'Penal Drift' and the Voluntary Sector

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Downloads (Pure)


This paper explores the concept of ‘penal drift’ - the gradual adoption of criminal justice culture, language and working practices - in voluntary sector organisations (VSOs) commissioned to deliver services to offenders. It identifies increases in coerced attendance, obligations to report non-compliance, targets to reduce re-offending, and contracts to ‘process’ high caseloads, as factors behind such drift, which can jeopardise relationships with service users and the sector’s traditional ‘value-driven’ approach. It is concluded that most VSOs have so far managed to resist these threats and to balance contractual obligations with adherence to core values. However, this comes at a cost in staff time and energy and is difficult to sustain. There are concerns that the longer term effects may be quite damaging to the sector.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-449
Number of pages20
JournalHoward Journal of Criminal Justice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


  • criminalisation of social policy
  • offender management
  • penal drift
  • Transforming Rehabilitation (TR)
  • voluntary sector


Dive into the research topics of ''Penal Drift' and the Voluntary Sector'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this