This article takes an historical perspective, drawing on personal practice in the 1970s and 1980s, research and consultancy in the 1990s and 2000s, in exploring a long history of probation engagement with their local communities. That this history has never been fully embedded in every practitioner’s everyday practice, and indeed it could be said is no longer seen as axiomatic that probation should be so engaged, will be dissected and analysed. It will be suggested that recent practice focusing more on risk management and public protection has potentially alienated practitioners from the communities they serve. This article concludes with suggestions as to how probation practitioners can re-engage with their community, drawing on recent theoretical and policy developments in partnerships, community and restorative justice and theories of desistance.
A collaborative approach to developing probation practice: Skills for effective engagement, development and supervision (SEEDS)
This article reports our experience of developing a skills-based practice framework for effective engagement with offenders. The project began with extensive engagement with probation staff at every level. This was followed by collaborative pilots in 22 probation trusts on effective engagement by practitioners and reflective supervision by managers, using the best available international research and insights from research on desistance. The learning and feedback from these pilots was used to bring together the two complementary elements into a single evidence-based model. Feedback from managers and practitioners gathered in external evaluation of the pilots was very positive, with the vast majority seeing the approaches as having a positive impact on their practice and seeing it as important that the model continued to be used. Observation of practice and constructive feedback was particularly valued as was positive leadership and support by senior managers. The external evaluation of the pilots continues, and we are conducting an internal evaluation of the integrated model, which will look at practitioners’ and offenders’ experiences in three probation trusts over this year and next.
This article seeks to combine an autobiographical account of desistance with research and theory on the subject, to show how they are mutually illuminating, and of equal, complimentary relevance to criminal justice policymakers and practitioners with offenders.
Book Review: Working with Families of African Caribbean Origin: Understanding Issues around Immigration and Attachment
We live in a world of touch screen technology and computer images where it is commonplace to own a touch screen Smart phone or tablet. This article takes in to account the learning challenges faced by many offenders that can make ineffective the black and white diagrams and blocks of writing often used. It goes on to explain how an offender manager began to use a touch screen tablet to engage offenders and involve them in their sessions. The practitioner explains the impact of the use of colour and animated images on the offenders and how this enhanced their learning. He also describes how being able to personalize the diagrams and charts with their own relevant details greatly helped understanding. Finally, the article outlines the positive impact obtained together with survey results and suggests ways that others could develop the use of touch screen tablets in the same way.
Electronic monitoring and probation in Sweden and England and Wales: Comparative policy developments
The Swedish and the Anglo-Welsh electronic monitoring (EM) schemes are the oldest in Western Europe. England and Wales ran the first EM pilot scheme in 1989/90, but did not create a national scheme until 1999, which rapidly became, and remains, Europe’s largest. Sweden initiated pilots in 1994, which segued into a fully national scheme (Europe’s first) in 1996. Arguably the most striking difference between the two schemes is that from the outset England and Wales outsourced the delivery of EM to the private sector, whereas Sweden developed it from within their probation service, using a commercial organization only to provide technology. This article – a limited exercise in comparative criminal justice – will explore the developmental trajectories of EM policy in the two countries, in three phases, noting the political context in each and focusing on questions of ‘integrating’ EM with probation, both at the institutional level (structures of service delivery) and at the practical level (individual supervision). While there are inevitably difficulties in comparing such differently-sized countries (9.4m and 51m respectively, in 1994), and correspondingly different probation services, it is the relationship between ‘ideology’, ‘policy’ and ‘institutional structures’ (and the effect of the latter on practice) that is being kept to the fore here, in order to illustrate the point that similar ideological and political shifts in two countries may not necessarily reconfigure institutional arrangements in the same way, or at the same pace, or with the same outcomes. The article concludes with reflections on the near-inevitability of EM being used, in some shape or form, by all contemporary penal policy makers, because of its affinity with neoliberal political movements and the increasing ease with which it can be customized from ubiquitous information and communication technology infrastructures.