We begin our ethnographic study of a young-offender facility in Canada by analysing a macro-level theoretical debate that began when Pat O’Malley (1999) critiqued David Garland’s (1996) well known British Journal of Criminology article, ‘The Limits of the Sovereign State’. We then use O’Malley’s competing ‘New Right Penality’ thesis as a theoretical bridge and a starting point for our own theoretical arguments on the role of criminal justice worker discourse in the local culture of punishment. Throughout our ethnography, we demonstrate that in order to fully understand the practice of punishment, one must see how punishment is locally constructed, experienced and interpreted.

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