You are here

The Penal System

The Penal System
An Introduction

Sixth Edition
Additional resources:

January 2020 | 464 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Now in its Sixth Edition, this book remains the most comprehensive and authoritative on the penal system, providing students with an incisive, critical account of the punitive, managerial and humanitarian approaches to criminal justice.


Fully updated to cover the most recent changes in the Criminal Justice System, the new edition: 

  • Outlines contemporary policy debates on sentencing, staffing, youth custody and overcrowding.
  • Explores growing inequalities in the criminal justice system including issues of race, religion, gender and sexuality, with new content on faith, and transgender prisoners.
  • Considers the impact of privatisation on the probation service.
  • Discusses the most recent debates around the parole process, including high-profile cases and attempts at reform.

The book is supported by online resources for lecturers and students, including chapter PowerPoints, seminar plans, summaries of key legislative acts and bills, White Papers, consultation papers and official reports, regular updates on policy developments, a glossary, useful weblinks and links to further reading.


Essential reading for students of criminal justice and criminology, studying penology, punishments and the penal system.

Chapter 1. Crisis? What crisis?
Chapter 2. Justifying punishment
Chapter 3. Explaining punishment
Chapter 4. Sentencing: the crux of the crisis
Chapter 5. Punishment in the community
Chapter 6. Prisons and the penal crisis
Chapter 7. Early release: the penal system's safety valve
Chapter 8. The youth justice system
Chapter 9. Diversity and bias in the criminal justice system
Chapter 10. Solving the crisis?

“A welcome update to a seminal text highlighting the continuing challenges and pressures of the contemporary criminal justice system. An important text for students, scholars and practitioners alike, and an essential reference point for policy makers. The book outlines the historical, sociological and political background to this “crisis” and offers some suggestions and best practice to achieve a just and humane penal system for the future. A must read for anyone interested in this often controversial area”

Dr Lynn Saunders OBE, Governor of HMP Whatton.

Dr Lynn Saunders OBE
Governor of HMP Whatton

The Penal System comprehensively addresses one of the core facets of Criminology: How does society deal with those who break the law? The new edition reinvigorates the conversation about how we construct, utilise, and implement processes of punishment and social control. It is a must read for students, academics, and the wider public.

Dr Jason Warr, Lecturer in Criminology & Criminal Justice, De Montfort University

Dr Jason Warr
Lecturer in Criminology & Criminal Justice, De Montfort University

Preview this book

For instructors

To inquire about the availability of this title for review (print and/or digital), please contact your local sales representative or call (800) 818-7243.

Select a Purchasing Option

Electronic version
Prices from

ISBN: 9781526460691

ISBN: 9781526460684