Evidence-based practice for probation involves blending key findings and insights from a range of models, disciplines and types of research, as well as from across jurisdictions. Evidence from studies which evaluate specific interventions needs to be combined with studies that tell us more about what matters to individuals in their social context.

The need for taking a rounded view is highlighted in the following quote about ‘what works’ and desistance research.

Methodological paradigm wars are a time-wasting distraction from the shared goal of helping people turn their lives around… Rather, we need all the science we can get – programme evaluations and narrative desistance studies – to make sense out of the complexity of crime. We need to strive to make both types of work as robust and rigorous as possible, and, crucially, we need to learn to merge the two types of evidence together as therein lies the real promise for evidence-based practice.

(Maruna and Mann, 2019)

The findings from a number of research areas are set out in this section. Many findings are overlapping, increasing their credence, with the following consistently found to be important:

  • the establishment of a positive, respectful and trusting relationship between individual practitioner and service user
  • collaboration with the service user in establishing goals and finding solutions, building upon strengths as well as addressing needs wherever possible
  • structured supervision, applying approaches such as prosocial modelling, effective reinforcement, cognitive restructuring, and problem solving
  • building and maintaining motivation, with attention being paid to any practical obstacles to desistance
  • helping the service user form personal and social bonds which strengthen pro-social beliefs and behaviours.
Important factors
Block diagram, from left to right, reads 'Establish a positive, trusting relationship', 'Structured supervision', 'Build social capital', 'Collaboration with the service user in establishing goals and solutions', 'Meet urgent basic needs' and 'Build and maintain motivation'.
Next: The Risk-Need-Responsivity model
Last updated: 18 December 2020