The criminal justice system

Although evidence suggests that intervention strategies which focus on the offender's social context and conditions support change Maruna (2002) there are still researches who disagree. Coleman and Moynihan (1996: 131) explain complications when demonstrating the relationship between crime and unemployment. They feel statistics from collective studies do not show a strong correlation between the rates of crime and unemployment and feel research should be focussed on individual studies. In addition other economic variables such as conditions of work, future employment prospects etc may be linked to crime.

Issues such as marriage were recognized as a protective factor. Easton (2007: 6) found those engaging with Probation supervision reported a lack of employment opportunities. Findings also showed housing needs weren't met but they had priority access to drug services. These difficulties have been linked to financial and other resource constraints as well as lack of commitment and accountability by other agencies (e. g. housing). I find that as a Trainee Probation Officer I am always aware of the discrimination and hopelessness that many offenders have to face.

I am able to recognise the differences between offender's general attitudes who have adequate housing, basic skills and employment to the offenders that don't. The offenders who don't have these opportunities are often negative; feel hopeless and often feel the only way to survive is to continue to commit offences. I combat this by using motivational interviewing which is helpful in addressing issues of inadequacy and hopelessness by promoting self efficacy Millner and Rollnick (1992). I also make referrals to our partnership agencies such as housing, employment and education.

However due to lack of resources they often have to prioritise and so many of my offenders are unable to get the assistance they need. It does therefore appear that the strain theory does offer effective intervention strategies to prevent crime but the degree of effectiveness is influenced by other variables such as resource constraints McGuire (2003: 27-28). It also lacks conviction in that it doesn't address many issues such as white- collar crime, female offenders or crime committed by the middle class.

These do not follow the strain theory as people whom commit white collar crime are not usually faced with discrimination and inequalities. In terms of female offenders they often face inequalities and discrimination but do not commit as many crimes as men. The rational choice theory argues that crime is an everyday occurrence in society and adopts a straightforward and logical way of explaining criminal behaviour. The decision to commit offences is based on the individual's appraisal of the costs and benefits (Cornish and Clark, 1990, cited in Palmer, 2003).

This therefore assumes that offenders choose to commit specific offences for the benefits that they bring. Prevention should therefore be aimed at altering decision making process so as to increase the risks or effort involved in the commission of crime and decrease any rewards associated with it Crawford (2007: 878). Rex (1999) and Maruna (2000) emphasises the role of Probation officers in promoting desistance. Rex found that in their experiences of supervision, probationers could discern and appreciate efforts to improve their reasoning and decision making.

(Ross & Fabiano, 1985 cited in OASys Manual 2002), indicate that many offenders cope poorly with life because they exhibit various cognitive deficits, including lack of impulse control, poor problem solving, inability to see other's views and rigid inflexible thinking. Deficits in these areas have been found to be predictive of the likelihood of reconviction. Though it does not draw directly on desistance research, perhaps the best known model of intervention focussed on the supervisory relationship developed in Australia by Chris Trotter (1999).

Trotter suggests that effective work with offenders is characterised by clear, honest and frequent discussions about the role of the worker and the client. The worker should focus on modelling and encouraging pro-social expressions and actions by the client; and that by using a collaborative problem solving approach the clients definitions of their problems and goals are valued. Another central principle includes Problem – solving which involves the survey, ranking and exploration of problems, goal setting and contracting, the development of strategies and ongoing monitoring.

Trotter identifies pro-social modelling as one skill of engagement, which in conjunction with others will provide effective approaches reducing the risks of problems and re-offending. Farrall (2002) argued that Probation interventions may develop human capital with regards to enhanced cognitive skills or employability but they cannot bring about the social capital that is necessary for inclusion. To some extent the rational choice theory may explain how people may reach a decision to commit a criminal act. But it does not reveal the motivation as to why people commit crimes.

Unfortunately it also assumes that all offenders are rational thinkers and do not possess limited rationality and fails to acknowledge that many people face limited opportunities but do not commit crimes. One of the most important approaches to the understanding of criminality is the labelling theory. This perspective diverts away from the individual and focuses on the operation of the criminal justice system itself. It is members of the criminal justice system (police, social workers, probation officers) that can make matters worse by negatively labelling offenders.

This process may bestow upon individuals a deviant label that could help to maintain deviance rather than reduce it. Howard Becker (1963) was one of the initiators of the labelling theory; he stated that "Social groups create deviance by making the rules whose infractions constitute deviance, and by applying these rules to particular people and labelling them as outsiders. " By this Becker means that society create the rules which when broken form deviance. Therefore the generating of rules is the cause for crime and deviance.

He says that deviance is not a distinctive form of behaviour but behaviour which breaks these certain outlined rules. Becker presents well the idea that in some contexts certain behaviour is seen as deviant whereas in others it is not. For this he uses the example of injecting heroine, "The act of injecting heroine into a vein is not inherently deviant. If a nurse gives patient drugs under a doctor's orders, it is perfectly fine. It is when it is done in a way that is not publicly defined as proper that it becomes deviant.

" The act is only made deviant in a situation when society views it as inappropriate; the act itself is not illegal. This perspective therefore forces us to reflect on how we interact with offenders and the impact of our language, judgements and decisions. Baldoc et al (2003: 530) add that the theory advocates for interventions which are non-criminalising and keep offenders out of the criminal justice system. Individuals whom have been involved within the criminal justice system often experienced discrimination within employment, insurance and the courts.

This is because their criminal records portray them as criminals even when they have desisted. Rayner and Robinson (2005). They felt that this involvement within the criminal justice system is characterised as "stigmatic shaming" which adopts social exclusion. The offender can then take on this criminal identity which can result in recidivism. Within my practice when I write Pre sentence reports writer I can try to adjust this by giving fines to first time offenders when appropriate, this could then divert them away from the criminal justice system.