Understanding Community Penalties: Probation, Policy, and Social Change

Understanding Community Penalties: Probation, Policy, and Social Change

Understanding Community Penalties: Probation, Policy, and Social Change

Understanding Community Penalties: Probation, Policy, and Social Change

Synopsis

"should be required reading for any practitioner who hasn't yet acquainted themselves with the essential points of probation research. The analysis of OASys and its history is particularly timely." VISTA What are community sentences for? How has the theory and practice of community supervision developed? What kind of impact has research evidence had on policy and practice? Can community sentencing help offenders and protect the public at the same time? Understanding Community Penalties provides a concise and critical understanding of community sentences in relation to policy, practice and research. Coverage of these three contexts is a distinguishing feature of the book, which takes a comprehensive approach informed by the authors' long involvement in this field. It begins by examining the role and function of community sentences, and how they challenge the framework of thinking about punishment in the criminal justice system. The book then traces the historical development of the theory and practice of community supervision, and shows what impact the first wave of research into its effectiveness has had on policy and practice. In the context of the penal crisis in recent years and the construction of crime as a political issue, a critical assessment is made by the authors of the achievements of, and problems facing, community sentencing, and they address the questions facing sentencers, politicians, policy makers and practitioners. In particular, they consider whether current organizational structures and divisions are appropriate for the purposes of punishing and helping in the community those who offend. In all, this authoritative text will be essential reading for students of criminology and criminal justice, and an invaluable reference for researchers and practitioners in the criminal justice system.

Excerpt

This book by Peter Raynor and Maurice Vanstone is the latest contribution to the Open University Press Crime and Justice series, which provides relatively short but challenging textbooks on important areas of debate within the fields of criminology, criminal justice and penology. All the books are written by experienced lecturers and researchers, and the aim is to give undergraduates and graduates both a solid grounding in the relevant area and a taste to explore it further. Although aimed primarily at students new to the field, and written as far as possible in plain language, the books are not oversimplified. On the contrary, the authors set out to ‘stretch’ readers and to encourage them to approach criminological knowledge and theory in a critical and questioning frame of mind.

The focus in this volume is on ‘community penalties’. This covers broadly those sentences of the court which involve some form of supervision or intervention by the probation service, and much of the text focuses on the work of this key criminal justice agency. Both authors are not only distinguished academic writers, but were formerly probation officers. Their work consequently offers an effective combination of theory and practice. It is also right up to date in terms of developments in the field.

Raynor and Vanstone provide important insights into the changing face of probation as penological thinking and how the politics of criminal justice have shifted over time. They show how, in evolving from a voluntary supplier of charity to ex-prisoners into a major professional organization, the probation service in England and Wales – as in many other countries – has undergone many ‘makeovers’ and has made a wide variety of claims about its core role and the special expertise of its officers. These include ‘advising, assisting and befriending’ offenders, providing ‘treatment’ or ‘rehabilitation’ and, currently, assessing and managing risk, delivering ‘community punishment’ and running carefully designed Offending behaviour programmes’. At other times, especially during the 1980s, it has seen its role primarily as one of ‘limiting damage’, through advocating ‘radical non-intervention’, or . . .

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