Editorial 2.3

EuoVista-vol2-no3-cover-180[1]As the final edition to be published in hard copy, this issue represents a turning point in the history of EuroVista.  From now on, EuroVista will be published online only and free of charge.  Whole issues and/or individual articles may be downloaded from the EuroVista website.  The reasons for making this change were set out by Gerhard Ploeg in the editorial introduction to Volume 2 Number 2.  The single most important consideration is our ambition to make the journal more easily accessible and therefore, we hope and expect, much more widely read.  Do please tell all your friends and colleagues the good news!

This development affords a welcome opportunity to express our thanks to everyone who contributed to bringing the journal to its present position.  We are grateful first of all to our subscribers, many of whom have supported the journal from its earliest days.  We hope that they will continue to enjoy the journal in its new format. We are grateful too to our sponsors – originally the Association of Chief Probation Officers (ACOP), more recently the European Probation Organisation (CEP) – whose support has ensured the journal’s viability.  CEP’s continuing sponsorship into this next phase of our history is warmly appreciated.  We are also keen to express our thanks to colleagues at the University of Birmingham who have been responsible for formatting, printing and publication.  The journal has always been attractively presented, thanks to their care and professionalism. We are both grateful and relieved that our administrator, Amanda Williams, who has so ably managed the processes of publication, is remaining in her role as the journal goes online.  She will continue to work closely with colleagues in CEP, especially Daria Janssen, to make sure that standards of presentation are sustained.  Members of our editorial board, which is now truly international, review submissions to the journal and offer feedback in a positive and encouraging spirit, while retaining standards of rigour appropriate to an academic journal.  Finally, the editors wish to thank the members of the Executive Board, many of whom have participated in nurturing the journal for many years and whose wisdom and experience are indispensable.

At this turning point, it may be timely to reflect also on the journal’s history. The first edition of EuroVista was published in 2009, when the Board decided that this should become a European publication and joined with CEP to launch EuroVista: Probation and Community. But EuroVista was born from a well-established English journal, Vista, which first appeared in May 1995.  The first editors, Jenny Roberts (whose inspirational career was celebrated in EuroVista Volume 1 Number 3) and Colin Thomas, both Chief Probation Officers in England, reflected in their editorial upon a time of unprecedented change in probation in England – a period which now seems positively tranquil compared with the current turbulence in English probation.  They heralded their new journal: ‘This publication is intended to fill a gap in the range of journals dealing with justice and penal issues, offering a focus on the management of probation service work.  While not seeking to compete with learning and academic publications, we hope it will interest a wide audience, particularly senior managers and criminal justice agencies, but also practitioners, trainers and policy makers.’  This is the audience that we still aspire to reach.

The  first edition carried articles on social work ethics, the use of marketing ideas by the probation service to develop relationships with courts, the phenomenon of repeat victimisation and what could be learnt from ‘lessons from New York City’. The journal then, from the outset, was interested in a wide range of probation and wider community and criminal justice concerns.  Several contributions over the years have testified to Vista’s awareness of – and interest in – practice in countries other than England.  Prominent examples include articles on Electronic Monitoring in Sweden (Norman Bishop) and ‘The Rehabilitation of Young Offenders into the Labour Market in Germany’ (Doris Meyer), but there have also been accounts of probation practice in the Czech Republic, Argentina, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, South Africa and the USA!  As EuroVista, the editors and the Board have tried to make the journal truly European and to encourage a broad range of probation and criminal justice interests.  Our belief, like CEP’s, is that probation agencies across Europe can gain enormously by exchanging ideas, research findings, policy and practice developments and confronting together problems that are often common to several different countries.

This issue includes a number of articles that demonstrate the quality and scope of the journal. Martine Herzog-Evans offers a fascinating reflection on the words used to refer to probation, probation officers and their clients.  Collating and presenting evidence from experts from fifteen countries, she shows how identical words, notably the term probation  itself, have different connotations depending not only on the language, but also on national culture and political context, ranging from punitive associations to ‘the embodiment of social work’.

Natalie Woodier explores the associations between employment and desistance and describes the work of the ‘Ex-Offender Community of Practice’ (ExOCoP) learning network, which was established to identify and improve education, training and employment services for ex-offenders across the member states of the European Union.  Her paper points out the shortage of robust research into the effectiveness of employment-linked initiatives and makes proposals for how evaluation should be undertaken and interpreted in future.

Three papers explore the challenges of working with offenders with distinctive needs.

Morag MacDonald, James Williams and David Kane discuss throughcare work with problematic drug users.  Their review of European practice uncovered some examples of good practice, but also found that provision is uneven and services often limited.  The authors suggest possible reasons for this and, urging a more rigorous approach to evaluating throughcare, insist on the importance of a full assessment of the needs of the prisoners themselves in order to identify their difficulties and to deliver treatment.

Charlie Brooker and Coral Sirdifield describe a study that piloted a methodology for assessing the prevalence of mental health disorder and substance misuse among offenders on probation.  Inadequate information about prevalence can vitiate service planning and delivery. Their research included interviews with both probation staff and service users.  The confidence and ability of probation staff to identify and record mental health factors was found to be very variable – a finding with clear implications for staff training.

Greg Lewis explores the reasons why there are increasing numbers of older people detained in prisons in England and Wales.  He considers the challenges this poses for prison and probation services to make sure that their work with older prisoners is appropriate, effective and fair.  He further describes the work undertaken by Age UK to challenge services and to support them in meeting these responsibilities.

Ragnar Kristoffersen gives a concise account of a major (and continuing) research study into reconviction in the Nordic countries.  His analysis compares reconviction and resentencing of prisoners and offenders on a community sentence and demonstrates that reoffending rates among different offender groups reflect national differences in the criminal sanction system, as well as the distribution and proportions of offender groups serving prison sentences as compared to those on probation.  His article also examines the type of subsequent crimes – an important consideration that is often overlooked in research into reoffending.  He concludes with some proposals for further research and some cautious suggestions about the policy implications of this analysis.  Although the comparison here is among the Nordic countries, the methodology and findings are full of implications for other countries too.

Torunn Højdahl, Jeanette H. Magnus, Roger Hagen and Eva Langeland write about VINN, an accredited programme for female offenders.  Among the many reasons why the editors were very pleased to receive this paper are that it focuses on provision for female offenders (when so much of the literature is ‘malestream’); that it discusses a programme developed in Norway (rather than North America or the UK); and that it introduces less familiar concepts – notably the idea of salutogenesis which focuses on health and well-being and so represents a strengths-based approach in harmony with a ‘good lives’ model.  As the authors show, new and different paradigms can be used to complement established approaches.  Indeed practice needs the stimulus of new insights: ‘what works?’ should always remain a question.

We are confident, then, that this issue continues the high standards of scholarship and the scope of interest that have characterised (Euro)/Vista throughout its history.  It is a fitting and worthy final hard copy!  Our next edition – the first to be available only online – is to be a special issue.  Guest-edited by Dr Beth Weaver of the Glasgow School of Social Work, Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde and member of the EuroVista Editorial Board, our theme is desistance.  The articles are written by people from many different countries who are themselves in the process of desistance or who have put their offending behind them.  Careful attention to and respect for people’s own accounts has been a hallmark of the best desistance research. We believe that this may be the first time that an academic journal has been compiled in this way.  Criminology has so often treated people as ‘objects’ of research and relatively rarely inquired into their own understanding and experiences of offending and punishment.  Desistance research has begun to redress this and our forthcoming volume will offer personal accounts of experiences of offending and desistance about which criminology speculates and which criminal justice practitioners try to influence.  We hope to achieve something very rare, if not unique – a collection of papers in an academic journal that those who are serving or have served a sentence in prison or in the community might be inspired to read.

Rob Canton