Editorial 3.3

A long time has passed since our last issue.  Our aspiration is to produce three issues each year, but we have not managed to achieve this in the past twelve months.  We have been receiving many fewer papers than we have been hoping for and are therefore all the more grateful to the contributors to this issue who responded willingly to our most recent general call. We are now in a position to present EuroVista Volume 3, Number 3 and are confident that we have been able to maintain the high standards of our earlier issues.

Andrew Bridges, formerly Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Probation for England and Wales, reflects on recent (and ongoing) changes in probation in his country.  Like almost everyone involved in English probation, Bridges had his misgivings about the programme known as Transforming Rehabilitation, but (also like almost everyone else) is keen to make the new arrangements work as well as they can.  He sets out his prescription for how this might be achieved in a wide-ranging paper that discusses probation’s purposes, organisation, management and resourcing.

Todd Jermstad makes a welcome contribution from the USA.  In explaining the Recovery-Oriented Systems of Care (ROSC) model, which has been pioneered in dealing with both substance abuse and mental health issues, he reflects on the potential of such a model for working with offenders.  His main messages – about the importance of recognising strengths and active offender participation in supervision – will resonate with those practitioners who already appreciate the importance of developing offenders’ strengths and aspirations. He also offers several instructive reflections on the relationship between mental health and offending and the significance of trauma in the lives of many troubled individuals.  Readers will ponder the similarities and differences between US and European perspectives: we all have much to learn by such comparisons and exchanges of ideas.

Ross Little discusses how the views and experiences of young offenders are so rarely sought by those who have a duty to work with and for them.  This disempowers them, as well as limiting opportunities for improvement in the services they receive. Describing a project in which he was personally involved, he explores what active participation can and should mean in practice for young people in conflict with the law.  He concludes with the reflection that, while there are attempts to bring about change, the voices of service users (especially, though not only, young people) are too often excluded.  As he puts it, ‘we humans can be remarkably reluctant to give up power and responsibility, even when there are clear advantages to others and society more broadly’ and his paper expresses a challenge to do better.

Jonathan Evans, Brian Heath and Peter Raynor reflect on their work as members of a team that reviewed youth justice policy and practice in Jersey, a British Channel island ‘microstate’ (Raynor and Miles, 2007) just a few kilometres off the French coast.  They discuss the impacts of their work with particular attention to how such processes of review can come to make a difference.  The team’s combination of critical and reflective ‘insiders’ (participants in the system themselves) and appreciative and sympathetic outsiders seems especially important.  (Those who enjoy this paper may be interested to read an excellent new book by Helen Miles and Peter Raynor, Reintegrative Justice in Practice: The Informal Management of Crime in an Island Community, Farnham: Ashgate, 2014.)

Elena Nichifor writes about probation in Romania.  From time to time, EuroVista (and, before that, Vista) has been able to publish accounts of probation in different countries.  This has not happened for a few years now and the editors were especially pleased to receive this paper.  Romania is an inspirational example of a probation agency that has achieved a great deal in a relatively short time, as the author explains. It would be marvellous if this paper prompted others to write accounts from their own countries, telling readers across Europe about innovations, strengths, challenges and achievements of probation agencies in different countries.  Authoritative factual accounts of national agencies are already available through Probation in Europe 2008, with more recent summaries and updates, but critical and reflective accounts in the pages of EuroVista would be a valuable complement to these descriptions.

The paper by Nikolaos Varvatakos is a particular pleasure to read.  He recounts an episode from one of the very earliest works of European literature, Homer’s Odyssey, and uses Odysseus’s encounter with the cyclops, Polyphemus, to consider how excessive retribution and an unwillingness to forgive can have dreadful consequences.  It is a mark of great literature that it continues to have such resonance and can encourage readers to ponder so many aspects of the human condition.  Readers of this rewarding paper will wonder if Odysseus was wrong to scorn Polyphemus’s attempts to call him back for apology and reconciliation or wise to make good his escape!  This is a familiar dilemma for judges and tribunals who are contemplating the release of people who have committed grave crimes.

Our issue also includes the usual book reviews, drawing our readers’ attention to new work in probation/community justice research and scholarship.

In the months ahead, we hope to publish two ‘special issues’.  In the past couple of years we have brought two impressive special issues to publication – one on ‘offender engagement’ (2.1), the other a unique publication of several accounts of desistance written by the desisters themselves (3.1). The anticipated special issues will be on:

  • Evaluation – many readers of this journal will already be convinced of the value and effectiveness of probation, but it is increasingly becoming necessary to be able to demonstrate the effectiveness of our work. This calls for systematic evaluation, but the prospect of doing this is often daunting.  We hope that our special issue will give case studies of achievable and small-scale evaluations that will show that much can be accomplished with a relatively small investment of resources.
  •  Electronic Monitoring. The CEP has encouraged research and conferences on this important topic. Last year, the Council of Europe set standards by adopting Recommendation CM/Rec (2014) 4 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on electronic monitoring. Technology develops fast and there are often influential commercial interests involved.  The imperative must be to see how EM technologies can support the work of probation, rather than lead it.

Although we already have a number of papers in mind for both these special issues, the editors would be delighted to receive contributions.  We shall be no less delighted to receive papers on any and all other aspects of probation and community justice.  As readers will know, all our papers are published in English and we suspect that this discourages people who, however accomplished their spoken English, are uncertain that they can write well enough in a language other than their own.  Please don’t be put off!  We will find ways around that problem and help you to get your paper published in EuroVista.

Rob Canton