The rise of actuarialism: the influence of new penology on penal policy and a critical evaluation of how successful actuarial justice has been in protecting the public from 'dangerous offenders'

Jenkins, Samantha (2014) The rise of actuarialism: the influence of new penology on penal policy and a critical evaluation of how successful actuarial justice has been in protecting the public from 'dangerous offenders'. MSc dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    There is little doubt amongst academics that the penal policy landscape has changed dramatically over the last half century. Garland (1996, 2001a) notes that there has been a considerable shift from "penal welfarism" and the inherent belief in the ability of the state to rehabilitate offenders towards a "new penality" and a "culture of control". The changes in criminal justice policy have arguably resulted in the rise of a "new penology" (Feely and Simon 1992, 1994) and the application of actuarial, technological and statistical methodologies to the problem of crime.
    The purpose of this dissertation is to consider the rise of actuarial justice, with its emphasis on risk assessment and incapacitation in order to evaluate whether or not the new penology is successful in protecting the public from those offenders considered "dangerous". Since the 1990s society has become more preoccupied with the need to assess risk and dangerousness in order to try to develop ways through which the public may be protected from those deemed to pose the greatest risk to society as a whole. The paper will consider how the shift in penal policy has evolved and the resultant legislative developments, particularly with regard to sentencing, including the recent legislative changes enacted by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, through which the courts have sought, and will seek, to protect the public from harm. There will also be a consideration of the impact of a more punitive sentencing framework on crime as a whole and whether a more punitive sentencing framework actually does assist in protecting the public from a serious risk of harm.
    In practical terms actuarial justice has been evident in the work of a number of criminal justice agencies and most notably the Probation Service, who frequently conduct risk assessments of offenders and manage any risk within the community. The dissertation will consider and evaluate the current risk assessment methodologies used by such agencies in order to predict risk of reconviction, particularly with regard to those convicted of sexual offences. The research in this area will be examined and critically evaluated. It is clear that there are a number of limitations with regard to the accuracy of risk prediction and also the inherent difficulty arising as a result of using statistics pertaining to reconviction rates as opposed to rates of reoffence. These limitations will be considered in order to determine how accurately it is possible to predict risk of harm and the implications for both society and the offender when risk is inaccurately predicted.
    The dissertation will conclude by determining how successful actuarial justice has been with regard to protecting the public from harm from dangerous offenders. Clearly the success of actuarial justice, which is both a theory and practice of punishment, will depend upon the parameters by which success is measured. Within the new penology crime is regarded as normal within society and therefore arguably success is measured by means of performance targets and key performance indicators within agencies rather than in terms of the overall impact of the policies of the level and type of crime which occurs. However, the aim of the paper is to consider whether the use of incapacitative sentencing in the name of public protection and a considerable increase in the use of risk prediction and management can be considered a success in terms of public protection or whether in fact, ultimately the only real way to protect society from harm is to endeavour to rehabilitate offenders to lessen the risk they pose to society generally, rather than a preoccupation with the management of risk within a culture of control.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Institute of Criminal Justice Studies
    Depositing User: Beth Atkins
    Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2015 10:41
    Last Modified: 06 Feb 2015 10:41

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