• 1. What does professionalism mean?
• 2. What is the relevance of professionalism to diversion & alternatives?
• 3. Job satisfaction & morale
This section examines the importance of diversion and alternatives for professionals working in the justice system. It is in three parts: Part 1 explores the meaning of ‘professionalism’; Part 2 applies this to diversion and alternatives and cites examples of international standards which promote professionalism; Part 3 looks at the impact of diversion and alternatives on the job satisfaction and morale of professionals.
1. What does professionalism mean?
Professionalism means performing one’s job in conformity with standards which have been laid down by relevant authorities such as managers, technical experts, professional associations and legislators at both national and international levels. It means taking seriously legislation, rules and guidelines on ethics and conduct which have been developed for the betterment of the profession as a whole as well as its individual beneficiaries. It means taking personal and collective responsibility for actions undertaken in the name and context of the profession. It inspires a sense of individual and collective pride in performing tasks to the highest possible standards for the benefit of beneficiaries and society as a whole and is closely linked to job satisfaction and morale (see part 3 below).
2. What is the relevance of professionalism to diversion & alternatives?
As well as the expectation that relevant personnel will display professionalism in their handling of diversion and alternatives processes, there is an argument to be made that it is necessary for such personnel to exercise diversion and alternatives in the first place in order for them to comply with international legislation and professional standards which are in place.
Professionals (via domestication of international instruments into national laws) are obviously expected to comply with international legislation such as the CRC which – as has already been established - includes the incorporation of diversion and alternatives into justice systems for children in conflict with the law. Furthermore, the Beijing and Tokyo Rules offer guidance on the topic of professionalism, and international guidelines also exist specifically for some professionals within the justice system.
Download ‘Excerpts from international guidelines on professionalism’
Promoting the use of diversion and alternatives as part of justice systems for children in conflict with the law can help to raise professionalism, job satisfaction and morale amongst relevant personnel by promoting compliance with international standards and best practice.
For example, in a slightly different area, international experience in relation to policing has shown that the introduction of specialised child protection units staffed by specially selected and trained officers has been very effective in raising the status of police working in this field and can transform ‘working with children’ from an undervalued ‘thin end of the wedge’ assignment to a highly coveted professional career development option.
The introduction and promotion of diversion and alternatives could potentially have the same effect as professionals realise that they are part of an international movement aiming to implement the best possible professional standards in the work they do. [For information on the importance of getting buy-in from frontline workers in order to implement diversion and alternatives in practice, see the toolkit section on 'Capacity of those in contact with children].
3. Job satisfaction & morale
There are obviously a whole range of issues which need to be addressed to ensure job satisfaction for professionals involved in the criminal justice system, for example, pay and remuneration, decent working conditions, respect, recognition, non-discrimination, adequate resources, good management, opportunities for training and advancement and effective complaints procedures. Indeed, these issues need to be addressed as part of general justice reform in order to reduce corruption and improve effectiveness of the system overall. However, on a daily basis, the psychological impact on professionals of being able to see that their work is contributing to positive change in the lives of children and communities should not be under-estimated.
How many times do we hear police, social workers, judges and prosecutors complaining that they are tired of seeing the same children passing through the system time after time, that their interventions are having limited impact, or that the problems ‘seem to be getting worse’? Such failure to secure medium and longer-term results is demoralising for staff who are working in stressful, sometimes dangerous conditions and who are having to juggle limited resources on a daily basis.
Quality child rights-based diversion and alternatives programmes which adopt restorative approaches where possible and appropriate are proved in certain cases to reduce recidivism rates; they are proved to increase victim/survivor satisfaction with the process; they are proved to contribute to the offender’s acknowledgement of responsibility and positive personal development; they are proved to restore community harmony and improve public security; and they are generally proved to be more cost effective than detention.
Surely working in a system which reaps such an array of benefits – even if not in every case, then at least for many more compared to repressive systems – is bound to increase job satisfaction and improve morale. Both on an individual level as well as collectively for each profession, this can, in turn, raise standards and the quality of outcomes for children, society and governments. Amongst other outcomes, it can also result in easier recruitment of profesionals and less absenteeism.
Quality child rights-based diversion and alternatives programmes are an essential part of professional justice systems for children in conflict with the law and their introduction can help to raise the professionalism, job satisfaction and morale of personnel working in this field. Professionals will feel satisfaction at complying with international legislation and standards and the improved results in relation to recidivism, public safety, victim/survivor impact, cost and outcomes for individual child offenders will increase job satisfaction and improve morale. Other outcomes include easier recruitment of profesionals and less absenteeism.
1. See the toolkit section on 'Why are diversion and alternatives important?' for evidence of these claims.