chapter  16
Probation and community service orders
Pages 21

This chapter examines various issues surrounding the use of community sentences for juvenile and adult offenders. Issues such as the rationale for community sentences and the effectiveness of these sentences for offenders will be discussed. Broadly speaking, there are two main types of community sentence in Hong Kong, namely the probation order and community service order. In contrast to other non-custodial sentences such as fines, disqualification and compensation, both probation and community service orders involve an element of active participation by the offender and close supervision or monitoring by a designated authority figure from the state. The intended goal of these two community-based supervised sentences is to ‘help [offenders] reintegrate into the community as law-abiding citizens’ through proper supervision, counselling, and academic, pre-vocational and social skills training (Director of Social Welfare, 2015). What is central to community sentences is the emphasis of social work

approaches to rehabilitate offenders, encourage their pro-social behaviours and equip them with necessary skills to deal with life demands. Registered social workers are employed to supervise all offenders on probation and community service orders that are administered by the Social Welfare Department (Chui, 1999, 2002, 2003a, 2004, 2011). Whilst proponents of the criminal justice social work intervention for offenders firmly believe that ‘a highly motivated individual can change into a productive and law-abiding citizen if he or she is given the right counselling (non-judgmental, empathetic, confrontative, reality-oriented, strengths-based, and cognitive-behavioural), as well as academic, vocational, and social education opportunities’ (Brownell and Roberts, 2002: 2; see also Barry, 2000; Taylor, 2001; Reynolds et al., 2004), others believe that the state should be tough on the convicted and they should be deterred and incapacitated from further offending by imposing heavy penalties on them. For instance, in England and Wales, in order to give community sentences a new face, the

probation order and community service order was once named the community rehabilitation order and community punishment order, respectively (Nellis, 2000). One major reason for renaming was largely driven by political reasons. The policymakers and politicians intended to convey to the public that these sentences were no longer ‘soft’ options and measures were taken to ensure community sentences were enforced (Raynor and Vanstone, 2002; Worrall and Hoy, 2005). Noted by Chui and Nellis (2003) is that probation training in England and Wales is no longer part of generic social work training and has become more criminologically focused since the early 2000s (see also Nellis, 2003; Whitehead and Thompson, 2004; Gregory, 2007). In this respect, the chapter will also speculate why the social work model of community sentences in Hong Kong has been able to preserve its social work identity, and discusses what should be done to improve the quality and effectiveness of these sentences. This chapter consists of three main sections. The first section discusses the various

justifications for community sentences such as diversion or deinstitutionalisation, reintegration (or rehabilitation) and reparation. The second section describes the operation of community sentences, and relevant sections of the ordinances will be cited to examine their operations. The third section examines the ingredients of effective intervention with offenders. In line with the ‘What Works’ movement, the chapter points to the importance of developing a more systematic and evidence-based criminal justice social work intervention for offenders.