In an earlier Clinks blog (July 2013) about ‘Rehabilitation: What does ‘good’ look like?’ I asked a whole bunch of questions about what would constitute ‘good’ rehabilitation within the coalition Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms. I’m pleased to say that, thanks to contributions from Clinks’ Policy Team and others, a full Clinks discussion paper on this subject has now been published.
The paper aims to stimulate fresh debate as implementation of the reforms moves forward. It calls for a new discourse and a new vision to be developed around what ‘good’ looks like in the rehabilitation of offenders, whether in prison or in the community. Such a discourse is urgently needed to balance the current over-riding focus on contractual detail and the payment mechanism, which – important as they undoubtedly are to commissioners and providers – could easily end up driving rather than serving the reforms (the TR tail wagging the rehabilitation dog).
We need a vision of what ‘good’ rehabilitation looks like, to underpin not only innovative, evidenced-based service development but also quality-based commissioning and the procurement of packages of rehabilitation services most likely to support desistance. And here we are talking not only about primary desistance (any lull or gap in offending) but also about secondary desistance (the complete cessation of offending, accompanied by the development of an altered identity as a non-offender, and the person’s full reintegration into the family, community and society). (Download research pdf)
Individual desistance is increasingly understood to depend not only on personal rehabilitation, but also on wider social, judicial and moral rehabilitation. (Source) From this perspective ‘good’ rehabilitation is a social process as much as a personal one, requiring much broader social, community-level and political commitment to the re-integration of ex-offenders than can be achieved through prison and probation systems alone. The focus of the TR payment mechanism on short-term primary desistance, and the shift to nationally commissioned resettlement and punishment/rehabilitation services, therefore risks disconnecting rehabilitation services and service users themselves from the communities and wider local systems that have the potential to support secondary desistance and bring about long term, positive change.
NOMS’ newly published companion document to its Commissioning Intentions from 2014, Evidence and Segmentation, certainly breathes some fresh air on these issues in terms of evidence-based rehabilitation practice, and is well worth reading before you turn to the questions in Clinks’ paper.
Please do help to stimulate discussion by participating in this important debate. As a VCSE organisation (or indeed any other agency) working with offenders, what do you think ‘good’ looks like in rehabilitation, and what is the distinctive role that VCSE organisations can play in articulating and delivering that vision? You can either leave your comments here or see the end of Clinks’ paper for further details on how to contribute your ideas. We really do need your thoughts and views on this.