|This paper looks at some of the issues inherent in the move towards a national, unified Probation Service in England and Wales and on-going debates surrounding the use of community penalties. It examines the development of community punishment and more recent aspirations towards the delivery of community justice and attempts to unpick how notions of 'community', 'justice', and 'punishment' relate to contemporary probation practice. In this respect it is argued that the pressures facing the Probation Service have to be understood against a background of prevailing policy debates regarding the nature of its practice, how it should be organised, and what is its place within the criminal justice system. Critical themes in these debates have been the continued interest in the effective central direction of the Probation Service and the maintenance of an unashamedly populist punitive rhetoric on the part of Home Office Ministers. How far then can the National Probation Service meaningfully engage with a notion of community justice operating in neighbourhoods and based upon a decentralising impetus in terms of authority and accountability?
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