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Veterans' voices: Oral histories of Scottish probation

McNeill, Fergus (2008) Veterans' voices: Oral histories of Scottish probation. In: European Society of Criminology’s annual conference, 2008-09-02 - 2008-09-05. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Contemporary penologists and historians of punishment often argue that the field of 'penality' has been transformed in recent years, usually rooting their analyses in the rise of the risk society, insecurity, consumerism, neo-liberal strategies of governance, managerialisation and modernisation. However, these accounts of change typically rely on excavating 'histories of the present' through documentary analysis - and, more narrowly, through documentary analysis that tends to be preoccupied with policy discourses. While this allows for the development of understandings of changing 'official' accounts of systems of penality, it leaves unexplored the interstices between official accounts of penal practice, practitioners' accounts and the accounts of those subject to these practices. To address this lacuna in existing research, an innovative ongoing study (funded by the British Academy) is using oral history methods to capture the stories of people who worked in the Scottish probation services and people who were on probation in Scotland in the 1960s. The principal objective of this study is to produce a rich and multi-layered analysis of the construction and experience of probation in Scotland as an historical penal practice. The paper discusses the findings from oral history interviews with veterans of probation in the 60s and explores what these voices have to say, implicitly and explicitly about penal transformation.