Please discuss involuntary clients within the criminal justice system.  Why is it so hard to work with them?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In many respects, the term helps to explain the difficulty.  It might be a challenge to work with "involuntary clients" in the criminal justice system because their status is not largely determined from their own autonomy. In some respects, "involuntary clients" might not feel as if they are an authenticated part of the system, and thus feel they have no stake in it.  This is where their "involuntary" condition arises: "... They [involuntary clients] have not chosen to receive the services they are being given.  In fact, the clients might be actively opposed to receiving the service."  Clients who are involuntary can prove to be difficult to work with because they might feel that the services being given to them are "unnecessary and intrusive."  In addition to this, there is a very strong chance that involuntary clients are operating under court mandates.  Being forced to participate in court mandated activities or interventions can breed a sense of discontent and resentment.  If these interventions are viewed to be ineffective or devoid of meaning, difficulties in working with involuntary clients can emerge. An aspect of the involuntary client that might help to explain why difficulties are realistic possibilities exists in the issue of voice and ownership.  An individual who has been mandated to attend therapy sessions or other practices required by the court could very well feel that an external force has silenced their own voice.  There could be a negation of autonomy that makes the client feel atomized, removed from forging a particular solution.  This can result in acting disagreeable and creating difficulties so that voice, in some form, could be heard and authenticated.

It is for this reason that individuals in the criminal justice field who work with involuntary clients have to develop some type of plan that creates voice.  Research indicates that a conscious attempt on any level that seeks to make the involuntary client an active agent in the process can reduce difficulties in working with them.  Being able to view clients as dynamic and real parts of a system in which their betterment has real world implications is important in reducing potential challenges.  Individuals in the criminal justice system will find a better chance of success in working with involuntary clients through the development of a reservoir of resources and development tools that enable voice and relevance to emerge.  While the criminal justice system must maintain mandated actions, this does not mean that the voice of the client or individual who must partake in them has to be absent. The cultivation of voice on an emerging level can enable difficulties and harsh realities to be seen as parts of a larger trajectory of progress and improvement. Such humanistic approaches can be combined with the requirements of the legal system in making the involuntary client an active agent of their own change, while hopefully reducing the difficulties that might be present without such an approach.

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