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Macedonia calls on Middlesex's expert to advise on prison reform

Anthony Goodman has been working with and studying offenders and ex-offenders for nearly 40 years. In that time he has witnessed enormous changes in the treatment and management of offenders - changes he describes and analyses in his latest book, Rehabilitating and Resettling Offenders in the Community (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). Middlesex's Professor of Criminal and Community Justice Studies already had a strong working partnership with the UK's National Offender Management Service, and they worked with him to advise the Directorate of Enforcement for Prison Services in Macedonia on their services. It was an opportunity to see first-hand how the Macedonian prison system operated.

The contrast with Britain was stark. Macedonia had no probation service at all until very recently. Prisoner transport, which is organized centrally in the UK, was all arranged locally - and inefficiently. "Each prison has a great swathe of land attached to it, which is often unused," Professor Goodman recalls. Crucially, the Macedonian system had no experience of the public-private partnerships (PPPs) that have become commonplace in the UK since he joined the probation service in 1975. The DEPS was keen to find out whether PPPs might save it money and bring in expertise from outside the country: Macedonia is a candidate for membership of the European Union.

Prof Goodman visited Macedonia twice and co-wrote a confidential report and literature review for the DEPS, advising not only on which areas of the service might benefit from a PPP, but the safeguards and precautions it should demand from them to ensure offenders were treated humanely. Prisoner transport, for example, requires specially designed vehicles and limits on how long offenders can be locked inside them. "One of the things we cautioned them is that you can't leave prisoners stuck on a bus all day, particularly men and women together," says Prof Goodman. The quality of a PPP often partly depends on how much competition there is to provide it, so it makes sense to ensure enough companies are in a position to bid for a contract before the formal process begins. He also suggested how prison governors could make the most of their grounds by introducing more horticulture and agriculture. Offenders in the UK often spend a number of hours each week making goods. The money from their sale can go to compensate their victims, supplement the prison's funds or be saved until their release.

Britain's privately-run jails have a mixed record. Prof Goodman was able to advise Macedonia where problems have arisen, and where genuine savings have been made. He has published extensively about drug and alcohol abuse - "that's always been a big area of my practice. In my first job in probation, in east London, I had a lot of substance abuse in my patch"- which gives him special insight into how and why offenders use drugs. Under his tutorship, Middlesex has become a leading place of study for professionals working with offenders: five experienced probation officers will be tackling PhDs at the university in 2014. As the coalition government moves to privatize probation work, expertise like Prof Goodman's will be in ever more demand.

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