Working with Offenders: A Guide to Concepts and Practices.WORKING WITH OFFENDERS: A GUIDE TO CONCEPTS
White, R. and Graham, H. (2010). Abingdon: Willan Publishing. pp.366
(pbk) 24.99[pounds sterling] ISBN 978-1-84392-793-8
This book is a welcome addition to the literature which seeks to assist in developing an understanding of offending behaviour and how practitioners might work within the myriad of available approaches in order to address such behaviour in practice. At first glance, it is difficult to imagine how a single text could cover the amount of ground promised by the cover comments, and indeed the book has some limitations. However, on closer inspection, the book brings together a range of theoretical and practical discussions, and illustrates some of these with practice-based examples, in a way which has not been undertaken before, the result of which is relatively successful, and certainly makes for interesting and thought-provoking reading.
As has been stated, this book attempts to cover an enormous amount of ground and, at the outset, hints at what a tall order this is, acknowledging that it 'cherry picks' practice-based examples which are used to illustrate the issues discussed throughout. The nature of the 'tall order' becomes apparent immediately, given that the book aspires to bring together three key elements: 1) knowledge from the range of different agencies and specialisms working with offenders as well as the settings in which they work; 2) accessibility to practitioners; and 3) knowledge from a range of different jurisdictions throughout the world. In order to accomplish these goals, the book is divided into ten chapters which, given the length of the text, inevitably focus to varying degrees, on one of the elements.
The first chapter, entitled 'Setting the scene' contextualises what follows by providing some useful comparative material regarding the rising rates of imprisonment throughout the world and gives a flavour of some of the roles and settings in which work with offenders takes place. This chapter also focusses somewhat on the social context of offending and the social disadvantages that underpin offending behaviour (key amongst these being low socio-economic status). The chapter, therefore, makes clear that working with offenders provides society with a significant challenge and the following chapters make explicit some of these challenges. What the chapter does not do is to provide a rationale for the following chapters, the choice of discussion topic for each chapter, and why they are addressed in the order that they are--thus it is up to the reader to work out whether there is an intrinsic logic to the way in which the book develops as it does.
In summary, the following chapters proceed as follows: chapter two provides an introduction to offender rehabilitation by way of discussing four current models of rehabilitation, ending with restorative approaches, and argues that this demonstrates a shift towards what is termed 'therapeutic justice'. It could be claimed that such a shift may be more perceptible in certain jurisdictions, but this point is not addressed. Chapter three discusses the dynamics of working within prison and community settings and its first-hand accounts of such work are enlightening and would no doubt be very useful to individuals thinking of entering prison work. Chapter four outlines what are broadly termed 'case-management skills' within the integrated Offender Management Model and covers topics as diverse as the nature of advocacy and the importance of good record-keeping. Chapter five discusses tools and interventions, as well as some discussion of the evidence-base for such interventions, but the distinction between broad approaches and interventions / tools is somewhat unclear. Chapter six looks at the worker-offender relationship and, in doing so, focusses on the notion of respect. Chapter seven looks at the possible range of complex needs that those working with offenders may encounter, from panic attacks to severe mental health issues. Chapter eight discusses 'Difficult work; managing risk, violence and crisis' and moves from working with violent offenders, through offender crises, to professional stress and burnout. Chapter nine deals with working with other agencies to provide services to offenders and the inherent difficulties of such work. Chapter ten discusses the process of reintegration and the centrality of the worker to such a process.
Each of the chapters in the book is informative and discursive and the examples presented are all useful. The discussion questions from a useful aid for learning and there is helpful signposting of further reading. However, a key difficulty with the book is that each of the chapters could have formed the basis of a book itself. This difficulty seems to be as a result of the sheer ambition of the book, which was always going to be difficult to meet. This means that each chapter, whilst very full, necessarily deals with some issues in less depth than perhaps one would like. Having said that, the authors explicitly set out to provide a 'useful and useable introduction to this type of work' (White and Graham, 2010: 1) and they have certainly succeeded in giving a flavour of how dynamic the world of working with offenders is, and how very challenging it can be. On one hand, it is tempting to state that this book attempts an impossible task at which it could only ever partially succeed. On the other hand, it delves unashamedly into an enormous and complex area and comes up providing an eminently readable and accessible discussion of work with offenders. There is relatively little jargon and, in some ways, it could be described as 'a whistle-stop tour' of working with offenders in a wide variety of settings and jurisdictions. As somebody with a background in practice, who now teaches those training to be probation officers, I found this book to be eminently informative, accessible and believe it will add to any practitioner's knowledge base.
Louise Sturgeon-Adams, Lecturer in Community Justice, University of Hull