Drill, discipline and decency? Exploring the significance of prior military experience for prison staff culture

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg


Building on prior theorisation of the prison-military complex and critiques of Foucault’s claim of similarities between the prison and the military, this paper uses the example of ex-military personnel as prison staff to consider the nature of this relationship. In a UK context in which policy discourse speaks of ‘military’ methods as an aspiration for the prison service but where critical prison scholars use this term more pejoratively, it draws on a unique survey of current and former prison staff in the UK to explore the perceived characteristics of ex-military personnel, and the relationship between military service and prison staff culture. The paper finds that although some ‘military’ characteristics recall more negative ‘traditional’ cultures, others point towards more professional and compassionate attitudes, challenging the notion that ‘militarism’ necessarily engenders authoritarian and punitive prison regimes.


Original languageEnglish
JournalTheoretical Criminology
Early online date20 Jul 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Jul 2021


  • military, prison officers, prisons, United Kingdom, veterans