Reflections on the Liverpool Conference

This post comes from Christine Morgenstern, one of the leaders of our European Policy and Practice Working Group…

Having a criminal record of delivering lengthy papers slightly after the deadline has expired, I go for a quick and short blogpost today. Well, I try…  It should not be too difficult after returning from or first international Offender Supervision in Europe Conference in Liverpool which was truly inspiring. So I’ll write about:

  • Words I learnt: I am always keen to deepen my knowledge of the English language and I may have understood now the difference between revocation and recall. I am still unsure with resettlement and reintegration but I know now what a ‘graveyard shift’ is (though none of the sessions felt like one!). My favourite, however, was the K.I.S.S. principle – keep it simple, stupid. Lovely! Are there any motivational posters for scholars with that slogan?
  • Feelings I had: There were good vibrations (is that expression still in use? For further references, see: www.thebeachboys.com) throughout the whole event – during the sessions, during formal and informal discussions, coffee and lunch breaks, and Friday night on the dancefloor (although there were some tensions between academics and practitioners – we entered first, but practitioners did better in the end…). This enjoyable atmosphere that made you love your work had to do with academic and personal friendship within the network but in particular with the chair of the Action and also with the host of the event. The mixture of scholars coming from difference disciplines and different countries, practitioners, and – few, but impressive – (ex-) supervisees was great. This does not mean it was all harmony; we still have enough controversies – for example, whether you have to marry a practitioner from another jurisdiction to be truly enabled to do sensible and culturally sensitive comparative research. We also heard from a lot of deeply frustrating developments. Despite being an outsider and of course not having the full picture I cannot really imagine that something good can result from selling the English Probation service to multi-national companies (except more money for their shareholders, perhaps?). Two of our speakers also talked about utterly unfair or useless treatment they have experienced while under supervision – about individuals who treated them inadequately, a problem which will always be there, but also about structural problems that could and should be changed. Which leads me to…
  • Insights I gained: There were many. I just want to write about one, because it struck me at least three times during the conference, although the aspect was only mentioned as an aside. It is the question of having a criminal record which is accessible for future employers (or others) for a very long time or forever, even if the person concerned has stopped offending (for example, if I understood correctly, as part of the spent convictions scheme for people who served a prison sentence longer than 2 1/2 years). Examples came from England/Wales, Ireland and the US (for an Australian account see Saliba, www.ejprob.ro/index.pl/national_ian_2013). This of course seriously impedes desistance. My own country, Germany, has a lot of flaws and shortcomings with regard to the treatment of offenders.  But for most offences/sentences, including murder, the conviction will not be disclosed to private employers five years (ten for serious sex offenders) after the completion of the sentence (for other European states see www.ejprob.ro/index.pl/january_2011. Hey Raymond, this may answer your question?!). How on earth can a practice as described during the conference be justified by a state like the UK that at the same time has beautiful (and expensive) programmes to help ex-offenders to resettle in the community?! Why is this legislation/practice not abolished? It would, at no financial cost, make desistance easier for many. Of course I know the political answer. Still this practice should be named and blamed as being hostile towards the ex-offender, hostile towards those who try to help him to desist, and useless, even counterproductive, with regard to the safety of the community. The state in that way – and now you’ll learn a German saying – ‘tears down with his ass what he has built with his hands…’

 

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