Resisting the Politics of Punishment: Political Culture and the Evolution of Canadian Criminal Justice Policy

Dr Kyle Mulrooney1
1The University Of New England, Armidale, Australia

Canada, long upheld as an exception to the wider penal turn said to have occurred in many western liberal democracies, saw a complete shift in thinking and action around crime control towards more punitive ends under the rule of the new Conservative Party of Canada between 2006-2015. Yet, during this time the prison population did not rise appreciably and there was no discernible difference in public opinion towards harsher punishment. Furthermore, the Conservatives constituted only one voice among many as there were loud pockets of resistance to this ‘new punitiveness’, especially in the media and legal spheres. Finally, with the election of the Liberal government on 2015 it would appear that the country has resumed pursuing its ‘moderate’ approach to crime and punishment. This decade of Conservative power, therefore, provides the ideal case study from which to explore what drives and affects penal change and, in this instance, the necessary factors and conditions behind the varying ‘success’ of penal populism as a governing strategy. To this end, the research sets out to explain this resistance by examining the ways in which the countries local history, deep-seated cultural values and national institutional settings and symbols have worked to shape the jurisdictions political and, by extension, penal culture. In doing so, the research contributes to our understanding of the ways in which a jurisdictions political culture may shape public and political appetites for punishment by acting as barrier, modifier or amplifier of populist politics more generally.


Dr. Kyle Mulrooney is a lecturer in Criminology at the University of New England. His primary research area is the Sociology of punishment, with particular attention to the nexus between penal populism and political culture. He is also interested in the use, supply, and regulation of enhancement drugs. Kyle holds a Ph.D. in Cultural and Global Criminology from the University of Kent and Universität Hamburg, an MA in the Sociology of Law from the International Institute for the Sociology of Law and a BA (Honours) in Criminology and Justice from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.



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