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Probation and Prison Services seem to have forgotten of late - that the line between facilitative co-ordination and punitive centralism is very fine.

It’s the workers in a Project who should decide what is going to count as a ‘success’ – it cannot be imposed from outside. And the Project has to be alive. A Project could fulfil all its paper targets and yet not be doing anything relevant for its clients or what it was set up to do. (A.22)

The whole system is so centralised. They should see each Project in its own terms. (A.12)

  • Managerialism and Pseudo-Science

One of the biggest problems is too much red tape. (A.17)

During the last two decades, prisons in the UK have been imbued with the New Public Management ethic with its emphasis on risk management via the strategies of actuarial prediction, surveillance and avoidance (or redefinition) of harm potential; and the figurative calling to account (according to pre-specified criteria such as Key Performance Indicators or Standards) of those employed to actualise specific facets of public policy (see Power 1997). If the new strategies for the resettlement of offenders are to be implemented effectively, this managerialism and its pseudo science of ‘evidence-based’ policy-making should most probably be cut back. First, because it is usually impossible to measure the impact on society of specific social policies for three main reasons: the problem of multiple objectives; the difficulties of specifying and understanding the relationships between intermediate outputs and output measures; and the inevitable time lag between input and impact, especially in programmes 'where the benefits only become fully apparent over decades' (Carter et al. 1992). Attempts to measure the outputs of many rehabilitation projects for women fall foul of all three strictures, while paper and other routine organizational outputs often reveal little about either the quality, or the relative importance, of the audited activities in reducing recidivism in the future or of improving the general quality of life of project participants and their children in the present. Yet what this pseudo scientism results in at the level of non-custodial projects is that projects too often get stopped before they get under way, well before they can be properly assessed and this is not because they don’t ‘work’ (whatever that means) but because ministers or civil servants almost always want proof positive of ‘what works’

within a totally unrealistic time scale. We need to allow at least two years from date of release, and therefore any evaluation scheme has to be in place for at least three years. But politicians want answers before then. (A.21)

There must be a realistic timescale, and that timescale must allow for all the pre-work and ancillary work which has to be co-ordinated. If someone has multiple problems, it’s often difficult to know where to start, you have to allow for false starts and stopping to see to other issues that arise. You’re dealing with people, not machines, and often very complex and damaged people too. (A.16)

There’s too much emphasis on the quick fix. There is little recognition that change takes time when women have very complex problems. (A.22)

There needs to be more qualitative research around than quantitative. Everything we do is ‘evidence based’ – we spend the time filling the stats in. But it’s not about quality, it’s about how many and how much. It’s not about the difference you make. You need to talk to the women more. See how they experience it. (A.2.)

It’s a tall order to ask persistent offenders to stop. But to look at changes in the type of offending, to look for qualitative change, to see a reduction, that’s a success. (A.3)


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