Official Responses to Carceral Violence and the Limits of Reform

  • Bree CarltonEmail author
  • Emma K. Russell


In this chapter we consider two key official responses to the growing systemic advocacy campaigns and rising number of women’s complaints highlighting the discriminatory violence and harms experienced by women in both Pentridge and Fairlea: the Agenda for Change reform blueprint and the Equal Opportunity Commission Victoria investigation into conditions at the Banksia Unit for women at Barwon Prison. The aim of this chapter is to demonstrate the rhetoric associated with the shift towards progressive reform in the women’s correctional system during the early 1990s. We do this using the activist archive to illuminate the gulf between government policy documents and practice. While there was a shift on paper during this time towards recognition of the unique needs and experiences of women and respond to these through the design of new prisons, the promotion of co-ed prisons, and the roll-out of gender-responsive programmes, services and employment opportunities, the activist archive tells a conflicting story of compounding discrimination and sustained fatal harm that was building in sections of Pentridge and Barwon prisons. Ultimately, it is argued that the gender-responsive reforms promoted by the Office of Corrections could never achieve meaningful or transformative change due to the fact that they cannot alter the very structure of the prison and the violence it reproduces.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Criminology, School of Humanities and Social SciencesDeakin UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Crime, Justice and Legal Studies, School of Humanities and Social SciencesLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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