The advent of Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) was proclaimed a ‘revolution’ in the Coalition government's 2013 consultation paper, which announced:
These reforms will make a significant change to the system, delivering the Government's commitment to real reform. Transforming rehabilitation will help to ensure that all of those sentenced to prison or community sentences are properly punished while being supported to turn their backs on crime for good – meaning lower crime, fewer victims and safer communities. (Grayling, 2013: 5–6)
The operationalisation of TR in 2014–15 impacted on policy and practice aspects of the criminal justice system as a whole and on the staff and service users of probation in particular. While TR brought about new structural and governance changes – most specifically the rupture between the National Probation Service (NPS) and the mainly privatised Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) – it is suggested in this chapter that this should have been viewed not as a new development, but rather as an enforced adaptation that was in alignment with neo-liberal penal reforms which had taken place over a longer period (Garland, 2001; Deering and Feilzer, 2019).
Of relevance in this respect were the strategies associated with the new penology which had been incorporated into probation and prison practice in England and Wales since the early 2000s. Actuarial assessment of offenders undertaken at sentencing, or at the pre-release stage from prison, informs the allocation of offenders according to risk levels, thereby sorting ‘individuals into groups according to the degree of control warranted by their risk profiles’ (Feeley and Simon, 1992: 459). The use of actuarial tools such as OASys (Offender Assessment System) provides assessments of risk in relation to individual offenders and thereby enables the overall management of levels of supervision, with the intention that the level of intervention should match the level of risk (Bonta and Andrews, 2017).
The rise of neo-liberal principles with which risk is associated (Hardy, 2014) became of increasing importance for probation over this period when resources were diminishing (Kemshall, 2012), with concerns being expressed by the then Chief Inspector of Probation about ‘the “silting up” of probation caseloads with low risk offenders [which] is a major problem for an already over-stretched workforce’ (Morgan, 2003: 7).