Early deliberations on Decision-making and Supervision

From Miranda Boone, co-leader of the Working Group on Decision-making and Supervision…

During the general meeting of the Cost Action on 4 and 5 October in Brussels, the Working Group on Decision-making and Supervision held its first discussions. This Working Group was the last working group that was established under the Action. Despite that, it is quite popular. It has fourteen members now, coming from eleven different countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.  We all prepared a paper for the meeting containing the main decision makers and decision-making processes concerning offender supervision in our countries and an overview of the research that has been done already.  Martine Herzog Evans captured the main topics of the different papers in a PowerPoint presentation that structured our first deliberations: What are the aims of supervision? What does the Probation Service do? Who decides on breach? What are the reasons for it? What agencies are involved in supervision? Who has the power to decide?

At the end of the second session we took the important decision to divide our working group into three different sub-groups that will be working on three decision making stages, namely  pre-trial supervision, sentencing and release. In all three phases we will study both granting and breaching/revocation of supervision and we will explore factors that influence the decision-making process as well as the outcomes of decision-making.

The remaining sessions we used to discuss these different stages of decision-making. Very interesting questions came up that were sometimes investigated on the national level, but certainly not at the comparative level. For example:  What is the role of Probation in the pre-trial stage? Are Advisory Reports available during this stage and how do they influence the decision-making process? How is the judge informed before sentencing and by whom? Is a pre-sentence report available in the decision process, for whom, and how is it decided when and for whom a pre-sentence report is made? What is the influence of misconduct in prison on the early release decision? What are the reasons for breach: re-offending or non-compliance? In cases where ‘dangerous offenders’ are not prepared for their release, what is the influence on reconviction-rates? Are irregular migrants prepared on their release? How?

We ended up with a huge list of factors that possibly influence the decision-making process and many plans concerning the continuation of our work. We were all very excited about the progress we made, but also very much aware of the huge task that is still waiting for us.

So, despite our popularity, we are still in need for more members, in particular from the Nordic countries, but also from other countries that are not covered yet.  Please don’t hesitate and approach one of the two working group leaders (Miranda Boone and Martine Herzog Evans)  in case you are interested.

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