Voluntary sector actors in community justice
: a case study of St Giles Trust and ex-offender peer mentoring

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Successive governments have envisaged an increasingly central role for the penal voluntary sector in a community justice marketplace in England and Wales. The recent Coalition government’s (2013) Transforming Rehabilitation reform agenda served to mainstream the diverse charities of the penal voluntary sector in the reconfiguration of work formerly the preserve of a statutory Probation Service and more latterly independent, Probation Service Trusts. In addition a less well remarked theme in the government reforms was the incorporation of ex-offender peer mentor volunteer roles into the penal sphere.
By an analysis of government strategic documents and empirical research into a single case study of a penal voluntary sector charity, this thesis analyses two new voluntary sector actors in community justice. It offers a thematic analysis of a case study of St Giles Trust, an important and high profile charity in the penal voluntary sector and secondly, it offers a critically analysis of empirical research into individual volunteers by a specific focus upon the subjective understandings, experiences and practices of ex –offender peer mentor volunteers.
The research questions relate to the relationship between neoliberal penal reforms and marketization strategies and the penal voluntary sector’s institutionalisation and independence from government noting the extent to which a penal voluntary sector charity can expand penal power and concomitantly be able to deliver real benefits for service users. The thesis also sheds light on the multiplicity of subjective understandings of peer mentoring including consideration of the extent to which such roles reflect government agendas to reduce recidivism and manage risk and to what extent is the peer mentoring role is imbued with acts of kindness and care.
Whilst recent academic attention of the penal voluntary sector has identified significant heterogeneity amongst the sector, the thesis makes an original contribution to knowledge by a detailed analysis of the internal hybridity and diversity inherent within a single penal voluntary sector organisation. The thesis notes how the involvement in marketization and contractual relations with government impact unevenly within St Giles Trust and the peer mentor led delivery. It presents research findings which detail an array of ways in which the charity has been influenced by government penal agendas. However, St Giles Trust’s contractual relations with government to deliver key interventions in the penal sector do not preclude an independence of voice and action and a freedom to follow their charitable mission through multiple sources of funding and an innovative peer mentor delivery model .
Date of AwardJun 2017
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMichael Nash (Supervisor)

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