these accounts and to impart an onwards-and-upwards structure to their narrative. ‘Progress in Penal Reform’ was the name of a collection that appeared as late as 1974, but it could well have served as a collective title for the historiography of the post-war period.’

Why does the United States alone among Western countries retain the death penalty? Long after all of Europe and much of the rest of the modern world abolished it, recognising that it violates...

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