‘Patience, persistence and proportionality’: Probation officer's perspectives of desistance in practice

Peter Beck, Emma McGinnis

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Desistance from crime is a priority for criminal justice policy and practice yet the term carries varying definitions across research literature. Contemporary discourses promote a refocusing from desistance's representation as an individual's personal journey, to understanding desistance more akin to a social movement. Research has predominantly focused on the lived experience of those striving to achieve desistance, with practitioner perspectives remaining under researched. This study, conducted post COVID-19, aimed to explore and evaluate how probation officers operationalise desistance in practice. Outcomes evidence that whilst practitioners acknowledge the diverse conceptualisations of desistance, it remains a priority in practice, even where the focus is predominantly risk management. Key practice features emerging as essential to promoting desistance include identifying and cultivating a motivation to change, approaches to forming the supervisory relationship and how practitioner's respond when risks increase. A supporting organisational ethos is critical but challenged in the complex post COVID-19 context.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProbation Journal
Early online date12 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished online - 12 Mar 2024

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© The Author(s) 2024.


  • desistance
  • probation
  • probation supervision
  • probation officers
  • relationship-based practice
  • professional values


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