chapter  1
Pages 14

The position of the relationship between offender and criminal justice practitioner has shifted throughout rehabilitative history, whether that relationship is situated within psychological interventions, prison or probation. This relationship and the values that underpin it, have evolved and adapted over time depending upon the context in which they are embedded, and yet interpersonal processes still remain a significant aspect of rehabilitative work today (Burnett, 2004). Such relationships can be understood in numerous ways and this has consequentially meant that the effective elements of relational work have never been fully uncovered or appreciated (Burnett, 2004). The potential to form more therapeutic relationships that promote behavioural change has many tensions within a correctional context and this work aims to explore these challenges and conclude that therapeutic correctional relationships are possible, in spite of these issues. Relationships are central throughout criminal justice and from the moment a criminal offence is committed, relationships are severed between offender, victims and communities. The process of repairing and safeguarding relationships is of great significance, not only for the offender themselves, but on broader levels, across criminal justice agencies and within communities. This book aims to examine relationships that promote change, by discussing relationships vertically at different levels of the criminal justice system and horizontally, across criminological and psychological disciplines. It will draw on the findings of my doctoral research to critically examine the micro-processes of relationships and address what implications this new knowledge might have for frontline practice and policy. While it is generally accepted that relationships can be a positive vehicle

within the change process, little work has concentrated on the specific mechanisms that underlie relationships and the darker side to them. It can sometimes be assumed that once a practitioner and offender form a ‘good’ relationship, this continues throughout their work together and yet, this research highlights that relationships ebb and flow over time and an insight into this process can prove to be both valuable and useful. It is important first to distinguish between correctional relationships and

therapeutic correctional relationships. I contend that correctional relationships

account for all relationships that exist between an offender and criminal justice practitioner, irrespective of quality. A therapeutic correctional relationship, however, is associated with a correctional relationship that nurtures growth and positive change and is defined as a collaborative relationship that is founded upon therapeutic qualities, such as mutual respect, genuineness, empathy, acceptance and positive regard (Rogers, 1967; Miller and Rollnick, 2002). Research in this area is relatively silent upon how criminal justice practitioners can effectively support change and Matthews and Hubbard (2007) question whether some practitioners believe this to be an aspect of their role. The term ‘correctional’ in itself suggests that there are elements of an individual that need ‘fixing’ or ‘mending’ and yet this term is used more to represent the context in which such relationships sit. Further, it suggests that within the context of correctional rehabilitation, relationships and the way in which we practise them can provide opportunities for new learning to support the offender in repairing ruptured relationships and build more positive relationships, which may assist them in their journey away from crime. From Matthews and Hubbard’s (2007) work and my own, it is argued that therapeutic correctional relationships can be formed with offenders and that there are numerous opportunities within the criminal justice system where such relationships can operate and flourish. While it is acknowledged that several factors support processes of desis-

tance, this work focuses upon relational issues characteristic to a correctional setting. My research was carried out within a probation setting and it is hoped that comparisons can be drawn from this context, into other domains within criminal justice. I will argue that therapeutic correctional relationships can aid the practitioner in supporting the processes of desistance and contribute to aspects of risk assessment. These aspects of practice may be relevant to prison work, probation work and more recently the work of community rehabilitation companies within England and Wales, since the Transforming Rehabilitation Agenda. International perspectives will also be considered to provide a commentary on some of the contemporary issues that exist within relational work. While a focus of this book is a consideration of the micro-processes of

therapeutic correctional relationships, relational practice, or the lack of it, will be discussed on broader levels, seeking out alternative ways of practice from the bottom up. This book is therefore aimed at frontline practitioners, students studying penology, psychology or criminology as well as policy-makers and organisational leaders. The findings from this project were formulated on the position of embracing offender engagement throughout the process of the research, in order to promote the ideas of personalisation within criminal justice and relational justice. In light of the findings from the research, it will present the core principles of relational practice and discuss future directions within theory, training and practice.