Contemporary Context For Working In Criminal Justice Practice

In order to make sense of the demands falling on criminal justice practitioners and their capabilities to cope, it is important to present an analysis of the changing environment in which they work. Change, and the management of change, in criminal justice organisations can be stressful in themselves (Audit Commission, 2001). The Commission notes that change can result in adverse impacts on staff morale, difficulties for staff to maintain quality of service delivery whilst responding to new demands, greater levels of public expectation and scrutiny of criminal justice practitioners' actions (Audit Commission, 2001). They comment that senior managers face difficult challenges in managing people and resources. Similar pressures can be found elsewhere. The Correctional Service of Canada (not dated), for example, observe that changes in management principles mean that senior members of staff are expected to manage rather than operate a command and control system. In addition, fiscal restraint and changing gender balance of prison staff have been associated with new job pressures for senior prison managers. Brown, Cooper and Kirkcaldy (1999) document the work pressures on senior police managers at times of change within the British police service.

Both public and private sector working styles and environments have changed somewhat dramatically in recent years. Globalisation of markets, business re-engineering, and customer focus have resulted in new management styles and organisational practices. Criminal justice agencies were later than most organisations to be subjected to such restructuring. Key factors in Britain were the introduction, in the 1980s, of new public sector management, the citizens' charter, and the establishment of the Audit Commission as an external agency to carry out best value inspections, and often from the user's perspective. Brown, Cooper and Kirkcaldy (1999) review the progress of the British police service in this regard. Organisational innovations have resulted in significant changes to traditional management practices within the police service such as variable working hours, proactive management of sickness absence, active pursuit of equal opportunities policies, introduction of part-time working and job-sharing arrangements.

The Prison Service in Britain faced similar radical changes. And these are not unique to Britain (Schaufeli and Peeters, 2000). They suggest that, underpinning much of the change occurring with this sector, was a demand for a more sophisticated professionalisation of the role of prison officers throughout liberal democracies in the Western world. They note the following pressures within the prison system: growing size and changing composition of inmate populations; increase in the numbers of drug addicts, mentally ill and aggressive prisoners; introduction of a new raft of rehabilitation programmes; liberalisation of regimes for prisoners, such as conjugal visits and access to telephones; introduction of new treatment specialists, such as forensic psychologist managing sex offender treatment programmes; middle level supervision and new career structures within the service; better educated officers; financial cutbacks and reduction of staff.

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