The ACJRD welcomed Professor Paul Senior from Sheffield Hallam University as the guest speaker to the 2014 Martin Tansey Lecture. Prof Senior has contributed to research and policy for the past 25 years and prior to this worked in the Probation Service, he spoke about the experience of Integrated Offender Management (IOM) in England and Wales.
Background to IOM in England and Wales:
In the mid-1990s it was noticed that the drop in crime rates was not accompanied by a corresponding fall in recidivism. This led to a conversation which centred on the issue of persistent core offenders, or the idea that 10% of the offenders were committing 60% of the offences. This coincided with the entry of New Labour to government and a focus on reducing re-offending. A variety of initiatives were established to tackle the issue, including the Prolific and Priority Offender Programme, the National Offender Management Service, Drug Intervention Programmes, incorporating the concept of the 7 Pathways (which aimed to take an holistic approach to recidivism), and including the involvement of the Third Sector with their acknowledged expertise in many extra-justice areas.
Prof Senior described IOM as a way of working, rather than as a specific programme to be followed. There are up to 100 schemes currently operating in England and Wales, providing a variety of differently tailored approaches. IOM offers a continuum of services, and involves a multi-agency approach to address the spectrum of offenders’ needs to aid them in rehabilitation. While initially it was targeted at acquisitive offenders, there are now schemes offering IOM schemes to a much wider variety of persons.
Prof Senior argued that it was crucial that all key players in the criminal justice system were involved, including representatives from prison and the police, and that to this end the concept of co-location was crucial. Working together in the same space, yet with each representative still belonging to their parent organisations; it is within this clash of approaches that IOM may work best.
Regarding effectiveness, Prof Senior noted the difficulty of quantitative evaluations due to the multiplicity of factors, the tailoring and individuality of approaches and so on, and argued that qualitative approaches were often more suited to finding out ‘why’. However, he also noted the imperative to provide assessments and the difficulty that the research cycle was considerably longer than the policy cycle. For anyone particularly interested in the element of assessment he recommended an article by Kevin Wong on the issues involved.
Furhter issues highlighted:
- the difficulty of terminology – is ‘offender’ really the term we’re sticking with? Isn’t it rather stigmatising?
- the concept of ‘reintegration’ is often a misnomer – it is more about first time integration and changing allegiances
- the problem of being a gate-keeper to an IOM scheme – who is it targeted at and who can benefit?
- IOM participation is voluntary, and not court-mandated, were there human rights issues with this? Prof Senior noted that despite being on the alert for this particular problem, he found most persons engaged with the schemes welcomed the opportunity
- Prof Senior highlighted a few of the schemes such as that running in Bristol
Finally, Prof Senior ended on a note of optimism regarding Ireland’s potential take-up of the concept and of his enthusiasm for IOM schemes.