Fergus McNeill is Professor of Criminology and Social Work at the University of Glasgow where he works in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research. Prior to becoming an academic in 1998, Fergus worked for a number of years in residential drug rehabilitation and as a criminal justice social worker.
His many research projects and publications have examined institutions, cultures and practices of punishment and rehabilitation – and questions about their reform. He recently led a pioneering ESRC funded project, ‘Discovering Desistance’, which developed dialogue between academics, practitioners and ex-offenders about how criminal justice can better support people to leave crime behind and influenced policy and practice development in many countries. Between 2012 and 2016, he chaired an EU funded research network on ‘Offender Supervision in Europe’ which involved about 80 researchers from across 23 jurisdictions. His main current project is ‘Distant Voices – Coming Home’, a 3-year ESRC/AHRC funded project (Grant Ref: ES/P002536/1) in collaboration with Jo Collinson Scott (University of the West of Scotland), Oliver Escobar (University of Edinburgh) and Alison Urie (Vox Liminis). Distant Voices combines creative practice, research and knowledge exchange to explore punishment and re/integration.
As well as researching, teaching and writing, Fergus has been involved in providing consultancy advice and support to governments and criminal justice organizations in many jurisdictions around the world. Between 2011-2014, he was appointed by the Cabinet Secretary as Chair of the Scottish Advisory Panel on Offender Rehabilitation. He is a Trustee, Council or Board Member of several charities including Faith in Communities Scotland, ‘Positive Prisons? Positive Futures…’, the Scottish Association for the Study of Offending and Vox Liminis. He also served recently as a member of the Poverty Truth Commission.
Fergus has co-written or co-edited several books including Offender Supervision: New Directions in Theory, Research and Practice, Offender Supervision in Europe, Reducing Reoffending: Social Work and Community Justice in Scotland, Understanding Penal Practice and Youth Offending and Youth Justice. His latest book, Community Punishment: European Perspectives (co-edited with Gwen Robinson) was published by Routledge in 2015. His next book, Probation: 12 essential questions (co-edited with Ioan Durnescu and Rene Butter), is due to be published by Palgrave in the Autumn.
Plenary title: Punishment, Rehabilitation and Re/integration
Throughout its history, criminology has been concerned with punishment and rehabilitation -- and with the relationships between these concepts and their associated institutions, cultures and practices. Much of the voluminous literature on rehabilitation has tended both to treat it primarily as a process of individual transformation, even when seen in social and cultural context, and (latterly) to justify it with reference to the aim of reducing reoffending. In this lecture, and building on Beth Weaver’s arguments about the centrality of social relations in understanding desistance from crime, I argue for a more fully social model of rehabilitation as a relational process, suggesting that this requires more careful examination of re/integration as a putative purpose of rehabilitation. In conclusion, I briefly outline one emerging attempt to explore experiences and develop practices of re/integration that displace the conventional focus on changing ‘offenders’ with a focus on how social relations (between differently situated citizens, civil society associations and the state) might be reformed during and after punishment.
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