The relationship between worker and client has for the best part of 100 years been the mainstay of probation, and yet has recently been eroded by an increased emphasis on punishment, blame and managerialism. The views of offenders are in direct contradiction to these developments within the criminal justice system and this article argues that only by taking account of the views of those at the 'coal face' will criminologists, policy makers and practitioners be able to effect real change in crime rates. The article thus focuses on the views of a sample of previously persistent offenders in Scotland about offending, desistance and how the system can help them. It explores not only their need for friendship and support in youth but also the close association between relationships and the likelihood of offending. It also demonstrates the views of offenders themselves about the importance of the working relationship with supervising officers in helping them desist from crime. The article concludes that the most effective way of reducing offending is to re-engage with the message of the Probation Act of 100 years ago, namely, to 'advise, assist and befriend' offenders rather than to 'confront, challenge and change' offending behaviour.
- youth offending
- social work