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The Good Prison: Conscience, crime and punishment

Why do some people commit crimes when others don’t? How can prisons stop offenders continuing with a life of crime? Gerard Lemos, an influential social policy expert, argues that conscience formed by family relationships and reinforced through community life is crucial. So prisoners need to become good partners, parents and citizens. Above all, prison must change how offenders see themselves. Training for employment will never be enough. Drawing on many examples from his extensive research of innovative activities in prisons, Lemos emphasises the importance of restoration as punishment as well as mindfulness, creativity and spirituality together with a belief in your own autonomy. All these can work to strengthen prisoners and ex-offenders’ well-being and their commitment to others as well as to themselves. A positive use of the welfare system could sustain changes in ex-offenders that are achieved by the Good Prison.The Good Prison: conscience, crime and punishment is neither outdated liberalism nor punitive myopia. This book sets the agenda for a radical change in the philosophy and practice of criminal justice and prison management.

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"Particularly fascinating...Lemos focuses on some big questions in a very approachable way. I hope the book was on the holiday reading of key policy makers and politicians. It made me think...and hope." Nicola Padfield, Master of Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge, Reader in Criminal and Penal Justice in the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, Recorder of the Crown Court.

"The Good Prison is based upon the author’s psycho-social theory that the roots of bad behaviour are to be found in a failure to develop conscience in childhood...the author’s appreciation of the needs of emotionally deprived lawbreakers and the needs of crime victims is a cogently presented argument for restorative justice...He calls his own innovative suggestion for enabling ex-prisoners to keep to resolutions not to commit crime in future the ‘conscience compact’.Professor Pat Carlen, British Journal of Criminology, (2015), 55.

"In an age that looks increasingly and forlornly to locate the solutions to reoffending in statistics, it is exhilarating to find Gerard Lemos bringing the full range of human attributes - physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual - to bear on this most complex area of social policy. The ground he covers is exceptionally wide-ranging, but never out of focus. The solutions he proposes - notably for the role that ritual can play in rehabilitation - are surprising, but surprisingly practical. This is an exciting and very impressive book." Tim Robertson, Chief Executive of the Koestler Trust

"This thoughtful and sensitive book recognises the challenges and difficulties but the concept of, "a Conscience Compact" and a holistic approach to rehabilitation, that is working on the inner aspects of a person as well as the circumstances of their life, offers an approach which is worthy of serious consideration and deserves wider debate."  Baroness Usha Prasher of Runnymede CBE, Former Chairman of the Parole Board for England and Wales (1997-2000)

"The Good Prison is a well-researched book with a strong message." Rachel Billington, Inside Time




1. Conscience, family and community

2. Failure of conscience in childhood and early family experiences of offenders

3. The search for punishment

4. A transformed social consensus on crime and punishment since the 1970s

5. Justice and restoration

6. Managing the Good Prison

7. Family life of prisoners and opportunities for empathy

8. Mindfulness: reflection and collaboration

9. Creativity and artistic activity

10. Work, autonomy and well-being in prisons and afterwards

11. Beyond prison: conscience and cash

Notes / Bibliography / Index

Published by Lemos&Crane, April 2014 

Paperback: 248 pages /  ISBN: 978-1-898001-75-1

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