Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 March 2021
This chapter examines the role and fortunes of the voluntary sector (VS) in the field of offender resettlement and rehabilitation between 2014 and 2019 in England and Wales. During this period, the central government's Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms saw the partial privatisation of probation services and the promise of an enlarged role for the VS (Ministry of Justice, 2013a). While TR dominated the discourse around VS commissioning it was not the only ‘game in town’. The vast majority of VS agencies providing rehabilitation services were not commissioned through the new Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) or National Probation Service (NPS) which formed the institutional structure of TR (Clinks, 2018a). Instead, their funders were primarily charitable trusts and local public bodies such as local authorities and police and crime commissioners. These arrangements have been largely overlooked, drowned out by the preoccupation with TR, its condemnation and the post-TR partial ‘renationalisation’ of probation services (Ministry of Justice, 2019a).
By examining how the VS and other agencies shaped the field of offender rehabilitation and resettlement, this chapter aims to redress this oversight. We revisit the sector's generally negative experience of, and seemingly marginal role within, the top-down governmentdriven TR commissioning processes between 2014 and 2019. We then contrast this with two case studies which tell a more encouraging story, shining a light on alternative commissioning processes by a charitable trust and by local public bodies. We demonstrate how VS organisations themselves acted to shape the field. We illustrate how local public bodies, through regional English devolution, wrested control from central government and shaped their own regional rehabilitation market. In doing this we highlight valuable lessons for what makes for effective commissioning. We conclude by advocating the adoption of a market stewardship approach, which better serves the interests of all stakeholders, but in particular the intended market beneficiaries – offenders and the wider society itself.
The ‘voluntary sector’ and ‘market making’ in criminal Justice
Our analysis is informed by insights from field theory (Fligstein and McAdam, 2012). The starting assumption is that more or less organised groups of actors convene around common but contested areas of interests – fields – in which they variously compete and combine to pursue particular causes and secure and advance their positions. The rehabilitation of offenders might usefully be seen as one such field.