Every Napo member will know and appreciate Napo’s commitment to research, publication and the development of professional practice through the Probation Journal – a peer reviewed international Journal of the highest quality. Perhaps less well known is the ICCJ series of monographs which Napo has supported from their inception in 2002. These monographs give practitioners an opportunity to publish in a format between an article and a book and can be initiated specifically for publication in the ICCJ series or they can be based on research projects, MA/PhD theses, conference papers etc.
This monograph by Trevor Worsfield is the 10th in the ICCJ series and from the very first one published in 2002, we have encouraged work that critically reflects upon current issues in community and criminal justice. We therefore welcome Trevor’s contribution to the series because it locates the deployment and employment of ex -offenders within probation a time when for reasons of expediency and cost cutting, the real potential for such initiatives could be viewed as cynically expedient.
In the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation strategy, using ex-offenders as life coaches to support offenders was encouraged. The identification and support of individuals to fulfil this ambition in the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) poses challenges and benefits to ex-offenders, current service users and the organisations concerned. Indeed, UK studies suggest integrating voluntary sector mentors alongside statutory probation services has become problematic because of organisational predominant concerns with risk and enforcement and the recent HMI Probation report on Probation Supply Chains (April 2018) bears this out. The research on which this monograph is based, aimed to explore the experience of ex-offenders as they progressed within a probation workforce, from the perspectives of the individuals, their supervisors and professional staff.
Worsfold uses an exploratory case study approach drawing on documentary material and interviews with twelve ex-offenders across various functions within one probation trust – trained mentors, established volunteers and employed staff along with six of their supervisors. Two focus groups were conducted with professional staff about their experience of making referrals to and working alongside these ex-offenders. His assiduous attempt to relate the literature on desistance to the evidence of the research creates an excellent bridge between conceptual thinking about rehabilitation what seems to work within a bureaucratic organisation, certainly one that has a significant track record of ex-offender deployment in process of statutory supervision. There is much in the research that supports both the utility and the fairness in giving ex-offenders the chance to see themselves differently and to inspire those under supervision to believe that change was possible. Their inclusion in the probation workforce had impacted positively on the organisation’s culture, narrowing the distance between staff and service users. Involving former service users in this way contributed positively to their own and the organisation’s development. Finally, Worsfold outlines the risks and opportunities of employing ex-offenders with the new probation landscape.
Historically, probation has a decent track record in encompassing anti-discrimination and diversity within its approach to the supervision of those caught up within the criminal justice system – this monograph poses the question in relation to the commitment of probation to extend its welcome to ex-offenders within its ranks.