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How to manage and reintegrate offenders released from prison is a vexing problem for governments. The challenge of reintegration has forced a pendulum shift in corrections toward a more social-psychological understanding of the nature of offender release, after decades of purely psychological paradigm dominance. This article explains how reentry problems and practice encompass the shift in a context of a risk-centric and averse public. New reentry models such as Circles of Support and Accountability demonstrate an approach to reentry that draws upon the tenets of restorative justice and desistance theories. Using qualitative data on reintegration within New Zealand, this article contributes to our understanding of the problems for correctional departments to facilitate reintegration in the context of risk managerialism, and theorizes about the dimensions and implications of “restorative reentry.”
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International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice, 2013
Restoring the social: offender reintegration in a risky world
Kathryn J. Foxa,b*
aDepartment of Sociology, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, USA; bVisiting Scholar, Victoria
University, Wellington, New Zealand
How to manage and reintegrate offenders released from prison is a vexing problem for
governments. The challenge of reintegration has forced a pendulum shift in corrections
toward a more social-psychological understanding of the nature of offender release,
after decades of purely psychological paradigm dominance. This article explains how
reentry problems and practice encompass the shift in a context of a risk-centric and
averse public. New reentry models such as Circles of Support and Accountability
demonstrate an approach to reentry that draws upon the tenets of restorative justice and
desistance theories. Using qualitative data on reintegration within New Zealand, this
article contributes to our understanding of the problems for correctional departments
to facilitate reintegration in the context of risk managerialism, and theorizes about the
dimensions and implications of “restorative reentry.”
Keywords: prisoner reentry; restorative justice; desistance theory; reintegration;
corrections; Circles of Support & Accountability
The problem of prisoner reintegration (or reentry) has become a policy issue for correc-
tions departments because of the vast numbers of prisoners released from prison each year,
the impact on communities, and high rates of recidivism (Petersilia, 2003). Countries with
high incarceration rates, like the United States and New Zealand, have recently discov-
ered the links between the lack of opportunities for released offenders and their risks for
reoffending, and have confronted the enormous challenges created by the aftermath of
incarceration. For example, released offenders often have difficulty locating suitable hous-
ing or decent employment, which can lead to instability and risk for re-offense (Petersilia,
2003). The fact that many offenders re-offend is partially, at least, related to the fact that
reintegrating into community life is fraught with tribulations, from the practical and mun-
dane, such as the need for proper identification and a bank account, to more complex
issues such as the need for non-criminal associates, pro-social recreation, access to better
education, among many others.
For decades in the English-speaking world, prison rehabilitation to the extent that it
occurred has been designed on the basis of the “risk–needs–responsivity” (RNR) princi-
ples advanced by Andrews and Bonta (2010). The RNR model is a list of principles that
indicate which factors are effective targets for treatment of offenders, including those that
contribute to or reduce risk, such as age of onset of criminal behavior or substance abuse
© 2013 School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University
2K.J. Fox
history. The RNR model has been heavily adopted in many countries, but roundly criticized
as well (Hannah-Moffat, 2005; McAlinden 2011; McNeill, Raynor, & Trotter, 2010;Ward
& Maruna, 2007; Ward, Yates, & Willis, 2012). Whereas RNR addresses the causes of
crime, desistance theories, argues McNeill (2012), are an improved approach to offender
recidivism because they attend to the factors that encourage adopting a crime-free lifestyle.
In other words, what goals and motivations can be harnessed to enable a shift in identity
to a non-criminal one to a person who no longer engages in crime? (Maruna, 2001;see
also Calverley, 2012; Farrall & Calverley, 2006; Martin & Stermac, 2010). The notion of
desistance takes into account the limits to rehabilitation alone in facilitating successful
These debates are significant not only in academic circles but also in terms of what
factors are targeted for treatment inside and out of prison, what kinds of behaviors are the
subject of scrutiny upon release, and what distinguishes rehabilitation from reintegration
practice. Sociological understandings of recidivism were dominant in the 1960s and 1970s,
evidenced by an emphasis on expanding opportunities for inmates in prison. Since that
time, psychological approaches have governed correctional discourse, policy, and reason-
ing. The wisdom has been that fixing cognitive and emotional deficits in offenders would
render them ready for release into communities. In the past few years, the pendulum has
swung to the center to some extent, landing on a more social-psychological approach to
offenders’ needs around reintegration.
There have been efforts at the US federal level to decrease recidivism by providing bet-
ter transitional services between prisons and communities. Federal initiatives in the United
States, such as the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI) in 2004 and the
Second Chance Act initially funded in 2008, indicate a shift to an understanding that there
are real social impediments to successful reintegration inasmuch as they provided for ser-
vice provision in the areas of education, employment, and housing. Other countries as well
have targeted recidivism for reduction. For example, New Zealand, the subject of this arti-
cle, has shifted its attention to recidivism reduction (aiming for 25% in a few short years)
in part by changing its reintegration strategy (New Zealand Ministry of Justice, 2012).
However, the problems presented by certain risk factors, such as offenders’ needs for emo-
tional support and community engagement, confound corrections departments insofar as
ordinary case management cannot easily construct communities of concern for released
offenders, especially in light of the larger and pressing mandate of ensuring commu-
nity safety. Within this context, a preoccupation with risk and its reduction characterizes
correctional practice and makes reintegration problematic.
Consequently, one critique is that corrections departments construct offenders as bun-
dles of risk and deficits (Hannah-Moffat, 2005). While “strengths-based” approaches in
corrections are gaining momentum (Maruna & LeBel, 2003; Ward & Maruna, 2007),
attempts to facilitate true reintegration can be problematic. As Raynor (2001) explained,
many offenders were never integrated in the first place (Woolford, 2009). This article
examines the role and difficulties that corrections departments encounter in trying to ease
offender reentry into communities. Much of the tension revolves around the correctional
mandate to assess and manage risks to communities and the hazy distinction between the
obligations of treatment and reintegration within that context. I will demonstrate the ways
in which the dominance of a psychological paradigm of risk assessment and reduction
shapes the orientation to in-prison treatment, thereby rendering reintegration problematic.
Notions about risk reduction vary, including about whether and how to involve commu-
nities in the process. I will argue that the newly emergent approaches that recognize
offenders’ social needs represent a pendulum swing to a middle ground in the form of
International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 3
a social-psychological understanding of offenders’ needs, but that risk managerialism can
confuse the process.
My primary objective is to highlight some of the theoretical differences between reha-
bilitation, which is largely psychological in focus, and reintegration, which is largely social
in focus, and to suggest a model for making reintegration “restorative” (see Bazemore &
Maruna, 2009). Adapting community-based restorative justice principles to smooth com-
munity integration is a way out of the theoretical and practical quagmire. In this vein, I
discuss the Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) model for high-risk sex offender
reintegration, which emerged from Canada and has been piloted in New Zealand. The
CoSA model adapts restorative justice principles, by relying on community involvement
and offender accountability in the reentry process. Thus, CoSA represents an example of
“restorative reentry” as I have conceptualized it. However, a punitive public and the dom-
inance of risk-based correctional practice conspire to limit the scope of restorative justice
across all phases of criminal justice. The import of this discussion is the impact of social
and psychological discourses in correctional practice and the larger frames of risk and
punitive populism within which they function.
The data used for this project come from a qualitative study conducted in New Zealand
over a ve-month period in early 2013. New Zealand is intriguing as it has a relatively
high incarceration rate compared to other similar countries; for example, New Zealand’s
rate is currently 193 per 100,000, compared to the United Kingdom’s at 149, Canada’s
at 114, France’s at 102, and Germany’s at 80 (International Centre on Prison Studies,
2013). New Zealand shares similarities with the United States insofar as both have neolib-
eral economies (Brown, 2010), and are countries characterized by “penal populism” (Pratt,
2007), yet New Zealand is renowned for its use of restorative justice (Maxwell & Morris,
2000,2001). New Zealand has also piloted a CoSA program for returning sex offenders
(van Rensburg, 2012) and introduced it as part of its reintegration strategy for high-
risk sex offenders under indefinite sentences. CoSA is a model that was developed as
community-based group support for high-risk offenders who had no other means of sup-
port but were being released into communities (Hannem & Petrunik, 2007; Petrunik,
2002; Wilson et al., 2005; Wilson et al., 2009). As CoSA is conceived as an adap-
tation of restorative justice, it provides an interesting avenue of reintegration to study,
especially as it exists outside the treatment realm and is rooted in social understandings
(van Rensburg, 2012).
Fortunate to receive a Fulbright Senior Scholar award to conduct research in New
Zealand, I conducted open-ended, semistructured interviews with 64 participants; this num-
ber includes correctional staff and psychologists, prison case managers, probation officers,
prisoners, Circle volunteers, and others affiliated with government related to restorative
justice or reintegration. In order to get a more complete view of reintegration, I utilized
multiple voices and perspectives on the challenges of reentry. For the purposes of this
article, I draw upon data from 23 correctional staff (several psychologists, several proba-
tion officers, facility case managers who follow cases from entry to release, correctional
officers, chaplains, program designers, and administrators). In addition, 17 prisoners or
recently released prisoners (some of whom were the beneficiaries of a Circle of Support
and Accountability team), and five volunteers were interviewed about reentry needs and
their experiences, as well as 13 restorative justice providers, five government officials affil-
iated with reintegration issues, and a few others. To protect confidentiality most effectively,
4K.J. Fox
specific reference to job titles are omitted; in a few cases, a respondent may be a former
employee of corrections but this is not indicated as such in interview excerpts.
The interviews, which were typically between 45 minutes and one hour long, audio-
recorded, transcribed, and coded, concentrated on questions related to reintegration needs,
policy and practice, including experience with reintegration efforts. Transcripts were coded
for thematic similarities and for general concepts that emerged repeatedly (Lofland &
Lofland, 1995). The Department of Corrections in New Zealand cooperated with the
research but did not sponsor it nor necessarily endorse the findings. The project was
approved by the relevant Institutional Review Boards and ethics boards at the University
of Vermont (USA) and Victoria University at Wellington (New Zealand). Throughout
the manuscript, I use the terms “reentry” and “reintegration” interchangeably, as the for-
mer is used in the United States and the latter in New Zealand to refer to the same
Although I make a few comparisons between the United States and New Zealand,
this study spotlights the approach New Zealand has taken in reintegration, attempts to
place that in context, and concludes with an analysis of how the New Zealand approach
represents a shift from a purely psychological set of assumptions in reintegration to
a social-psychological approach. In conclusion, I will use the data to demonstrate the
significance of this finding for the field of reintegration.
The reintegration problem
Perhaps ironically, the decision to increase incarceration and to lengthen sentences over a
few decades has generated a new set of issues that governments have chosen to address
at the back-end by improving release planning. The recidivism rate for offenders has
remained consistently high; in the United States, the Bureau of Justice Statistics esti-
mates that more than half of released offenders return to jail or prison within three years
(Hughes & Wilson, 2002; Lattimore & Visher, 2009; Petersilia, 2003). New Zealand’s per-
centages are similar (New Zealand Department of Corrections, 2009). Framing this is a
well-documented “populist punitiveness” (Bottoms, 1995; see also Pratt, 2007) that per-
vades much of Western culture (see Pratt and Eriksson (2012) for exceptions). As one
government official in New Zealand said: “There are no votes in crime, but you can lose
votes with crime.” Due to American and New Zealand penal populism (Pratt, 2007), and
the influence of what one respondent termed disparagingly as “common sense” approaches
to crime (as opposed to evidence-based or expert approaches), tough policies are enacted,
often with deleterious results.
American criminal justice policies are harsh in several respects, not the least of which
are the collateral consequences that accompany a prison term, such as voter disenfranchise-
ment and restrictions on housing and student loans in some circumstances (Chesney-Lind
& Mauer, 2003; Manza & Uggen, 2006). New Zealand is in the second place for top incar-
cerators, and has adopted some of the US strategy for deterrence, for example in the form
of a 2010 Three Strikes Law (Clyde, 2010). It is against this backdrop of large prison popu-
lations, and less than ideal recidivism rates that a focus on improving prisoner reintegration
Recently, many states and nations have instituted processes to target recidivism for
reduction because the administrative costs of processing offenders through the system
in some cases multiple times a year is very high (Council of State Governments, 2013).
Many countries have justice reinvestment initiatives underway to spend money more wisely
on programs that achieve significant reductions in repeat offending (Schwartz et al., 2012).
International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 5
In New Zealand, the finance minister asserted in 2011 that prisons were a “moral and fiscal
failure” in a speech that called for greater links between government and civil society
and communities (Otago Daily Times, 2011). The dismal prospects that released offenders
face became the focus of a few national efforts to ease offenders’ transition back into
society. With the first infusion of federal funds in the United States to address offender
reentry, beginning in 2004, and in subsequent resources made available to states, programs
have been erected to facilitate access to benefits and services such as affordable housing,
employment training and opportunities, education, soft skills, substance abuse services,
and other social supports. The explicit goals were to coordinate services among agencies,
to reduce recidivism, and to increase public safety in the process. New Zealand, too, is
fighting a war against recidivism, aiming for a 25% reduction by 2017, by ensuring that
“offenders have the skills and support to lead law-abiding lives” among other things (NZ
Treasury, 2012). The Better Public Services Program was launched by the prime minister in
2012 to make the governmental agencies responsible for crime, among other issues, more
cost effective.
Correctional agencies have devoted resources to enhancing risk assessment tools and
translating those into better reentry planning from facilities to community-based proba-
tion offices; the result has been greater explication of offenders’ needs and risks. Petersilia
(2004) has summarized the kinds of reentry programs that work “control-oriented pro-
grams” do not (p. 6). However, McAlinden (2011) argues that in the risk–needs matrix,
offender needs transmute into more dynamic risks to be managed or controlled. In other
words, “needs” represent risk factors and, as such, are targeted for intervention and atten-
tion from corrections staff. In the RNR paradigm, many of the criminogenic needs are
framed as individual deficits rather than recognized as the social and interactive dimensions
of offenders’ hardships.
Relational and community-based approaches to offender reentry have been slower to
emerge. In part, this is a consequence of the punitive and fearful attitude among the pub-
lic, and is heightened by a risk-centric culture that suffers from “penal populism” (Pratt,
2007; see also Garland, 2002; Giddens, 1991). Penal populism is a feature of New Zealand
culture (and other Anglophone cultures), which manifests in a contest in which political
parties take the toughest stand on crime. Attention to risk factors and to a lower tol-
erance for the risk presented by some returning offenders creates a situation in which
communities often actively seek to remove released offenders from their neighborhoods
rather than welcoming them; this is especially true for those convicted of sexual offenses
(Levenson, 2011).
In addition, the dominance of psychological approaches exemplified by the reliance
on risk principles and cognitive interventions in corrections since the 1990s has delimited
the purview of corrections to the treatment needs of offenders rather than the structural or
social problems that make successful reentry challenging. An exception to this seems to
be the Good Lives Model of offender rehabilitation, which highlights the deficiencies of
the RNR principles in the absence of consideration that offenders have personal goals for
essential well-being that treatment must recognize and help them work toward (Ward &
Brown, 2004). However, as Burnett and Maruna (2006) point out, most rehabilitation pro-
grams emphasize offenders’ deficits rather than their strengths (see also Fox, 2012; Maruna
& LeBel, 2003). In essence, corrections departments are held responsible for risks posed
to communities, and thus, have come to see effective risk management as tight control.
According to one correctional staff member, “people within Correctional jurisdictions are
often used to being savaged in the media and public inquiries and so on and so that they’re
often quite scared and defensive as organizations.” The staff member went on to explain
6K.J. Fox
that making changes to help an offender’s life chances is often viewed as taking on too
much risk. Finessing this is the challenge, as he explained:
...people present with a range of risks. What do you put around them that allows you to
keep doing positive things for them?”
According to one respondent familiar with corrections issues, “[treatment] is like fixing
the car, but leaving the rocks in the road.” Repairing the car is necessary but not sufficient
the rocks are the tangible sorts of obstacles that make reentry difficult. For example, in
the United States, there is a one-strike rule prohibiting access to public housing assistance
if one has a drug conviction. And in both the United States and New Zealand, there are
restrictions that limit where sex offenders can reside upon release, based on distance from
schools and playgrounds (Levenson, 2011). There are numerous “collateral consequences”
that are not sentenced but legislated as part of certain convictions (Chesney-Lind & Mauer,
2003; Manza & Uggen, 2006). Even in the absence of those larger obstacles reentry
boulders perhaps there are smaller issues that arise from prison terms. A facility case
manager explained:
Our two biggest problems are accommodation and support for the men and women that we
release. But in saying that, a lot of people have accommodation, but maybe not a robust support
network. If we looked at what’s quite common, look around our men and women, it would be
that robust support network around them would be a big gap.
The appropriate role of Corrections in fostering the social support networks is unclear; even
in instances in which corrections staff agree that it is an important role, they sometimes
have difficulty imagining how to go about creating those linkages. For example, prison
case managers might develop relationships with landlords or employers, and endeavor to
link released offenders to those resources; however, finding mentors or “sponsors” on the
outside is trickier. On a more mundane level, correctional staff discussed the frustration in
trying to get offenders ready for release, with solid reentry plans in place, only to have them
released without proper identification cards or records, except, in some cases, for letters on
prison stationery stating the offenders’ identity. Without a state-approved identification
card, one cannot open a bank account, or arrange to lease an apartment. A correctional
staff member spoke of the need to “keep things warm” for offenders in prison on short-
term sentences, in terms of ensuring that bills and rent get paid, because the re-offense risk
that develops as a result of the disruption from a six-week sentence is likely to have the
opposite of a deterrent effect.
In New Zealand, some released offenders are discouraged from finding employment
initially, which seems sensible and realistic given the obstacles and community-based treat-
ment demands in the early days. However, some inmates complain that they need to work
as a therapeutic measure. As one prisoner explained, “working and paying taxes helps
my self-esteem.” He also mentioned the importance of staying busy to avoid relapse into
substance abuse. These are but a few examples of the kinds of mundane but significant
material obstacles to effective reentry that bring into relief how external factors inhibit
proper reintegration of offenders; in other words, their problems are not solely internal.
Their risk levels are not solely determined by their psychological deficits.
Brown (2010) argues that the prison experience itself creates criminogenic needs. The
majority of inmates interviewed for this study mentioned housing and social supports as
their most critical reentry needs. In some cases, families had severed ties with the inmate; in
International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 7
other cases, respondents felt they had already asked too much from their family members
in the process of incarceration (e.g., caring for children, taking care of financial obliga-
tions). Often offenders would be prohibited from associating with people they previously
considered friends, as they were gang members, drug users, or criminal associates. Finding
suitable housing was difficult because of landlords’ reluctance to rent to ex-convicts; in
addition, incarceration disrupted their earning potential and thus affording housing was
problematic as well. Even the most effective psychological treatment and sophisticated risk
assessment tools could fail to solve the practical problems inmates confront upon release
(Petersilia, 2003).
Theoretical grounding of reintegration: the dominance of psychology
In the 1960s and 1970s, sociological understandings of offending behavior were paramount
in corrections; employment training and educational deficits were the focus of rehabilita-
tive programs and these sorts of interventions were preparation for release to the outside
world (Cullen & Gendreau, 1989). This version of the rehabilitation model was fully real-
ized in corrections policy. The pronouncement by Martinson (1974) that “nothing works”
in correctional rehabilitation captured the emerging sentiment among researchers and cor-
rections staff that treatment yielded decidedly modest results, after which states abandoned
the agenda en masse. Since that time, psychological approaches have reemerged and domi-
nated, most emblematically in the RNR model (Andrews & Bonta, 2010). Although widely
recognized as helping to target specific factors for treatment, thereby returning better out-
comes, the RNR has been criticized for narrowing the focus of correctional treatment.
The emphasis on psychological risk factors as solely reliable predictors of recidivism has
been criticized for a number of reasons, including dubious predictive powers (Hannah-
Moffat et al., 2009; Singh & Fazel, 2010) and an excessive focus on deficits (Crewe, 2011;
Maruna, 2001; Ward & Maruna, 2007).
One critique emerging from the desistance literature in criminology is that tackling
dynamic factors, such as employment and stable relationships, aid in but will not alone
“cause” desistance (Maruna, 2001). In other words, simply getting a decent job does not
itself cease offending behavior; subjective states matter in terms of goal-setting, motiva-
tion, and how much meaning one derives from the job, etc. For example, research by Martin
and Stermac (2010) examines the role that “hope” plays in reducing recidivism risk (see
also Farrall & Calverley, 2006; Ward & Brown, 2004; Ward & Maruna, 2007). Bottoms
(2001), however, argues that identity change is not essential, as commitment to crime also
vacillates over time due to many external factors. However, desistance theorists concur that
more than psychological deficits are at play in cessation from crime.
Adjusting offenders’ distorted thinking patterns aims largely at negative attributes and
does not facilitate hope for a better life or suggest a path to becoming a community asset
rather than a danger to be managed (Maruna & LeBel, 2003; Travis, 2005). In addition,
the undue attention to risk factors can diminish offenders’ humanity insofar as their pres-
ence in a community is defined as risky rather than advantageous; in essence, offenders’
goals to have a decent life similar to those of ordinary folks are undermined by
pointing to their difference (Maruna, 2001; Maruna & LeBel, 2003; Ward & Maruna,
In the recent past, as one respondent familiar with corrections asserted, the focus was
on repairing the individual through psychological assessment and treatment; once cor-
rected, an individual could be released and expected to function well on the outside. But
high recidivism rates led to subsequent reconsideration of the ways that corrections staff
8K.J. Fox
considered risks and needs of offenders. In fact, as one corrections’ staff member said,
offender “needs” were configured in terms of risk; for example, if someone was antiso-
cial, then he or she may have social needs around that but, outside of risk reduction, other
needs were not considered. The problem of offender reintegration has only recently been
understood as a process that needs careful managing and that may be distinct from reha-
bilitating the offender. Another corrections worker explained that reintegration needs had
largely been subsumed under rehabilitation until recently, with the realization that for many
offenders who may not need or receive treatment, prison is still sufficiently disruptive to
“muck up their lives.” They will have reintegration needs that interfere with stability in
the community. The significance of this is that it implies that, as previously understood,
the offender’s psychology was at the root of re-offending; once the internal problems were
fixed, then reintegration would be unproblematic. Internal problems were determined by
sophisticated and well-researched, validated assessment tools based on the notion that risk
for reoffending could be measured and would be predictive.
Most authors who criticize the risk management fixation argue not that the calcula-
tion of risk is invalid, but merely that it is an incomplete accounting of the various and
complex factors that figure into the risk for re-offense, and likewise the factors that con-
tribute to change or desistance (Maruna, 2001). As one correctional staff member said:
“There’s a bit of a philosophical change that needs to occur in terms of how do we keep
the responsible, self-empowered prisoner within the prison system?” referring to the ways
that prison life disempowers inmates. Because prisons constrain movement, prisoners are
not afforded the opportunity to maintain the ties necessary for a functional life outside,
such as making telephone calls to sort out their bank accounts, etc. Corrections depart-
ments have made strides in referring released offenders to services for employment and
housing assistance, but, according to one staff member, “there’s actually some quite tan-
gible needs that need to be met in order for people to even start embarking on those
Willis and Grace (2009) found that creating prosocial, nonprofessional supports in the
community was essential for success. In other words, as one respondent from Corrections
described, a key component to facilitating this change is finding “a receptive community.”
In the milieu of a punitive public, finding such a community may prove to be the most chal-
lenging dimension, in addition to the question about corrections’ proper role and methods
for securing it.
Other researchers have also emphasized that external factors alone will not lead to crim-
inal desistance, although the RNR proponents recommend focusing only on criminogenic
needs. However, resolving risk factors, such as unemployment, does not necessarily prompt
desistance, rather the new constructions of self that come from a quality commitment to
work perhaps stemming from a goal to support a child may aid in desistance (Maruna
1999; Ward & Maruna, 2007). Maruna (2001) and Ward and Maruna (2007) assert that
desistance stems from creating goals and finding meaning for a decent life, and construct-
ing an identity that fits. In contrast, a risk-based model harnesses a discourse about the
“potential to do harm” rather than the “potential to do good” (Steen et al., 2012, p. 31).
As one correctional staff member said:
Punishing them more severely isn’t going to make any difference. What’s going to make the
difference is someone believing in them .... You don’t need to read a book on criminology
or meeting criminogenic needs to work this stuff out. This is basic, decent, caring for people,
doing the right thing. I mean, it’s how you bring up your own kids.
International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 9
Such thinking represents a departure from a strictly psychological orientation insofar as it
reflects a strengths-based approach one that focuses on shared humanity and basic social
needs as guiding principles rather than focusing on offenders’ difference from law-abiding
citizens (see Fox, 1999; Maruna, 2001).
The paradigm of risk and its consequences for restoration
The context in which correctional practice has been at odds with true integration is its
near-obsessive attention to risk assessment and reduction. In the late 1980s, the RNR
model risk/needs/responsivity took the correctional world by storm and has since been
dominant (see Andrews & Bonta, 2010). In this model, a proper assessment of offenders’
dynamic and static risks for reoffending is essential to reducing future criminal behavior.
In a nutshell, static factors refer to those that are stable, historical facts, such as age of
first offense, past criminal history, etc.; dynamic factors are those that can change subject
to intervention, such as education, employment, relationship stability, etc. (see Hanson &
Harris, 2000). These factors play out differently for different categories of offenders. Risk
management has guided a great deal of release planning and decision-making in prison set-
tings for the past few decades (see Garland, 2002). One offender mentioned that because
of his static factors in this case, illegal acts he did in his early twenties he believed he
would never be eligible for a low enough risk designation to participate in a work release
program. He felt certain that his own risk for those offenses (such as escape) was nonex-
istent, a function of aging out of crime. The fact that the risk tools are based on actuarial
data and not subject to more nuanced or individualized interpretations of risk made the
prisoner feel somewhat frustrated (see Crewe, 2011; Ward & Maruna, 2007). In this way,
the offender was not provided with an opportunity to retain his more positive narrative
or to remain optimistic, which may be necessary to desist from crime. Maruna (2001)
found that crime persisters adopted a “condemnation script” (p. 75) they felt “powerless”
(p. 74) while desisters were characterized by an ability to reconfigure their criminal sto-
ries to maintain their essential goodness. According to Maruna (2001), rather than serving
as evidence of their essential pathology, “neutralization ...helps to restore the speaker’s
bond to society” (p. 144). In other words, desistance requires a process for lessening the
social distance between offenders and law-abiding citizens.
However, processes that support desistance are not uniform for all groups. For exam-
ple, in the New Zealand context, where the indigenous Maori comprise 50% of the prison
population, a correctional officer said that rehabilitation, while important and functional,
does not restore “mana,” which is the Maori term for “honor” or “status.” He felt that
reintegration efforts should find a way to restore mana for all released offenders, but in
particular for Maori, as it is a central cultural concept. This restoration could be a formal
process to repair one’s reputation in the community, or it could also be a culturally spe-
cific approach to recidivism reduction. Cultural values can predict what may be effective
and be harnessed to create other, more prosocial behaviors and identities. Calverley (2012)
discusses ethnic variation in ways to promote desistance, explaining how for some cultures
the process is more communal while for others more individualistic. This would apply to
subgroups within a culture as well. As Bracken et al. (2009, p. 61) explain about treat-
ment geared toward indigenous practices in Canada, rehabilitation programs for colonized
groups contribute to “personal healing through the reacquisition of cultural traditions.”
Helping prisoners to secure cultural pride can be an avenue to a new identity, one with
greater status and meaning in a local context, and that reconcile the pains of coloniza-
tion. In addition, Bracken et al. (2009) advocate programs based within communities that
10 K.J. Fox
enhance “social capital” formation (p. 61). Supportive community members are essential to
desistance in most cases, if we accept that one’s self-understanding and identity shape path-
ways to behavior and that identity formation is an inherently social process (Bazemore &
Stinchcomb, 2004; Bracken et al., 2009; Braithwaite, 1989; Maruna, 2001). The dynamics
of desistance will vary depending upon one’s cultural context.
Other more mundane aspects of context figure into desistance dynamics as well, in
some cases, offenders know their specific risk factors. As one inmate explained her needs:
“I need someone to ring me up,” to have someone to talk to, and to check on her and see
how she is managing. Another prisoner said:
And frankly, I like meeting people, and I know they’ve got to be approvable, but I don’t intend
to be lonely. Once that comes along, that’s where things go wrong.
Another said:
[We] might need, like cooking skills or something, stuff like that. You’ve living on the outside
with your children and stuff, how to be with your family.
A respondent from Corrections explained that early on there was a strong emphasis on
criminogenic “needs,” a term that has fallen out of favor; employment problems and other
practical necessities would not have been considered criminogenic needs nor would they
be targeted for intervention. He went on to say that: “Corrections bought the risk-needs-
responsivity model hook, line and sinker. So that became the holy grail.” Reintegration, he
said, was the “poor cousin” to psychological assessment and treatment. Although recently
reintegration needs have been expanded to include practical supports, such as employ-
ment, they are often considered something that “would be nice”. Their necessity is unclear
because they are not identified as part of the risk and needs matrix and the evidence as to
their utility is mixed. But as the Corrections associate who responded explained: “If you
want to secure the gains you think you’ve made with the behavioral program, pay attention
to the reintegration needs issues, the housing, in combination with relationships.”
Some correctional staff and academics argue that corrections departments tend to target
interventions based on evidence that they reduce risk, without a coherent understanding of
the mechanisms by which they reduce risk. In other words, they work but why do they
work? As one government official said: “I have never seen a government use evidence-
based policy.” This respondent meant that there are extra-scientific factors, such as politics
and funding, which distort the shape of policy.
However, the politics of risk render undue attention to offenders’ true needs less
acceptable. A respondent associated with treatment provision asserted that: “Risk-needs-
responsivity fits with a conservative penal policy.” Understandably so, as states have been
held accountable for heinous aberrations to calculated risks. Risk management combines
well with the punitive populism and lack of tolerance toward offenders demonstrated by
citizens over the past few decades (see Feeley & Simon, 1992; Garland, 2002; Pratt, 2007;
Simon, 2007). Several of those interviewed, who work in the correctional policy arena,
lamented that their work is situated within the context of an extreme public and polit-
ical focus on crime and a distortion of risk by the media. It is within this context that
reintegration programs must be judiciously fashioned.
While the risk model recognizes the importance of social support for offenders, many
treatment interventions do not address that deficit. Whereas social factors for crime were
considered most salient in the 1960s, the pendulum shifted to the other extreme in the form
International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 11
of weighing psychological, or individual, pathologies more heavily (see Crewe, 2011;Fox,
2012; Maruna, 2001; Ward & Maruna, 2007). Maruna and Mann (2006) have argued that
the risk model focuses solely on internal factors, and rejects external, contextual explana-
tions for behavior. In fact, explanations for situational deviance can be considered evidence
of cognitive distortions (Fox, 1999; Maruna, 2001). Thus, a marriage between the RNR
model and cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT) makes an ideal combination insofar as
treatment targets the thinking patterns and habits of offenders. While CBT may be effective
in changing thinking patterns, as one correctional staff member said,
Most of these men are going to get out of prison at some point. The parole board wants us to
make every effort to reintegrate these men, to reduce the risk level as low as possible while
they’re in prison, and to get some support on board for them. They just can’t do it on their
own. If they’ve done 15, 16, 17 years in prison, and their family’s just gone, or isn’t suitable
for whatever reason ...there is no other support.
However, New Zealand’s approach to reintegration includes a gradual release process,
including day releases and work-release programs, in order to acquaint prisoners with the
outside world in a series of small steps, or in the words of a corrections staff member, “to
start getting them coming out the door in a structured way.” The parole board “wants to
see” gradual release, according to a case manager. In other words, prison is a surreal set-
ting that does not mimic the outside circumstances released offenders will find themselves
in, and has a unique set of rules and conditions (Crewe, 2011). In addition, one can “fix”
thoughts but many of the conditions faced outside the prison are not necessarily helped
by cognitive therapy, for example, difficulties in finding employment or housing. As one
correctional staff member explained the shift in correctional thinking:
...But actually what happens to our investment, if you like, for rehabilitating someone if
they’re not properly reintegrated? So we started to have a more focused look at what works
with reintegration.
In practice though, treatment incorporates some social understandings as well, even if that
is not part of an official policy. According to one prison staff member, a problem with
treatment is that
It’s more avoidance-focused. What do you fill that gap with while you’re avoiding? You have
to have stuff in there that’s positive and pro-social and fitting somewhere. That’s the good life
focus ...building positive relationships, looking for pro-social connections and pro-social
people in your life and how to manage those relationships ...and what positive hobbies
you’ve got as well, so focus on where you’re going to.
In practice, practitioners in corrections who assist in reintegration recognize the importance
of a strengths-based approach (Maruna & LeBel, 2003) and the magnitude of positive inter-
actions with community members in order to facilitate identity change. As one respondent
I think one of the beauties of a strengths-based approach is that by building competencies, you
reduce risk. So actually, it’s a way of kind of satisfying both sets of values. You contribute to
community but you’re also helping to enhance someone’s quality of life at the same time.
All of these terms and ideas share the assertion that successful reentry does not occur as a
result of effective in-prison treatment of offenders’ psychological issues alone. Bazemore
12 K.J. Fox
and Stinchcomb (2004) advocate a “civic engagement” model that would provide chances
for released offenders to alter their self-identities as well as the public’s perception of
them. Desistance requires successful integration into a host community, which supports
the transition to community life, while insisting on accountability to that community as
well. Social capital can be created through community supports rather than treatment; in
other words, communities must be rehabilitated as well (Bazemore & Stinchcomb, 2004).
In New Zealand, Corrections has begun to open up more opportunities for prisoners to
work outside the wire, and to release them for day visits in the community. This practice
of easing prisoners, especially long-servers, slowly into ordinary life makes sense from a
recidivism-reduction perspective. From a prison management perspective, it is more dif-
ficult. A correctional officer said: “In the transaction between the community and prison,
Corrections needs to take a risk.” This statement summarizes well the tension between the
necessary attention to risks and the components of ideal reintegration strategies.
Realizing the social dimension of restorative justice
Reentry programs with a restorative orientation transfer responsibility for reentry planning
to the community level, and concentrate on reintegrating released offenders but within a
risk-centric environment (see Fox, 2012). This may be difficult for corrections departments
to imagine how to do. Moreover, an impact on offenders in a restorative event should (ide-
ally) reduce future victimization by increasing empathy for victims (Hannem & Petrunik,
2007). In its ideal formulation, a balance should be struck among the needs of all stake-
holders affected by crime: victims, communities of concern, and offenders. In practice,
restorative justice has been victim-centered, often to the exclusion of offender reinstate-
ment. In this respect, restorative justice can sit comfortably within the anti-offender arena.
A bridge between the offender–victim dichotomy as an example of socially based
reintegration is the CoSA model developed in Canada (Hannem, 2013; Hannem &
Petrunik, 2007; Wilson & Prinzo, 2002; Wilson et al., 2005; Wilson et al., 2009). New
Zealand has begun a small pilot Circles program as well (van Rensburg, 2012). It is con-
sidered quasi-restorative insofar as it involves the community in shaping the after-effects
of a criminal penalty, and it works to restore the offender into a community of care (Wilson
et al., 2005). Its two mottos are: “no one is disposable” and “no more victims” (Hannem &
Petrunik, 2007), which illustrates the dual agendas of reducing future victimization while
buttressing the offender.
Restorative justice is a hotly contested subject in academic and practitioner circles
(Cunneen & Hoyle, 2010). One of the debates centers around what restorative justice
should be and how it is best realized (see Sullivan & Tifft, 2006). Ward and Langlands
(2009, p. 212) provide a succinct definition: “Restorative justice’s focus is squarely on
repairing relationships between victims, offenders, and the community in a way that is
responsive to considerations of justice.” In essence, this means that while traditional crim-
inal justice has focused on the offender’s behavior, there are other relevant parties in a
crime, namely the victim and the community, that need restoration. In many definitions,
scholars and advocates impress upon the need to create an alternative way of doing jus-
tice, stressing that it be one that addresses victims’ needs primarily and retreats from a
preoccupation with punishing offenders (Zehr, 1990). If indeed restorative justice is about
repairing harm, punishment does not contribute meaningfully to the repair of all parties.
Given that the strength of the CoSA model rests in the relationships between core mem-
bers and volunteers, the model is decidedly social in its understanding of the nature of
International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 13
Some had hoped, as it emerged over the last couple of decades, that restorative justice
would transform criminal justice in fundamental ways. But in reality, while countries such
as the United States ramped up incarceration rates, restorative justice has tended to impact
youth justice processes primarily and the “soft end” of adult criminal justice (McAlinden,
2008). For example, restorative (or reparative) panels might be used as a quasi-diversion
process for lower level offenses (Karp, 2001). Victim–offender mediation may occur as a
way of resolving the aftermath of a crime and influence sentencing (Umbreit, 2006). Its
potential for development in adult criminal justice has been limited as it has been largely
a youth justice initiative or a pre-sentence option for low-level-offending adults. While
judges may recommend a restorative conference prior to sentencing, in order to include the
victim, and to engender empathy in the offender, the focus is not on restoring offenders
back into communities; rather it is a victim-centered process.
Yet the process of prisoner reintegration is an arena that seems ripe for restorative prac-
tice; the process of prisoner release has been typically an interaction between the state and
offenders while communities tend not to be involved in the process of engaging offenders
returned to their communities. In fact, in some cases, citizens actively contest locating a
released offender in their communities, particularly if the offender has a sexual crime con-
viction (Levenson & Cotter, 2005; Levenson et al., 2007; Tewksbury, 2005; Tewksbury &
Lees, 2006).
The idea of using a restorative approach to offender reentry runs counter to some propo-
nents’ views that restorative justice must be, first and foremost, victim-centered. However,
one restorative justice provider explained that in order to “sell” restorative justice to gov-
ernment funders, it has to be marketed as “victim-centered” in order to be more “palatable.”
Bazemore and Maruna (2009) advocate the incorporation of restorative justice principles
in the conditions of offender reentry (see also Settles, 2009). As Bazemore and Walgrave
(1999) suggest, the three principles of restorative justice are repairing harm, involvement of
all parties, and changing community relationships all of those components involve com-
munity and each is a dimension of effective integration, which is fundamentally a social
process. As Maruna (2011, p. 12) has argued elsewhere, true reintegration requires a “rit-
ual of reintegration” that would signify the end of one’s deviance (see also Braithwaite &
Mugford, 1994). The process and impact of recertification in a restorative conference con-
text can itself encourage desistance (Rossner, 2011). Bazemore (1998) speaks of a capacity
for “earned redemption” via community reintegration. Both of these notions incorpo-
rate Braithwaite’s (1989) emphasis on the importance of using shame in constructive,
reintegrative ways.
Elsewhere I have argued that reentry practices must emphasize “humanity over crim-
inality” in order to enable desistance; in essence, a focus on the risks of the offender
rather than their essential value is counterproductive in the end (Fox, 2012). As Bottoms
(2001) has described, “normative compliance” occurs when the rules are seen as legiti-
mate; I argue that the moral authority of a community develops as the community invests in
But there are two pervasive dimensions of restorative justice that make this adaptation
more difficult. First, the use of restorative practice as retrofitted to reintegration is challeng-
ing because of the restriction of restorative justice to a victim focus (Van Ness & Strong,
2010). For example, restorative justice practices used in a post-sentence context tend to
work toward soliciting remorse and understanding on the part of the offender so that vic-
tims can move on, feel satisfied with an apology, or achieve clarity. But as Gray (2007)
points out about restorative justice with youth offenders, the conferences tend to focus on
the “moral deficits” of offenders. In other words, in holding offenders accountable, primary
14 K.J. Fox
attention is paid to “moral discipline” (Gray, 2005, p. 938). In many ways, offender reentry
is offender-centric, concentrating specifically on offender needs; victims or their advocates
may object to a process of assisting with their resettlement into community life (Fox, 2012;
Settles, 2009). At a more basic level, restorative justice aims to be victim-centered as vic-
tims have been historically excluded from traditional criminal justice process, which tends
to address offenders’ behavior as opposed to the impact on victims (Van Ness & Strong,
2010; Zehr, 1985).
In addition, proponents of restorative justice may have strict and narrow definitions
of what constitutes the restorative process. As one familiar with restorative justice said:
“RJ means conferences, it means victims, and it comes with a manual.” Thus, defining
restorative practice in restrictive ways constrains its use across settings. Reintegration pro-
grams that attend to the relationship between the community and the offender may not
be viewed as restorative because victims do not participate directly, nor do they benefit
directly. A respondent mentioned that restorative justice must be victim-centered, but that
reintegration programs only restore offenders and communities. However, the CoSA motto
is: “No one is disposable” and “No more victims,” thus the aim is squarely targeted to
reducing victimization while privileging offenders’ social needs.
Restorative reentry: circles and risk
Corrections officials recognize the problems both that offenders face, and with the limi-
tations of treatment in addressing those supports. In fact, one staff member explained the
significance of “non-professional, pro-social networks” for successful desistance. A cor-
rections staff member thus explained the new shift in correctional logic: “So it is taken
from more of a cultural perspective, I guess, rather than an evidence based perspective
of maybe the psychologist or the intervention providers and that sort of thing.” The lit-
erature on desistance from crime, which is growing in influence, insists that attention to
practical supports to the exclusion of personal goals and motivation for change will lead
to disappointing results (Maguire & Raynor, 2006; Maruna, 2001; Ward & Maruna, 2007).
Likewise, attention to psychological states at the expense of practical needs will produce
similar failures. Farrall (2004) suggests that offenders need to create social capital, not just
human capital in the form of improved personal skills (see also Bazemore & Stinchcomb,
2004). In other words, it’s about relationships. CoSA provide a mechanism to thread the
needle. The concept of CoSA developed out of the faith community in an effort to mitigate
the risk posed by the few sex offenders deemed “high risk” and who had served their max-
imum sentence (Cesaroni, 2001; Hannem, 2013; Hannem & Petrunik, 2007; McAlinden
2011; Petrunik, 2002; Wilson, McWhinnie, Picheca, Prinzo, & Cortoni, 2007). Briefly, the
model creates a circle of volunteer community supporters to offer assistance to the “core
member” (released offender).
Some probation officers appreciate circles because members do the kind of “social
work” interventions that they do not have time to do but would like to do ideally.
Participants in circles perceived that probation staff members were initially reluctant to
embrace the concept of circles because of the fear of “collusion” with offenders; in other
words, non-professionals would be vulnerable to the manipulations of offenders. Yet core
members in circles repeatedly stated that the fact that supporters were volunteers was cru-
cial to their feeling a sense of obligation. Many expressed disbelief that strangers would
support them without pay, and that it was the first time they had experienced unconditional
support and non-judgment.
International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 15
New Zealand’s circles draw from prison ministries, and volunteers are deeply involved
in helping released sex offenders. Some volunteers allow “core members” to live with them
for a period of time. They provide a family atmosphere, by cooking, cleaning, and recre-
ating together. They intervene to help repair relationships with core members’ families.
The volunteers model prosocial, normative behaviors such as honesty and reciprocity.
By creating a circle around the offenders, one volunteer described it this way:
I am prepared to be scaffolding around your life. You’ve got to build the life in the middle.
If you start to teeter over here, the scaffold will help you to stay there. Often the scaffold is
higher than the building, and it grows up in the middle. So that is the basis.
In this way, circles can facilitate the narrative identity change that enables offenders’
desistance (see Bottoms (2001) for a counter argument). In another example, a volunteer
asked the core member what his expectations were of the volunteer, and he replied “I want
someone who can help me to be a good father.” This demonstrates the role that Circles can
play in assisting offenders to construct other, more positive selves.
As Maruna (2001) described, offenders need a public on which to practice and reflect
their new identities. Corrections staff can manage rehabilitation, but “reintegration is some-
thing that happens between the returning prisoner and the wider community” (Maruna,
2011, p. 18). While circles may not devote time to helping offenders reconstruct their crim-
inal histories in a way that makes their criminal behavior “contingent” as Maruna (2001,
p. 21) found, they nonetheless express respect.
One volunteer mentioned that he explains to core members:
I will respect you for who you are, for all your past and all you’ve done. In different ways I
could be over that side of the fence just as much as you. But I am not going to stand for any
falsehood. We gotta be totally honest with each other. And we’ll build that relationship ...
but I am not gonna judge you for the past.
Another volunteer expressed the importance of demonstrating “unconditional love” like a
parent has for a child; if an offender returns to prison, the circle would remain supportive.
After being recalled to prison (but not for a new crime), an inmate within a circle described
it this way:
I couldn’t understand why [the circle volunteers] would want to try again, but they do. And
their basic thing is because they’re there to support me through the thick and thin, not just the
good, but also the bad, and this is the bad. They’re not gonna give up. They can see that I can
be a success story.
According to Woolford (2009), restorative justice should be “transformative” and “engage
the public in the project of societal change” (p. 120). The relationships demonstrated in
Circles suggest the transformative potential of restorative reentry.
New Zealand has a distinctive view of restorative practice and utilized circles as a
practical measure. The parole board deemed lack of social support for some sex offenders
as enhancing risk to the community. The CoSA model represents the balance between
managing known risks and brokering necessary socially supportive relationships. As one
correctional staff member asserted about the approach to risk management in New Zealand:
There’s still a need to assess a risk and acknowledge that there is a risk, but there seems to be
much more of a readiness now to address the risk and deal with it. So where a prisoner would
16 K.J. Fox
not restored
Offender not restored
Offender restored
Figure 1. A theoretical model of restorative reentry.
say, “well, I want to go to a funeral and yes, there will be gang members there,” ...there’s
some discussion around, can we mitigate against that risk, or if we can’t, what else can we
provide instead? Is there something else that we can do for the prisoner? And so it’s a much
softer approach.
Sex offenders on “preventive detention” (which is an indefinite sentence) were not being
approved for release by the parole board because of their lack of support sources in the
community. Circles allowed the parole board to release some sex offenders because they
had scaffolding around them. However, as one restorative justice provider in New Zealand
said: “I would see Circles as more rehabilitative than restorative because it only addresses
the offender’s needs.” By design, circles ask nothing of victims, but aim to reduce future
victimization, and as such, is a risk reduction tool. Hannem (2013) argues that CoSAs
fit into the risk managerial paradigm because they lessen the dangers posed by high-risk
offenders in communities. Hannem and Petrunik (2007) further argue that Circles were
accepted in Canada largely because of their risk-reducing potential. However, Corrections
departments have come to see reintegration as “the whole goal” according to one staff
member. This, along with the mandate to reduce recidivism necessitated a shift in perspec-
tive to a psycho-social model for community engagement. The restorative potential of a
circles model or another similar community engagement model has yet to be fully envi-
sioned (Dzur, 2003). True community engagement with offenders can transform both the
culture of risk and offenders’ identities. In theorizing restorative reentry, the key variable
that intervenes in the balance between support and accountability is the investment on the
part of the community (see Figure 1).
The community and offender are both restored insofar as they engage in a process that
creates relationships and bonds of reciprocity. The benefits accrued, in an ideal situation,
would be fewer victims, released offenders’ greater inclusion in and contributions to com-
munity life, and a sea change in cultural attitude away from risk obsession to community
capital formation.
International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 17
At first blush, the issues surrounding offender reintegration may seem to be narrow, spe-
cialized ones. But around reintegration are several looming matters of both theoretical and
practical significance; among these are: the place of sociological discourse in contempo-
rary policy and habits, the implications of risk actuarialism as a discourse and practice for
released offenders, and the role that civil society could play in the drama in spite of a cul-
ture of punitive populism. Pratt (2007) has argued that in some societies, penal populism
is compatible with the risk assessment approach in contemporary corrections, materializ-
ing into risk aversion. The marriage of risk managerialism and penal populism constrains
effective reintegration. This article focused on New Zealand, which Pratt and Eriksson
(2012) refer to as an Anglophone “exclusionary” society whose prisons are characterized
by control and risk management. Further research on reintegration could help to determine
the extent to which New Zealand is similar to other Anglophone cultures.
While fear of criminals might prevent some citizens from becoming actively supportive
of released offenders, many offenders are perceived to be too dangerous to release with-
out community support in place. This is one of the dilemmas that corrections departments
navigate in trying to reduce recidivism, reduce risk, and reintegrate offenders. While cor-
rections departments are keen to ease the transition from facility-based case management
to probation services on the outside, there remains an unclear role for corrections in true
community reintegration.
This conundrum is the result of a few factors: large bureaucracies tend not to be
nimble, so for example, the historical control orientation in probation services can be
slow to change with new mandates to embrace case management. In addition, correc-
tions departments may lack a clear theoretical basis for reintegration services, and have
an unclear distinction between the obligations of rehabilitation and reintegration. With jus-
tice reinvestment initiatives, there is pressure to perform on the basis of solid evidence,
yet practitioners appreciate that there are some other methods of reintegration that are
intuitively or anecdotally supported. Moreover, even if one accepts the value of engag-
ing communities in supporting offenders, imagining ways to do so is challenging. The
bureaucratic and funding silos that constitute government intervention might prevent more
seamless practices across the criminal justice sector, even with knowledge that treatment in
vacuo is insufficient for effective reintegration. The reintegrative efforts that are validated
by the RNR model omit some important dimensions that practitioners recognize and act
upon in practice. While official policy may be responsive to validated models, desistance
theories are slowly infusing practice in the form of Circles of Support and other initiatives
such as case management.
Correctional policy may also be subject to political whimsy but at the same time is
subject to the prevailing scientific discourses about effectiveness. The findings presented
here suggest both of these processes and more. First, corrections departments’ reliance
upon evidence-based research which is a worthwhile project does not always provide
all of the information that agents need to engage in best practice. Models of risk represent
principles of risks to target, but are not sustained by a coherent theory of what contributes
to offending or desisting (Maruna, 2001; Ward & Maruna, 2007). Both rehabilitation and
reintegration are psycho-social processes; the emerging focus on “why it works” (in addi-
tion to the abiding focus on “what works”) demonstrates the slow transition to the middle
ground between psychological and social models of intervention.
Sociologists have lamented their lack of influence in correctional policy and practice
for decades when it was decided that “nothing works.” When something worked again, it
was the psychological paradigm that proffered the most hope. The much larger significance
18 K.J. Fox
of this pendulum shift toward an inclusion of social factors and community-based crime
control is the notion that paradigms shift, based on political contingencies that provoke
discourses about risk, its aversion, acceptance, or management. Desistance theories gen-
erally reckon an acceptance of some degree of risk, insofar as they imagine offenders as
more than the risks they might pose, while aiming for “harm reduction.” This includes the
recognition that desistance “zig zags” much the same way that substance abuse cessation
does (Maguire & Raynor, 2006, p. 19). A whole host of social exigencies might determine
the flow of the zigs and zags. Regardless, external social factors, as well as internal psychic
factors, converge to direct the persistence or desistance from crime. The puzzle for correc-
tions has been essentially how to “do” compliance, or risk management, with offenders
released to communities, while assisting them in their basic human needs and goals (see
Ward & Maruna, 2007).
Prison rehabilitation, because it is firmly entrenched in the evidence-based practice of
cognitive behavioral therapy, can adequately address the psychological dimensions or
perhaps the “zig” but not the “zag.” As Ward and Salmon (2009) have asserted, the ethical
role of the prison psychologist is tricky in itself because of the dual responsibilities for
protecting public safety as a correctional staff member, and helping the individual client
as a (prison-based) treatment provider. Corrections departments are in many businesses
at once: the coercion and compliance business, the treatment/mental health business, and
the community reintegration business. These do not always fit neatly into the same pack-
age. Moreover, they exist within a context of public pressure to be tough, risk averse, cost
effective, and responsive to all stakeholders.
Finally, theoretically, our heuristic understanding of what restorative reentry would look
like is important in several respects. Because offender reentry is an area ripe for experimen-
tation and evaluation, and because of our continued reliance on incarceration, theorizing the
elements of true reintegration is important. In addition, restorative justice is often criticized
for becoming an “add on” to traditional justice, rather than a transformative paradigm shift.
A commitment could be forged to weave restorative practice into all sectors of justice and
all phases of the criminal justice process. The community’s proper role in reintegration,
therefore, must be clarified depending upon what kind of reentry a community or gov-
ernment intends, and that depends meaningfully upon the working definition of the social
contract. We can begin by theorizing criminal persistence, desistance, and offenders’ place
within normative communities as fundamentally social processes.
I wish to thank Fulbright New Zealand; the School of Social and Cultural Studies at Victoria
University in Wellington, New Zealand for sponsoring me during my Fulbright Senior Scholar Award
to New Zealand; Kim Workman and Rethinking Crime and Punishment in New Zealand for their
cosponsorship; the New Zealand Department of Corrections (especially Jim van Rensburg); the New
Zealand Ministry of Justice; and all participants for their cooperation with this study. Although these
departments and organizations sponsored and/or cooperated with the study, the views presented here
do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization.
Notes on contributor
Kathryn J. Fox, an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Vermont, received her Ph.D.
in Sociology from UC Berkeley. She received a Fulbright Senior Scholar Award in 2013 to study
offender reintegration and restorative justice in New Zealand. Currently, her areas of specialization
are social control broadly, and offender reentry programs specifically. Her past qualitative research
International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 19
projects have been about intervention programs such as an HIV prevention project and a cognitive
therapy program for violent offenders in prison.
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... These challenges occur in multiple domains, including structural factors such as access to accommodation and employment; physical and mental health; psychosocial functioning; disruption to family roles and support networks; and cultural disconnection and stigma (Berghuis, 2018;Gunnison & Helfgott, 2011;James, 2014;Kendall et al., 2018;Kinner & Wang, 2014;Moore, 2012;Sotiri, 2016). Such challenges may be pre-existing, or may arise from or be exacerbated by their experiences of the criminal justice system (Berghuis, 2018;Fox, 2014). ...
... For example, recent data on adults in NSW serving parole or supervised bonds showed similar rates of alcohol or drug abuse (84% vs. 92%), mental health problems (82% vs. 88%) and poor prosocial behaviour (2% vs. 4%: Wang, 2019). Imprisonment is likely to have substantial additional disruptive impacts on multiple aspects of a person's functioning in the community, and ex-prisoners are particularly vulnerable in the immediate post-release period (Borzycki et al., 2003;Fox, 2014;James, 2014). ...
... These vary in complexity, including the number and type of domains they target (Fox, 2014;Sotiri, 2016). Considering the diversity of initiatives available, an emerging body of literature has identified a number of principles of effective reintegration. ...
Full-text available
Administered by Corrective Services New South Wales (CSNSW) since 2014, the ITS funds non-government partners to deliver reintegration support services to people under community supervision. The ITS prioritises service delivery to higher risk parolees who have recently been released from custody, although there is also scope to provide support to people serving community-based orders. This report outlines a program of studies that evaluated both impacts and processes associated with the service. An initial evaluation examined how participation in the ITS impacts reoffending and return to custody outcomes. Subsequent studies provided context to the impact evaluation by exploring service delivery outcomes and implementation processes underlying participation in the service. We conclude by reflecting on implications of the series of studies on best practice for the ITS and reintegration programs in general. 3
... 46 Others are practical. 47 Community-based alternatives that are credible, consistent, and effective engage trained volunteers, are rooted in relationship building, and are based on mutual respect. 48 The value of CJCs includes mitigating exclusion and isolation, embracing destigmatization, and creating relationships based on shared obligation. ...
... Doing so increases the confidence and provides closure for victims. 36 Fox (2013). 37 Wilson et al. (2009). ...
Full-text available
This article introduces the potential application of restorative justice in addressing sexual violence and abuse in sport. The suggested framework aims to strengthen existing safeguarding measures in sport organisations. Without proper oversight, abuses within the sport industry are often unidentified, concealed by various stakeholders, resulting in victims suffering much pain. Such suffering, however, contradicts any sporting goals, as abuse tends to result in long-term trauma, permanently scarring the victim, and potentially affecting their performance in sports. Exploring the situation from a victim's perspective, this article discusses restorative justice, a theory of justice that places the victim at the centre of the resolution model. Restorative justice, which gained its popularity within the criminal justice system, has evolved over time. The principles, values and practices have been applied in various situations, including organisations. Though restorative justice is frequently used to address the aftermath of a conflict or a crime, this article suggests incorporating restorative justice in advancing safe sport.
... Specifically, the concept of 'reintegration' is always seen through a binary lens, where an ex-offender is either reintegrated socially or not (Sommers et al, 1994), but Fox (2014) asserts that there is a fundamental difference between 'rehabilitation' and 'reintegration'the former is psychological while the latter is social in nature. Recidivism, or re-offending, is often overattributed to the lack of rehabilitation because there is an imperative for ex-offenders to change their ways, even if compelling evidence shows that high recidivism could be due to a lack of 'reintegration' opportunities (Pratt, 2000). ...
This paper is a review of the media portrayals of ex-offenders in local news media platforms such as The Straits Times, Today and Channel NewsAsia. This paper analyzes the voices represented in the media on the issue of reintegration of ex-offenders into society. From the analysis of n=182 media articles, three key themes arise in local media discourse that emphasize the role of key players — the government, the ex-offender and the community — in reintegrating ex-offenders into society. These themes raise several questions on the media framing of ex-offenders, the order of prioritization in voices and the erasure of some voices from the discourse. Through delving deeper into the questions, this paper offers valuable insights into the media discourse of ex-offenders in Singapore and the fundamental question of what ‘reintegration’ means.
... It is a weeklong celebration with lots of activities that are undertaken in order to make their constituents more aware of the juvenile justice welfare law. The result of the study was also supported by the study of Fox (2014) who stated that people responsible for developing and administering restorative programs should exercise extreme caution in advertising and promoting them. Program planners are likely to face resistance if they are not taught why and how restorative justice benefits the community and holds offenders accountable. ...
Full-text available
This study aimed to determine the level of implementation and awareness of the juvenile restorative justice program in Tangub City during calendar year 2018-2019. This study made use of non-experimental quantitative research design utilizing descriptive, frequency count, percentage and mean. On the level of implementation of the program, the community respondents exhibited low level of response while the Philippine National Police and the CSWD exhibited a high level of responses. On the level of awareness, the respondents also exhibited a high level of response. It is recommended that the implementers may include or emphasize the community's active participation in juvenile restorative programs. This will encourage them to get involved and recognize the importance of their engagement, maybe resulting in fewer minor-related offenses. The implementers may look into the process on the way the programs are implemented. This will encourage them to examine probable flaws in the execution of the juvenile restorative justice program in order to make adjustments to the overall process of implementation, which could lead to the program's overall success. The implementers may consider looking into the victim's need for reformation and rehabilitation, as well as their family's general engagement. This is critical to ensure that the victims and their families believe the government is on their side, because if the implementers neglect this, retaliation may ensue. Further studies are warranted.
... Doing so increases the confidence and provides closure for victims. 36 Fox (2013). 37 Wilson et al. (2009). ...
Full-text available
This article introduces the potential application of restorative justice in addressing sexual violence and abuse in sport. The suggested framework aims to strengthen existing safeguarding measures in sport organisations. Without proper oversight, abuses within the sport industry are often unidentified, concealed by various stakeholders, resulting in victims suffering much pain. Such suffering, however, contradicts any sporting goals, as abuse tends to result in long-term trauma, permanently scarring the victim, and potentially affecting their performance in sports. Exploring the situation from a victim’s perspective, this article discusses restorative justice, a theory of justice that places the victim at the centre of the resolution model. Restorative justice, which gained its popularity within the criminal justice system, has evolved over time. The principles, values and practices have been applied in various situations, including organisations. Though restorative justice is frequently used to address the aftermath of a conflict or a crime, this article suggests incorporating restorative justice in advancing safe sport.
... As outlined in previous reports (Morony, Wei, Van Doorn, Howard, & Galouzis, 2019;Thaler, Nelson, Tran, & Howard, 2021), services aimed at supporting the reintegration of offenders have been run in many jurisdictions in correctional and community settings (Berghuis, 2018;Duwe, 2014). These services vary in complexity, including the number and type of needs that they target (Fox, 2014;Sotiri, 2016). ...
Technical Report
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Aims This study examines the experiences of stakeholders involved in implementing the Initial Transitional Support (ITS) program: Community Corrections officers, Gatekeepers and contracted Caseworkers. The study focuses on elements overseen by Corrective Services NSW, including the program's expansion from 19 to 32 sites. Methods Online survey for supervising officers at all ITS sites (N=719; response rate 25%). Respondents from Original sites (n=100) and from Expansion sites (n=79) were compared using non-parametric tests. Interviews with Caseworkers (n=14) and Gatekeepers (n=14) at 15 ITS sites around NSW, analysed with a Framework Matrix approach. Results Stakeholders gave predominantly positive feedback on the ITS, identifying benefits for a range of offenders and emphasising its coordinated delivery model. Survey respondents typically referred around 1 in 10 offenders under their supervision to the ITS, had referred both parolees and other offenders, and rated the program as helpful, unique, and impactful on case management. Interviews revealed facilitators of implementation including opportunities for informal stakeholder discussions, and the provision of brokerage funding; barriers included insufficient transport, and difficulty securing offender engagement. Interview and survey data revealed numerous indicators of implementation that were more favourable for Expansion sites than Original sites, and least favourable for Feeder sites (where the ITS was offered only by referral to other sites). Conclusion Results from this mixed-method study show the ITS was well-regarded by a diverse array of stakeholders. Program features introduced or emphasised by the ITS expansion (including brokerage funding, stakeholder interaction, and capacity to accommodate Caseworkers) offer plausible explanations for these positive results, particularly in Expansion sites. The results reinforce both the challenging context and the value of collaborative effort in reintegration service delivery.
The current study used an experimental vignette ( n = 1,093) to examine the effects of perpetrator sex and age, and victim sex and age, on simulated juror sentencing recommendations for individuals convicted of sexual offenses (ICSO). Path analyses were used to see if differences in punitive attitudes could be explained by perceptions of dangerousness participants attached to experimentally manipulated variables, as hypothesized by attribution theorists. Results show that participants consistently recommended longer sentences, higher fines, and indicated greater support for post-release sanctions for male offenders, older perpetrators, and for offenders who victimized younger adolescents. Path analysis demonstrated that perceptions of dangerousness partially mediated the relationship between experimentally manipulated predictor variables and recommended sentence length, providing partial support for attribution theory.
Crime, and in particular violent crime, is a frequent source of media interest both in the form of factual reporting and fictional portrayal. As explained through an analysis of academic and theoretical literature, media representation has the potential to influence large populations and shape the opinions that mainstream society hold related to the perpetrators of such crimes. Case studies examining the CONTEST counterterrorism strategy in the United Kingdom and the failure of the UK Government to implement this strategy in the manner intended, and strategies for demobilization of perpetrators of genocide in Rwanda are outlined in detail. The case studies are then considered together in terms of how they align with what the underpinning theory argues. Overall conclusions are drawn that success and failure of strategies for reintegration of perpetrators of mass violence are dependent on a combination of state buy-in and destruction of the ‘monster' narrative associated with fictional and factual media portrayal of perpetrators in the West in particular.
Technical Report
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The latter part of the 20th Century was witness to considerable renewed interest in restorative approaches to crime and offender management. Ironically, professional interest in restoration increased as the public’s cries for more punitive measures rang out loud and clear. Politically, such measures as detention, specialized peace bonds, registries, and long term supervision orders were instituted as a means to demonstrate that the system was serious about “getting tough on crime”. Meanwhile, meta-analytic reviews of the effects of incarceration and rehabilitative programming continued to suggest that longer, harsher sentences were not likely to achieve the sort of value-added that either the public wanted or the government hoped to achieve. No offender population has been more affected by these perspectives than sexual offenders. Understandably, the public has rather strong views about sexual offender risk management, and this has been reflected to a degree in policy and practice. However, one simple truth remains: the vast majority of sexual offenders receives determinate sentences and, as such, will return to the community. Experiences in the past 10 years have clearly demonstrated the need for a coordinated approach to sexual offender reintegration, but serious shortfalls in both service provision and offender accountability have remained. The Circles of Support & Accountability initiative began, quite simply, as an innovative response to a single set of circumstances: a high risk, repeat, child sexual abuser was released to the community from a federal penitentiary. The response of the community was swift - picketing, angry calls for political intervention, heightened media attention, and 24-hour police surveillance. In response to the offender’s pleas for assistance, a Mennonite pastor agreed to gather a group of congregants around him, to offer both humane support and a realistic accountability framework. Following a similar intervention with another offender a few months later, the Mennonite Central Committee of Ontario (MCCO) agreed to sponsor a pilot project called the Community Reintegration Project, and the Circles of Support & Accountability (COSA) movement was born. Ten years after the initiation of the first Circle, similar projects have been seeded in all Canadian provinces, several jurisdictions in the United States of America, each of the member countries of the United Kingdom, and interest has been indicated by such countries as the Netherlands, South Africa, and Bermuda. These projects have come about as a result of positive outcome data originating from the MCCO pilot project. This report represents a formal review of this project. To examine the impact of the MCCO project, two studies were conducted. The first study consisted of a survey that examined the experiences of the various members of COSA: Core Members (the offenders); Circle Volunteers, and Professionals and Agencies affiliated with the project. In addition, members of the community-at-large were surveyed to determine their views regarding COSA, and its existence in their community. The results from that first study show that the COSA initiative has had a profound effect on all stakeholders: offenders, community volunteers, affiliated professionals, and the community-atlarge. Core Members generally reported that while they initially felt mixed emotions about COSA, over time, they felt thankful for having its help. In addition, 90% of Core Members reported that in the absence of COSA, they would have had difficulties adjusting to the community, and two-third felt they likely would have returned to crime without the help from COSA. Circle Volunteers reported that they felt the community experienced an increase in community safety as a result of COSA and the Core Member would have reoffended had he not been involved in COSA. The majority of Volunteers also reported that they felt supported by the COSA organization and its associated professionals. Professionals and Agencies surrounding COSA included police officers, social services professionals, and administrators and other similar professions. A majority of these professionals had been involved with COSA for at least 3 years. The Professionals/Agencies respondents indicated that what they liked the most about COSA was that it increased offender responsibility and accountability, and that community safety and support are the focus of the project. In addition, while a third of them, however, reported that they would somewhat change the guidelines governing COSA to add more structure and boundaries between Core Members and Volunteers, three quarters felt that the project should be expanded. Finally, results from the survey of the community-at-large showed that 68% of respondents from the public reported they would feel safer if they found out that a high risk sexual offender in their community belonged to a Circle. They felt that an offender who participates in a Circle would be receiving additional support and supervision. They also felt that his involvement would indicate that he was motivated not to re-offend Study 2 consisted of an examination of the impact of COSA on recidivism. A group of 60 high risk sexual offenders involved in COSA after having been released at the end of their sentence were matched to a group of 60 high risk sexual offenders who had been released at the end of their sentence, but who did not become involved in COSA. Offenders were matched on risk; length of time in the community; and prior involvement in sexual offender specific treatment. The average follow-up time was 4.5 years. For the purpose of the study, recidivism was defined as having a new sexual offense, or for having breached a condition imposed by the Court. Only official documentation was utilized and, in most cases, this information came in the form of CPIC (Canadian Police Information Check, a national database of offense histories) records indicating that a charge had been laid or a conviction registered. Results show that the offenders who participated in COSA had significantly lower rates of any type of reoffending than did the offenders who did not participate in COSA. Specifically, offenders who participated in COSA had a 70% reduction in sexual recidivism in contrast to the matched comparison group (5% vs. 16.7%), a 57% reduction in all types of violent recidivism (including sexual – 15% vs. 35%), and an overall reduction of 35% in all types of recidivism (including violent and sexual - 28.3% vs. 43.4%). Further, a considerable harm reduction function has been noted in the COSA sample, in that sexual reoffenses in this group were categorically less severe than prior offenses by the same individual. This function was not observed in the matched comparison group. Overall, COSA participants have been responsible for considerably less sexual, violent, and general offending in comparison to their matched compatriots, ultimately contributing to savings both financially and, more importantly, in regard to human suffering.
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The idea of a reentry court for ex-convicts returning to the community is an important new idea, but the premise behind it is rather familiar. Most of the models developed for reentry courts are based on what former Attorney General Janet Reno referred to as a "carrot and stick" philosophy, mixing heightened surveillance with additional treatment and other resources. In this paper, we briefly review the empirical and theoretical evidence in favor of this approach. We argue that an emerging policy narrative - which we refer to as "strengths-based" - holds considerable promise as an alternative or an addition to traditional talk of carrots and sticks. We describe a variety of strengths-based practices in corrections and drug addiction treatment and consider the psychological theory and research in support of this new narrative. Finally, we describe how a strengths-based reentry court would differ from more traditional models.
Practitioners working in the criminal justice system pride themselves on their high standards of ethical behaviour and are typically adamant that the assessment and rehabilitation of offenders can proceed according to traditional, although possibly modified, professional codes of practice(Bush, Connell and Denny, 2006; Haag,2006; Levenson and D’Amora, 2005).The claim made by such individuals is that offender rehabilitation meets the ethical standards of mental health practice and does not involve coercion or punishment in any meaningful sense. However, some researchers have strongly contested this view and argue that the treatment of offenders departs so radically from traditional rehabilitation practice that it is best conceptualised as a form of punishment. According to this perspective, traditional professional codes are hopelessly inadequate to guide correctional and forensic interventions and ought to be replaced by legal frameworks (Glaser, 2003).
Every year, hundreds of thousands of jailed Americans leave prison and return to society. Largely uneducated, unskilled, often without family support, and with the stigma of a prison record hanging over them, many, if not most, will experience serious social and psychological problems after release. Fewer than one in three prisoners receive substance abuse or mental health treatment while incarcerated, and each year fewer and fewer participate in the dwindling number of vocational or educational pre-release programs, leaving many all but unemployable. Not surprisingly, the great majority is rearrested, most within six months of their release. As long as there have been prisons, society has struggled with how best to help prisoners reintegrate once released. But the current situation is unprecedented. As a result of the quadrupling of the American prison population in the last quarter century, the number of returning offenders dwarfs anything in America's history. A crisis looms, and the criminal justice and social welfare system is wholly unprepared to confront it. Drawing on dozens of interviews with inmates, former prisoners, and prison officials, the book shows us how the current system is failing, and failing badly. Unwilling merely to sound the alarm, it explores the harsh realities of prisoner re-entry and offers specific solutions to prepare inmates for release, reduce recidivism, and restore them to full citizenship, while never losing sight of the demands of public safety. As the number of ex-convicts in America continues to grow, their systemic marginalization threatens the very society their imprisonment was meant to protect.