THE REVIVAL OF THROUGHCARE: Rhetoric and Reality in Automatic Conditional Release


The 1991 Criminal Justice Act in England and Wales introduced, for those sentenced to one to four years, the concept of a sentence served half in prison and half in the community, subject to supervision and the possibility of recall. This arrangement is known as Automatic Conditional Release. This paper reports some findings from a research project evaluating its first two years of operation. It discusses the contradictory forces and ideas which led to the introduction of the scheme and shows how these are reflected in problems of implementation. Accounts are given of the reactions of prisoners and licensees, and the attempts of practitioners to adapt traditional concepts of ‘throughcare’ to the requirements of a new form of supervision. It is concluded that compulsory post-release supervision ‘works’ in the sense that licensees tend to complete it successfully and to regard it as helpful, but that it is seriously flawed in practice by lack of clarity about its purpose and difficulty in allocating appropriate resources. (The British Journal of Criminology)

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