Book review: Exploring modern probation. Social theory and organisational complexity. By Philip Whitehead (The Policy Press: Bristol, 2010, 186pp. £23.99)

  • Anna Matczak (Research Assistant, Kingston University and St George's University of London )

Over the last decade the criminal justice system in the United Kingdom has been carefully scrutinized due to apparent signs of institutional change and shifts in its direction. Multiple attempts have been made to come to terms with new phenomena such as the politicization of crime, the criminal justice system and its constituent agencies. Correspondingly, there is no doubt that the probation service has moved away from social work principles such as acceptance, individuality and non-judgement towards enforcement, and offence focus which fall into the new approach to punishment (Farrant, 2006). The changes in the modern probation service have mirrored those appearing more generally in the criminal justice apparatus especially under the policy of New Labour. Prioritization of evidence based policy and practice gave rise to the new modernization agenda based on features including what works, risk management and partnership which contributed significantly to the birth of the National Offender Management Service (Burke & Collett, 2010). Although policy analysis is dominant in this area, scholars began not only to contribute to the general discussion by presenting their research findings but also to increasingly use classical theoretical reasoning in order to reach a better understanding of the current conditions of the criminal justice institutions. Amongst them is Philip Whitehead who also engages more deeply with the topic and provides valuable insight into the debate about the current form of probation in the United Kingdom.

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