POSTPONED: Prisons, profit and privatisation

This event is postponed until early Summer.

About this event

Much work has been done in the United States mapping and theorising the nexus of private corporations, voluntary sector and other non-state organisations involved in the provision of and benefiting from the criminal justice system – sometimes called the ‘penal/prison-industrial complex’.

There is a lack of similar work in the UK, which has also seen a proliferation of non-state interests in the criminal justice sector. Since the late 1980s, the state has played an active role in constructing a market framework for the criminal justice system, with a range of performance measures, management techniques and privatisation projects creating something akin to a ‘private punishment market’ for companies, charities and others. The sharp edge of this has been prison privatisation, which has proceeded apace since the early 1990s. Recent developments suggest that there may be a switch to outsourcing and privatising particular services within publicly-managed prisons, rather than handing the management of entire prisons over to private companies. From catering to transfer to cleaning, how many services are now being privately provided?

At this roundtable we are aiming to pool collective knowledge and generate ideas and direction for our new project mapping non-state actors in the prison system.

Coming out of the event, and informed by it, we will be producing a briefing on the involvement of non-state entities in the prison system in England and Wales. The briefing will be one of a series examining the role of companies and voluntary organisations in criminal justice.


  • Tom Gash of the Institute for Government on the governmental justifications for prison outsourcing. Why do governments turn to the private sector, even when it goes wrong?
  • Philippa Tomczak from the University of Sheffield on voluntary sector involvement in prison provision: why is the voluntary sector taking up criminal justice contracts, and what issues does its involvement raise?
  • Connor Woodman from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies on the history of prison privatisation and outsourcing, and the current state of private interests in the sector.  

Venue, time and date

March 27th, 2018 12:30 PM   to   3:30 PM
United Kingdom
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