'Penal Drift' and the Voluntary Sector

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    This paper explores the concept of ‘penal drift’ - the gradual adoption of criminal justice culture, language and working practices - in voluntary sector organisations (VSOs) commissioned to deliver services to offenders. It identifies increases in coerced attendance, obligations to report non-compliance, targets to reduce re-offending, and contracts to ‘process’ high caseloads, as factors behind such drift, which can jeopardise relationships with service users and the sector’s traditional ‘value-driven’ approach. It is concluded that most VSOs have so far managed to resist these threats and to balance contractual obligations with adherence to core values. However, this comes at a cost in staff time and energy and is difficult to sustain. There are concerns that the longer term effects may be quite damaging to the sector.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)430-449
    Number of pages20
    JournalHoward Journal of Criminal Justice
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019


    • criminalisation of social policy
    • offender management
    • penal drift
    • Transforming Rehabilitation (TR)
    • voluntary sector


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