© 2013

Governance, Performance, and Capacity Stress

The Chronic Case of Prison Crowding


Part of the The Executive Politics and Governance series book series (EXPOLGOV)

Table of contents

About this book


Public policy systems often sustain chronic capacity stress (CCS) meaning they neither excel nor fail in what they do, but do both in ways that are somehow manageable and acceptable. This book is about one archetypal case of CCS – crowding in the British prison system – and how we need a more integrated theoretical understanding of its complexity.


complex complexity governance Policy stress

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.LSE Public Policy GroupLondon School of Economics and Political ScienceUK

About the authors

Simon Bastow has been a Senior Research Fellow at the London School of Economics, UK since 2005. He is part of the LSE Public Policy Group, and has worked for more than ten years in applied academic research and teaching, publishing widely across UK and comparative public policy and governance.

Bibliographic information


"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

"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