Post-sentence supervision: A case study of the extension of community resettlement support for short sentence prisoners

AuthorMatthew Cracknell
Date01 December 2020
Published date01 December 2020
DOI10.1177/0264550520942834
Subject MatterArticles
Article
Post-sentence
supervision: A case
study of the extension
of community
resettlement support
for short sentence
prisoners
Matthew Cracknell
Middlesex University, UK
Abstract
Introduced under the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, the Offender Rehabilitation
Act 2014 created a period of post-sentence supervision (PSS) after licence for indi-
viduals serving short custodial sentences. This empirical study features on the ground
views and perspectives of practitionersand service users of PSS in one case-studyarea.
Findings from this research suggest a number of issues and ambiguities with the
enactment of the sentence. These include ambiguities regarding the correct use of
enforcement procedures; the antagonistic relationship between third sector and Com-
munity Rehabilitation Company staff, primarily centred around transferring cases and
concerns over the use of ‘light touch’ supervision and uncertainties over what the
rehabilitative aims of this sentence mean in practice. These issues led to practitioners
questioning the legitimacy of the third sector organisation involved in the management
of PSS, while service users experienced PSS as a frustrating ‘pass-the-parcel’ experi-
ence, whereresettlement support was constantlystalled and restartedat each juncture of
the sentence.Before briefly discussing the potential future of PSSunder the next iteration
of probation policy, this article concludes by arguing thatthere is emerging evidence of
a commonalityof failures occurring at every juncture of the short sentence, undermining
resettlement prospects for the long-neglected short sentence population.
Corresponding Author:
Matthew Cracknell, School of Law, Department of Criminology & Sociology, Middlesex University, The
Burroughs, Hendon, Barnet, London NW4 4BT, UK.
Email: m.cracknell@mdx.ac.uk
The Journal of Community and Criminal Justice
Probation Journal
2020, Vol. 67(4) 340–357
ªThe Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
sagepub.com/journals-permissions
DOI: 10.1177/0264550520942834
journals.sagepub.com/home/prb
Keywords
resettlement, post-sentence supervision, privatisation, Transforming Rehabilitation,
offender management
Introduction
A central part of the Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms has involved the
introduction of statutory post-release supervision for all prisoners serving a short
prison sentence of under 12 months. Established in legislation under the Offender
Rehabilitation Act (ORA) 2014, every individual released from prison from a short
sentence now receives 12 months post-release supervision in the community (Min-
istry of Justice (MoJ), 2014). Prior to this, despite the complex needs and high
reoffending rates of the short sentence population (National Audit Office, 2010;
Stewart, 2008), these individuals did not receive any supervision or support from
probation services following their release from prison and were released uncondi-
tionally at the halfway point of their sentence. Following their return to the com-
munity, individuals subject to a short sentence now serve a period on licence and
then receive a ‘top-up’ supervision period, known as ‘post-sentence supervision’
(PSS).
PSS is distinguished from the licence period in three main ways. Firstly, PSS
entails a different set of guidelines for enforcement practices. The licence period
allows an automatic return to custody through the standard recall procedures,
while the PSS period requires a return to court via breach proceedings (Senten-
cing Council, 2018). Secondly, Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs)
have a variety of operating models for post-release supervision, these include a
risk-led model that determines resources for service users according to risk;
community hubs which provide a ‘one stop shop’ where service users can access
multiple resources; specialist roles, where practitioners’ caseloads have a specific
resettlement focus, and a sub-contracted model, where a third sector organisation
(TSO) are responsible for supervising PSS cases (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of
Probation (HMIP), 2019: 20). PSS also has the expressed aim of ‘rehabilitation’
(National Offender Management Service (NOMS), 2014: 5) that policymakers
developed for this sentence. In this regards, PSS also has different guidelines
regarding supervision contact and individuals can be supervised with a ‘light
touch’ (HMIP, 2019: 21). This article highlights that these unique features of the
sentence have caused a considerable amount of ambiguity and concern towards
how PSS operates.
Empirical research and academic commentary regarding the experiences of
resettlement under TR has primarily focused on Through-the-Gate elements that
concern the immediate transition between prison and the community, and not the
more community-based element of PSS (see e.g. Burke et al., 2020; Maguire and
Raynor, 2017; Millings et al., 2019; Moore and Hamilton, 2016; Taylor et al.,
2017). Moore and Hamilton (2016) describe the ‘silo mentalities’ of prison prac-
titioners operating within the reoffending pathways, which lead to insular working
Cracknell 341

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