I thought it would again be fun to list another batch of google searches that resulted in people being directed to this blogsite. I've tried to avoid questions already covered.
Great excuses to give your probation officer
We've heard most of them and you could always resort to that particular old favourite 'I've got a funeral to go to'. This is designed to be both difficult to argue with and calculated to gain a degree of sympathy. Death of a grandparent is very common and of course involves a sufficiently close relative to be understandable, but not that close so that a deception would be obvious. In my experience only the really heartless officer demands to see proof, but even the more understanding get irritated by any more than two such funerals in 12 months. But ask yourself why you are avoiding someone who is trying to help you? If you wind your officer up it will only lead to grief and maybe when you really do need some help or understanding, getting it just might be that bit more difficult.
On probation but have doctors note to stay at home
I think most probation officers will allow for the fact that illness sometimes means appointments are missed, but they need to be informed asap by telephone. If missing appointments becomes regular they will require evidence of a doctor's sick note and that is fairly unusual in my experience, but it does happen. Make sure you report when the note runs out though or there is a risk of breach action.
What is age cut off for probation officers?
At the moment the normal retirement age for probation officers is 65, but this may change as the government has indicated more flexibility will be introduced in relation to retirement ages. There used to an '85 year rule' which allowed an officer to retire when their age and years service added up to the magic figure of 85 but I believe this is being phased out.
How probation works nowadays with an officer?
A good question. Almost certainly not like it used to. Officially the Service is no longer social work orientated although vestiges remain either in the form of old-style officers or newer colleagues who have become disillusioned with the new 'punishment' model. It is much more process-driven than client-centred and people are quite likely to be 'signposted'' off to other agencies quite quickly or encouraged or bullied to go on 'programmes' for 'treatment'. If I was on probation I don't think I'd be too impressed with that kind of processing. I think I'd want treating as an individual with a feeling my officer was actually interested in me and my problems - not shunting me off to yet another person or agency. But then I'm the past, not the future.
What does a probation officer do?
A massive question, but the short answer is assist in rehabilitation of offenders and protect the public. There have always been these two elements to our work, it's just that the methods have changed over recent years.
Future for probation hostels
A good question and the answer is we're not sure. There is a feeling that they might be 'hived off' to either a private contractor or so-called third sector operator to run. Maintenance has already been put out to a contractor and I notice at least one Service is using a a private security company for waking cover at night. The role of hostels has changed significantly in recent years with virtually no spaces available for bailees. They are almost exclusively used now for high risk clients coming out of prison on Parole.
How many prisoners say prison works?
Probably more than you might think. Virtually all say they 'won't be back'. Experience says something quite different of course. Prisoners are quite likely to have been victims of crime themselves and they can be quite harsh when suggesting punishments for others. They are quite likely to suggest prison in a sentencing exercise. In the present argument about giving prisoners the vote it's widely accepted that most would vote Tory. In other words they are not at all likely to be liberal-minded. It is not unheard of to hear expressions like 'get your head down and do the bird' or 'don't do the crime if you can't do the time.'
Why do prolific offenders get so little time?
A good question and one open to subjective argument of course. It may sound trite, but the problem with commenting on cases without access to the full details both of the prosecution, defence and reports from either the Youth Offending Team or probation is that you never know all the factors that were taken into account when deciding the sentence. Most prolific offenders are young and custody almost invariably will be harmful in terms of making them worse. It very rarely acts as an aid to rehabilitation, so other community options really are worth trying at all costs, before custody has to be imposed in the final desperate resort. Fortunately evidence shows that many young offenders stop offending as part of the normal maturing process.
How does probation affect peoples lives?
The short answer is potentially in a profound way, from influencing the type of sentence at court, to steering someone in a more positive direction in terms of health, education, employment or rehabilitation. But the officer also has the dual responsibility of protecting the public so this may mean breach, recall to prison or recommendations for early release or not as the case may be. Because most things a probation officer does in relation to a client has potentially a significant effect, the job is extremely responsible and requires people of the utmost integrity.
What to expect on first PSR interview?
An in-depth interview designed to find out about your background, offending history, details of the current offence, why the offence was committed, present situation, any problems or difficulties, plans for the future and finally what might happen at court. It is sensible to be as open and honest as possible so that the report author can paint as full a picture of you as possible for the benefit of the sentencers. It may be necessary to conduct more than one interview and even a home visit. Permission may be sought to contact other people or organisations that know you such as solicitor, doctor, employer, family members etc.
Are PSR's any use?
There was a time when my answer would have been unequivocal, but in all honesty I would now say 'in general yes, but not as much use as they used to be'. This is a sad reflection on the growth of inferior short format FDR's, coupled with reports being increasingly prepared by unqualified PSO's. Even full SDR's prepared by qualified officers are not as useful in my opinion because they are necessarily computer-generated through a dreadful process called OASys, the Offender Assessment System.
Probation future of job?
I'm basically pessimistic about the future. I think the Service has lost it's way and because the public and politicians haven't a clue what we do, we're vulnerable to yet more wholesale change and privatisation. The Service is fast losing it's separate identity having been subsumed into NOMS under Prison Service domination. We've lost our social work roots and the punishment role does not sit happily with the last vestiges of our caring role. I'd have to say to any prospective new recruit - pick another career.
Criteria for robust offending course set up by police
I have no idea what this is about because it sounds like it should be our job not theirs. But then strange things happen, like Integrated Offender Management run by the police when it should be our job. Maybe with spending cuts the police might decide to put stuff like this on the 'back burner' and let probation do it after all.
The good and bad of probation
The good is that there are still a few old-timers around to point out to newer colleagues how it used to be done and how we should revisit some stuff from the past before it's too late. The bad is that we've got a Justice Secretary who can barely utter the word 'probation' and a set of unions not willing to at least appear to want a meaningful dialogue about possible change, for example about Payment by Results.
Probation recommended 2 to 5 years in jail.
I think this is a belter. If I was a Crown Court Judge I'd be seriously irritated by such a 'recommendation'. It is basically insulting and not a probation officers place to be suggesting how long a period of imprisonment might be. The sad thing is that it is likely to be utterly counter-productive in conveying to the Judge important sentencing information contained in the body of the report. I also happen to think that custody should never be 'recommended' but rather acknowledged as 'inevitable' in terms of punishment and public protection. To recommend sounds like it will do someone good. In fact it will almost certainly do the opposite in most cases, but is necessary for the other reasons I've indicated.