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The Origins of What Works in England and Wales: a House Built on Sand?

Mair, George
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) IN, George Mair,ed., What Matters in Probation?. Cullompton, Devon,UK: Willan Publishing. Pp. 12-33.

George Mair claims early in this chapter that What Works is the foundation for the National Probation Service (NPS) in England and Wales. Employing religious language, Mair characterizes What Works as the “orthodoxyâ€? of NPS thinking and operating, an orthodoxy that guarantees reduced re-offending. While the probation service appeared to be in serious trouble a decade ago, it is now reorganized and reinvigorated around the What Works initiative. With all of this in mind, Mair sets out in this chapter to examine whether What Works is an example of a rational policy development. Toward this end, he traces the origins of What Works in the past performance and status of the NPS, international influences on probation in England and Wales, and questions relating to studies analyzing results of treatment of offenders. He then goes on to examine What Works in terms of its current operating conditions: the NPS environment; the Accreditation Panel for probation programs; and early indicators relating to re-offending rates.


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