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The criminal justice system

Cummins, ID

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S Pollock


One of the most notable developments in social work practice over the past thirty years in England and Wales has been the marginalisation of its role in the Criminal Justice System (CJS). In particular, the training and roles of probation officers have altered very dramatically. one of the most significant cultural changes in the past 30 years has been the removal of a consensus around penal policy. As Simon (2007) notes, progressive parties have found it difficult to challenge the basic assumptions of this new punitive approach: crime is rising and the proper response should be to expand the prison system.In addition to the expansion of the use of imprisonment, the past 20 years have seen the increased privatisation of sections of the Criminal Justice System. Firms such as G4S have made huge profits from taking on roles that were previously seen as proper functions of the state. These have included running prisons and tagging offenders.The result in England and Wales has been a doubling of the prison population since the early 1990s. In political terms, the only influential politician to raise doubts about our addiction to imprisonment has been Ken Clarke on his return to the Ministry of Justice in 2010. The appointment of Rory Stewart as the minister responsible for prisons in 2018 was another important step. Early in his tenure, Stewart made a number of statements about the need for a rethink on penal policy, emphasising that prisons had to tackle deeply entrenched issues such as staff, shortages, violence and drugs if they were fulfil a rehabilitative function.


Cummins, I. (2019). The criminal justice system. In S. Pollock, K. Parkinson, & I. Cummins (Eds.), Social Work and Society: Political and Ideological Perspectives (132-146). Policy Press

Publication Date Nov 27, 2019
Deposit Date Jun 30, 2020
Publicly Available Date Nov 27, 2021
Publisher Policy Press
Pages 132-146
Book Title Social Work and Society: Political and Ideological Perspectives
ISBN 9781447344704
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Additional Information Access Information : This is a post-peer-review, pre-copy edited version of a chapter published in Social Work and Society Political and Ideological Perspectives. Details of the definitive published version and how to purchase it are available online at:


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