Published date01 December 2020
AuthorLol Burke,Peter Raynor
Date01 December 2020
Subject MatterEditorial
Smarter resettlement?
As its title reflects, the recent White Paper A Smarter Approach to Sentencing
(Ministry of Justice, 2020) emphasises the role of sentencing in delivering an
effective criminal justice system. It hopefully moves probation away from the highly
marketised model of delivery that has been so damaging in recent years, but its
rehabilitative intentions are largely subsumed within a set of populist and punitive
measures. While the paper is critical of the administration of community and cus-
todial sentences which it states has ‘evolved in a piecemeal fashion’ (p. 5) and calls
for an improved framework for the resettlement of released prisoners, there is scant
acknowledgement of how the Government’s recent reforms have contributed to,
and indeed intensified, these policy failings.
The Government’s proposals come in the wake of the current pandemic which
has profoundly affected the ways in which probation services are delivered to
released prisoners. Probation staff have had to adapt to a volatile environment in
which government advice has been fluid and at times contradictory. Unsurprisingly,
it has been reported that this has resulted in feelings of isolation and anxiety as they
struggled to cope with large workloads and overseeing the supervision of high-risk
individuals during the lockdown. The ‘exceptional model of delivery’ introduced in
the wake of COVID-19 has meant that many former prisoners and those serving
community sentences are now supervised remotely by telephone or video links.
Released prisoners in need of help from community agencies, for example with
accommodation or benefits, may find their access to physical offices constrained,
with staff working from home. Lack of access to technology such as laptops, smart
phones and the internet has increased the ‘digital divide’ between prisoners and the
general public. A report into the lessons learnt from the coronavirus pandemic found
that over half of the resettlement workers interviewed claimed that it had become
even more difficult to access even the most basic essentials on release and 74%said
that changes to family contact and social distancing measures had made the
resettlement of those they worked with more challenging (Nacro, 2020: 3). The
Criminal Justice Alliance has described the pandemic as ‘both a medical and social
crisis’ (2020: 4). However, as the same report contends, while the current situation
is in many respects unprecedented, it has also ‘shone a spotlight on the cracks in the
system and pre-existing inequalities’ (2020: 4).
The first article in this edition, by one of the co-editors, discusses the long-standing
and intransigent issue of resettlement for prisoners serving short sentences.
Probation Journal
2020, Vol. 67(4) 321–325
ªThe Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0264550520968946
The Journal of Community and Criminal Justice

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