Prisoner Resettlement: Policy and Practice

Article excerpt

PRISONER RESETTLEMENT: POLICY AND PRACTICE Ed. Anthea Hucklesby and Lystra Hagley-Dickson Cullompton Willan (2007) pp. 306, ISBN 978184392-253-7

This edited collection features distinguished practitioners, academics and researchers in the field of prisoner resettlement. The book is divided into three logical sections; theory, policy and research, issues of resettlement practice, the resettlement of specific groups of prisoners. As a result the book is suitable to a wide authence such students, academics, researchers, practitioners and policy makers. Each contribution offers something different yet all alert the reader to the problems of prisoner resettlement and the gaps in our knowledge about this area. As a consequence the book ends by looking at the evidence that already exists and makes important recommendations about how resettlement could be more meaningful and effective for all stakeholders.

In the first section Hedderman rightly points out that there are many problems and limitations with the practice and processes of resettlement. In particular support for prisoners is poor. Life after prison as Raynor in the following chapter indicates that leaving prison should not necessarily mean criminal justice agencies are wholly responsible for the 'care' of ex-offenders. Instead movement towards welfare care for resettlement might offer more logical and effective support. Hedderman and Raynor both discuss the role of theory in relation to understanding resettlement and identify difficulties in understanding this term, its uses, relevance and impact. Raynor sees that social capital might be an objective of resettlement, whereby ex-offenders are able to make productive and meaningful bonds and bridges within community (p38). Furthermore models of resettlement are described by Hucklesby and Wincup 'very much an ideal' (p44) and pressures to ensure 'success' bring about 'quantity not quality' (p49). The prison routine adds further barriers for agencies to work with prisoners meaning that time and resources remain limited or considered impractical for doing meaningful work with respect to resettlement. Hucklesby and Wincup also describe the different models and approaches to resettlement and often initiatives to assist prisoners making positive changes in their lives are not fully focused on the aims and objectives described by the initiatives. The authors describe these models well and alert the reader to the dilemmas and contradictions of such models.

One of the most insightful chapters Researching and evaluating resettlement by Wincup and Hucklesby discusses the process of researching resettlement. Their chapter poses a number of significant issues relating to research in this area and offers practical advice on both doing research in this area and for those considering commissioning research. In addition research for these contributors is perhaps a misleading term. Often initiatives have to incorporate evaluation (and not research) of their performance in order to achieve funding and are therefore driven to describe what needs to be measured rather than what should be measured. In particular the need for initiatives to demonstrate reductions in offending are as the authors describe is misleading and difficult to capture especially in the time constraints of an evaluation and the kinds of sample that emerges. The authors offer practical advice to doing research in prisons and in the community and ways in which data could be analysed. Probably the most significant lesson from this chapter is the authors' attention to the pitfalls that result in doing evaluations in this area and the political implications of presenting outcomes and outputs to a wider authence. …