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 • Book Review:
Grendon and the Emergence of Forensic Therapeutic Communities
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Understanding, Assessing, and Rehabilitating Juvenile Sexual Offenders
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Vol. XXIII, No. 3
Summer 2011
Book Review:
Grendon and the Emergence of Forensic Therapeutic Communities


Grendon and the Emergence of Forensic Therapeutic Communities: Developments in Research and Practice.

R. Shuker & E. Sullivan (eds) (2010).

Wiley-Blackwell. 325 pp.

ISBN 978-0-470-99057-5

Steven Gillespie

Prof. Anthony Beech

This book seeks to introduce the reader to the concept of the democratic therapeutic community (TC) and specifically the TC in operation at HM Prison Grendon. Authored by individuals with vast experience of life on a TC, this book begins with a historical account of the founding TCs, established to treat World War II veterans and continues with a discussion of developments in democratic therapeutic communities both in the UK and abroad. The use of innovative techniques for the treatment of sexual and violent offenders, individuals who demonstrate addictive and/or impulsive personalities, as well as those with a diagnosis of Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder, are also examined. The book concludes with an overview of research and outcomes in a series of informative chapters.

In chapter 2, Eric Cullen and Alan Miller offer an in-depth look at the Dovegate TC, describing the early stages of planning through to the first years of operational activity. However, the authors go on to outline the potentially damaging consequences of limited financial support and other significant changes which may act to curtail operations at Dovegate. On the other hand, chapter 3 provides an account of the innovative and flexible work carried out at the Van der Hoeven Clinic, in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Here, a gradual move toward a multi-modal approach to the management and rehabilitation of offenders is highlighted as testament to the benefits of an emphasis on research and development.

John Shine, in chapter 5, further emphasises the need for the TC concept to evolve. Shine advocates a social-analytical approach to the treatment of severely personality disordered and psychopathic offenders, currently in use at Millfields Personality Disorder Unit. The theme of recent developments is continued by Michael Brookes (chapter 6) and Richard Shuker (chapter 7). Brookes documents how the Good Lives Model has been integrated in to therapeutic processes at HMP Grendon, while Shuker describes the special abilities afforded by a TC to better engage both staff and prisoners.  Such an environment, it is argued, allows for the interpersonal processes underlying offending behaviour to be effectively challenged and addressed in therapy. The use of psychodrama (Jinnie Jefferies, chapter 8) and art therapy (Bill Wylie, chapter 9) in the TC context are also discussed. Such chapters will be particularly enlightening for readers with a limited knowledge of the diverse range of approaches utilised in the treatment of dangerous, violent, and personality disordered offenders.

Geraldine Ackermann (chapter 10) authors a valuable chapter on the importance of group dynamics and establishing a supportive therapeutic alliance in the treatment of sexual offenders. Ackermann concludes with an introduction to a recently devised Fantasy Modification Programme for the management of sexual preoccupation and development of intimacy skills.

The latter chapters of this volume provide an overview of the diverse research which has recently been undertaken at Grendon, making use of both quantitative and qualitative techniques. Each chapter offers a unique perspective of life at Grendon, with samples inclusive of the experiences of both staff and prisoners. Chapter 13, authored by McManus, will be of specific interest to staff dealing with offenders in everyday life, drawing attention to the potential for psychological harm and the need for appropriate support systems. The relatively low incidence of suicidal and self injurious behaviours and also the relatively low adjudication rates of men housed at Grendon are examined in chapters 16 and 17 respectively. Furthermore, changes in the interpersonal relating of men who have recently been treated at Grendon are analysed by Richard Shuker and Michelle Newberry in chapter 18. This book concludes with a chapter which will be of interest to students and academics who wish to carry out research in a prison environment. The authors highlight some of the potential difficulties in developing a research idea, deciding upon appropriate analysis techniques and gaining access to participants of interest in an establishment such as HM Prison Grendon.

To summarise, this book will be of interest to anyone with a general interest in forensic issues and the range of approaches taken in an effort to rehabilitate offenders housed in a TC. This recommended audience would be inclusive of students and academics, treatment managers and facilitators, officers, clinicians and psychologists involved in the management and rehabilitation of offenders. The experiences of both staff and prisoners in a democratic TC are highlighted through the course of the research oriented chapters. These chapters offer a rare in-sight in to the, at times, emotionally intense, highly charged atmospheres operating in the context of a therapeutic community. However, despite the difficulties highlighted by various authors, this book serves to draw attention to the important and innovative work which is carried out on a daily basis by professionals working in the context of a therapeutic community such as HM Prison Grendon.


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