A Simple Idea for Complex Lives

The following explores a proposal once made by a Probation service-user but fundamentally asks how the Future of Probation can adapt to facilitate and advocate such voices from those with Lived Experience.

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BRINGING COMMUNITY WEALTH BUILDING TO JUSTICE: BACK TO A MUTUAL FUTURE FOR PROBATION?

In this think piece and position paper we consider mutual and cooperative solutions to key resettlement challenges, we believe to be germane to a focus on the future of probation post 2020. We argue that Senior and colleagues’ (2016) identification of the relational co-production of rehabilitation within local communities as key to successful probation can equally well be understood in terms of ‘mutuality’ and cooperation in service delivery. We argue that this essence of probation can be re-captured in contemporary rehabilitation services by integrating probation practice more with the community, ideally in a context of broader efforts towards achieving economic fairness within localities. We report on one such initiative tied in with the distinct form of new municipal local economic development, defined as community wealth building being pioneered in Preston in the North West of England. This ‘Preston Model’ provides a context for discussing particular cooperative development work designed coproductively to better support offender resettlement. Our work in ‘bringing the Preston Model to Justice’ arguably has great potential for wider application in the quest for successful community re-entry and a positive impact upon desistance.

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READING BETWEEN THE BARS: EVALUATING PROBATION, REMODELLING OFFENDERS, AND REDUCING RECIDIVISM

Probation has been in existence in Singapore for more than 70 years. Given its long existence and vested interest in community-based sentencing, this paper calls for an effective measurement of probation officers training and supervision of the offenders measured against recidivism. First the paper focuses on the genesis and evolution of probation coupled with a brief description of programs conducted by probation officers since its introduction till its present iteration, along with its merits. The emphasis lies in the shift from a supervisory program to one which proactively seeks to transform behaviour, hence reaffirming remodelling character of probation. Second, it is recommended that effectiveness of training, supervision of offenders by Probation Officers be measured against the rate of recidivism. To this end, it is proposed that effectiveness of probation can only be measured against recidivism given that probation targets criminogenic needs of offenders. An evaluation of data presented on recidivism suggests that while the recidivism rate is decreasing, it does not maximize the potential role of Probation Officers. Third, training along the lines of Strategic Training Initiative in Community Supervision (STICs) program can be considered to enhance lower recidivism rates. Lastly, it is recommended that Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) be conducted for evidence-based policy making in criminal justice system, since RCTs can be useful in assessing the efficacy of probation as a community-based sentencing tool, particularly whether the policy orientation of probation meets the goal of reducing crime.

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AN AGEING CLIENT BASE: HOW CAN PROBATION DELIVER SUPPORT FOR OLDER SERVICE USERS?

This article explores how the increase of older people on probation caseloads across community orders, suspended sentences and supervision on licence will affect probation practice, alongside an ageing staff population. ‘Older’ service users are defined as those aged 50 and over, in keeping with the use of this definition by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS). The increase in the ageing probation caseload is taking place against a backdrop of an ageing society which also includes probation staff. In probation services the increase is partly exacerbated by the increasing number of over 50s in the prison population, and in changes to legislation under the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014. Drawing upon research, policy and practice from gerontology, the article identifies some synergies between criminological and gerontological perspectives, including acknowledgement of lived experience and strengths based approaches. However, the article also considers that ageist attitudes within society can lead to double discrimination of those on the caseload, for example, attitudes towards employment for older people. The article considers the extent to which reducing re-offending pathways can support this demographic, alongside consideration of individualised approaches to sentence planning and engagement, requiring both national, and local responses including appropriate training and support for probation staff.

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LET’S TALK ABOUT ADHD IN A CRC

Increasingly the demanding nature of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is being acknowledged as having a lifelong impact. This paper reflects upon two specific areas of communication difficulty often associated with ADHD, which are pragmatic language and dysfluency. Pragmatic language refers to the service user’s ability to use appropriate and applicable language. Dysfluency refers not only to a stammer, but difficulties with timing and maintaining a conversational flow. The latter is often hindered by the poor use of pragmatic skills. A small-scale qualitative research study was carried out in a Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC), to explore what support and understanding of ADHD was held by CRC staff and service users with ADHD. One to one semi- structured interviews were carried out with thirteen CRC staff and six service users. The research questions did not specifically target pragmatic and dysfluent language, yet both emerged from the data collection, indicating a relevance to communication style and ability when carrying out probation work. The research highlighted that CRC staff were not always suitably resourced to deal with ADHD service users. Access to suitable training were lacking, and instances of loss of experienced staff were commonplace. Despite the best efforts of the CRC staff, evidence suggested that overall there was poor understanding of ADHD and failure to identify needs. However, there was some evidence of good practice which supported pragmatic language and dysfluent challenges for ADHD service users. As recognition of a more neurodiverse population increases, accommodation within a unified probation services becomes a pressing issue.

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FROM THE ‘SEAMLESS SENTENCE’ TO ‘THROUGH THE GATE’: UNDERSTANDING THE COMMON THREADS OF RESETTLEMENT POLICY FAILURES

Contemporary criminal justice policy in England and Wales has witnessed various resurgences of political interest in resettlement and the short sentence population. This intermittent attentiveness has been mirrored in the circular re-iterations of policy initiatives ostensibly designed to bring greater continuity to the services that administer ‘through the gate’ work. These efforts include the ‘seamless sentence’ of the 1991 Criminal Justice Act; ‘end-to-end offender management’, the creation of The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and the introduction of custody plus under New Labour; and the current Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) ‘through the gate’ reforms. It is important to analyse these attempts in order to understand why resettlement policy consistently fails to deliver an improved continuity between prisons and probation. This paper argues that resettlement policy has a common thread of issues that inhibit effective resettlement practice. This article will firstly consider the ‘essence’ (Senior and Ward, 2016) of resettlement practice, outlining several key principles that should be central elements for resettlement policy and practice, before providing an overview of these various policy initiatives; examining a common thread of failures in their realisation. This article will then look ahead at the next possible iteration of resettlement policy, ‘offender management in custody’ (OMiC), concluding that despite key changes, this latest policy continues to repeat the errors of past resettlement policy failures.

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PERCEPTIONS AND PRACTICES OF ‘REHABILITATION’ IN A COMMUNITY REHABILITATION COMPANY: DISCONNECTS BETWEEN THEORY AND PRACTICE

Much academic writing has been published about the then government’s disastrous
Transforming Rehabilitation agenda and the subsequent impact of this on the part
privatisation of the probation service: particularly about the failure of the newly formed
Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC) to meet targets (National Audit Office, 2019;
Roberts, 2018; Tidmarsh, 2020). Much less has been published about practitioners’ views
on working in a CRC. This article presents findings from interviews with such practitioners.
Whilst the wrap around community response provided to offenders is worthwhile in
principle, in practice the funding structures of CRCs hinder rehabilitative work and the
reintegration of offenders into the community.

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A FAILED SOCIAL EXPERIMENT: DAMAGED PROFESSIONAL IDENTITY POST ‘TRANSFORMING REHABILITATION

Following the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation process of privatising half of the Probation Service, research found that profession identity and resilience had been damaged in the aftermath. Five years later, just after the Government announcement that Probation is to be re-unified, this paper explores the impact of the last five years on 7 members of staff working in one of the CRC companies that originally reported the lowest resilience and the most difficult working experiences. Narrative inquiry was used to allow staff to tell their own stories, and then followed up by semi-structured interviews to fill in any gaps in data. Key themes which emerged were loss of professional discretion, resistance to financial driven decision making and diminished self-efficacy as a result of inconsistent management oversight. Recommendations are made at the end of the paper to assist new managers to ease the transition and support staff resilience.

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BEYOND MARKETISATION: TOWARDS A RELATIONAL FUTURE OF PROFESSIONALISM IN PROBATION AFTER TRANSFORMING REHABILITATION

The Coalition Government pledged to maintain ‘professionalism’ in probation through its market-based Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms; however, the recent decision to reverse these reforms came as the service’s professionalism has been downgraded and diminished. TR eroded the networks of relationships, between and among people and organisations, which constitute probation’s essence (Senior et al., 2016) – that is, its ability to overlay the distinct, but interlinked spheres of corrections, social welfare, treatment and the community. This paper looks to the future of professionalism in English and Welsh probation after TR. We argue that the service lies at a crossroads, between a continuation of the punitive and marketising policies imposed in recent decades, and opportunities to recapture its essence through a relational re-professionalisation agenda. We advocate for a strategic and evidence-based professionalism in probation practice that emphasises relational co-production. Here, a restorative practice model can support relationship building in client facing and multi-agency contexts, begin to rebuild relationships within the service and offset the worst excesses of other agendas.

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PROBATION IN 2020: INSIGHTS, FEARS AND HOPES

On the 28th April 2016, on the eve of his departure from his Chair at Sheffield Hallam University, Paul Senior gave the final lecture in the Community Justice Portal series. A recording of this lecture has recently emerged, and we are proud to offer here an edited transcript of that lecture. The lecture was penned in the early days of Transforming Rehabilitation: Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) came into existence in June 2014 and probation as a whole was still in the throes of change. In this lecture Paul was looking to the future of probation, and given probation is changing once again with the recent demise of CRCs and the reunification of the National Probation Service, it is interesting to reflect on his thoughts at that time.

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