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18 How. J. Penology & Crime Prevention 70 (1979)
The Acceptable Pressure Group: A Review Symposium

handle is hein.journals/hjcj18 and id is 70 raw text is: 









The Howard Journal Volume XVIII 1979, pp. 70-84


The Acceptable Pressure Group?

A   Review Symposium

   Late last year, Mick  Ryan   published a  book, The  Acceptable
Pressure Group  (Saxon House 1978) which was subtitled Inequality in
the penal lobby: a case study of the Howard League and R.A.P.. This
contains, inter alia, a lengthy and largely critical assessment of the
achievements and stance of the Howard League, especially in the period
since the Second World War.  The  Editor and the Book Review Editor
took  the view that the League's journal should devote considerable
space  to this work,  and  have  accordingly arranged for it to be
considered by reviewers from a number of different backgrounds, each
reviewer  being  encouraged   to  write  especially from  his  own
organisational or professional point of view. This is followed by a brief
reply from the author of the book.
   Ryan's main thesis may be summarised  as follows. The pluralism
 of Western societies has certain well-defined limits. Pressure groups
 which operate within these will be given a voice and may influence
 government policy, but those which challenge the ideological bases of
 the present social order will be defined out and  their aspirations
 denied. The Howard  League,  because it obeys the ground rules, has
 long had access to the levers of power and has exerted influence, but in
 doing so it has been contaminated by the Establishment and acts as
 a buttress for those groups wielding power in a capitalist society. In
 contrast, R.A.P. disregards the rules and demands the abolition of the
 prison system. It gains little access to policy-makers and is largely
 ignored as  long as  it retains this uncompromising  stance. Ryan
 concludes that the more overt R.A.P.'s political message the more it is
 defined out. . . . The politics of ambiguity might . . . be the only
 available tactic for a radical pressure group which wants to operate
 within the existing political system (p. 145).


 Comment From Martin Wright

 Director, Howard  League  for Penal Reform.

   Penal reform is a very political subject, but reformers are ambivalent
 about this fact. On the one hand they believe that the way in which
 members  of society induce each other to behave decently to each other
 ought to have a place at the top of the political agenda, along with
 economics and  welfare; on the other, when they see the issues over-
 simplified by politicians and especially the popular press into law-and-
 order, they want to keep out of that kind of politics.
   The Howard  League  has been concerned with the art of the possible;


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