Thursday, 24 January 2013

Some Observations 11

I'm reminded of the old lady who kept most things. Having died and house clearance in full swing, a box was found carefully labelled 'string - too short to keep.' In that spirit, these are bits and pieces that I can't quite spin out to full posts.

Do you remember the 'probation officers being replaced by machines' story last year? Well I'm grateful to a reader who has pointed me in the direction of a recent edition of 'Private Eye' which reports that trials of the biometric reporting machines in Bexley and Bromley are being seriously hampered by a lack of suitable participants.

Apparently only 117 low risk offenders have been identified, thus making the £70,000 machines look a tad expensive and not good value for money compared to human beings. I'm told that management in London are blaming 'union resistance' for hindering roll out of the machines.....

I note that the police are actively looking for a prisoner, Brian Grady, who recently absconded from HMP Prescoed, a Cat D open prison in Monmouthshire. Nothing especially noteworthy in that, except that local MP David Davies has seen fit to bring the matter up with Home Secretary Theresa May. Amongst other things, he obviously feels that the original 11 year tariff for murder and robbery was 'extraordinarily lenient.'

I have to say that this guy must have made exceptionally good progress to have secured a place at an open prison by his tariff date, but of course now the politicians are only too quick to pour scorn on the risk assessment 'which was clearly wrong.'  Yes, that's because it's not a bloody science and we don't have a crystal ball. Something must have happened to 'spook' the guy and he's decided to take off. Changes in risk levels can be swift and without much warning. Private contractors considering bidding for probation work, take note.

Talking of Wales, I notice that they are mightily unimpressed with Chris Grayling's plans for privatising probation. It looks like the Welsh are going to try and make a strong case for devolving responsibility for probation to the Assembly in Wales. If this is successful it will leave just England on it's own because Scotland has long had differing probation arrangements and the Northern Ireland Service was devolved. 

Finally, I'm pleased to see that the No 10 e-petition against privatising the probation service now stands at over 13,000 signatures. Naturally I'd urge all readers to spread the word amongst friends and family. A good cross section of the public signing-up would send a powerful message to Mr Grayling that this is not just about probation staff looking after their jobs. 

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