Penal Policy Article Critique


The penal policy is a significant phenomenon that acts as a limiting factor in many spheres of life. It is a central concept of “Understanding the Determinants of Penal Policy: Crime, Culture, and Comparative Political Economy” by Lacey, Soskice, and Hope (2018). This scholarly article is based on appropriate studies to present three essential points, two key concepts, and two particular actions to be taken on the given topic.

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Three Main Points

The researchers analyze the issue of penal policy from various perspectives, which represents the main points of the study. For the criminal justice system, a penal policy is a response to unlawful and harmful forms of behavior (Lacey et al., 2018). One should note that a penal policy can be used by politicians in the given field to help them gain electoral advantage. Besides, crime rates are said to be in subjection to the phenomenon under consideration.

Penal policy against the background of cultural dynamics is the second of the main points. The authors of the study mention that various cultures can have different approaches to shaping a penal policy. Great attention is paid to the impact of so-called Nordic Exceptionalism and separate countries, including France, Germany, and the United States (Lacey et al., 2018). Each of these countries has influenced the notion of penal policy significantly.

The role of political economy for penal policy represents the third point to be discussed. Lacey et al. (2018) indicate that crime rates depend directly on the levels of economic and political development of society. Thus, a better economy leads to the reduction of violent crime. Besides, various countries responded differently in terms of imposing punishments, and these peculiarities had an essential meaning for shaping a penal policy.

Three Major Studies

The study under consideration is based on many sources of information, but three of them deserve more attention. Thus, useful details on the use of penal policy within the criminal justice system come from “The Limits of the Sovereign State” by Garland (1996). Even though this article is outdated, it provides the researchers with exhaustive data on how a penal policy can be used to serve politicians’ particular needs.

Contrasts in Punishment: An Explanation of Anglophone Excess and Nordic Exceptionalism by Pratt and Eriksson introduces a comprehensive insight into the relationship between culture and penal policy. In their book, Pratt and Eriksson (2013) investigated the development of the issue under consideration in various countries and cultural environments. Small states tend to be less subject to implementing harsh kinds of punishment (Pratt & Eriksson, 2013). The book is based on credible and reliable data, which is a characteristic feature of trusted sources.

In addition to that, “Welfare and Punishment in Comparative Perspective” tells about the correlation between penal policy and political economy (Downes & Hansen, 2006). The two authors prove that better economic and political conditions decrease crime rates substantially. In the same manner, such societies do not have to pay much attention to developing or changing their penalty policies. Thus, Downes and Hansen (2006) raise the question of how it is possible to reproduce such practices in other world countries.

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Two Key Concepts

Based on the literature review, Lacey et al. (2018) have created two essential concepts. The first of them denotes that the notion of penal policy can be comprehensively analyzed only from a few perspectives, including those mentioned above. It has been proved that the higher development of the criminal justice system, culture, economics, and politics reduces crime rates, which diminishes the necessity to change or improve the penal policy.

The second concept refers to a particular case of the United States. According to Lacey et al. (2018), the U.S. is a developed state, but it requires specific emphasis to be placed on its penal policy. The fact is that the country is diverse, which can evoke relevant issues. Among many variables, Lacey et al. (2018) have chosen the race to demonstrate that this phenomenon can introduce some challenges. Thus, the researchers indicate that there should be a secure connection between a penal policy to be implemented and a racial composition of society.

Two Proposed Actions

The identified state of affairs has made the authors offer two actions to be taken to handle the situation. The first of them refers to the United States, and it says that it should be determined how the social, cultural, political, and economic differences will affect a penal policy. It means that the given research contributes to further investigation to make this phenomenon meet the needs of the Americans adequately.

The second action is aimed at the whole world, rather than on the U.S. specifically. Lacey et al. (2018) point out that it is necessary to adapt existing models or create new ones to distribute successful experiences among countries of South America, South Africa, and Europe. It can be initial steps to investigate the political economy and its effect on many aspects, and a penal policy is among them.


The study by Lacey et al. (2018) presents a comprehensive insight into the phenomenon of penal policy and its relationship with the other world. The authors have used three studies to demonstrate the correlation between penal policy, culture, the criminal justice system, and political economy. Based on the information, the researchers have identified two key concepts and introduced two actions to contribute to a better state of penal policy in various world countries.


Downes, D., & Hansen, K. (2006). Welfare and punishment in comparative perspective. In S. Armstrong & L. McAra (Eds.), Perspectives on punishment (pp. 101-118). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Garland, D. (1996). The limits of the sovereign state. The British Journal of Criminology, 36(4), 445-471.

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Lacey, N., Soskice, D., & Hope, D. (2018). Understanding the determinants of penal policy: Crime, culture, and comparative political economy. Annual Review of Criminology, 1, 195-217.

Pratt, J., & Eriksson, A. (2013). Contrasts in punishment: An explanation of Anglophone excess and Nordic Exceptionalism. London, England: Routledge.

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