Through the Gate: The implementation, management and delivery of resettlement service provision for short-term prisoners

Date01 March 2019
Published date01 March 2019
PRB820114 77..95
The Journal of Community and Criminal Justice
Probation Journal
Through the Gate:
2019, Vol. 66(1) 77–95
ª The Author(s) 2018
The implementation,
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0264550518820114
and delivery
of resettlement service
provision for short-
term prisoners
Matthew Millings , Stuart Taylor , Lol Burke,
and Ester Ragonese
Liverpool John Moores University, UK
This paper draws upon research documenting the implementation, management and
delivery of Through the Gate service provision in one case study area across an
18-month period. In referring to interviews and focus groups with professionals, male
prisoners, and the families of these men, the paper provides a critical examination of
the practice implications of administering Through the Gate provision in a resettlement
prison. In doing so we reflect upon the changes in organisational structures, the
evolution of occupational culture(s), and on the impact on multi-agency partnership
working practice evident within this Transforming Rehabilitation led period of tran-
sitional change.
Transforming Rehabilitation, Through the Gate, resettlement, Community Rehabilita-
tion Company, privatisation
Corresponding Author:
Stuart Taylor, LJMU, School of Law, Redmonds Building, Brwnlow Hill, Liverpool L3 5UG, UK.

Probation Journal 66(1)
In 2013 the launching of the Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) agenda represented
an attempt by the government to revolutionise the management of offenders and to
restructure the delivery of rehabilitation services in England and Wales. One of the
key drivers for the reform was to extend post-release licence supervision and
rehabilitation support to those who had served less than 12 months in prison. In
2015, 58 per cent of prisoners starting a custodial sentence were sentenced to less
than 12 months (Ministry of Justice, 2016a) and the ‘stubbornly’ high reoffending
rate of this group – measured at 60 per cent within 12 months of release (Ministry of
Justice, 2016b) – was routinely used by the architects of TR to justify the need for
The rolling out of the policy in May 2015 saw the re-designation of 89 of the 123
prisons in England and Wales (HMIP, 2016) as resettlement prisons tasked with
establishing an integrated approach to service delivery. Through the Gate reset-
tlement services, delivered by local Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC),
were required to help prisoners maintain or find accommodation; provide assis-
tance with finance, benefits and debt; and to support them to enter education,
training and employment. These were, in the main, not entirely new services in
many prisons but were rebranded under the ‘Through the Gate’ (hereafter TTG)
policy. This renewal of branding was considered to be important in making
arrangements less fragmented and more innovative in their approach, drawing
upon new and existing partnership arrangements to support prisoners.
However, by 2016, 12 months on from the policy implementation, a joint
Inspectorate of Prisons and Probation report found that the CRC’s efforts were
‘pedestrian at best’ (CJJI, 2016: 3), that ‘work at the low level of intensity we found
was unlikely to achieve the aim of resettlement’ (CJJI, 2016: 4) and that provision
was ‘some distance from the original vision of a seamless service’ (CJJI, 2016: 3).
Less than a year later the Inspectorate published a further damning report (CJJI,
2017: 3) that suggested CRCs ‘are making little difference’ to the prospects of
prisoners on their release, that the overall picture was ‘bleak’ and that TTG services
were ‘not well enough integrated’ into prisons. A picture was emerging of a con-
fused network of organisations working to different agendas, with diversified
priorities, and of systemic flaws in channels of communication and working that
rendered processes inefficient. Prisoners were not reporting improvements in their
experience of resettlement services, and despite significant efforts in restructuring
services there was little evidence of impact.
In this paper we draw on 18 months of observational and interview based
research in one case study prison to add empirical rigour to these headline findings
and to understand the experiences of professionals, prisoners and their families
during this period of great change in the administration of resettlement services. Our
research activity allowed us to observe change from the inside and, through multiple
tracked interviews, capture the experience of those involved through a period of
considerable upheaval. At a time when the government has announced its intention
to prematurely end the contracts of CRC providers and to re-align CRC contract

Millings et al.
package areas (see Ministry of Justice, 2018a), we feel it is important that learning
from the experience of implementing TR in its first iteration is taken forward. As a
consequence, in this paper we will map out the methods used in our case study and
then, in turn, capture key themes from the research activity conducted with the
professionals charged with delivering TTG provision; groups of prisoners engaging
resettlement services within and through the prison gate; and then of their families
during and after their sentences were completed. We conclude by discussing the
three most pertinent findings for the practice community emergent through our
research, namely, interrogating structural flaws in practice delivery; the health of the
professional practice climate; and the missed opportunity to negotiate a fully
cohesive notion of ‘resettlement’. The pulling together of these three themes helps us
contribute to the dialogues that need to take place about how impending changes
need to enhance the prospects for helping prisoners make better choices and access
more appropriate forms of support to assist their desistence from offending.
Research project and methodology
This research project was based in a Category B resettlement prison in England.
Though we worked in partnership to negotiate access and logistical support with the
host prison and the local CRC who had the contractual obligation to deliver rehabi-
litation services there, we were independently funded and obtained ethical approval
from the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) to conduct the fieldwork.
An ambition of the strategic leaders within prison and probation services who
sanctioned the research was that it would generate dialogue and share good practice
in the furtherance of the ongoing learning and development work of partners involved
in delivering rehabilitation services within the prison. Resettlement services within the
prison are contracted to the CRC but are delivered by a third sector partner,1 who
provides their services on a sub-contractual basis. In effect, the third sector partner has
responsibility for delivering resettlement services ‘to the gate’ with fol ow-up support
and supervision provided by the responsible officer in the community who is
employed directly by the CRC or the National Probation Service (NPS).
Our research explored the extent to which staff, prisoners and their families
engaged with the resettlement process whilst gauging how this changed across
time. We sought to examine the logistical capacity of the prison to facilitate reset-
tlement pathways from prisoners and to identify and explore the role played by
change agents – individuals, their families, prison staff, partner agencies – in
developing resettlement processes. Our research activity stretched from January
2016 until December 2017 and consisted of three sweeps of activity between
January through June 2016; July through December 2016; and January through
June 2017. In total, we engaged 154 individuals in the research. In this paper we
draw on research activity drawn from interview and focus group data generated
with three identifiable groups. Our ‘Professionals’ cohort of 39 participants were
drawn from across HM Prison Service, NPS/CRC Probation Officers/Case Man-
agers, Voluntary and Third Sector partners. Senior managers in the prison initially
identified this group yet this snowballed as we learned of other relevant individuals

Probation Journal 66(1)
involved in the resettlement process. Our ‘Prisoners’ sample comprised 96 indi-
viduals serving sentences of 12 months or less and included 18 tracker cases whom
we interviewed on multiple occasions through their resettlement journey in and
beyond prison.2 This group was drawn from automatically generated lists which
indicated all those serving sentences of 12 months or less who were either within the
final 12 weeks of their sentence (focus groups) or were due to enter the final 12
weeks of their sentence (tracker cases).3 Finally, our ‘Families’ cohort consisted of
11 family members of the tracker cases, with some of these again interviewed on
multiple occasions. Interviews and focus groups took place both within the prison
and within the community, with access facilitated by senior prison and CRC
To provide some further context to the research findings, the period during which
the fieldwork took place was one of the most challenging in the prison’s recent
history. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons conducted a number of unannounced
inspections throughout 2016 and 2017 – including one at our case study prison –
that were routinely critical of the conditions and palpable threats of violence they
encountered. Amongst others, at HMP Mount the...

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