Impacting social wellbeing through rehabilitation

The Department of Community Rehabilitation is responsible for the supervision of adult offenders. It provides a community based rehabilitation regime for offenders referred by the courts and Parole Commissioner’s Board, with the main objectives being the reduction of offending behaviour, and the enhancement of public safety. The staff complement consists of seventeen probation officers assigned to either the court team, or the through/aftercare team.

Many offenders share the common social indicators of marginalization, exclusion and vulnerability. They have chosen not to explore opportunities, or in their life experience have lacked access to opportunities for social mobility and skill development, thus living on the ‘fringes’ of society.

Poor skills

They also exhibit poor relationship skills, poor skills in making choices and frequently have a history of involvement with the Criminal Justice System.

They have difficulty gaining jobs, partly because in many instances their level of educational attainment further excludes them from many types of employment.

They may also suffer from the effects of socialization within dysfunctional families, with resulting personal disorientation and instability, and a risky or unrewarding lifestyle. The obvious connection between social marginalisation, and drug misuse and other offending behaviours, affirms that rehabilitation programmes for offenders must be pursued with a dynamic awareness of their needs in the area of social well-being.

Offenders often face multiple social challenges that require lengthy interventions, in their search for social well-being. In many situations, even when educational attainment may allow for access to some job opportunities, and a job is identified, a poor working attitude can prevent sustained employment.

Other disruptive characteristics may include low morale, poor relationships with authority figures, or lack of healthy communication skills. For others, low commitment to sobriety and continued illegal drug use, rejection by family members following release from incarceration, or poor adjustment to changes in the household, encountered upon release, become stressors that could disrupt progress with a rehabilitation programme.

Taking responsibility

By starting with an interview and assessment process, the ‘Kirks, Peters and Mollys’ who are clients of the department, are called on to accept the responsibility for their change process, and to share in the development of conditions they are willing to commit to. Whereas having placed themselves under the ambit of the court, the conditions may be mandated, they also have the opportunity to discuss with probation officers how they will daily fulfil the mandate. In many instances, the clients most supportive and open relationships have been shared with case work providers.

Typically, Kirks, Peters and Mollys will each face different sets of priorities for social intervention. As they unravel their situations, typically hidden traumas or other unresolved issues will be brought to light. Hence, multi-pronged approaches over many months and years are utilized throughout the casework periods. These approaches include sharing in educational programmes, counselling and group therapy or cognitive-behavioural groups. They may also share in the Healthy Relationships group. The Probation Officer may encourage positive interactions with a mentor in the community.

Family intervention

In addition, family intervention may involve visits to the home and case conferencing with caring others. The Department of Community Rehabilitation office visits may include educational sessions and supervision support groups. Throughout these interventions the social dynamics are continually reassessed for any changes in risk levels.

Having journeyed with Peter through periods of relapse into substance misuse, personal disappointments, family crises and other presenting factors, the probation officer may one day hear ‘I feel satisfied with my life.’ ‘I enjoy my job’, ‘I can provide for my children’, ‘I do not continually look over my shoulders as the police are no longer suspecting me’ and ‘I am enjoying my freedom’. Peter would have shared in interventions from partnering agencies within the ministry of health and its external partners.

Yet with all this support, the change process could only have resulted from Peter’s personal desire for social well-being as well as his determination to change his criminal behaviour and remain on the course of rehabilitation/treatment even in crisis times. He has to become aware that the attainment of social well-being requires a law-abiding lifestyle that is balanced, always changing and growing while gaining self control and self realization.