No. XXIX-XXX (2008)

Penal Policy in England and Wales (1970–2005)

Andrzej Adamski
Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń

Published 2008-04-01


  • penal policy,
  • England,
  • Wales,
  • administration of justice

How to Cite

Adamski, A. (2008). Penal Policy in England and Wales (1970–2005). Archives of Criminology, (XXIX-XXX), 447–458.


The text discusses the changes in penal policy in England and Wales in the United Kingdom that took place between 1970 and 2005. The background to the considerations presented in the article is the shift that took place in British penal policy in the 1990s. The model of the British penal policy discussed by the author was then characterised by a lengthening of the prison isolation of repeat and dangerous offenders, which resulted in an increase in the prison population and a simultaneous decrease in the crime rate. Andrzej Adamski guides the reader through the various stages of change and the evolution of penal policy in the United Kingdom in the selected years. In order to illustrate his thoughts, the author provides graphs showing the prison population in England and Wales in the period 1975–2005. The text outlines individual stages, reflecting changes such as the ‘deadlock strategy’ between 1975 and 1979, the two-track penal policy of the Conservatives between 1979 and 1992, and the increase in the repressiveness of the British penal system after 1993. The study also includes the characteristics of the contemporary system of punishment in England and Wales and a breakdown of the sentences imposed in the British system. In the conclusion, Adamski tries to compare the penal policy in England and Wales with other countries of Western Europe. He emphasises that the British justice system is characterised by harsh treatment of offenders and imposing prison sentences. Among the sources of this growing tendency for stringency in British countries, the author points to the development of social neoliberalism, which is also raised by other researchers of the subject. According to him, the shape of penal policy and the level of repressiveness are mostly influenced by the political climate at a given moment.


  1. Adamski A., Bojarski J., Chrzczonowicz P., Filar M., Girdwoyń P. (red.), Prawo karne i system wymiaru sprawiedliwości w państwach Unii Europejskiej. Wybrane zagadnienia, Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu Mikołaja Kopernika, Toruń 2007.
  2. Aebi M.F., Kuhn A., Influences in the prison rate. Number of entries into prison, length of sentences and crime rates, „European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research” 2000, nr 8.
  3. Carter P., Managing offenders, reducing crime. A new approach, Home Office Strategy Unit, London 2003.
  4. Cavadino M., Dignan J., Penal policy and political economy, „Criminology and Criminal Justice” 2006, t. 6, nr 4.
  5. Cavadino M., Dignan J., Penal Systems. A Comparative Approach, SAGE Publications, London 2006.
  6. Coulsfield Inquiry Team, Crime, Courts and Confidence. Report of an Independent Inquiry into Alternatives to Prison,
  7. Crime, Justice and Protecting the Public. The Government’s Proposal for Legislation, Stationery Office, London 1990.
  8. Criminal Justice Across Europe,
  9. Criminal Statistics 2004 England and Wales, 19/05 RDS, Office for Criminal Justice Reform, 2 wyd., listopad 2005.
  10. Davies M., Croall H., Tyrer J., Criminal Justice. An Introduction to the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales, wyd. 3, Longman, Harlow 2005.
  11. Dingwall G.S., Davenport A., Evolution of Criminal Justice Policy in the UK [w:] P. Fennell, C. Harding, N. Jörg, B. Swart (red.), Criminal Justice in Europe. A Comparative Study, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1995.
  12. Downes D., Morgan R., The skeletons in the cupboard. The politics of law and order at the turn of the millennium [w:] M. Maguire, R. Morgan, R. Reiner, The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, wyd. 3, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2002.
  13. EUICS report, The Burden of Crime in the EU, Research Report. A Comparative Analysis of the European Crime and Safety Survey (EU ICS) 2005, s. 86–88,
  14. Frankowski S., Anglia [w:] M. Filar, S. Frankowski, K. Poklewski-Koziełł, A. Spotowski, A. Wąsek, Prawo karne niektórych państw Europy Zachodniej – wybrane zagadnienia, Wydawnictwo Prawnicze, Warszawa 1982.
  15. Hirsch A. von, Roberts J.V., Legislating sentencing principles. The provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 relating to sentencing purposes and the role of previous convictions, „Criminal Law Review” 2004.
  16. Howard League for Penal Reform, England and Wales lead the pack on European imprisonment rates,
  17. James Bulger,
  18. Jones T., Newburn T., Three strikes and you’re out. Exploring symbol and substance in American and British crime control politics, „British Journal of Criminology” 2006, t. 46, nr 5.
  19. Joung Y., Mathews R., The politics of punishment,
  20. Koffman L., The rise and fall of proportionality: the failure of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, „Criminal Law Review” 2006, nr 281.
  21. Loader I., Fall of the ‘Platonic Guardians’, liberalism, criminology and political responses to crime in England and Wales, „The British Journal of Criminology” 2006, t. 46.
  22. Mandatory sentencing,
  23. McLaughlin E., Muncie J., Hughes G., The permanent revolution. New Labour, new public management, and the modernization of criminal justice, „Criminology and Criminal Justice” 2001, t. 1, nr 3.
  24. Mille A., Jacobson J., Hough M., Understanding the growth in the prison population in England and Wales, „Criminology and Criminal Justice” 2003, t. 3, nr 4.
  25. Morgan R., Imprisonment. A brief history, the contemporary scene and likely prospects [w:] M. Maguire, R. Morgan, R. Reiner, The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, wyd. 3, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2002.
  26. Prison Factfile, kwiecień 2006, Prison Reform Trust,
  27. Prison Factfile, maj 2005, Prison Reform Trust,
  28. Punishment, Custody and the Community, HMSO, London 1988.
  29. Sarat A., Boulanger C. (red.), The Cultural Lives of Capital Punishment. Comparative Perspectives, Stanford University Press, Stanford 2005.
  30. Sentencing and the prison population, Rethinking Crime and Punishment, luty 2005,
  31. The clang of the gate, „The Economist” z 22 czerwca 2006 r.,
  32. The Criminal Justice Act 1991,
  33. Tonry M., Petersilia J., Prisons Research at the Beginning of the 21st Century, National Institute of Justice,
  34. Walker J., Collier P., Tarling R., Why are prison rates in England and Wales higher than in Australia, „British Journal of Criminology” 1990, t. 30, nr 1.