This article argues that desistance research should provoke a reconsideration of the essential character of interventions with adults involved in offending behaviour. It begins by discussing broad accounts of the characteristics of late-modern penal systems as the background to an exploration of current developments in probation policy and practice. In particular, the discussion develops some contrasts between ‘welfarist rehabilitation’ and ‘correctional treatment’ as competing (but inadequate) paradigms for probation practice. In the context of these contrasts, the situation of criminal justice social work in post-devolution Scotland receives particular attention. Possible implications for practice of some important desistance studies are then developed, in order to stimulate discussion and debate about the extent to which desistance research might challenge the correctionalism that is emerging in probation policy and practice in the UK. In the conclusion, bearing in mind proposed organisational changes on both sides of the border that might tend towards advancing correctionalism, the prospects for more constructive developments in Scotland are considered in the light of emerging evidence about the views of frontline workers and in the light of existing ‘official’ objectives for criminal justice social work.