Policing people with sexual convictions using strengths-based approaches

Publication Date07 Aug 2017
AuthorStephanie Kewley
SubjectHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Criminal psychology,Sociology,Sociology of crime & law,Deviant behaviour,Public policy & environmental management,Policing,Criminal justice
Policing people with sexual convictions
using strengths-based approaches
Stephanie Kewley
Purpose Effective risk management planning ought to include strategies that help control and mitigate risk,
as well as develop and strengthen clients protective factors. The active risk management system (ARMS) is a
structured risk assessment and management planning tool designed to assess both dynamic factors known
to be related to sexual recidivism, along with protective factors that might support the desistance process.
The tool was recently implemented across all police forces in England and Wales. The purpose of this paper is
to examine police practitioners experience of the tool, their attitudes towards risk assessment, risk
management planning, interviewing clients for the assessment and their perspective on strengths-based
approaches in general.
Design/methodology/approach A mixed method approach is adopted including one attitudinal
measure: community attitudes towards sexual offender-revised (CATSO-R); and four focus groups, analysed
using interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA).
Findings CATSO-R results indicate that when compared to other populations, police officers appear to
perceive sex offenders as dangerous, requiring severe punishment. These findings are supported in the IPA
analysis where three themes highlight the following: principles and practices of the ARMS tool are
incongruent with traditional policing; the negative values officers hold conflicts with a role that supports a
process of reintegration and Training and supervision is insufficient to equip management of sexual offenders
and violent offenders with the skills and knowledge needed.
Originality/value Only one study exists in which ARMS training and its pilot test were examined, this is the
first empirical examination of its application in practice. Findings are therefore, of relevance to practitioners
and academics alike.
Keywords Police, Risk management, Reintegration, Sex offenders, ARMS, Strengths-based approaches
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
Formal risk management planning is an essential process in the risk management, reintegration
and rehabilitation process of those convicted of sexual offending. Risk management planning
helps criminal justice agencies assess a clients risk and need, which enables them to effectively
deploy appropriate resources; provide targeted treatment interventions; and administer
necessary controls (Bonta and Wormith, 2013). Successful risk management planning, thus,
serves to protect the public from harm, support the client, while also managing public resources
efficiently (Hilder and Kemshall, 2013).
Effective risk management planning ought to include strategies that both help control and
mitigate risk, while also developing and strengthening clients protective factors (Laws and Ward,
2011). Yet, risk management planning processes exist in cultures of fear, risk aversion and blame
(Nash, 2010) therefore, fostering the strengths of a client as part of their risk management plan
can often be overlooked (Kewley et al., 2015). Instead, those deemed as dangerousreceive
risk management strategies that seek to control and restrict (Harrison, 2011) and although these
may alleviate public protection concerns, the legitimate needs of the client tend to be ignored
(Ward and Connolly, 2008). As such, mechanisms to manage risk become characterised by
strategies of control, restriction, mandatory treatment and surveillance (Kewley et al., 2015;
Received 13 September 2016
Revised 26 October 2016
Accepted 28 October 2016
Stephanie Kewley is a Senior
Lecturer in Criminology at the
Department of Criminology,
Birmingham City University,
Birmingham, UK.
VOL. 7 NO. 3 2017, pp. 168-182, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2009-3829 DOI 10.1108/JCP-09-2016-0026

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