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The CoPPer project view of the volunteer role in probation

At the core of the CoPPer project's philosophy is the recognition of the indispensable role that volunteers play within the probation process. Our European training programme is designed to complement the vital support and reintegration role of probation, purposefully delineating the boundaries of professional and volunteer responsibilities. In this framework, risk management remains the purview of professional probation officers, while volunteering is central to fostering solidarity and community building.

We at CoPPer see volunteering as a cornerstone within the participative concept of democracy, emphasizing an ethical relationship with civil society. It's not merely about fulfilling duties; it's about embodying the spirit of cooperation and mutual aid that powers a cohesive society (Powell, 2013).

The process of reintegration, as championed by the CoPPer project, is a collaborative one. We believe that this journey involves the entire community, not just the individuals and the probation service. There's a growing recognition that the reintegration of formerly justice-involved persons is most successful when it's a two-way street—where the community is not just a passive backdrop but an active welcoming party (Carlen, 2013; McNeill, 2023). This progressive approach to reintegration is what we hope to emphasize through increased volunteer involvement.

Volunteers in probation serve various functions, from being a social contact—a 'lifeline' back into the community—to companions, supporters, enablers, introducers, protectors, and even as buffers between the client and the community or as representatives of the community. Barr’s (1971) research highlighted these diverse roles, and Mackey's forthcoming work further delineates them into supportive functions, such as facilitating access to social services, housing, and mental health support, and more surveillance-oriented functions, including supervision and monitoring activities.

A crucial distinction within our perspective is the penal status of the beneficiary. In some regions, such as parts of Germany, voluntary aid is integrated into the penal process, with volunteers playing a significant part in the delivery of probation services (Baden-Württemberg, 2023). Contrastingly, in other countries like Serbia, volunteer participation during probation is not mandated, with most volunteer support being post-penal and outside the official penal strategy of the state (Vulevic, D. [2023]).

Understanding the distinction between penal and post-penal phases is essential for comprehending the scope of volunteer roles and their responsibilities.

The CoPPer project is committed to fostering a nuanced understanding of these roles to enhance the effectiveness of volunteer involvement in probation services across Europe.

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