The latest Academic Insight published by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation last Friday (27 January 2023) focuses on effective resettlement practice. Dr Matt Cracknell of Middlesex University reviews the evidence base on how best to support people as they leave prison and transition back into the community. He sets out six key principles for effective resettlement practice, highlighting the importance of working co-productively as early as possible, maintaining relationships and providing continuity of support, recognising intersectionality, accessing a wide network of community resources, and balancing monitoring and risk management with genuine rehabilitative and reintegrative support.
Early identification of needs and through-the-gate support
The first key principle of effective resettlement practice is to ensure early identification of the needs of an individual. Resettlement needs should be identified through a sentence planning process that is initiated from the start of the sentence, when a person first enters custody. This approach should ensure issues are worked on pre-release and a realistic plan is set-up for release into the community.
Disappointingly, this through-the-gate model which was finally being properly implemented in the final years of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme has been disrupted by the new model accompanying the reunification of the probation service and the chronic understaffing problems as last week’s serious further offence review into the murder committed by Jordan McSweeney revealed.
Co-produced plans, not solely focused on risk
The second key principle involves ensuring any resettlement plans are collaboratively produced and not solely focused on risk management. There is a growing appreciation of the way in which risk management has started to dominate probation practice to the detriment of work facilitating desistance.
Continuity of support and relational supervision
The third principle also presents a challenge to current probation practice, placing emphasis on the development of a trusting relationship between probation officer and the person supervised without frequent changes of offender manager.
Bonding and bridging to social capital
The fourth key principle involves supporting people to access appropriate welfare, treatment and community resources. The role of the offender manager as a ‘community connector’, linking individuals to community support networks, is discussed in a previous Academic Insight by Dr David Best. Dr Cracknell argues that the promotion of social capital and practical support should be combined alongside therapeutic and motivational work, particularly as providing practical support alone is often not sufficient in reintegrating individuals back into society, with practical help needing to be reinforced by addressing thinking and behaviour.
Responsive to the needs of different groups
The fifth key principle involves the practitioner being cognizant of intersectionality and its impacts upon the resettlement process. In particular, it is important to recognise that specific groups and communities in society face additional barriers in their reintegration. The different resettlement needs of women are well known as is the impact of racism and discrimination on the resettlement of people from minoritised communities.
Strengths-based and restorative approaches
The sixth and final key principle of effective resettlement practice involves utilising a strengths-based approach. In practice, this approach means not solely focusing on helping or monitoring an individual, but treating the person as an individual with talents and abilities who can make a positive contribution to society.
This principle recognises the key role that communities play in reintegration.
The six principles of effective resettlement practice can only be implemented by practitioners who fulfil three key attributes outlined by Dr Cracknell; that they
- can demonstrate commitment and genuine care
- have knowledge of and access to a network of community resources
- have the skills and confidence to balance monitoring and risk management with genuine rehabilitative and reintegrative support.
Of course, a high quality resettlement service can only be delivered by practitioners who are given the time and resources to work effectively with the individuals on their caseloads.
Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the header image in this post. You can see Andy’s work here