Punishment and Charity: Conceptualising the penal voluntary sector in England and Wales

  • Philippa Tomczak

Student thesis: Phd


Recent policy developments in England and Wales suggest a further increasing role for penal voluntary organisations (PVOs) in the market for criminal justice services. In response, a flurry of Criminological commentary has provided a marketised account of thpenal voluntary sector (PVS). This body of commentary has demonstrated that understandings of the sector remain limited, and that it has not yet been rigorously theorised (Corcoran, 2011; Mills et al., 2011). This gap in understanding is particularly problematic because PVOs may play an important role in the operation of punishment (Martin, 2013; Neuberger, 2009; Armstrong, 2002).In the thesis which follows, this gap in understanding is explored and the PVS is conceptualised. The tenets of actor-network theory are applied to analyse original qualitative data. This data was collected through semi-structured interviews with voluntary and statutory sector stakeholders, and document analysis of policy and PVO publications. The key analytical foci in this thesis are: PVO heterogeneity, small-scale PVOs, the agency of PVOs, and interactions between PVOs and the statutory agencies of criminal justice. Findings are then drawn together to consider the effects of PVO work with prisoners and probationers.This thesis makes an original contribution to knowledge by conceptualising the PVS and considering aspects of the sector that scholars have not yet fully explored. The thesis provides a new awareness of small-scale PVOs and considers the heterogeneity, agency and autonomy of PVOs. The analysis chapters illustrate the diverse relationships between PVOs and the statutory agencies of criminal justice. A preliminary exploration of the effects of PVO work is also provided. Whilst the potential control and net-widening functions of PVO work must not be overlooked, this analysis indicates that PVOs may enrich statutory service provision for prisoners and probationers. Relationships between PVO staff and prisoners/probationers may be distinctive and particularly valuable, and could support desistance from crime.
Date of Award31 Dec 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester


  • Punishment
  • Voluntary Sector

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