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Governance, Performance, and Capacity Stress: the chronic case of prison crowding

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Simon Bastow
Palgrave Macmillan (August 2013)

Public policy systems, much like humans, can operate under continual stress over long periods of time. Whereas analysis of these systems often tends to focus on the extremes of success or failure, the more complex reality is that more often than not they neither completely excel nor completely fail in what they do, but combine elements of both in the way they cope and perform under stress.

This book explores these dynamics through the archetypal case of crowding in British prisons. Packed with data, it provides an original analysis of the prison system through an era of managerialist change. It contributes to contemporary debates on the management of prisons, and the wider fields of public management, governance, and executive politics. At its heart lies a new concept of ‘chronic capacity stress’ (CCS), one which will be valuable to anyone - academics, practitioners, students alike - interested in how policy systems both succeed and fail in complex and ever-changing political, economic, and social environments.

  • Dr Simon Bastow is a Senior Research Fellow at LSE and LSE Public Policy Group.

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"Why do policy systems display grinding underperformance despite sustained reform efforts? Showing the limitations of traditional approaches, Bastow introduces a holistic approach that helps us understand what he calls “chronic capacity stress”. Writing with ease, his analysis of the UK prison system demonstrates the analytical potential of this fresh approach."
Arjen Boin, School of Governance, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

"A fascinating and well informed analysis of how Government deals with prison overcrowding, one of their most wicked and insoluble problems. A problem that combines real operational risk, substantial cost with complex politics as a result of unresolved conflicts between punishment and rehabilitation."
Phil Wheatley, former Head of HM Prison Service and the National Offender Management Service

"Simon Bastow’s book is an impressive and systematic effort to describe the development of the policies which have created the UK's prison system. This important part of our national life is insufficiently analyzed and gets too little policy and political attention. This book is an excellent effort to fill that gap and deserves to be widely read."
Charles Clarke, former Labour Home Secretary


Governance, Performance and Capacity Stress