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Victim Contact Work in the Probation Service: Paradigm Shift or Pandora's Box?

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 41 Issue: 4 Dated: Autumn 2001 Pages: 707-725
Adam Crawford; Jill Enterkin
Date Published
19 pages
This paper considers some of the findings of a study of victim contact work in the Probation Service of England and Wales and their implications, particularly regarding the views and experiences of victims.
The 1990 Victim's Charter created an obligation for the Probation Service in England and Wales to contact the victims, or their families, of life-sentence prisoners prior to any consideration of the offender's release, so as to inquire about whether they have anxieties about the release. In 1996 this mandate was broadened to include the victims of "serious violent or sexual offenses." The implementation of the Victim's Charter requirements has been both hesitant and variable across different Probation Services. The research reported in this paper focused on the practice response to the Victim's Charter requirements of two Probation Services, both of which had in place nationally recognized, coherent, and yet different models of victim contact service delivery. The study examined the impact of victim contact work on victims, the management of offenders, and the Probation Service. The research findings pose many questions about the uncertain purpose and intended impact of victim contact work, particularly regarding the use of victim information and input. The findings raise a question about the extent to which the protection of victims and concerns over confidentiality have been given sufficient consideration by policymakers at the national level. The most serious inadequacy of the national policy and practice guidance has been the failure to clarify the purpose of consulting victims to derive their views in the form of a Victim Report about an offender's release, as well as who should make use of such information and for what specific purposes. On the positive side, the research findings suggest that victims of serious crime can benefit significantly from quality, timely, and well-delivered information on the offender's custody; contextual information that would allow them to understand the conditions of the offender's custody; and explanations of criminal justice terminology and procedures. 35 references