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Criminology and Public TheologyOn Hope, Mercy and Restoration$
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Andrew Millie

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781529207392

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781529207392.001.0001

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The ‘Quality of Mercy’ in Probation Practice

The ‘Quality of Mercy’ in Probation Practice

(p.195) 9 The ‘Quality of Mercy’ in Probation Practice
Criminology and Public Theology

Lol Burke

Policy Press

The creation of the Probation Service in England and Wales could be seen as an expression of public theology in action. The evangelism of Victorian life was an important factor in shaping the early practices of probation through the work of the Police Court Missionaries, employed by the Church of England Temperance Society. In his seminal quartet of essays, Bill McWilliams describes the period 1876-1936 as one of ‘special pleading’ (McWilliams 1983:129-147). ‘Mercy’ was the concept which provided the key to understanding the missionaries’ place in the courts, and in particular their social enquiry practice. Mercy stood between the offender, the missionary and the sentencer, and it was mercy which made sense of their relationships. In this chapter the author considers if the concept of mercy still has salience in contemporary probation practice and argues for a re-assertion of the humanitarian sentiments that guided the early work of the Police Court Missionaries.

Keywords:   Mercy, Probation, Police Court Missionaries, Humanitarianism, Emotions, Desistance

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