Headlines: May 21st, 2010

The work of voluntary organisations in criminal justice may be hampered by resentment from the statutory sector, according to a new study. It highlights the benefits third sector providers can bring but also points to concerns from statutory agencies, which saw such groups as competitors.

The study by the Third Sector Research Centre found the benefits voluntary organisations could bring to criminal justice provision included the ability to develop positive relationships with people who use their services, engaging them in developing services and building links with the wider community. They currently provide a range of services to offenders including advice, education and training, spiritual and faith guidance, mentoring, arts projects and peer support schemes.

Researchers found the statutory sector particularly resented the threat voluntary bodies posed to their position. This was especially so for the Probation Service, where there was almost no evidence of third sector involvement. The Centre carried out interviews with people from both sectors many of whom noted that the way Government policy promoted partnership often led to agencies seeing partners as competitors rather than collaborators.

Researcher Dr Rosie Meek, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Southampton, said: “Recent developments have promoted the role of the third sector in the criminal justice system. Yet this is one of the most controversial arenas for the sector.” She said some people had questioned whether it was appropriate for voluntary organisations to take part in criminal justice services at all, especially the running of prisons or other punishment provisions.