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Probation Staff Experiences of Transforming Rehabilitation: An Ethnographic Study of a Profession in Transition

Tidmarsh, Matthew (2019) Probation Staff Experiences of Transforming Rehabilitation: An Ethnographic Study of a Profession in Transition. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

This thesis explores how staff have experienced the Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms to probation services in England and Wales. From a Foucauldian perspective, it argues that professionalism in probation has been fundamentally challenged in recent decades. Amidst numerous organisational restructurings, the shift towards managerialism has changed what it means to be a probation professional. Indeed, a discourse of ‘professionalism’ was crucial to the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government’s (2010-2015) mobilisation of TR. As of June 2014, TR split the probation service into two organisations: the publicly owned National Probation Service supervises offenders who pose a high risk of harm to the public, while 21 privately led Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) manage low-to-medium risk offenders. A culture of top-down, managerial state intervention, it was argued, had stymied practitioners, stunted performance, and contributed to persistently high reoffending rates. The Coalition government contended that professionalism in probation had been stifled by government interference; restoring it via the logic of competition and profit was vital to attempts to create an efficient, cost-effective service. This thesis can be viewed as a case study of a profession in transition; it analyses the impact of the TR reforms on staff understandings of professionalism in probation, with a particular focus on practice, autonomy, culture, and values. Drawing on an ethnographic study of a probation office within a CRC, the thesis brings together observations on a range of activities and 20 semi-structured interviews with staff from a variety of job roles. The findings indicate that professionalism in probation can be understood as a discourse in which professionals are expected to be receptive to the demands of multiple stakeholders – offenders, taxpayers, the state, and, additionally, the market. Accordingly, contrary to empowering professionals, TR can be situated on a managerial continuum, the logical end-point of a decades-long period of reform that has sought to discipline staff and reshape their understandings of professionalism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Probation; Transforming Rehabilitation; Foucault; Managerialism; Professionalism
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds) > School of Law (Leeds) > Centre for Criminal Justice Studies (Leeds)
Depositing User: Mr Matthew Tidmarsh
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2020 12:15
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2020 12:15
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/25508

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