Professors Kate Williams and Mike Maguire have written a paper for The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice on the concept of ‘penal drift’ - the gradual adoption of criminal justice culture, language and working practices - in voluntary sector organisations (VSOs) commissioned to deliver services to offenders.
It identifies increases in coerced attendance, obligations to report non-compliance, targets to reduce re-offending, and contracts to ‘process’ high caseloads, as factors behind such drift, which can jeopardise relationships with service users and the sector’s traditional ‘value-driven’ approach.
It is concluded that most VSOs have so far managed to resist these threats and to balance contractual obligations with adherence to core values. However, this comes at a cost in staff time and energy and is difficult to sustain. There are concerns that the longer term effects may be quite damaging to the sector.