The resettlement of ex-prisoners

Authored by: Mike Maguire

Handbook of Probation

Print publication date:  May  2007
Online publication date:  May  2013

Print ISBN: 9781843921905
eBook ISBN: 9781843926184
Adobe ISBN: 9781134014910


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The Probation Service has a long tradition of working with offenders on their release from prison. This has ranged from offers of advice and support on a voluntary basis (including ‘welfare’ services such as help in finding accommodation) to the statutory supervision of prisoners granted early release, which includes the control function of ensuring that licence conditions are adhered to. At times, probation involvement with prisoners has been restricted mainly to post-release work, while at others probation officers have been encouraged to visit them in prison to build relationships and formulate release plans from an early point in their sentence. The related terminology has also changed over the years, reflecting shifts in policy and practice: thus the concept of ‘after-care’ has given way to ‘throughcare’ and more recently ‘resettlement’, while the term ‘offender management’ is now beginning to replace ‘casework’ or ‘supervision’ in official discourse. However, despite these variations, the basic problems and challenges surrounding release from custody have changed little. A high proportion of inmates enter prison with major social and personal problems (typically related to financial insecurity lack of education, unemployment, substance abuse, social isolation or mental health) which face them again when they leave. Imprisonment itself often adds new problems and dislocates their lives still further: they may lose a house, a job or a relationship, and plans to improve their situation may be frustrated by difficulties in communicating with the outside world. They will have been exposed throughout their sentence to the negative influences and criminal attitudes of the inmate culture. And even if they fully intend to ‘go straight’, many will face distrust or rejection from ordinary members of the community, potential employers or service-providing agencies.

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