Criminology, probation and stuff

Some musings on criminology with a focus on probation

Posts Tagged ‘recession

Kansas probation vs the National Probation Service

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It is fairly unbelievable to read that the state of Kansas is closing prisons, encouraging the use of probation and not recalling people if they breach their parole/probation as reported here: To save money on prisons, states take a softer stance. The argument is that because of the recession the state is trying to save money by not using prison quite so much.

This is even more incredible when one considers that the Republican House Speaker admits that the state is of the ‘hang-em-high’ kind and that the very same house speaker has previsouly campaigned on increasing the length and use of prison sentences across the board. Not only is the state using prison less but probation has been become more welfare focussed:

Over the past year, Grevas has transformed the enforcement-oriented operation, heavily focused on the surveillance of offenders, into a service broker. Probation officers now help offenders find work, health care, housing, counseling, transportation and child care.

Isn’t it amazing what a recession can do!

Interestingly, however, I decided to look up the prison population for Kansas- I think this document is the right place to look. It seems that the prison population was decreasing anyway- before the recession hit fully and before the bill was passed in the state parliament to increase the use of probation service (page 22). I’m not really sure what that means but it seems to add an extra dimension.

The government in England and Wales has been trying to reduce the prison population for some time with the introduction of early release, the bail accommodation and support service and more use of HDCs. But they don’t seem to be doing too well- the prison population is still rising and there are no signs that it’s going to stop soon.

However, the UK government is also cutting funding to front line probation services. This, in my view, will lead to more people being on probation or licence or being subject to a SSO but with less probation officers available to work with them. The only option, surely, will be for probation officers to become more like a surveillance organisation in order to cope.

So, the penal system and probation service in Kansas undergoes a philosophical change towards welfarism and the England and Wales will inevitably have to go the other way. And all because of the recession. It will be interesting to see which state has made the right choice.

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Written by criminologyandstuff

March 18, 2009 at 11:24 am

Probation cuts ‘to let crime soar’ – mirror.co.uk

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Although I think the Mirror is slightly sensationalist in this article, I do think they have a point- there are theories about crime rising in recessions although the evidence is certainly not clear. Currie has argued that a market society, in which ‘the pursuit of private gain increasingly becomes the organizing principle for all areas of social life’ (Currie 2002, 369) has strong links with increasing crime rates. He identifies 5 ways that market societies and crime are linked- most of these are related to increased inequality and the need to gain more individual wealth. Assuming that inequality will increase in a recession and that people will want to achieve the standing of living they had got used to pre-recession, we can presume that, maybe, crime will rise in a recession.

Whether cuts in the probation service will exacerbate that situation is what I am questioning. I would guess that most people who turn to crime do so because they no longer have the social status (based on wealth) or the standard of living they were used to and probably normalise it by saying ‘well, I worked hard and was rich but now there is a recession, which isn’t my fault, I have less money so I deserve to be allowed to commit crime to maintain my economic situation’. They already know crime is ‘wrong’ and probably have the thinking skills to desist when they need to i.e. when they have (re)achieved their desired financial situation. I wonder if probation actually has any effect on them at all. It may help them to retrain to find a new job in a different economy but the ‘What Works’ movement has only been tested in an economy which has been thriving. The CBT techniques have not been tested on people who have had to ‘resort’ to crime for the purpose of maintaining economic standings. It will be interesting to see whether these people pose any different problems to ‘standard’ probation clients and whether the techniques which have been honed for people who have not thrived in a boom will work with people who thrived in a boom but declined in a recession.

One other thing from this article concerns me.

“Public protection is the Probation Service’s main priority. It will not be put at risk.”

Does this mean the probation service will be forced to focus even more on public protection and be pressured to leave rehabilitation behind to an even greater extent? Although public protection can be a by-product of rehabilitation, it’s not working like this at the moment- the focus is on electronic tags, regular reporting (but not supervision), and the threat of sanctions to control offenders lives rather than working with them to help them overcome their problems in order to eventually lead a crime free life. This, in turn, will lead to an even greater and more sustainable reduction in the crime rate, protecting the public more effectively.

Refs:

Currie, Elliott. 2002. ‘Social Crime Prevention Strategies in a market society’ in McLaughlin, Eugene, John Muncie, and Gordon Hughes Criminological Perspectives: Essential Readings. London: Sage Publications Ltd.  pp. 369-381.

Written by criminologyandstuff

February 3, 2009 at 10:26 am