The British Journal of Community Justice
The latest edition of the British Journal of Community Justice is a special issue dedicated to Transforming Rehabilitation. It is more than double its normal length and has been made available for free online. You can also order the print edition for just £5 (+£2 p&p).
Starting with a robust editorial from Professor Paul Senior (@yorkhull on Twitter): “Probation: Peering through the uncertainty” there are 23 articles covering all aspects of the planned probation changes with the issue being rounded up with four “Letters to Grayling.”
Contributors are a very healthy mix of service users, probation practitioners past and present, academics, researchers etc. The editors did not set any criteria when they invited contributions but five key themes emerged:
- Overview of TR
- Measuring outcomes – including payment by resuslts
- Occupational cultures
- Women, Race and TR
- Practitioner views
I’m not going to attempt to summarise the contents here but heartily recommend you take this unusual opportunity to read such a wide range of well-argued views on TR. It is, of course, invidious to pick out one contribution but I’m going to do so anyway, just to give you a flavour of the quality on show here.
TR: Evidence, Values and Ideology
This is the title of the contribution from Professor Fergus McNeill (@fergus_mcneill on Twitter) who makes some distinctive points about the TR plans. I found him particularly interesting about risk. In particular, the assumption currently made by NOMS and at the heart of Transforming Rehabilitation that:
“people who represent a low or medium risk of harm (but who often represent a high risk of reoffending) don’t need skilled and intensive support – that their supervision can be safely delegated to less experienced, less skilled and less qualified supervisors or supporters.”
Professor McNeill agrees that desistance research suggests that peer mentors may be a key form of support but that skilled workers are key to helping persistent offenders (irrespective of their risk of harm level) give up crime for the straightforward reason that most persistent offenders have complex personal and social problems that take considerable time and skill to address.
He also raises another key concern that the new arrangements may obstruct new research and the sharing of best practice as new providers seek to keep innovations to themselves to try to preserve market share and win new business. This is commonly known as the “black box” issue where providers who are paid on a payment by results basis are free to work in any way they see fit and are not required to provide information about their approach. This is a hot topic in the Work Programme contracts and I have also argued the general principle that all providers should be required to share best practice in the public interest.
Professor McNeill concludes by putting an ideological case against creating a justice market, arguing that rehabilitation is a civic duty:
“My view is that rehabilitation is best thought of as being everyone’s concern and no-one’s business. Transforming Rehabilitation risks turning it into some people’s business and no-one’s concern”
There is plenty more food for thought in the 232 pages of this special edition of the BJCJ. Please share which articles you found most thought-provoking via the comments section below.