Community Sentences and Offender Management




Journal Title

Journal ISSN


Volume Title


Oxford University Press


Book chapter

Peer reviewed



When the topic of punishment is discussed, many people think first about imprisonment. Yet the vast majority of people who are sentenced for crimes are not sent to prison but punished in the community. This chapter explores and explains the history, philosophies, current practices and policy debates surrounding those sanctions which are, though misleadingly, frequently referred to as ‘alternatives to prison’. It will be argued that community sentences should not be viewed merely as ‘alternatives’ to prison but understood as representing a different sphere of penal regulation which is based on enabling and requiring offenders to take responsibility for changing their own lives and behaviour without the physical constraints of imprisonment. Discussion begins with a brief introduction to the terminology and key concepts of community sentences. There will then follow a more detailed description of the range of sentences available to courts, the relevant legislation and the extent to which these sentences are used. A brief history of the Probation Service—the agency responsible for most community sentences—will follow, concluding with the creation of the National Offender Management Service and the setting up of probation trusts. The chapter then proceeds to an analysis of the main issues and problems presented by offender management, including an exploration of the impact of the ‘What Works’ agenda, which dominated developments in this area during the late 1990s and into the early part of the twenty-first century. It ends by considering probation in other countries. The concluding section of the chapter will summarize the relevant key facts, concepts and debates.


Book chapter in popular text book


Community sentences, probation


Worrall, A. and Canton, R. (2013) Community Sentences and Offender Management. In: Criminology (3rd edition), edited by Chris Hale, Keith Hayward, Azrini Wahidin and Emma Wincup, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 493 – 512


Research Institute

Institute for Research in Criminology, Community, Education and Social Justice