Criminology, probation and stuff

Some musings on criminology with a focus on probation

Intensive Alternatives to Custody

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My attention was drawn, thanks to my TheyWorkforYou email alerts, to a pilot that is going on in the probation service which goes by the name of Intensive Alternatives to Custody. I haven’t been able to find anything about these on government websites but I did find an abstract from Peter Raynor’s paper at the European Society of Criminology conference which is well worth quoting at length:

In January 2008 the Ministry of Justice announced funding for a new wave of ‘Alternative to Custody’
projects as part of its strategy to control prison numbers. This revived a phrase which had been banished
from official criminal justice discourse in England and Wales since the 1991 Criminal Justice Act made
probation a punishment in its own right rather than an ‘alternative’ to anything. However, any celebration of
this belated comeback may be tempered by the proposed titles for the new projects: ‘Intensive Control
Sentence’ and ‘Intensive Punitive Sentence’. This paper reviews what can be learned from some earlier
initiatives for adult offenders from the 1970s to the early 1990s. Critical criminologists have argued that
‘Alternatives to Custody’ inevitably have the effect of making non-custodial sentences more severe and more
liable to breach rather than reducing the use of custody. This has often happened, but not always and not
inevitably. Some projects and approaches have been demonstrably more successful, although sometimes
only locally or only temporarily. Features of successful projects have included a strong rationale or narrative,
visible ‘champions’, close engagement with sentencers, a clear basis in identified needs of offenders and/or
communities, a positive relationship with offenders and a constructive and graduated use of enforcement
powers. There is little evidence that extreme intensity or punitiveness have in themselves been associated
with success.

A point very well put. Unfortunately I wasn’t at the conference but I assume that Raynor went on, at some point, to discuss the IMPACT project of the 1970s which was an attempt to spend more time on changing the ‘situation’ of an offender so that their situation was less criminogenic. Unfortunately, ‘the results of IMPACT showed no overall benefits of intensive situational treatment’. These pilots which are going on until 2011 sound to be of a similar nature to IMPACT but with the added element of punishment. I think I can guess what the outcome will be but, if I am proved wrong, then it will be very interesting to work out what made the difference. Will the punitive element be part of the solution? And if it is, what will that do for rehabilitation?


Written by criminologyandstuff

March 5, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Posted in criminal justice

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