The Role of Academic Research

As I and colleagues have argued, academic criminology has traditionally had a special relationship with probation. The strong autonomy of probation culture was sustained partly by the closeness of probation to some sections of the academic criminological research community. John Lea and I wrote:

links with radical academic researchers, have continually sustained the residues of traditional rehabilitation methods in which desistance is a matter less of ‘management of criminogenic needs’ than of reintegration into work and community networks. Probation, like social work, has been open to outside influence through attendance at academic criminology and similar conferences, the role of the Probation Journal and

NAPO workshops and conferences. In this it contrasts with other criminal justice agencies such as the police where debate and discussion, although not absent, is much less amenable both to outside influence and to impact on professional practice. (Fitzgibbon and Lea 2014, p. 28)

The existence of academic research on probation practice by no means stands or falls with privatisation. It is entirely possible that private security corporations fund academic research. But as with government, the type of research which is funded will be that closest to the agendas of the funders. New surveillance technology is thus far more likely to be funded than innovative - but labour- and time-intensive rehabilitation - techniques such as the use of photography in client recording of biography and personal development (Photovoice). What would be required is some independent means whereby academic and other research showing the importance of updating traditional forms of rehabilitative work could be propagated. This of course presupposes a different political climate to the one which currently prevails.

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