Restructuring community justice in Scotland, 2012-2017: policy and power dynamics in the penal field
Buchan, James Guy Michael
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Community justice in Scotland – the system of agencies that deliver community punishments and related services – is being restructured for the second time in a decade. The current system of administration by regional Community Justice Authorities (CJAs) will be replaced by a two-tier model, with local planning passing to Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs) and a new national body providing leadership for the sector. This thesis, the only empirical study of the restructuring, draws on interviews with politicians and practitioners to analyse the policy, its historical background and the ways in which – without directly affecting practice – it connects to major questions about Scottish politics and penal policy. Using the theoretical concept of the ‘penal field’, the thesis discusses the effects on community justice of struggle and compromise between Scottish local and national government. The birth of CJAs from this compromise caused them to be structurally flawed, but they were nonetheless not without certain achievements. Community justice is also considered in relation to historical narratives of a distinctive Scottish penal identity, and efforts to reaffirm it by reorienting the justice system towards community penalties rather than prison. Recent scholarship which highlights the role of local democratic structures in penal policy informs an analysis of CPPs (whose limited success has produced concern about their ability to fulfil justice responsibilities) and the relationship between their development (including the recent Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act) and the community justice redesign; the thesis argues that the community justice and community empowerment agendas are being allowed to converge but not meet. The new system, it is argued, is another structurally flawed compromise. The proliferation of agencies will likely hinder partnership working, while the new national body will have little power to fulfil some difficult and complex responsibilities around legitimacy and accountability. The policy will disrupt lines of communication despite efforts to smooth the transition, and the length of its development has already caused disruption. The restructuring, it is further argued, is insufficient to fulfil a deeply felt need for major reorientation of Scotland’s penal field.