Friday, 17 November 2017

Probation Jobs

On the last day of evidence submissions to the Justice Select Committee on the state of the Probation Service after TR, I don't think there could be a better indicator than taking a look at the jobs vacant situation. 

Since the TR omnishambles got going and made hundreds of highly-skilled practitioners surplus to requirements, a veritable cottage industry has sprung up of agencies desperately trying to entice qualified staff back into highly-paid temporary positions. This is because the NPS is desperately short of staff and despite much effort, the recent recruitment drive has failed to deliver anywhere near enough applicants. 

For some reason NPS seem mystified by this, but the answer might have something to do with what's on offer from agencies and helps explain the increasing numbers of experienced staff leaving each and every week, only to pop up again a short time later via an agency. This from Sanctuary Criminal Justice, but there are several others also available:-


Probation Officer: Grays, East Anglia - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: HMP Bure, East Anglia - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Ipswich, East Anglia - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Norwich, East Anglia - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Boston, East Midlands - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Grantham, East Midlands - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Northampton, East Midlands - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Queen Street, East Midlands - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Skegness, East Midlands - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Wellingborough, East Midlands - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Aylesbury,Home Counties - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: HMP Bedford, Home Counties - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Luton, Home Counties - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Milton Keynes, Home Counties - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Oxford, Home Counties - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Reading, Home Counties - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Watford. Home Counties - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Barkingside Magistrates Court, London - £29.01 p/h
Probation Officer: Brent, London - £29.01p/h
Probation Officer: Guildhall, London - £29.01 p/h
Probation Officer: Hackney, London - £29.01 p/h
Probation Officer: HMP Woolwich, London - £29.01 p/h
Probation Officer: Islington, London - £29.01 p/h
Probation Officer: Romford, London - £29.01 p/h
Probation Officer: Consett, Durham, North East - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Durham, North East - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: HMP Holme House, North East - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: South Shields, North East - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Chester, North West - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Moss Side, North West - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Salford, North West - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Skelmersdale, North West - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Oldham, North West - £26.19
Probation Officer: Harrogate, North Yorkshire - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Canterbury, South East - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Chatham, South East - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Folkestone, South East - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: HMP Elmley, South East - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: HMP Send, South East - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: HMP Standford Hill, South East - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: HMP Swaleside, South East - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Maidstone, South East - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Redhill, South East - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Staines, South East - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Tunbridge Wells, South East - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Woking, South East - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Bath, South West - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: HMP Guys Marsh, South West - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Swindon, South West - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Yeovil, South West - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Doncaster, South Yorkshire - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Rotherham, South Yorkshire - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Cardiff, Wales - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Dyfed-Powys, Wales - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Newport, Wales - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Pontypridd, Wales - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Swansea, Wales - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Cannock, West Midlands - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: HMP Stafford, West Midlands - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Nuneaton, West Midlands - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: HMP Lindholme, West Yorkshire - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Leeds, West Yorkshire - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: HMP Preston, North West - £26.19 p/h
Probation Officer: Plymouth, South West - £26.19 p/h


Probation Officer: Hammersmith & Fulham, London - £27 p/h
Probation Officer: Ilford, London - £27 p/h
Probation Officer: Wandsworth, London - £27 p/h
Probation Officer: Westminster, London - £27 p/h
Probation Officer: Crawley, South East - £25 p/h
Probation Officer: Salisbury, South West - £25 p/h
Probation Officer: Slough, Home Counties - £27 p/h

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Another MoJ Disaster 2

Following on from the blog post the other day about the continuing tagging disaster, here we have Professor Mike Nellis joining up the dots on the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies website:-  

Electronic monitoring: in flight to where?

Mike Nellis assesses the latest developments in the electronic monitoring fiasco and asks where future policy is headed

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) session on the National Audit Office’s (NAO) report on the Ministry of Justice's (MoJ) failed 'New World' electronic monitoring (EM) strategy on the 13th November was a disappointment.

It did not get to the bottom of why things had gone so catastrophically wrong, concentrating only on the hows and whats, as the NAO themselves had done. Chris Grayling, the minister who more than anyone devised and drove this secretive, overambitious strategy, abetted by the Cabinet Office, and drawing on a Policy Exchange report that had considered radio frequency (RF) based EM curfews obsolete and 75,000 offenders per day on GPS tracking a feasible and desirable option, was not held to account in the way he deserved.

Three civil servants dutifully carried the can for him, Richard Heaton, Michael Spurr and Adrian Scott, the first two of whom were indeed there during the fiasco, although neither deserved pillorying for a strategy they would surely not have signed up to had their minister not been so determined. But they do get paid to apologise for it, and that's what they did, as well as assuring us that a now more modest EM strategy – in which RF EM will remain dominant – had been salvaged from the old, and would be alright.

A disaster from start to finish

The PAC members pressed the civil servants to accept that New World had been 'a catastrophe', 'shambolic', 'a total disaster from start to finish'. £60 million was spent on it, from 2012, and not a single person had been placed on GPS by 2015, its original start date.

The gist of the MoJ’s response was that New World had been conceived with the best of intentions – to 'break up the market' and 'go for innovation' – but they ruefully accepted that it had indeed been overambitious and flawed in execution, albeit hinting that this could only have been realized in hindsight. Furthermore, they identified two silver linings.

Firstly, it was the decision to move from a duopoly of EM providers – G4S and Serco each providing a regional service – to 'a tower model' involving four integrated companies providing a national service that had exposed the overcharging scandal.

Secondly the £60m fiasco itself had been a learning experience, which provided the foundations of the assuredly good, sensible strategy that was now, as Heaton confidently put it, 'in flight' and 'set up to succeed'. Only £4 milli0n (+VAT, making it £5.2 million), he said, had been 'fruitless expenditure'. This was the pay-off to Steatite, the second selected tag supplier, when the Ministry’s reckless pursuit of a bespoke supertag was abandoned.

A disaster foretold

There is no way that £60m had to be spent to work out how to introduce GPS tracking into an existing EM programme. All the academics, think tanks and commercial actors knowledgeable about EM, and indeed many of the MoJ’s own civil servants, would have advised a more prudent strategy.

There were several other countries, at that time, whose experiences with GPS could easily have been learned form. But the minister and his close advisers were never in listening or consultative mode about New World, and the PAC accepted too readily Spurr’s cursory, fudged explanations of why not even the probation and prison services were treated as important stakeholders in the proposed EM strategy.

Somewhat paradoxically, given its otherwise great influence, the most articulate and persuasive opposition to both the prevailing duopoly of EM service provision and the upcoming the tower model came from the centre right think tank Policy Exchange, whose report had strongly favoured localized contracting with Probation Services and/or Police and Crime Commissioners. A second centre right think tank, Reform, later made the same cogent argument.

Neither the NAO not the PAC asked why the MoJ had not explored the cost-effectiveness of local contracting, but after this fiasco someone somewhere ought to place it back on the agenda.

No evidence, no rationale

Famously, New World had had no evidence-base and no pilot schemes. This was about 'getting quick results'. The civil servants said: 'we were embarking on a major transformation programme', as if this was an excuse.

The PAC seemed more interested in the absent evidence-base for the transformation than the absent rationale for the transformation itself, the non-existence of a publicly debatable policy on EM in general and GPS tracking in particular.

Spurr helpfully conceded that more than evidence was at issue: 'we should have had an underlying policy base for what we wanted to do with tracking, and we didn’t'. But the PAC did not pursue that. It rightly pointed out that it had called for more research on EM in 2006, which had not been done. But it still failed to raise the larger question of why, after all this time, the MoJ was still no nearer to having a clear strategy for EM in the context of a clear, coherent penal policy.

Providers badly treated

The PAC was concerned that the 'small, medium enterprises' (SMEs) involved in the tower model, first Buddi, then Steatite, had been badly treated by the MoJ and indeed set up to fail. The civil servants conceded that the original specifications for the supertag were too numerous and complex, and that the participation demanded of small companies with few staff and other customers to serve was excessive.

Buddi’s understandable unwillingness to share technical secrets (intellectual property) with a much larger company (Airbus) so that the hardware and software could be integrated with each other had become grounds for its withdrawal before contracts were signed.

The civil servants feigned regret on this, but defended it all the same, begging the far more pertinent question, which the PAC spared them, of why the tower model separated hardware and software provision in the first place. In the original procurement, Buddi had sensibly bid to do both, and had a proven track record of delivering both in its successful police and NHS schemes.

Few wanted the job

The issue with Steatite was somewhat different. They replaced Buddi despite, as the NAO had revealed, being below the benchmark for reliability, partly because they had no experience of making GPS devices. What was barely made clear in the session was that Steatite got the job by default, because there were too few other companies willing to take it on.

This was less about SMEs as such being unwilling to work with the MoJ, as the PAC hinted, and more about experienced EM providers refusing to invest their time and money in the MoJ’s pursuit of a bespoke supertag, whose intellectual property the MoJ would own, when there were already satisfactory devices available on the open market.

During Michael Gove’s brief tenure as Justice Minister – the MoJ conceded this – paying off Steatite and closing down Just Solutions International, the commercial arm of the National Offender Management Service, established by Grayling to sell British penal expertise abroad. His supposedly world-beating EM technology was to have been one of these services for sale.

Continuing problems

Turning to the present, the PAC were understandably concerned that even the salvaged programme would not deliver. They sought (and got) assurances that sufficient staff time was now being devoted to it, that it was insulated from Brexit, that MoJ competence in procurement and contract management was now adequate to the task.

The civil servants insisted that now that the integration function in the tower model had been shifted from Capita to the MoJ, as the NAO had recommended, they were in a better position to drive the programme forward. But the question of whether the delivery structure was more complicated than it needed to be still hung over proceedings.

The PAC worried that there had already been slippage from the new programme’s projected national start date in 2018 to February-March 2019. It was also mildly irritated that the civil servants would not even commit firmly to that.

Despite acknowledging the still low take-up in the 8 GPS pilot schemes – 491 subjects so far, out of the 600/1000 anticipated – the PAC seemed reassured by the MoJ’s now modest model, from which, Scott said, 'lessons are being learned as we go'.

One of these lessons, revealingly, 'was that we now understand when sentencers will use GPS or not'. This has apparently shrunk the MoJ expectations of what the future scale of GPS use will be to no more than a 1000 per day, with the current figure of 12,000 on RF EM remaining static. This is lower than it was before New World was conceived.

A recipe for penal conservatism

What the PAC did not seem to understand was just how far the MoJ’s aspirations have fallen: from a world-beating grand plan for mass satellite tracking without RF, imposed from the MoJ, to a sentencer-determined model of GPS use in a mostly RF system.

The programme is indeed 'in flight', but not only in the sense that Heaton meant. It is 'in flight' not only from Grayling’s crazy hopes of having the world’s biggest and best GPS programme but also – still – from any attempt to consider what EM technologies might actually contribute to a rational, coherent penal policy.

Given the broader decline in the use of community sentences, of which the decline in RF EM use may be a part (no-one knows for certain), leaving sentencing to the vicissitudes of sentencers is a recipe for penal conservatism and the untenable status quo.
No solution to the probation and prisons crisis

From wanting too much control, the MoJ seemingly now wants too little. EM is no solution to the manifest problems of the privatised probation services or the understaffed prisons. It is also no substitute for measures which meet the psychological and practical needs of offenders.

But used properly, integrated with other supportive measures, EM technologies can make a modest contributions to reductions in custody and public protection in ways that those under criminal sanction themselves find legitimate.

There is still a need for a 21st century penal strategy with a properly contextualized place for EM. It is up to the penal reform network to at least imagine what that could be.

Mike Nellis

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Prison Is The Future

As probation continues to be airbrushed out of the picture, it's fascinating to see how the image of prison and prison officers is being actively burnished in a number of quarters and indeed now accorded 'professional' status. This from the Howard League on Monday:-  

New report on prison officers calls for urgent action to save the profession

Action on staffing levels, rates of pay, and officer development is urgently required in English and Welsh prisons, research by the Howard League for Penal Reform and the justice sector trade union, Community reveals today (Monday 13 November).

Dangerously low staffing levels, a poorly-defined job description, insufficient training and a perceived lack of decision-making power have left officers feeling ignored, ineffective and unable to achieve their aims. Morale is low among staff in private prisons and few see a long-term future for themselves in the service.

The concerns are raised in The role of the prison officer, a joint report by the Howard League and Community, the trade union representing staff across the justice sector. The report presents the findings of focus groups and surveys with 27 prison officers working in the private sector for a range of companies. A number of officers working in public-sector prisons also gave evidence to the project.

Prison officers said that they were enthusiastic for change and wanted to play a role in helping people to turn their lives around. They want systemic change so that they are able to continue to develop their skills and receive the support that they need to succeed in their roles. The report calls on private companies, ministers and officials to demonstrate that they value prison officers. They must recognise their staff as professionals, fulfil their potential and ensure that officers are able to build rewarding careers.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:

“This report, based on findings from focus groups and surveys with people working on the front line, underlines the need for urgent reform of the whole system. The Howard League’s experience is that staff morale is low in public prisons as well as private prisons. The problems will not be solved by simply recruiting more prison officers. While devolving responsibility to governors, ministers ought to take steps to ensure that the workforce is motivated, empowered, educated and allowed to exercise professional discretion. This must come hand-in-hand with bold action to reduce the prison population, which would protect staff, save lives and make the public safer.”

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community, said: 

“Community members in the justice sector carry out important jobs in difficult circumstances. This report confirms that government must urgently address the problems in our justice system. There are simply not enough staff in prisons to keep people safe, and those officers that are there are not paid nearly enough. If we want prison officers to be effective, then we need to show we value their work. We need proper training and career development, as well as practical and emotional support to help deal with the challenges of the modern prison. Community, the union for the justice sector, stands ready to engage constructively with government and employers to help make our prisons safe for the staff working in them, and effective tools of reform for prisoners.”

All who participated in the project said that there were not enough officers working in their prisons. In some, there were staff shortages and prisons were recruiting. Other prisons were technically fully staffed, but the staffing levels were so low that they did not have enough people to achieve the basics of keeping people safe and delivering a full regime.

One officer said: “[T]here are two officers on a spur of 61 men…when everyone is back for lunch, one has to supervise medication and the other has to go and collect the food from the kitchen. This means there is nobody else on the spur, the model incorporates completely unsupervised association time and with all the other tasks we have to do it really means that one officer is alone all morning and another in the afternoon.”

Another officer said: “[O]n our house block we have 60-odd on a wing and I work it by myself. I work 0715 to 2000 and I might only see and speak to another officer a couple of times a day…I cover two floors and so might not know about an incident in a cell until the following day”. Inadequate staffing meant that prisons were fundamentally unsafe for staff and prisoners, researchers heard. One officer said: “[W]e had a murder a few months ago. There wasn’t enough staff on at night and nobody came when the alarm was rung. They thought one experienced staff member could run the house block on their own.”

Many officers no longer felt that they could make a difference as the conditions in their prisons meant that they could not form quality relationships with prisoners. Low staffing levels, high workloads and frequent rotations to different parts of the prison made many officers feel powerless to achieve what they saw as a central part of the role. One officer asked: “[W]hat am I doing for them apart from holding them on behest of a judge? There is nothing to help them.” Another said: “[W]e’re at rock bottom and it’s going to take a lot to get that back.”

Many of the officers working in private prisons felt that their companies were not sufficiently focused on recruiting people who understood and had the right skills. Several reported that new officers sometimes arrived without a full understanding of the realities of being a prison officer and as a result quickly left. This high turnover put enormous strain on longer-serving officers. In the prisons that the officers worked in, basic training ranged between seven and nine weeks in length. Officers viewed this as being far too short for the difficult and complex role they were carrying out.

One officer said that training at his prison “is death by PowerPoint…there’s a mandatory five-day course on control and restraint (CNR). It’s not a pass or fail – just an idea of what happens. You are told that CNR can only be enforced by a three-officer team, but there are never three on a wing – most of the time you would be on your own. I think it’s too detached from reality. There’s no training for what to do when you’re on your own”.

The report recommends that the government should support the setting-up of a specialised training and standard-setting college, akin to the College of Policing, to set standards to promote high-quality training across prisons in both the public sector and the private sector. Such a college would also provide an ethical framework and guide good practice, both of which are currently missing.

A number of officers told the project that the starting pay was reasonable in most areas of the country, but needed to rise as staff became more experienced and took on more responsibility. Others thought that the starting salary needed to be higher and commensurate with police officers and social workers in the area.

One officer said: “You can go and work in Aldi for £18,000 a year without having to deal with the things we have to deal with. It’s nowhere near to what we should be paid for [what] we’re doing”.


This from the Community website:-

Our story

Community was formed in 2004 when the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation and the Knitwear, Footwear and Apparel Trade Union joined together. These two traditional unions had deep roots and strong regional identities in the UK’s steel, textiles and footwear towns. The unions’ members had experienced large-scale de-industrialisation through the eighties and nineties.

Traditionally, once a factory or steelworks closed the union would leave too. Community’s founding unions took a different approach, particularly in the steel industry. They stayed to help their members retrain and find new work and continued to represent people in their new jobs, in new industries. The union became a voice for those communities, not just the people still working in the traditional industries.

This approach attracted other unions to join with the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation. Carpet weavers, based around Kidderminster and Axminster, had also seen their industry transform as production moved overseas. The Power Loom, Carpet Weavers and Textile Workers union joined the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation in 2000 as it began to change into a community union.

The National League of the Blind and Disabled (NLBD) also joined in 2000. It was founded in 1899 as the first organisation for disabled people in the UK. It had a strong record of political campaigning to win rights, recognition and support for disabled people, so the idea of being part of a community-focused union appealed to its members.

Since Community was formed, other smaller, like-minded unions joined us, helping to create the diverse union that we are today. The National Union of Domestic Appliance and General Operatives, the union for people manufacturing white goods, joined us in 2006. And in 2008 the British Union of Social Work Employees, which included NSPCC employees, also made the decision to be part of Community.

Finally, members of the Prison Service Union joined us in 2013. This means that Community now represents more people in privatised justice and custodial services than any other trade union. Together, we are Community. The modern union for a changing world.


This in yesterday's Guardian:-

X Factor star Sam Bailey: ‘Being a prison officer is tough. But I miss it every day’

Before Sam Bailey won the 2013 X Factor final, she had been patrolling the landings and corridors of HMP Gartree, a life-sentence prison in Leicestershire, for three years. “I didn’t really do a lot of singing at work – though I did sing down the corridors sometimes as the acoustics were great. When all the prisoners were locked up I used to sing as I patrolled the corridors. I loved it. But then obviously I needed some time off for the audition. I ended up owing hours which I had to pay back. When I won the X Factor I had a letter from the prison saying I owed them money.”

As she progressed in the competition, despite the support of colleagues and the governor, she was told that it would be in the best interests of the prison and her family not to go back to work as there had been so much about her personal life, and about where she lived, on the show. After winning the contest, Bailey had a Christmas No 1 and her debut album went to the top of the charts. She is currently starring in Fat Friends – the Musical at the Grand Theatre in Leeds.

Although life as a professional performer couldn’t be more different than that of a serving prison officer, Bailey says it hasn’t changed her. She still lives in the same house and is still in contact with most of her ex-colleagues, for whom she has nothing but admiration. And she wants to use her public profile to raise awareness of her former profession. “I take my hat off to anyone who works as a prison officer right now. It’s not an easy time. I want to let the public know that what these men and women do is phenomenal. People rarely get to hear about the value of the officers: it’s all about what the prisoners do, the problems, the drugs and riots. But it’s one of the best public services and I think the officers deserve recognition for what they do.

On the night that I won the X Factor, the whole prison was banging on their cell doors. Can you imagine that? “The stigma attached to being a prison officer is unfair. A lot of people think of prison officers as big stocky guys swinging a set of keys and looking all hard. They’re not. They come in all shapes and sizes and they are there to help people in their care – and to facilitate rehabilitation.”

Since she left the service, the rates of violence, self-harm and suicide across the prison system have escalated to record levels. Spice and black mamba drugs have flooded the wings and landings and introduced a new level of unpredictability for all those who live and work in prisons. And many of the most experienced officers have left, leaving prisons dangerously short of staff able to maintain effective control. “The service has lost a lot of the more experienced officers who knew how to talk to prisoners and build rapport. I’ve seen the skill it takes for an officer to talk someone up when they’re at their lowest ebb. That skill deserves huge respect,” says Bailey.

These evident problems are spelled out in a joint report by the Howard League for Penal Reform and the trade union Community, published this week, which calls for “urgent action” to save the service. It points out that many new officers arrive with no real understanding of what the job of a prison officer entails and soon leave when reality kicks in, putting “enormous strain on longer-serving officers”.

“I am in touch with a lot of my former colleagues, via Facebook and so on, and I do get told that there are some really good new officers coming through,” says Bailey. “But you know, we are asking these young people to go into some really difficult environments – and they’re not on a particularly good wage. I think it’s unfair that they are paid so poorly, especially when there are things going on that make their job really quite risky. A lot don’t stay long because they’re thinking, ‘Why should I put myself in harm’s way for such a low amount of money?’”

How did prisoners react to her X Factor win? As a former prisoner myself I could imagine the interest of prisoners serving in Bailey’s prison.“I had messages from colleagues on different wings, saying so and so on H Wing sends his best and is really proud,” she says. “I had a lot of nice messages from people I’d been in charge of which was really sweet. On the night that I won, the whole prison was banging on their cell doors. They only usually do that for football finals and at midnight on the last day of the year. That’s around 700 prisoners all banging at once for me. Can you imagine that?”

Was she ever concerned about working in such close proximity to men who have committed some of the most serious violent crimes? “We’re not there to judge anyone. But we have to teach the importance of respect and boundaries,” she says, reverting to prison officer speak. “You have to have a rapport with prisoners – we’re not their friends, but we have to try to support the changes they want to make. It’s about building relationships that allow the prisoner to see the mistakes they’ve made – and then helping them to put things right. Few people outside have any idea how hard the job of a prison officer is. But when you see a prisoner beginning to change because of something you’ve said or the support you have given, it’s incredibly rewarding. The job is not and never has been just about locking people up and talking down to them. It’s not that at all. It’s frustrating when you never hear anyone say just what the job of a prison officer entails.”

It almost sounds like Bailey misses the job. Does she? “Yes, every day,” she replies. “I miss the camaraderie of the officers and the banter: when you work in a prison, that’s what keeps you going some days. I was only a prison officer for three years. I have to say, I wasn’t the best – but I loved it.”

She still supports the work of the prison system when she has the opportunity. This year she presented the Prisoners’ Education Trust’s annual Prisoner Learning Alliance awards where she told the audience “working in a prison is a tough gig, and one that since my time has only become harder. one thing stays the same though: outstanding people can make that harsh environment better”.

The most challenging part of her old job, she says, was not taking work home. “It’s so hard; you might be wondering if that person’s going to be alive the next day.” The best and most satisfying part? “When you see a prisoner start to change. You see the lightbulb switch on and you see them trying to make a real effort. You see them become better people – and you know something good is going to come from the sentence.”


Finally, another article in the Guardian last week:-

The graduates training as prison officers: 'People think we just turn keys and shout orders'

Less than a month after Jack started his job, he walked in on a man slashing his arm with a razor. Jack is 23, with a degree in arts and sciences from University College London. He is also a prison officer at Brixton prison.

“I had a good childhood and upbringing. I’ve never come into contact with people like this before,” he says, gazing around the prison wing at the prisoners shouting across the landings and hovering nearby, in vigilant groups. “When I told my family and friends I wanted to be a prison officer, they were shocked and horrified. Mostly, they were worried about my safety.”

Jack has been at Brixton for just two months. During that time, he has been the subject of prisoners’ aggression and violence although, he hastens to add, the violence has always been at a low level – “so far, anyway”. He has begun to win the trust and respect of the men in the prison and, he hopes, he will go on to make a real difference to their lives.

“I love my job,” he grins, as he strides through the corridors, locking and unlocking doors every few paces with the enormous bunch of keys hanging from his belt. “I thought I’d find it fascinating, but I actually love it. People think of prison officers as bouncers who just turn keys and shout orders. But you couldn’t have a more caring, diverse and challenging job: I come into work every morning not knowing if I’ll be on healthcare, education, behind a desk or on the landing, where I might be a negotiator, leader, counsellor, educator or role model.”

Jack is one of the first cohort of Unlocked Graduates, a new, two-year prison-officer training programme modelled on the phenomenally successful Teach First scheme, which takes ambitious graduates and, after minimal training, parachutes them into inner-city schools where they are tasked with raising the aspirations of some of the most deprived children in the country.

Teach First has been the biggest graduate recruiter for the past three years, training more than 1,400 graduates each year. Almost 60% remain in teaching with the rest going out into the world, tasked with building a movement of people leading efforts to tackle educational inequality in schools and beyond. About a fifth of teachers in low-income schools are now Teach First graduates, around 70% of them from elite Russell Group universities. Unlocked Graduates works in the same way and hopes to mirror Teach First’s success inside prisons – and outside, too.

The prison system is, without question, in urgent need of help. Two-thirds of prisons in England and Wales are overcrowded, with the population rising by more than 1,200 places in the 13 weeks since May. It is now higher than at any other point in the past four years. Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures show 68% of prisons are housing more inmates than their “certified normal accommodation” – the limit for ensuring a “good, decent standard”, with some more than 50% over capacity.

According to a report last month by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons, prisoners are living in cells that are too small, with inadequate ventilation, damaged furniture and unscreened, unhygienic toilets, for up to 23 hours a day. And with almost half of all prisoners returning to prison within a year of release, it is clear that more needs to be done to break the cycle of reoffending. After repeated cuts in the size of the prison estate, the government last year committed to recruiting 2,500 extra prison officers, not counting the Unlocked graduates.

In many ways, Unlocked has a harder battle to fight than Teach First. As its CEO Natasha Porter acknowledges, prison officers are “the unsung heroes of public service work”, who must “manage, protect and rehabilitate some extremely challenging individuals, people who teachers and social workers have often been unable to help”. Jack’s experience of telling his family is representative: many initial graduates in the scheme talk of the horror their family expressed, the fears about the risks and assumptions about the calibre of the job. A number of mothers broke down in tears. An aunt asked if her niece was a lesbian.

But, as Jack says, these perceptions do not match the reality. Just two months into the job, one Unlocked graduate is learning sign language in his own time to help a deaf prisoner who has been unable to communicate and, as a result, had begun expressing his frustration in violence. The aggression disappeared once he knew someone cared enough to try to get through to him. Another graduate is teaching a prisoner Key Stage 3 maths, so he has something to talk to his daughter about on the phone. Another has helped a prisoner reconnect with the mother he hasn’t spoken to for 10 years.

What is interesting is that this first wave of graduates visibly challenges what a “typical” prison officer looks like. Bucking the trend of prison-officer recruitment, 80% of Unlocked participants are women – compared with 37% nationally – and 20% come from an ethnic minority background – compared with just 7% of staff in prisons across the country.

Just as the Teach First graduates are given minimal training before being thrown into the fray, the first 50 Unlocked trainees completed a short, university-based course in August. But such is the volatility of the prison estate that real life intruded. Two prisons – HMP Hewell and the Mount in Hertfordshire – descended into riots within a week of each other. At the Mount, riot squad officers were sent in twice in 24 hours as prisoners armed with weapons reportedly took over and vandalised its 250-inmate Nash wing.

Although deaths in custody have fallen over the last 12 months, from 324 to 300, other prison violence has increased as the prison population has expanded. In the past 12 months, there were a record 41,103 incidents of self-harm and 27,193 assaults, 7,437 of which were on staff, up 25% from the previous year. “Despite a small but welcome fall in deaths, every other indicator points to the ongoing and longstanding deterioration in standards of safety in our overstretched prisons,” says Mark Day, head of policy and communications at the Prison Reform Trust. “Too many prisoners are held in overcrowded and impoverished conditions with too few staff to provide a safe and constructive regime.”

The trainees seem unfazed by the August riots. George, a 24-year-old politics graduate, tells me: “The prison officers who are mentoring us haven’t sugar-coated anything. We know prisons are a volatile environment. But the only reason people think prisons are tougher than, say, A&E, is that the criminal justice system is put behind locked doors and forgotten about. These people will come out again and live alongside us, so we can’t forget about them.”

Clo, 22, has a degree in sociology from Cambridge. “I was president of the junior common room at my college. I was taken out for dinner by a lot of consulting firms towards the end of my degree and have no doubt that, had I wanted to go down that career route, I could have done. “This scheme is exciting,” she adds. “I like the idea of being part of a first cohort. It’s risky and it could flop. But having this experience gives us a mandate. I don’t know if I will stay in the prison system, but I will carry the mission with me.”

As well as being tasked with working full-time on the prison frontline, graduates complete a newly created master’s degree focused on helping identify ways to reform the prison system, reduce reoffending and improve rehabilitation. As with Teach First, after two years, participants are expected to either continue working in the prison service or to use their experience to encourage employers to take on more ex-offenders to help reduce reoffending.

“We want our graduates both in the prisons and across society in positions of power,” says Porter. “We want them promoting prisons, investing in prison industries, employing ex-criminals and prison officers.” Porter founded the scheme after working on the influential 2016 review of prison education by Dame Sally Coates. She had assumed it would take a while to grip graduates’ imaginations. But after a cautious social media campaign and limited number of appearances at careers fairs, Porter’s team fielded interest from more than 2,000 graduates. More than 600 eventually applied.

Unlocked is now open for a next wave of applications. This year, it hopes to place twice as many graduates in prisons, including in the youth estate.

Sabrina, 23, has a psychology degree from Aston University. Her motivation for joining Unlocked comes from her own history; brought up in foster care, she saw her contemporaries fall into gangs and, one by one, disappear into the prison system. “I’ve seen it all first-hand,” she says. “I’ve seen a lot of people go into prison who didn’t have anyone to look up to, and who therefore came out and reoffended. I’ve always wanted to have a career where I could be that role model.”

But the scheme is also pulling in older graduates. Robin (not his real name), 51, has had a successful career as a banker. Instead of retiring early to enjoy his wealth, however, he opted for a career change. “It’s a radical change,” he admits. “When I told a very old friend and business partner, he asked if I was taking the piss. It took me ages to convince him but, when I did, he went a bit quiet, then said: ‘That’s amazing.’ And that has been the response from everyone: ‘You’re kidding?’ then ‘Amazing!’”

While the younger graduates are open to different career paths after their two years in prisons, Robin knows exactly what he wants: “In the next 18 months, I want to see the path to being a prison governor open up to me,” he says.

In Brixton, assistant governor Abby Sloan couldn’t be more positive about the scheme. “Unlocked graduates came on to the landings with such confidence that they immediately started making a difference,” she says.

Arnaldo, a prison officer for 15 years, agrees: “They’re great,” he says. “They bring fresh eyes and minds to a prison system that has traditionally been primarily about discipline and rigidity. They’re so confident and positive. They see solutions where traditionally, the prison system has just seen problems.”

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Another MoJ Disaster

The Public Accounts Committee took evidence yesterday on the latest MoJ disaster, that of electronic tagging. Here's what the Guardian have to say about it:-  

'Disastrous' offender tagging scheme hit by fresh delays

Fresh delays have hit the government’s scandal-hit programme for the electronic tagging of offenders, which mean the next-generation satellite tracking tags will not come into use until early 2019, MPs have been told.

MPs on the Commons public accounts committee told senior Ministry of Justice officials on Monday that the programme to develop a world-leading, GPS tracking tag that was launched in 2011 had been nothing short of disastrous.

The scheme was intended to save up to £30m but instead has so far cost the Ministry of Justice £60m on top of its original £130m budget. Already running five years late, it was further delayed because the snap general election postponed the letting of part of the contract.

Senior MoJ officials admitted that major mistakes had been made in the programme, including a failure to pilot the new development, but denied it was a disaster saying they hoped about 1,000 offenders a year could be tracked when it is eventually implemented in early 2019. The private security company G4S has now been appointed to complete the project.

The current MoJ permanent secretary, Richard Heaton, told MPs that he had been “startled and stunned” by the over-ambition of the original programme, which had envisaged that 65,000 offenders would be electronically tagged in the community as part of their sentence.

“We got it wrong but to characterise the whole thing as a disaster is wrong,” said Heaton. “It is in mid-flight and we are determined that it is going to succeed,” he said adding that only £5m of the extra £60m spent could be classified as “fruitless expenditure”.

There are currently only 12,000 offenders on first-generation radio frequency tags, which do not have tracking ability and can only monitor whether someone is at a particular address or not. They are mostly used to monitor prisoners released early on home detention curfews, those on bail or out of prison on temporary licence.

A programme to introduce satellite tracking tags for offenders in England and Wales was first promised by David Blunkett when he was Labour home secretary in 2004. His promise to provide a “prison without bars” for the 5,000 most prolific offenders has been repeated by practically every prime minister since then.

Confidence in the government’s tagging programme as an alternative to prison had already been rocked by an overcharging scandal which triggered a Serious Fraud Office investigation into the basic tagging contract run by G4S and Serco. The two companies repaid £179m but the SFO inquiry continues.


Meanwhile, here we have the interesting news that the failing CRCs are being allowed to keep the penalty payments imposed for not meeting their contractural obligations:-   

Sam Gyimah replying to Liz Savile Roberts' question about CRC funding:

"Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) received additional funding which totalled £37.15m in the 2016/17 financial year. These payments were made for a variety of reasons and cannot be broken down by CRC because the information is commercially sensitive. Furthermore, agreements were made with CRCs on a case-by-case basis to enable them to re-invest contractual deductions in key areas of the business and improve services. We have made changes to how CRCs are paid for future years so they can focus on activities that best rehabilitate offenders and keep society safe. This additional investment will see projected payments to providers being no higher than originally budgeted for at the time of the reforms."

Monday, 13 November 2017

Let's Go Digital

I have mentioned before that the MoJ has a long-term plan to close all courts and as they continue in their quest to put justice into a virtual world, Penelope Gibbs of Transform Justice voices several concerns:- 

Click here to plead guilty - the latest on online courts

It has gone a bit quiet on the online criminal court front. The Queens' Speech in June announced a Courts Bill which would "enable those charged with some less serious criminal offences to opt to plead guilty, accept a conviction and pay a statutory fixed penalty online which will free up court time for more serious cases". But it is not clear when the Courts Bill will be tabled, or whether, as well as online criminal convictions, it will include previous proposals to introduce online pleas (admissions of guilt or innocence made on a computer/tablet/mobile phone).

But it's worth reviewing what is happening and some recent concerns expressed about digital reform. HMCTS has said it will "digitise the single justice process [where magistrates deal with low level offences on the papers in a closed court] in Lavender Hill for Transport for London fare evasion cases to include TV Licensing and DVLA cases enabling greater numbers of high-volume, low-level offences to be dealt with more efficiently", and they are improving their existing system for making online pleas for traffic offences. And for civil offences HMCTS have launched, or are about to launch online divorce, probate, civil money claims and social security appeals.

One of my greatest concerns is about the democratic accountability of these reforms. Most have not been subject to public consultation, and none to active parliamentary scrutiny. If legislation is necessary, I presume the government have used secondary legislation. HMCTS have made huge efforts to engage people they know or know of - to invite them to events, and set up online forums. But, in the end, this type of consultation is not transparent, and is not open to all. The beauty of public consultation is that anyone can respond. Often public responses are ignored (as in the recent consultation on criminal litigators' fees) but at least the questions are explored, and the analysis of responses published.

MPs and peers may not always be that thorough in scrutinising legislation (eg they missed the criminal courts charge) but, given the opportunity to do so, their scrutiny usually results in vastly improved legislation. The current revolutionary and costly digital court reform programme appears to be by-passing primary legislation altogether. And HMCTS are mostly communicating what they are doing, not asking experts and others whether the reform plan is a good idea. Because there is no parliamentary process, there is little media scrutiny and few outside the world of criminal law know what is going on.

I am not the only one with concerns. Dame Hazel Genn, one of the most admired legal academics in the country, gave a lecture on this subject recently. She mainly focused on civil justice but her concerns are applicable across jurisdictions. I can't do justice to this as yet unpublished lecture (see this storify for more) but would highlight her concerns about the way the digital court programme is being evaluated and researched:

"I am aware that HMCTS have been engaging in ‘user’ testing and that a group of advice organisations have been advising about how best to adapt processes to be accessible. Testing and development has to be a continuous and iterative process involving a wide range of potential claimants and defendants and those who advise. And the objective of testing and evaluation should go beyond usability, and address questions of perceptions of procedural fairness, comprehension of the significance of procedural steps, and substantive outcome".

I would add that it would be good if HMCTS could publish their research methodology, how it is being applied, the contracting process for researchers, and the outcomes of that research.

Dame Hazel also questions how the new digital and virtual processes will affect trust in the system: "the critical factor shaping popular legitimacy of the justice system is an evaluation of the fairness with which the courts exercise their authority. Being seen as fair involves transparency in procedures, conspicuous impartiality and consistency, explanation of rules and decisions, and the promotion of procedures that give parties a voice in the proceedings".

Malcolm Richardson, departing Chair of the Magistrates' Association, voiced similar misgivings this week in relation to online criminal convictions, which would see defendants convicted "without any judicial involvement at all. In our view, this would be a step too far. Our justice system requires verdicts and sentences to be given by an independent, impartial judiciary. How can we build society’s confidence in a justice system they can’t see?"

The senior judiciary, HMCTS and the Ministry of Justice are sincere in their wish to create a better justice system for users. But by prioritising convenience and ease of access, they may be jeopardising some of the fundamental principles of our justice system. I hope they are not, but the lack of democratic accountability and transparency surrounding the project means that it has not been subject to the rigorous challenge any reform programme needs.

NB I have written a summary of progress on online criminal court processes - if I have got anything wrong do let me know.

Penelope Gibbs


Online criminal court 

The government is keen to replace postal and physical justice with online justice.  They are creating online justice processes in the civil and criminal spheres.

Already it is possible to both plead guilty and be convicted of a motoring offence online.  If you are convicted of speeding or another minor traffic offence, you are encouraged to go online and, if you plead guilty, to pay the penalty and receive the conviction online.  If you plead not guilty, you go to trial in the magistrates’ court in the normal way.

The abandoned Prisons and Courts bill suggested an expansion of this system to more crimes, to be agreed under secondary legislation.  This proposal was in the Queens speech in June 2017 as part of a new, slimmed down, Courts Bill.

There is no research on the success or otherwise of the existing online criminal court, nor on the single justice procedure in the magistrates’ court.  This procedure means that many non imprisonable offences, where the defendant pleads guilty, are dealt with by a magistrate sitting alone in a closed court.  He/she deals with each case administratively (on the papers) aided by a legal adviser.

What the government is proposing 
The government would like to replace the single justice procedure with a wholly online system for those who plead guilty. “Around half of all cases heard in magistrates’ courts in England and Wales are summary-only, non imprisonable offences where there is no identifiable victim and could potentially be tried under this procedure”.  If primary legislation is passed, the government has committed to getting agreement to particular offences going online via an “affirmative procedure” ie secondary legislation.  The offences which were previously suggested were: failure to produce a ticket for travel on tram/train and fishing with an unlicensed rod and line.

Under the online system, those who are charged with the offence will be offered the opportunity to go online, to see the evidence against them, plead guilty, be convicted and pay a standard penalty.  Those who don’t want to use the online procedure, but still plead guilty, will go through the existing single justice procedure (SJP).  The offences so far proposed are non-recordable offences. These are not entered on the police national computer (so do not appear on a DBS check) - but offenders are subject to the rehabilitation of offenders act, which necessitates declaration of the criminal conviction to employers for a certain period.

How might the new process affect vulnerable people
There is no published research on the vulnerability of those who use the current online court for driving offences so we don’t know whether they find it easy or difficult to participate.  HMCTS is committed to providing assistance to those users who find it hard to use digital services.  They will provide telephone, webchat, face to face and paper help to those who seek it. They will not provide legal advice, but defendants are free to use a lawyer if they wish.

In their response to their consultation the Ministry of Justice gave an example of the help they could offer someone who had received online notice of their prosecution:

“User 2 has received an offence notice. It states he may respond online and refers him to a website to do this. The user owns a tablet but only uses this to communicate with friends and family on Skype. He is anxious about completing the form alone and feels he will make mistakes. He therefore calls the Customer Service Centre and speaks to an advisor. The advisor identifies that the user owns suitable technology so offers to talk him through the online process over the phone. The user is talked through the process online, told how to view all evidence and case papers in the case, and how to enter any pleas or move onto the next stage of the process. The adviser does not give legal advice, advice on the merits of the case or which plea to enter. As with the current position, advice of that nature would be available from a legal professional”.

Concerns remain as to how someone who has a hidden disability, or someone who has English as a second language will cope. Many people may have no knowledge of the criminal justice system before they come to fill in the online form. Yet admission of guilt may involve a considerable final financial penalty.

The potential human rights challenges posed by the online court have been analysed by Sebastian Walker in a recent article. Mr Walker suggests that the online court process may not necessitate personalised legal advice ie a lawyer “but more detail is necessary as to what steps will be taken to ensure that an accused receives sufficient, and effective, legal advice. Will the constituent elements of the individual offence, and any defences, be properly explained to them? And will the long term legal implications of a criminal record? The only information that it was clear from the Prison and Courts Bill an accused will have before they plead is the penalties they will consent to”.

Mr Walker highlights concerns that vulnerable people may not understand the implications of a decision to plead guilty and that the lower penalties offered through using the online system may offer an “improper incentive” to plead guilty.  The Bill suggested that those who went through the online process would be offered an opportunity to have their conviction reviewed. This is welcome given it has previously been difficult to overturn a conviction following a guilty plea.  But as Mr Walker points out “if it becomes a substantial hassle to appeal a conviction or penalty there is a significant chance that for the vulnerable such safeguards will simply not be effective”.  The case of Robert Rowland Illustrates how an educated man of means can end up pleading guilty to a crime they did not commit. Mr Rowland got on his usual bus to discover that he had forgotten his wallet. The bus driver, who recognised him, said he could travel for free.  A few minutes later an inspector got on the bus and accused Mr Rowland of evading his fare. Despite having a good excuse, Mr Rowland was prosecuted for fare evasion, and received instructions by post on how to plead guilty. Mr Rowland thought the easiest and quickest thing to do was to admit guilt by post. It was only when he received a bill for £750 that he realised his mistake and successfully appealed the conviction.  

It is perfectly possible to persuade someone of perpetrating a crime they did not commit. The incentive to plead guilty via the online court will be strong. And even for those who do admit their guilt, the online court will offer limited possibilities for mitigating the sentence.  Defendants will be asked to enter any mitigating circumstances in an online box but, in the absence of legal advice, they may not know what is relevant. 

The future for the online criminal court 
Proposals for expanding online criminal convictions will be tabled as part of the new Courts Bill.  More detail will be available at this point. Meanwhile HMCTS are working on converting from paper to online the forms which people have to fill in if their case is going through the single justice procedure.

Automatic online pleas 
There is no provision currently to plead guilty or not guilty online, or in writing, for most offences. But the government proposed in the Prisons and Courts Bill that defendants would be able to plead online for any offence, at any age from ten upwards.

What was being proposed 
The bill proposed that every person charged should be offered (in reality probably encouraged) to indicate their plea in writing, by which they meant online. No offender can plead until they are formally charged, but the bill suggested that police officers, civilian staff working for the police, the court or a prosecutor should explain to those who are charged that they will be able to indicate their plea online and how to do so. 

The assumption behind the proposal is that the plea hearing in the magistrates’ or crown court is a purely administrative hearing, that people know whether they are guilty or not, and that no debate, discussion or legal advice is usually necessary. 

However research suggests that entering a plea is a complex decision which is, or should be, subject to advocacy in the courtroom. Transform Justice’s research on unrepresented defendants in the criminal courts, suggested that entering a plea was one of times where those without a lawyer were most disadvantaged. Unrepresented defendants did not understand when they had a viable defence and should plead not guilty, but also pleaded guilty when the evidence against them was overwhelming, thus losing credit for an early guilty plea. 

The other risk in putting pleas online is that the ability to challenge the charge is eliminated or delayed. The Leveson report emphasises the problem of people being wrongly charged (either over or under charged) and of the inefficiencies this causes – particularly if a charge is downgraded on the day of trial leading to the defendant pleading guilty. Sir Brian wrote: 

“any failure to charge appropriately has a considerable impact throughout the life of that case... For example, in the first quarter of 2014, 15% of all ‘cracked’ trials in the Crown Court were due to guilty pleas entered to alternative new charges offered by the prosecution for the first time on the day fixed for trial. A further 4% of cracked trials were primarily due to late guilty pleas being entered to new charges, previously being rejected by the prosecution... In such cases, although there will have been room for different decisions to be made prior to the date of trial, the seed for potential waste has been sown from the outset and could have been avoided had the initial charging decision been appropriate”. 

It seems likely that vulnerable defendants may be particularly disadvantaged by online pleas. They may be more liable to influence and pressure to plead guilty whether from police or peers and less able to understand the implications of pleading guilty, particularly in the absence of legal advice. 

Providing the means to, and encouraging, defendants to plead online may lead to more defendants representing themselves (either just at that stage or throughout the process), since the process of “doing it yourself” may appear easy. The criminal justice system is complex and its sanctions are life changing. Particularly for serious offences, defendants should be not be entering a plea unrepresented.  For all offences, vulnerable defendants should be entering their plea without professional legal advice.

Criminal Records  
One of the challenges of any online criminal system for defendants is that the implications of pleading guilty can go way beyond paying a fine or similar. If the offences which go through the online court or single justice procedure are not recorded on the Police National Computer (as seems likely) they will not be revealed in DBS checks, but these offences may need to be declared for months/years after conviction depending on the rehabilitation period. 

All offences recorded on the PNC can potentially come up on DBS checks.  Anyone who wants to apply for a range of jobs from traffic warden to childminder needs to get a DBS check.  So an online plea of guilty is likely to have serious implications for employment prospects. This means that the online plea app needs to explain in quite a lot of detail what a criminal record is and its ramifications.

Online criminal processes offer convenience for defendants. The online criminal court and the digitisation of the single justice procedure offer those who are used to using apps and computers the opportunity to enter information much more quickly and easily.  The government has given assurances that those who do not have access to the web, will be able to use paper or face to face procedures. 

Online pleas will also be convenient for those online. As soon as formally charged, someone will be able to get on their smartphone to say whether they are guilty or not guilty. This will save them going to court for the plea hearing.  Going to court often involves missing work or having to find childcare. So for some, particularly those who are certain whether what they want to plead, online pleas offer great advantages. But for vulnerable people who don’t understand the law, or whether they have a viable defence, there are risks they will guilty when they are not and vice versa.

Penelope Gibbs


This current advert gives a flavour of the language and where things are going in this brave new world:-

Band A Head of Data Innovation In The Data Driven Department and Culture Change Directorate (Ref: 14328) Ministry of Justice

Job description Overview
We are looking for an exceptional candidate who cares about making a difference and can apply their previous experience such as business analysis, product management, and consultancy, in order to drive better outcomes for the staff and offenders in the prison and probation system, their families and their communities.

This is a permanent appointment for a Band A in the Data Driven Department and Culture Change Directorate within the Ministry of Justice. The post holder will report to the Deputy Director for Data Driven Department and Culture Change – Prisons and Probation. Petty France, London. Interviews are likely to take place early December 2017.

Background – the Data Driven Department and Culture Change Directorate
We are seeking to recruit an exceptional individual to join the Data Driven Department and Culture Change Directorate. The MoJ is undertaking an exciting shift to be data-driven across all decisions, and at all levels, and this charge calls for a new culture. A special team has been created to move swiftly in this space. Specifically, we are charged with:

  • creating a culture in which our people are empowered with the right data and information to make excellent decisions; and 
  • putting evidence at the heart of our justice system, using cutting edge tools, techniques, and collaboration to drive excellence. 
We are seeking people to join this initiative who are passionate about making a difference, highly curious, focused on high quality results and timely delivery, finisher-completers, able to work and get along with people from all backgrounds, and unreasonably positive.

About the MoJ
The Ministry of Justice is one of the largest government departments, employing around 76,000 people, with a budget of approximately £7.4 billion. Each year millions of people use our services across the UK, including courts, tribunals and prisons in England and Wales. A functional justice system is at the heart of a functional society and our work spans criminal, civil and family justice, democracy and rights. As of this year, the Ministry of Justice has launched a 10-year vision and strategy, with safety and reform at its heart, and the opportunity to fundamentally re-think the way we improve lives and communities through our work. The MoJ Strategy has 4 pillars: 1) A prison and probation service that reforms offenders; 2) A modern courts and justice system; 3) A Global Britain that promotes the rule of law; and 4) A transformed department.

In short, the Ministry of Justice is undertaking one of the most exciting and entrepreneurial challenges in the world: transforming itself to be a system that delivers meaningful reform for offenders, delivers justice more swiftly and accurately than anywhere else in the world, and utilises data and insight to operate more efficiently and effectively than has ever been possible.

Why work for the Ministry of Justice?

  • Purpose – do work that matters; collaborate with people and be at the centre of system-wide transformation; get exposed to the front lines and see what we are doing in action 
  • Autonomy – focus on getting things done and achieving goals, and bring your whole self and your talent set to work; experience autonomy over how, when, and where you do your work 
  • Mastery – further your skills and develop new ones in an environment that challenges us to be exceptional in specific technical skills, in change programming and project delivery, in stakeholder management, in marketing and communications, and a range of other areas, including those specific to your role; career pathways following work on this innovative team are diverse 
  • Learning and innovation – be exposed to and help bring in cutting edge tools, techniques, and ways of working, as well as ideas, collaborators, and technologies from around the world 
Key skills/experiences we are seeking for the role:
The holder of this post will be passionate about making a difference for the staff and people in custody in the prison and probation system. They will be someone who values people highly and makes consistent efforts to understand the views, ideas, processes, systems and frustrations of the people we are supporting. The post holder will harness the best of digital ways of working to bring people together to create new and innovative systems and processes, driven by user need and developed in a highly iterative way. They will not be afraid to try things out early and fail fast.

Specifically, this person will take a lead role in designing, developing, and implementing systems and processes to capture, integrate and distribute information in our prison and probation system. The post holder will bring together data to create the ‘through-line’ needed to understand an individual’s journey in our system and to implement effective and efficient decisions and interventions as a result, toward real-world outcomes.

This person must function as an integrator between business needs and technology solutions and help create sustainable products and services. They must identify data needs and pathways; define systems strategies; develop system requirements; design, prototype, and test technology solutions; and support system implementation. They will need to define data governance, perform data profiling and recommend data cleansing exercises. As relevant, they will need to both help implement and oversee or help coordinate such activities. The post holder will be responsible for putting in place best practices for data quality management; designing database queries, triggers, procedures, functions, and packages for reporting and data analytics; defining business and technical requirements; and quality assurance.

The post holder should be extremely comfortable with data visualisation and interactive dashboards, such as Tableau, Qlikview, and Microsoft products. Moreover, they should be adept at developing tools with the end user at the centre of the process and an instinctive ability to measure success based on user engagement.

This work requires close partnerships and collaboration between analytical, digital, policy and operational colleagues. This person must also be skilled at presenting their vision visually with impact, and excellent at delivering their message verbally, achieving credibility with senior teams right up to the level of the Ministry’s Executive Committee.

The post holder will also understand human decision making, how we can support, anchor and nudge decision makers. They will be highly resilient and will be able to maintain enthusiasm and generate momentum in the face of a shifting landscape and priorities.

The work may include: 

  • Creating a shared organisational understanding of the offender data we do/should/could collect, how to manage it and how to utilise it in order to drive improved outcomes 
  • Addressing issues where data are not collected digitally, are collected in multiple places, are not collected at all, or do not connect to other data sets
  • Identifying concrete financial and resource implications of the way we can and could/should collect and use data, and acting accordingly; drafting lightweight business cases to clearly identify the problem, articulate the solution, and drive action 
  • Creating and implementing strategic frameworks to prove value early and implement a test-and-learn model, while working toward a big hairy audacious goal 
  • Creating a shared organisational understanding of the key decision makers in the prison and probation system, the decisions they take and the impact of those decisions on our outcomes; leverage that insight to build or advance products and services accordingly 
  • Linking data sets to build the full picture of an individual’s journey through our system 
  • Delivering a world-class set of products or services that 1) provides basic information to staff at the right time, in the right format and 2) contributes to our big hairy audacious goals of rehabilitating people in our care 
  • Leveraging internal and external resources in the most efficient and effective manner to deliver outcomes; building relationships and networks to draw on and maximise knowledge and best practice 
  • Understanding what motivates and drives the people in our system to make decisions and ensuring that we are employing the right levers and accountability to get the outcomes we need 
  • Managing multi-disciplinary teams to create decision-support tools 
The ideal candidate:
  • Thinks and operates like a product manager - loving product development and innovative products 
  • Brings a business analysist skillset to bear on the data, problems, systems and processes in prisons and probation 
  • Has a strong track record in working with data and data systems, per the above 
  • Enjoys and values data and is adept at working with data and with analytical experts 
  • Is already highly digitally aware or is willing to get up to speed quickly in understanding the potential of digital ways of working (customer centricity, agile methodology, pretotyping and lean development, automation, etc.) 
  • Understands and values very highly the users in our system and works hard to deliver quantified value for them 
  • Is goal oriented, with a track record of achieving goals in ambiguous environments 
  • Is a self-starter: someone who takes a vision and goals and makes them reality 
  • Has a demonstrated track record of managing complex and diverse stakeholder relationships 
  • Is able to influence a range of people without direct control or a managerial relationship 
  • Is able to quickly become expert in the delivery systems in prisons and probation and to adopt a strategic and innovative approach to continuous improvement in those systems 
  • Understands how to motivate diverse teams from different types of organisations and collaborate to achieve shared outcomes 
  • Understands the value of evidence and is able to get up to speed quickly on the evidence underpinning the prison and probation delivery environments 
Our team is innovative and fast-moving, while being highly collaborative and focused on supporting others to do their best work. We ask “how” and not “whether.” We focus on outcomes over process, and we get things done. We change our approach as needed if we see a better way through. We look for do-ers, positive thinkers, and team members that people want to work with and be around.

Visits to prison and probation areas 1-2 days, approximately 3 times a month, will be required. More may be required at different points in the year, in line with objectives.

We'll assess you against these competencies during the selection process:

Seeing the big picture
Changing and improving
Collaborating and partnering
Achieving commercial outcomes
Delivering at pace