Probation: Working with Offenders

Probation: Working with Offenders

Probation: Working with Offenders

Probation: Working with Offenders


This book provides a comprehensive and accessible introduction to the work of the probation service. It brings together themes of policy, theory and practice to help students and practitioners to better understand the work of probation, its limitations as well as potential, but above all its value.

Setting probation in the context of the criminal justice system, the book explores its history, purposes and contemporary significance. It explains what probation is, discusses emerging ideas around offender management, and the value of an approach that centres on the idea of desistance. It considers the practice realities of working with offenders in the community. The book also covers the governance of probation and how policy and practice are responding to contemporary concerns about crime and community safety - for example through the management of risk. Although the main focus is on England and Wales, there is some discussion of other UK jurisdictions and of contemporary trends in European probation practices.

This book will encourage readers to appreciate the practical and theoretical strengths and shortcomings of contemporary probation practice. Information and discussion are presented clearly, with guidance about further study and pointers towards more specialized readings.

Probation: Working with Offenders will be essential reading for trainee probation officers and students of probation and offender management.


Probation in England and Wales celebrated a centenary in 2007. the Bishop of Worcester spoke in Westminster Abbey of a ‘weight of glory down this hundred years’ and ‘a number beyond our counting whose lives have been changed by this great work’ (Selby 2007). in his annual report for 2007–2008 (National Probation Service 2008a), the Director of the National Probation Service spoke of solid achievements in a challenging year (2008), demonstrating that many of the targets set for the service had been met or exceeded. English probation is respected internationally and seen by many countries as model to emulate.

Yet probation has been going through a turbulent time and, in a House of Lords Debate on 21 January 2010, many wise observers expressed deep concerns about develoo a National Offender Management Service, described as a ‘monster bureaucracy’ by Lord Ramsbotham who went on to say that probation had been ‘virtually destroyed’ in the process (Guardian 2010).

The very term probation had been becoming rare in the English criminal justice lexicon. Probation officers are now more commonly known as offender managers and there is no penalty now available to the court which includes the word probation. On the other hand, Probation Trusts have now been established across the country and are involved in the supervision of very large numbers of offenders. the government has announced a ‘rehabilitation revolution’ (Ministry of Justice 2010a) and in some interpretations of this ambition, probation’s role, as both a provider and commissioner of services, will be crucial.

How are we to understand these developments and their importance? This book attempts to explain probation’s policies and practices. As well as describing the work, the book critically explores influences on policy and the theoretical basis that informs practice. It discusses how policies work out in practice – not always, perhaps, in the manner expected by those who make these policies. After all, what an agency aspires to do and announces in its policies always bears an uncertain relationship to what it really does: the realities of the job to be done and the need to do it in a principled and ethical manner inevitably influence practitioners’ interpretation and implementation of policy.

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