Research line: professionalism in the penal system

The professionalization of the penal system has been high on the social agenda for the last few years. This research work focuses on the effects of individual methods and behavioural interventions. The effectiveness of professionalism is, however, only partly determined by the deployment of these interventions. Equally important are the professional’s own characteristics and behaviour. This research line focuses on that professionalism.

Research into professionals and their alliance with clients

Within this research line, we explore such questions as:

  • What characteristics and conduct on the part of professionals contributes to the desired behavioural change(s) on the part of clients?
  • What is required to build and maintain an effective working alliance with the client?
  • As a professional, how do you find the right balance between enforcing and supervising?
  • How do you also find the right balance between making proper use of instruments and working on the basis of professional experience or 'intuition'?
  • How do you deal with resistance and how do you motivate someone who initially resists contact with you?
  • How do you handle working in the penal system - which often also involves a confrontation between different sets of values and standards - from a moral point of view?
  • What are the effects of confinement on the attitudes of both clients and professionals?

Focus on effective behaviour in practice

All these questions focus on the behaviour of professionals in everyday practice. We also look at the factors that make this behaviour effective. Research into the effectiveness of different forms of interventions and tools is important, but this knowledge only enables us to understand part of the professionalism of these staff. Research in other areas, such as in psychotherapy, shows that this effectiveness is only partly associated with specific behavioural interventions. In addition, differences between professionals contribute to the result in equal measure. After all, it is not only the interventions themselves that need to be appropriate, but they also need to be applied in a way that is right for a specific target group and the problem. Hardly any such research has been carried out in the field of correction and rehabilitation. The aim of this line of research is to develop more knowledge about this.

Disseminating knowledge and incorporating it into the curriculum

This research is not in contradiction to research on effective interventions, but rather serves to complement it. We disseminate our findings by means of publications, lectures, conferences and workshops. We translate these results into competencies, educational programmes and professionalism.