The final development in recent years of punishment policy, identified by Garland, amongst others, is the increasing politicization and populism of crime punishment. Rarely, prior to the 1970s, was penal policy an election issue, whereas now it is one of the most important, on which governments have come to power, and fallen from power. While this cannot be said to be a ‘function’ of state punishment as such, it has become an inseparable aspect of state policy relating to punishment of offenders. The controversy of this is obvious in its origins; punishment of criminals, some believe, should be left to those professionals working within the criminal justice system, and should be above party politics.
The functions of state punishment, then, have undergone a radical change in recent decades, and as a result, have caused much controversy as the context in which policy is debated and formed has changed along the lines identified and discussed above. No longer can state punishment be said to be wholly about controlling crime.