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Risk Aversion and Anxiety in Scottish Criminal Justice Social Work: Can Desistance and Human Rights Agendas Have an Impact?

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Abstract

This article explores the difficulty that criminal justice social work (CJSW) might have in implementing a desistance approach to work with offenders. Supporting desistance requires responsive, autonomous social workers and this article questions whether criminal justice agencies, characterised by risk aversion and managerialism, would be able to tolerate the anxiety this would inevitably, and properly, generate. Suggestions are made regarding the place of desistance work within a positive human rights framework, which might provide a force against the corrosive progression of popular punitivism – a major factor in the persistence of risk averse, managerial practice.

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