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Invisible Rehabilitation: An Exploration of Rehabilitative Practices within a Community Work Agency.

Community Work is one of the most utilised community based sentences in New Zealand. It is a low cost and low intensity sentence that is extensively used to punish low level offences. Although Community Work is not an explicitly rehabilitative sentence, it does possess some implicitly rehabilitative traits. In her Ireland based study, McGagh (2007) argued that rehabilitative practices enhance Community Work and lead to better outcomes for offenders. The most recent New Zealand based study on the sentence was conducted over 2 decades ago by Asher and O'Neill (1990). This is the research gap this study sought to fill by exploring rehabilitative practices within a faith-based Community Work agency. The study was an ethnographic case study of a faith-based agency within which offenders on Community Work sentences completed sentenced hours. A number of qualitative data collection methods including observations, interviews, a focus group and analysis of testimonial data were used to triangulate findings. The researcher gathered data from three participant groups at the agency. These groups were; individuals currently or previously on community work sentences at the agency, agency staff and agency volunteers. When offenders on community work sentences arrive at this agency their status as offenders is kept private. They are consequently introduced as volunteers and have access to all the same benefits of volunteers. The ability to keep their offender status private and be regarded as any other volunteer was a central theme present in the data. This helped those sentenced to community work to develop a non-offender identity. The invisibility of offender status helped offenders distance themselves from the offender identity, while being offered the visible prosocial ‘volunteer’ identity helped them shift their self-narrative from that of an offender to a nonoffender. Desistance research suggests that subjective changes in an offender’s self-narrative can be indicative of the offender engaging in the desistance process (Farrall & Maruna, 2004; Healy, 2010; Serin & Lloyd, 2009). This study found that anonymising the offender status of individuals in community work sentences at this agency may have initiated a shift in self-narratives as individuals shifted their identity from offenders to volunteers. This narrative shift potentially helped trigger and maintain offender desistance. The principle of treating offenders as desisters rather than persisters displays a confidence in the offenders’ ability to change. This faith in an individual’s ability to change has been found to be desistance supportive (Raynor & Robinson, 2005). Anonymising offender status as a rehabilitative practice can lead to the onset or maintenance of desistance. It is a potentially effective intervention that could be broadly integrated into the community work sentence.
Type of thesis
Namwinga, N. (2016). Invisible Rehabilitation: An Exploration of Rehabilitative Practices within a Community Work Agency. (Thesis, Master of Applied Psychology (MAppPsy)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10598
University of Waikato
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