This article is reproduced here with the kind permission of Professional Social Work Magazine, March 2018, a BASW publication.
Allan Weaver, now a criminal justice social work team manager, vividly illustrates the significance of professional relationships in enhancing resilience and supporting both desistance and reintegration.
This is the first open access publication from the study: Co-designing and Co-producing a Strategy for User Engagement (for details, see Related Projects, this site).
In this thematic review Beth Weaver, University of Strathclyde, Kristina Moodie, CYCJ, and Claire Lightowler, CYCJ, bring together findings so far to share what has been heard and learnt from the people who took part in interviews conducted in 2016, that informed the development of the three community justice coproduction councils or groups: People’s Involvement Networking Group (PING, South Ayrshire), Making A Difference (M.A.D, North Ayrshire) and Community Voices Network (CVN, East Ayrshire). This is the first paper from a two year project and it is hoped it might be a useful starting point for people in other areas who are thinking about what ‘service user involvement’ or ‘co-production’ might mean or look like in community justice.Download Resource
The association between unemployment and subsequent reoffending is well established: ‘prisoners who had problems with both employment and accommodation on release had a reoffending rate of 74% during the year after custody, compared to 43% for those with no problems (Grimwood and Berman 2012:49). Desistance research also recognises a significant correlation between participation in employment, the accumulation of human and social capital and desistance (Savolainen 2009 and Weaver, 2015), and the importance of citizenship and reciprocal relationships (Maruna and LeBel 2009; Weaver 2015). Yet, most employability and employment in prisons is poor quality, low-skilled and fails in meaningful ways to assist in the transition from prison to community and, ultimately, to affect processes of desistance and reintegration (Calavita and Jenness, 2015) – and, crucially, finding employment post-release. The quality of employability for prisoners and prison work has been affected by penal strain (reduced investment in prisons under austerity, prison population increases and populist discourses that are punitive. Yet the nature and the quality of work shape the impacts, effects and outcomes (i.e. Weaver, 2016).
The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) today recognises that employability and employment require innovative, third-sector led approaches for knowledge mobilization in order to build capacity for new, innovative and long-lasting routes towards employability and employment (i.e. Weaver and Nicholson, 2012). In exploring the limited amount of research on employability and employment, it is not difficult to grasp the challenges that SPS is facing at individual and organisational levels because this issue cuts at the heart of perhaps the most potent question across all contemporary societies: what are prisons for? If the mechanisms for enhancing routes into employment in and through prisons require multi-sectorial involvement, what is the policy, legal and practice significance of this both for the individual prison and the organisational culture of the SPS?
Given these questions, the aims of this research and the Knowledge Exchange event that followed it were:
Further to our earlier resource and project entitled ‘Developing and Designing Women’s Centres: Sharing Learning from the Development Phase’ we are pleased to be able to let you know that The Robertson Trust have funded work to take the learning from Cumnock to Renfrewshire, Scotland, but with the expectation that not only will the learning be mutual, but that it might be helpful for others engaged in co-production and community development.
The Women’s Centre Programme has been developed by the Robertson Trust, in partnership with third sector organisations Centrestage and Active Communities, to demonstrate how a gender specific, community-led, multi-agency approach can support women to achieve positive outcomes at a community, individual and agency level. Dr. Beth Weaver and Claire Lightowler from the School of Social Work and Social Policy, University of Strathclyde and CYCJ, have been involved in supporting the learning from the initial development phase and over the next two years will be evaluating the Women’s Centre Programme, with Fern Gillon, to identify whether and how this specific approach can generate its intended impact. A series of thematic summaries will be produced throughout this evaluation, the first one introduces the Women’s Centres, highlights learning to date and explains the plans for the next phase of the evaluation.
User Voice commissioned Monica Barry and Beth Weaver of the University of Strathclyde – in association with Mark Liddle, ARCS Ltd, Bethany Schmidt, University of Cambridge, and with input from Shadd Maruna, Rosie Meek, and Judy Renshaw – to assess the implementation, operation and short-term outcomes of the Council model of prisoner/service user participation/integration. These Prison and Community Councils were located in six prisons and three CRC areas across England, namely HM Prisons Durham and Northumberland and the Northumbria CRC; HM Prisons Oakwood and Birmingham and the Staffordshire and West Midlands CRC; and HM Prisons Wormwood Scrubs and Pentonville and the London CRC.
These sites were at different stages of implementing Councils; some Prison Councils had only been operating for months whereas others had been operating for four or more years, and the Community Councils had been operating for between a year and five years. These differences in stages of implementation – influenced as they were by the effects of systemic, organisational and operational changes heralded by the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda – necessarily affected the progression of the Council model and at the time of writing, the ‘Through-The-Gate’ approach to offer continuity between Prison and Community council membership had not been fully implemented.
The research had five objectives:
This project was designed to document and analyse the process of developing and designing Women’s Centres, funded by The Robertson Trust and inform that learning. The project commenced in May 2015 and concluded in February 2017. This report by the Beth Weaver and Claire Lightowler, University of Strathclyde provides a summary of the learning from this project with the intention of informing the early stages of development of these projects but the lessons learned are transferable to other community-led, coproductive projects of this nature.
This briefing paper, published in The Howard League for Penal Reform, ECAN Bulletin 28 – February 2016, explores some of the early findings of this study into the role of through-the-gate social cooperatives from the phase of research undertaken in Italy in 2015. It argues that social cooperatives do more than simply providing a route into employment; this paper shows how social cooperatives can help overcome the stigma of a criminal record and discrimination in the labour market by providing access to work for some of those who are disadvantaged in this arena and supporting integration into ‘mainstream’ work. Social cooperatives provide a protected environment that puts people before profit. In this vein, the cooperative culture, the relational environment, is as important as the provision of paid work in contributing to the outcomes. Moreover, people can work at their own pace and their needs as a person, rather than the needs of the employer, are prioritised. They provide holistic and individualised resettlement support for both former/prisoners and their family – people also receive a range of supports from financial assistance, family mediation, access to legal support and so on. The networked and cooperative culture and practice provides a range of concrete opportunities for social integration. They are embedded in and inclusive of their community – they create opportunities for social participation.
Beyond contemporary concerns with risk and recidivism, the integration of marginalised persons, the provision of opportunities to engage in [active] citizenship and the maintenance or emergence of significant and reciprocal relationships is at the centre of social cooperative principles and practices. If we, in the UK, are serious about supporting social integration and desistance, we also need to develop collaborative approaches that engage constructively with and invest in the communities that we are trying to support integration to – but those approaches need to be grounded in particular values, principles and practices if they are to generate the experiences and achieve the kinds of outcomes detailed in this briefing paper.
To cite: Weaver, B (2016) Co-producing desistance from crime: The role of social cooperative structures of employment. The Howard League for Penal Reform, ECAN Bulletin 28 – February 2016Download Resource
Desistance research recognises a significant, albeit contingent, relationship between participation in employment, desistance and social integration. Yet, with notable exceptions, developments in social policy and penal practices across Europe have made little progress in addressing barriers to and creating opportunities for employment for serving and former prisoners. This paper reports on an exception to this norm in the form of Italian through-the-prison-gate social cooperatives. Discussing the findings from the first phase of interviews undertaken with key stakeholders (including serving and former prisoner employees) in different cooperatives across Northern Italy, this paper discusses how social cooperatives can enable social integration and encourage desistance. In so doing, it raises important questions about what coproducing desistance and supporting reintegration might really mean for innovations in penal policy and practice.
The full presentation can be read here – ESC_2015
The Relational ‘We’: Centre for Social Ontology, Warwick This paper discusses my empirical application of a relational realist analytic framework to illuminate the role of social groups or collectives, as social relations, in shaping and affecting outcomes for individuals and for groups. Using the morphogenetic sequence developed by Archer, to illustrate the conceptual schema progressed by Donati (2011), this framework affords equal recognition to individual actions, social relations and social systems. To empirically capture the relational ‘we’ in social morphogenesis, however, requires taking the social relation as a central unit of analysis. This means empirically conceptualising the social relation as both context and as interaction, and it means analysing the shifting dynamics and influences on the form and shape of a given social relation. Such an analysis can reveal what triggers reflexivity, what different forms of reflexivity entail, and how social relations can shape and influence outcomes for individuals and groups as well as how such processes shape and alter the relations themselves. Using examples from my own research examining the dynamics of desistance from crime, I will show how both individual and relational contributions are interconnected, and how the manner of relating and the reciprocal orientation of individuals-in-relation towards the maintenance of a given social relation are significant in understanding the relational ‘we’ in social morphogenesis.
In this article, we consider the potential of an old idea in a new context: that is the use of social cooperatives and mutual structures as a mechanism for supporting the resettlement of prisoners. We review what this means in a criminal justice context and share some exciting developments in how this idea is being put into effective practice.Download Resource