Mass incarceration and supervision operate through a mixed economy. Using the case study of Samaritans’ emotional support for prisoners in distress in England and Wales, we present an original framework of five normative criteria to facilitate nuanced assessment of voluntary sector criminal justice participation. This is an urgent, significant task for theory and practice: we need to find forms of public input that can deconstruct bloated penal systems. Whilst citizen involvement can be a positive form of ‘people power’, our assessment of Samaritans’ ostensibly welcome humanitarian intervention reveals how it deflects attention from severe shortcomings of the penal system. In the context of mass incarceration, we conclude that voluntary sector and citizen involvement in individualised service delivery alone risks obscuring deep problems and delaying much-needed change. This topic is particularly timely, given increasing non-state involvement in criminal justice and the global problem of prison suicide.
Tomczak, P., & Bennett, C. (2020). Evaluating voluntary sector involvement in mass incarceration: The case of Samaritan prisoner volunteers. Punishment and Society, 22(5), 637-657. https://doi.org/10.1177/1462474520915823