Caregiving and Criminal Justice

(Editorial preamble! Re-reading this in the context of this blog, I wonder what sense this will make to people who are unfamiliar with the British probation service and its roots in social work. I hope it will become clearer from some of the examples given later but if I need to give more background, perhaps any readers will ask through comments on the post.)

I do not suggest that the parallel between the parental caregiver and the probation officer is a simple one. For example, for the parents in Bowlby’s theory, the task involved in the management of their own anxieties about the demands the children made on them. These arise from their own experience of attachment figures and from the ‘scripts’[1] they brought with them into their adult partnership. The probation officer is however acting as part of a ‘caregiving system’ which includes the Courts. As I have implied, it is not clear that other parts of the system regard themselves as caregivers at all, and the probation officer’s status as a paid employee involves certain ambiguities about the caregiving function. This does not in my mind invalidate the notion of probation officer as caregiver. Rather it influences the nature of the caregiving task and sheds light on some of the difficulty the criminal justice system has in acting like the successful parental caregivers. Some of the issues arising in the criminal justice system can be seen as the equivalent of Byng-Hall’s ‘scripts’, and I shall return to this later in the discussion of forgiveness.

[1] The ‘script’ is a metaphor coined by Dr Byng-Hall to express the way in which individuals and families carry their history into the present.

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