Weaver, B. and McNeill, F. (2010) 'Travelling hopefully: Desistance Research and Probation Practice'. In: J. Brayford, F. Cowe and J. Deering (eds) What Else Works?: Creative Work with Offenders. Cullompton: Willan; 36 - 60.
This book has developed out of a growing awareness amongst practitioners that centralized notions of what works and ‘one size fits all’ approaches to work with offenders and other groups is inevitably limited in its scope and effectiveness. This realisation reopens the door on ‘what works, with whom and in what circumstances’, i.e. the idea that successful intervention can come from a number of different approaches, linked to individual difference.
The book as a whole argues that it may be unhelpful to continually think of probation service users as ‘offenders’ and socially excluded people as ‘problems’ to be managed and treated and seeks to consider more creative alternatives to reduce both re-offending and social exclusion, for example in working separately with women, black and minority ethnic groups, local community-focussed projects, in education and nature and conservation programmes.
The reader is encouraged to think about past and current policy, practice and the relationship between practitioners and offenders or other socially excluded people. Questions are raised as to whether, and how, practice could be different and contributors explore the theme of creative and change-focussed practice or focus on a particular approach to a practice.
Creative work with offenders has a long history, but this has been marginalised by centralist tendencies in probation practice and research for over a decade. However, increasingly, such top down approaches are being seen to be ineffective and inflexible. This book offers an opportunity to both re-examine practices that have become obscured and to explore current examples and opportunities for such creative work with a range of service user groups.
This book is aimed at probation, criminal justice and social care staff, academics, students and policy makers. It fits with the Editors’ wider vision of bringing together theory, policy and practice in an iterative, critically constructive relationship. It will appeal to students on criminal justice, criminology and social work courses, professionals operating in these fields as well as the wider audience of professionals and academics who may engage with these ‘service users’ from a range of policy and practice perspectives. It will be of relevance to those involved in social inclusion and supported housing.
Weaver and McNeill’s contribution specifically will explore the impact of desistance theory and research on probation practice to date. It begins by reviewing the impact of desistance scholarship on probation to date, briefly explaining why desistance scholarship has played a part in refocusing attention on two neglected aspects of probation work; the centrality of the worker-probationer relationship and the significance of the social contexts of offending and desistance. However, the chapter also seeks to move beyond these insights by exploring potential dialogues between desistance research and probation practice around issues of identity, diversity and religiosity.