Book Reviews (13.3)

Published 15/12/2015
Type Review
Author(s) Jake Phillips, Anne Robinson
Corresponding Authors


Ester Ragonese, Anne Rees, Jo Ives and Terry Dray (2015). Oxon: Routledge. pp332 (hbk) £90. ISBN 978-0-415-81071-5

A dedicated book on careers and employability in criminal justice is overdue and a significant challenge, considering the number of changes in the sector over the past few years and it’s continued uncertainty. This well-structured book offers an insight into working in a variety of criminal justice agencies, alongside invaluable career management advice.

This is an ideal text for anyone considering working in the criminal justice sector. The pre-entry advice regarding deciding on higher education routes, and the alternative options (apprenticeships and direct entry are both covered), make this a particularly valuable resource for post-16 transitions for students, teachers, and advisers. The tailored advice for mature students is welcome and there is also very useful information encouraging professional development in work. The guide manages to be comprehensive and realistic, but also inclusive and encouraging. This contributes to a book that should appeal to a wide audience of readers.

Each chapter is well structured making the book ideal for reading in small sections, or for those looking for information on a specific career idea. There are dedicated chapters on the probation service, Police, prisons, the courts, and youth justice, with exhaustive information on the various employment areas within those agencies. Of particular note is the depth of research on each area; organisational information for all jurisdictions in the UK is incorporated and includes values, mission statements and key facts. The perspectives of existing students and professionals are quoted throughout, giving the text the authoritative voice of experience. The book also includes reflection and action points throughout to encourage readers to engage beyond the text. Each chapter outlines specific objectives and includes an excellent summary of content covered, top tips, helpful websites and further reading. As mentioned earlier, the criminal justice sector has undergone major change in the past few years and a downside to including further resources in a book about employability brings with it the danger of those resources going out of date rather quickly.

Chapter four presents some key introductory concepts about becoming more employable. Particularly useful is the inclusion of information about ideas inexperienced readers may not have considered before. There is good advice about demonstrating motivation and commitment, encouraging readers to explore their own interests and explore extra-curricular activities. The hidden jobs market is addressed and comes with some very useful ideas about increasing professional networks. Sector-specific concerns are addressed, such as resilience and its importance when working with vulnerable clients. The authors also encourage the reader to seriously contemplate whether they are motivated towards a career in public service, with realistic information about the sector and some of the practical considerations of working in public service like salary, leave entitlement and job security.

The book concentrates heavily on skills, in line with most employability advice in higher education, and although there is a very comprehensive section in the introduction about how to develop sector-specific skills and how to find voluntary opportunities, ideas about particular activities and volunteering could have been conveyed through the whole book and matched to job areas. I am very pleased to see that reflection about one’s values and abilities – a crucial but sometimes ignored process in career management – is encouraged throughout the guide.
Information alone is not adequate for effective career development and career theory promotes the importance of taking action as a means for exploration. Within this book there are suggested ‘action points’ throughout each chapter. These are frequent and detailed and they include; suggesting websites to visit, encouraging the reader to consider their skills in relevance to the particular job discussed, promoting reflection on the information the book contains, and even suggested activities through social media.

Reflection is also encouraged throughout the text in manageable segments. They are highlighted and boxed throughout, and encourage consideration of a variety of important factors such as; values, abilities, work tasks and pragmatic questions. The reflective tasks are achievable and shouldn’t cause a post-16 student any difficulties. However, consultation with advisers, teachers, or mentors could have been promoted more, especially since the included testimonies from current students and professionals make such a meaningful contribution to the text.

Overall, this book is a fantastic resource for students, advisers and teachers. The authors have made a real effort to be inclusive of learners at different stages of their careers, from school leavers to mature and in-work entrants and students. The text is not only informative, but will encourage and inspire readers to take action and reflect on their development. They have considered the breadth of opportunities not just within the criminal justice sector but related opportunities in law, social work and security. The material is user-friendly, well presented and comprehensive making this an indispensable guide for anyone considering a career in the criminal justice sector.

Teri-Lisa Griffiths, Professional Development Lecturer, Sheffield Hallam University

Beth Weaver (2016). New York: Routledge. pp274 (hbk) £90. ISBN 978-1-138-79972-1

From the “International Series of Desistance and Rehabilitation” which has recently produced such excellent contributions to the literature on Desistance from crime as Deidre Healy’s (2010) “The Dynamics of Desistance: Charting Pathways through change” and Sam King’s (2012) “Desistance Transitions and the Impact of Probation” comes the eighth edition in the series from Beth Weaver who, arguably, is long overdue her own monograph. Offending and Desistance offers an innovative, and (until now) largely untold account of the influence of co-offending peer groups on both offending and desistance from crime. The book covers the life histories of 6 men who were part of a larger group called “the Del” who resided in the Scottish town of “Coaston”. Through a combination of Archer’s (2010) “morphogenic” approach and internal conversation and Donati’s (2011) “relational theory of reflexivity”, Weaver is able to examine the importance of social relations in either enabling or constraining desistance from crime.

The initial chapters of the book cover the somewhat obligatory content in any volume on desistance. A discussion of how desistance is defined, made arguably unavoidable since Laub and Sampson’s challenge that “some researchers do not define desistance but purport to study it” (2001: 8), and a discussion of theories of desistance make up the first substantive chapter of the text. The analysis however makes somewhat of a refreshing divergence from the standard trilogy of “ontogenic”, “sociogenic” and “narrative” paradigms. The author separates the literature into “individual and agentic theories”, “social and structural theories”, “interactionist theories” and “situational theories”. The real innovation of Weavers work however lies in the theoretical framework she adopts in her research.

Desistance research, until recently, has been caught up in a discussion of “structure” and “agency” in the desistance process, with interactionist theories suggesting that desistance might, in fact, best be achieved through an interaction of both. While this is useful in some respects it still represents a rather individualistic conception of desistance, with the individual agent becoming involved in social structures which may, or may not, have an impact upon their desistance transitions dependent upon the value attached to these structures. While there is a degree of utility here it has also caused somewhat of a stagnation in desistance research. The author argues that there remains a limited understanding of how social structures shape decisions “ignoring how the individual-in-relation perceives and responds to such influences” (pp.234). This is where the theoretical framework adopted for the research is particularly illuminating. By combining Archer’s (2010) morphogenic approach and her discussion of the internal conversation with Donati’s relational sociology generally and his discussion of relational reflexivity more specifically, Weaver is able to examine how desistance is co-produced by individuals “in relation” through the process of reflexivity and, in doing so, is able to obtain a deeper understanding of the nuances of the lived experiences of desistance than we have perhaps been able to previously. Through an analysis of the life stories of the 6 men from the Del, Weaver argues that “desistance is variously enabled or constrained by the interaction of the social relations of friendship, intimate relations, families of formation and employment as mediated through the lens of an individual’s personal priorities, values, aspirations and relational concerns” (pp.234).

The life histories provided to illustrate the importance of these interactions are particularly illuminating. Following the stories of Seth, Harry, Jed, Jay, Evan and Andy, through family formations (and break ups), relocation from Coaston, employment and training, discovering religion and their numerous interactions with the criminal justice system gives us a detailed understanding of the (typically messy) process of desistance from crime. These discussions also question pre-existing understandings of capital, agency, identity and reflexivity. For the sake of clarity, each case study is linked back to the theoretical framework used throughout the research which, although at times feels a little repetitive, is nonetheless important in order to understand the nuances of each offenders desistance process.

Without question this volume is of great importance in furthering our understanding of the lived experience of desistance. While there are times where the explanation of the theoretical framework requires several readings (which may perhaps be a little off putting for undergraduate students coming to desistance from crime afresh), the pay of for this is considerable. Weaver provides a discussion of desistance from crime which is both theoretically and methodologically innovative and must be commended for producing a volume which will become a key reading for anyone interested in the study of desistance from crime.

Christopher Kay, Lecturer in Criminology, Sheffield Hallam University

Archer, M. (2010) Routine, Reflexivity and Realism, Sociological Theory, 28(3): 272-303.
Donati, P. (2011) Relational Sociology: A New Paradigm for the Social Sciences, Abingdon: Routledge.
Laub, J. H. and Sampson, R. J. (2001) Understanding Desistance from Crime, Crime and Justice, 28:1-69.

Chakraborti, N. and Garland, J. (2014). Bristol: Policy Press. pp224 (hbk) £70. ISBN 978-1-44730-876-8

This edited collection is a much needed addition to the literature on the contentious notion of hate crime, which is essential reading an academic audience as well as policy makers and practitioners. A lot of previous work has concentrated on definitional issues and making a persuasive argument for analysing the characteristics and consequences of hate crime in terms which clearly differentiate it from other crime types. There has been some resistance to this view but, amongst other things, this book rebuts the claims of these sceptics. This volume is set apart from much of what has already been published by its key premise of considering hate crime not just as a matter for academic researchers but also a problem requiring creative and effective policy interventions. Indeed the main unique selling point of the book is its focus on the synergy between scholarship and policy, and its commitment to promoting the application of knowledge about hate crime to reduce offending and to ameliorate its impact on victims. Chakraborti and Garland have done a commendable job of bringing together academics, policy makers and activists and the outcome is an accomplished piece of work that identifies what needs to be done about hate crime.

The book consists of three sections. In the first part (‘Working together: developing shared perspectives’) the contributors examine the nature of the partnerships that bind together work undertaken in scholarly and policy domains, outlined in a thoughtful piece written by Hall. The other chapters refer to issues such as policing (Giannasi), the work of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation (Lancaster) and sex work (Campbell); the latter two being issues that are relatively marginal to current debates about hate crime. There is an honest account of the tensions that sometimes exist – arguably less so today than in the past – between university based researchers and those behind the making, and implementation, of policy, captured well by Giannasi. In this section a powerful argument is also made to recognise the importance of policy and law both nationally and internationally, the activism of communities and civil society and the work of academics (Perry).

The unifying theme of the second part (‘Researching key issues: emerging themes and challenges’) is ‘the relationship between hate crime research and hate crime policy’ (p6). Duggan explores collaborative work between agencies and the input of academic research to address prejudice and hate directed towards LGB&T communities. Chih Hoong Sin develops a novel framework to explore the ‘layers of influence’ in terms of the interaction between policy, research and practice in relation to disablist hate crime. Racist and religiously motivated hate crime are the focus of chapters by Zempi, Treadwell and Hardy respectively. Zempi examines Islamophobia and how researchers and those involved in the policy domain need to be more responsive to the needs of those who are the victims of this form of hate. Treadwell calls for a more nuanced understanding of police-led solutions to the threats posed by the EDL to community cohesion. Hardy’s notion of ‘everyday multiculturalism’ is utilised to show how individuals opposed to multiculturalism are likely to engage in hate crime that is underpinned by prejudicial attitudes and beliefs about race and faith. Michael turns her attention towards the student population suggesting this group is in need of more research due to their victimisation. The final chapter (Mason-Bish) in this part discusses gender, which (with exception of transgendered identities) is not an element of existing hate crime frameworks mainly because, so the argument goes, existing policy and legislation oriented towards violence against women is a sufficient response for this group. Mason-Bish does not claim that gender should be recognised as a strand of hate crime, but by drawing attention to gender she exposes some of the drawbacks of focusing too much on the identity group to which victims belong.

In the third part, which is entitled ‘Challenging prejudice: combating hate crime offending’ there is an exploration of how representatives of different agencies can work together. In Canada Perry and Dyck show how an educational intervention involving agencies, academics and activists can address the homophobic and transphobic crime faced by the LGBT population, particularly by increasing confidence and reporting levels amongst this group. Mason, McCulloch and Maher focus on policing in Victoria, Australia, showing how academic researchers can apply their knowledge to assist the police to respond more effectively to hate crime. James’ research on gypsies and travellers shows that by treating this group as a problem the police underestimate their victimisation, hence the need for research to inform police policy. Iganski and colleagues then consider work with offenders undertaken in the north west of England and suggest that non-punitive work is more likely to reduce offending – and prevent first time offending – than reliance on punishment. The final chapter, authored by Walters, evaluates the potential relevance of restorative justice for changing offenders without resulting in secondary victimisation for those impacted by hate crime. The limitations of restorative justice are acknowledged but a case for recognising the potential for transforming offenders through challenging their conduct is clearly articulated.

The book is a success on a number of levels yet its main strength is that it comes to terms with the complex relationship between research and policy at different levels in response to different problems in the field of hate crime. The authors of each chapter provide research informed analyses of how ideas and practice interact with reference to their more specific concerns. A major achievement of Responding to Hate Crime is that it overcomes some of the challenges posed by identity politics and the claims making of particular groups fighting for recognition (Jacobs and Potter, 1998) and the strategic advantages of being recognised as victim group (Hall, 2013). This is because the contributors share the common goal of working together to address the causes and consequences of prejudice whatever type of prejudice that might be.

Chris Crowther-Dowey, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Nottingham Trent University

Hall, N. (2013) Hate Crime (2nd edition). London: Routledge.
Jacobs, J. B. and Potter, K. (1998) Hate Crime: Criminal Law and Identity Politics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Brown, J., Miller, S., Northey, S. and O’Neill, D. B. (2014). Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. pp283 (pbk) £26.99. ISBN 978-1-137-30620-3

A therapeutic community within a prison may sound like a contradiction in terms. This book recounts in detail the purpose, process and outcome of a piece of longitudinal research examining the effects of such a community within Dovegate Prison. As all prison researchers know, there are always compromises to be struck within prison studies; the need for research integrity is invariably superseded by the exigencies of security and of ‘the system’. The authors of this study are impressively open about the accommodations they had to make, and perhaps unnecessarily apologetic about their inability to conduct a ‘gold standard’ randomised control trial. They set out early on a list of ‘controversies’ associated with the notion of a therapeutic community within a prison, including in their case the fact that the prison was privately-run and therefore liable to be primarily subject to a profit rather than a therapeutic motive. However, they assessed the goodwill of those involved to be genuine and proceeded accordingly.

The 12 chapters of the book follow the tenets of all good research reports, which is to say that they provide a foundation for the study with competent literature citation, set out the research aims and caveats, describe the comprehensive range of quantitative and qualitative research methods and respondents, explain how the resulting data are analysed, and present the findings with their implications for practice. The challenge of presenting research material in book form, however, is to make it accessible to the non-academic reader, and while the first three and last chapters succeed in doing this, the middle chapters contain some complex tables, diagrams and analyses which the busy professional is unlikely to have the time to absorb. Nevertheless, in fairness, the material also contains regular reference to the experiential responses of the prisoners and these, together with reconviction rates provide a credible flavour of the kinds of changes that have taken place in the men over a 2-year period.

The study drew for its evidence on 375 therapeutic community residents, though not all of these were involved in every data collection method. It is always possible to be critical of research methodology, but aside from noting, as the authors themselves do, that their comparison group of 57 mainstream prisoners from 2 other prisons was of necessity somewhat arbitrary, it would be churlish to do so in the light of such a concerted attempt to gain data from a wide range of sources and methods, comprising case records, leavers’ questionnaires, post-release interviews and case studies, focus groups, adjudications, reconviction rates, and psychometric tests. Like many others, they came up against the difficulty of measuring the less than distinct concept of personality disorder with less than reliable instruments; on the other hand, their mobilisation of attachment theory to measure, via a multiple card sorting procedure, the adaptations and transition experiences of their respondents within and beyond this unusual therapeutic/prison life existence, allowed for some expression of individual constructs over time. Given, though, that some of their respondents recounted for the first time experiences of abuse in childhood, a common feature of prison studies, it was perhaps surprising that no measure of post-traumatic stress disorder was employed.

So what does work in therapeutic prisons? In essence, the study found that 18 months was the optimum period to spend at Dovegate in order to achieve sustained change, with prisoner-residents becoming more open, confident, reflective and empathetic over time. Those with poor attachment styles, particularly sex offenders, tended to be unable to form the therapeutic alliances with their therapy group, needed to support them to make these changes. This was also true of those deemed to have severe personality disorder. Those who had committed non-sexual or other non-violent offences were more likely to stay longer and do better than their counterparts. These findings have clear implications for selection and residency length.

Perhaps of most interest to policy-makers are the quantitative findings: a marked decrease in adjudications one year after residency as compared with one year before; and a reconviction rate of 47.8%, usually within a year, as compared with other national samples ranging from 54 – 58%, and reflecting a 10% reduction following the therapeutic programme, which other prison treatment programmes have not on the whole provided.
In conclusion, this is a careful and honest account of a painstaking study over a 7-year period. In keeping with its sub-title, it does evaluate psychological change in Dovegate Therapeutic Community but is perhaps a little over-ambitious in generalising its main title to ‘What Works in Therapeutic Prisons’, when what it has really told the reader is what works in the particular environment that is the Dovegate Prison Therapeutic Community. At the end of the day, however, it is right to remember that the study represents many human stories, told through a range of data, which will variously inform the policy and practice of those seeking effectiveness and crime desistance through prison treatment programmes.

Gwyneth Boswell, Director Boswell Research Fellows and Visiting Professor, University of East Anglia