6: MAPPA as ‘risk in action’: discretion and decision making


Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) are a fascinating example of ‘risk in action’, combining elements of the new penology with a more traditional (or perhaps clinical) focus on individualised assessment and tailored interventions. This chapter explores the balance between rules and discretion in MAPPA, the significance of informal practice, and some of the factors influencing decision making. It raises some important questions about the current MAPPA framework that should prompt further consideration of ways in which it could be developed so as to be more appropriate not only for young people but also for practitioners and managers in youth justice. It notes how discretion is able to peep through the cracks of public protection and in some places can be widely exercised by those operating on the front line of practice. The chapter argues that risk aversion (based on ‘othering’) may lead to exclusionary practices, but on the other hand, risk-based practice can potentially encompass more inclusive and rehabilitative approaches if staff have the appropriate skills to exercise professional discretion in their choice of interventions.

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