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1 Probation, Desistance and Practice Virtues Dr Fergus McNeill Professor of Criminology & Social Work Universities of Glasgow

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Presentation on theme: "1 Probation, Desistance and Practice Virtues Dr Fergus McNeill Professor of Criminology & Social Work Universities of Glasgow"— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Probation, Desistance and Practice Virtues Dr Fergus McNeill Professor of Criminology & Social Work Universities of Glasgow

2 Supervising offenders in times of insecurity Protection, blame, risk and insecurity The paradox of protection and the risks of risk Protect ‘us’ from ‘them’ Short-term (but secure?) incapacitation or control Long-term (but insecure) change processes The temptation towards public protection and incapacitation Denying rights, denying change possibilities/opportunities, denying redemption ‘Immobilising’ offending identities

3 Change is hard Not just because of the repeated and reinforced social exclusion... Also the pains of the change process itself... ‘…I am finding out a great deal about myself. I am making new relationships and living in a world totally unknown to me. I love it yet there are times when I hate it. I am torn between two worlds – alienated from the old one and a stranger in this new one’ (Jimmy Boyle (1985), The Pain of Confinement: Prison Diaries, London: Pan Books, p80.) ‘To the extent that felons belong to a distinct class or status group, the problems of desistance from crime can be interpreted as problems of mobility – moving felons from a stigmatized status as outsiders to full democratic participation as stakeholders’ (Uggen et al., 2006, p283)... The pains and dangers of social immobility

4 Some key lessons about desistance A complex process, not an event, characterised by mixed feelings and zig-zagging About re-biography (at the time or later) ; changing identities (narratives); more than learning new cognitive skills Provoked by life events, depending on the meaning of those events for the offender; subjective and individualised; sensitive to difference/diversity Encouraged or sustained by someone ‘believing in’ the offender (or prevented by someone giving up on the offender?)... Hope An active process in which agency is discovered and exercised Requires social capital (opportunities) as well as human capital (capacities/skills) Certified through ‘redemption’ or restoration; finding purpose in generative activities [constructive reparation ]

5 The process of desistance? Giordano et al (2002) 1. General cognitive openness to change 2. Exposure and reaction to ‘hooks for change’ 3. Availability of an appealing conventional self 4. Transformation in attitudes to deviant behaviour Successful social integration Long term committed compliance: Good lives and good citizens

6 Making a necessity of virtue (McNeill, 2006) Professional ethics: 3 approaches –Principles, codes or virtues…. Practice virtues implied in the research on assisted desistance... –optimism, hopefulness –patience, persistence –fairness, respectfulness –trustworthiness, loyalty –wisdom, compassion –flexibility and sensitivity (to difference)

7 Broader ethical issues Change, consent or coercion Duties and rights to ‘make good’ for both offenders and society Probation staff as moral mediators –Between the state, the community, victims and offenders An end (or limit) to punishment and some constraints on risk-based decision-making Redemption and rights-based rehabilitation

8 Compliance and legitimacy (McNeill and Robinson, forthcoming) Compliance mechanisms [motivational postures] –Defiance (resistance, disengagement, game-playing) versus deference (capitulation, commitment) Normative compliance [commitment] –Attachment, legitimacy, beliefs Legitimacy as a resource for supervision –Hard to capture/gather; easy to lose/spill –Impossible to recover? Tensions between legitimacy with probationers and with the wider public

9 Finding legitimacy (McNeill, 2009) Serving the best interests of the probationer: –Simon: I don't have any doubt the man was trying to help me, guide me, support me – maybe prevent me going to prison, I don't [know] if at the end he could have recommended prison, he maybe, you know – trying to achieve, trying to help me, trying to guide me, trying to support me, trying to advise me, everything… (Simon, p13). –Andrew: I think he was genuinely concerned about me. I think he took his job seriously and I think that the options he had, I mean it's not like today's options where they can do all sorts of things with you... But I think he genuinely liked me even though the big vagabond that I was (Andrew, p7-8). Being liked, being cared for, being seen not just as who you are but as who you might become (hope/potential)

10 Losing legitimacy (McNeill, 2009) The pains of enforcement – and its longer term consequences Matthew: Rejection and abandonment –Matthew: … Basically he put in the report that I never – I think I had to be taught a lesson and to this day I still disagree with that because I got remanded in custody to get taught a lesson. To me, what's all that about? You're supposed to get remanded in custody for reports or for – i.e. "Lock him up" and that was the story of my life, right through that "Lock him up"…. Peter: The injustice of enforcement –I said "I've no done fuck all!" He said "I don't know but we've to come for you" he said "you go in front of the sheriff at 2 o'clock today"…. So I went in front of him, oh, and I said "Look – " and I said – “He doesn't agree with some people and I'm one of them”, I said "I've no done any harm, I've not – I'll need to have a chance of a job". He said "You can get a job in three months", he said, and three months he gave me. That really fucking burst me – do you know what I mean?... Because it was something for nothing, that was as far as I was concerned, you know. I was really upset about it, I really was flaming after it.

11 Professionalism, quality and moral performance NOMS’s ‘Offender Engagement Programme’ Sheffield research on the meanings of ‘quality’ in supervision –Inspection, quality assurance, accreditation, evidence- based practice –Practitioner and probationer views –Quality and effectiveness (utilitarian quality) –Quality and conformity to principles (deontological quality) –Quality and staff qualities and skills (virtue-based quality)

12 Phronesis (Practical wisdom) ‘Whereas young people become accomplished in geometry and mathematics, and wise within these limits, prudent young people do not seem to be found. The reason is that prudence [phronesis] is concerned with particulars as well as universals, and particulars become known from experience, but a young person lacks experience, since some length of time is needed to produce it’ (Nichomachean Ethics 1142 a). –It is not just the general principles but the ability to apply them in particular and challenging situations that is required… and it takes time to learn how to do that (cf. maturation).

13 Conclusions The impact of sanctions or the imprint of people? –Being and becoming ‘good’ requires experiencing ‘good’ –Models for ‘replacement selves’? –Penal values and penal vision: the imprint of compassion? –Normative compliance as a long term project linked to interactions between attachment, legitimacy and (ultimately) norm acceptance –Moral performance matters (Liebling, 2004) Is it right because it works, or does it work because it’s right? –Do we need instrumental reasons to do the right thing? Sadly, yes. –But cf. Aristotle, the good man, and the good for man

14 References Bottoms, A. (2001) ‘Compliance with community penalties’, in A. Bottoms, L. Gelsthorpe and S. Rex (eds) Community Penalties: Change and Challenges. Cullompton: Willan. Digard, L. (2010) ‘When legitimacy is denied: Sex offenders’ perceptions and experiences of prison recall’. Probation Journal, 57, 1, 1-19. Liebling, A. (2004) Prisons and their Moral Performance, Oxford: Clarendon Press. McNeill, F. (2006) ‘A desistance paradigm for offender management’ Criminology and Criminal Justice 6(1): 39-62. McNeill, F. (2009) ‘Helping, Holding, Hurting: Recalling and reforming punishment’, the 6th annual Apex Lecture, at the Signet Library, Parliament Square, Edinburgh, 8th September 2009. McNeill, F. and Robinson, G. (forthcoming) ‘Liquid Legitimacy and Community Sanctions’ in Crawford, A. and Hucklesby, A. (eds.) Legitimacy and Criminal Justice. Cullompton: Willan. Robinson, G. & McNeill, F. (2008) ‘Exploring the dynamics of compliance with community penalties’, Theoretical Criminology, 12, 4: 431-449.

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