Discourses of mass probation: From managing risk to ending human warehousing in Michigan

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Over the past decade, some Western countries have begun to shift away from punitive criminal justice rhetoric, re-embracing the language of rehabilitation and the goal of penal moderation. Risk logics-which undergirded the rise of mass incarceration in the United States-are now being repurposed to call for decarceration. Yet while risk played a key role in the transformation from modern to post-modern punishment, its development and contemporary significance remains poorly understood. This article explores the discourses and practices of risk from the 1970s through to 2014 in one US state (Michigan). The analyses focus on probation, the primary alternative to prison. The results show that risk discourses and practices emerged in the 1970s as a mode of resistance to the prison boom and have been adapted in each subsequent decade to address state governing crises.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1107-1126
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 13 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2017.


  • Incarceration
  • New penology
  • Penal state
  • Probation
  • Risk


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