chapter  10
Concluding thoughts
Pages 9

The argument that has been presented in this book has suggested that probation policy under New Labour emerged as an attempt to produce responsibilised citizens. Alongside this, the aim of probation became an attempt to control and manage risky populations, with the tasks of the individual practitioner, underpinned by a ‘surveillant managerial’ discourse (Nellis, 2005), delineated as: assessing risk; enforcing breach sanctions; and, challenging criminogenic deficits, all in adherence to a centrally prescribed policy framework with explicit guidance and tools. These changes marked a shift away from welfare concerns towards a risk-based penology, as well as the emergence of rehabilitation through responsibilisation. As suggested above, this builds upon the arguments of Farrall (2002) and McNeill (2009) who have argued that probation helps to develop human capital, in the form of motivation or individual capacities, but neglects social capital, in the form of opportunities to exercise these capacities (McNeill et al., 2005: 32). It has also been argued here that agency is multi-contextual – that is, that different contexts influence how individuals exercise agency by providing conditions which enable and constrain agency which, in turn, influences the possibilities of action for particular individuals at a given time. This has been achieved by arguing that the various contexts that would-be desisters encounter solicit alternative temporal orientations of agency which can enable, constrain or suppress these possibilities of action. Different contexts can encourage individuals to exercise agency in a transformative manner, but this can only be sustained if individuals have the necessary resources to be able to overcome particular difficulties, and the guidance required to acquire new habits of thought and action. Where this is absent, individuals may be more likely to revert to past habits of thought and action. The probation context developed by New Labour facilitates desistance by developing agency in the form of confidence, motivation, decision-making, and a future orientation. However, it is argued here that this is, somewhat, effaced by the lack of support in relation to individuals’ broader contexts. In other words, probation develops human capital but neglects the social capital required to make the transition towards desistance (Farrall, 2002; McNeill, 2009). The argument here is that this social capital is neglected because probation policy is

designed to produce responsibilised, remoralised, prudent citizens, and because it is designed to manage offenders through centrally prescribed processes. The dilemma here lies within the proposition that agency is personalised, active and dynamic (Archer, 2007), and is, therefore, unsuited to the dogmatic actuarial and managerial nature of modernised probation.