Friday, 13 December 2013

Elephant Spotted

Yesterday I mentioned in passing the latest edition of the British Journal of Community Justice. Well it's actually a special bumper double issue devoted entirely to TR:-

"Such is the gravity and rush to change encapsulated in the Government's Transforming Rehabilitation proposals that the British Journal of Community Justice decided that the next issue would be entirely dedicated to comments on Transforming Rehabilitation.

The Editorial Board of the British Journal of Community Justice hope in this issue to provide a significant snapshot of some of the considered thoughts of academics, probation practitioners, ex-offenders and other commentators about the recklessness at the heart of these unwarranted, untried and risky changes."

When I gave 'Reforming Rehabilitation : Under the Microscope' a plug, I had no idea it contained a very favourable review of this blog by Paul Senior. In a section on social media he sets the scene and kindly acknowledges its role :-

The growing influence of social media

For the first time, a major change in Probation has been conducted through the interactive lens of social media: Twitter, blogs, YouTube and online discussion groups. The availability of comment on what has been happening has been immediate, informed and eclectic in content. Press releases, newspaper articles, Ministry of Justice papers, journal articles, Parliamentary debates, conference outputs and many more random pieces of comment and information have emerged quickly, almost instantly at times, contributing to a debate which has largely been open, transparent and comprehensive, at least on the cyber airwaves if not intended or encouraged by official government sources. So, despite attempts by government to impose a 'corporate silencing' by exerting pressure on senior probation staff not to discuss ideas which were in opposition to Transforming Rehabilitation, TR has been the subject of much discussion, much of which has been questioning in content. It was certainly noted that Twitter went silent for a few weeks in the early days of this gagging mechanism but gradually voices re-emerged, sometimes cloaked in a degree of anonymity, but unwilling to allow such a major transformation of the probation world to pass without comment.

Twitter is a great mechanism for signposting readers to most of the leading blogs in this area. However if you're not a Twitter user you can bookmark some of the major blogs on your computer and go direct to see the latest news. Blogs tend to have their own niche market and I would highlight four which have offered a reasonably comprehensive view of TR developments, though each with distinctive audiences and ideas.

The first is by Jim Brown and the blog is called On Probation. It can be found at He introduces his blog in this way:

Welcome to the wonderful world of probation! These are the personal thoughts of an ordinary probation officer struggling to come to terms with constant change, whilst trying to do a useful job for society. Sadly, change is so often obviously not progress. I am fully aware that my views do not represent official policy of government, my Service or possibly anyone else - but hey - it's my blog!

Providing news on an almost daily basis, this blog reports and pulls together information from a variety of sources. It is the one blog that also has an active discussion following each successive release so not only do you get the benefit from the blog itself but you see some of the debate and discussion unfold. This blogger has worked tirelessly to bring every item of news to the attention of the reader on what he dubs this 'omnishambles'! The blog frequently quotes from other sources thus making it a useful check on whether you have picked up information from a sometimes bewildering array of useful locations - a priceless and tireless contribution.   

In a sense getting a mention in this august journal and top billing to boot in the section on social media, the elephant in the room has at last been acknowledged. Studiously ignored in other notable quarters, I was beginning to wonder just how long it would take for the burgeoning amount of comment and interest clearly being stirred up would go apparently unnoticed. 

The issue was raised recently with a contributor saying they felt it was 'ridiculous' to think that the blog would be read by the MoJ as a way of being informed as to the feeling and mood within the profession. Quite an astonishing comment really when most people would feel it would be a serious derogation of duty if they didn't! Of course it's read by the MoJ and that's one of the main reasons I expend so much time on it and why contributions are so important. 

Anyway, back to the bumper souvenir TR special edition. There's quite a line-up of interesting articles:-

All the articles are currently available online, but for those wanting a tangible TR omnishambles souvenir, or feel it's the ideal stocking filler for a friend or colleague, heavily discounted copies can be purchased:-

To order your hard copy please send a cheque for £7 (this includes £2 P&P), made payable to 'Sheffield Hallam University', to the following address:

FAO: Jessica Bamonte
Hallam Centre for Community Justice
Sheffield Hallam University
Unit 10 Science Park
Howard St
Sheffield S1 1WB

Please include your name, address and a contact telephone number. 


  1. Good to see your hard work get mention Jim.
    After looking at yesterdays blog (which seemed rather odd at times to me) I feel that the MoJ may do a little more at times then just read the comments. But as you say all comment is welcome, and what ever way the comment slants, TR is what it is- an omnishambles.
    On another note I think Capita are the new golden child of government outsourcing because of their of their huge involvement with IT systems and the government are sorely in need of a hand there.

  2. Just reflecting on yesterday, as above commentator. I have never held any respect for the private companies providing sentencing options, such as Tagging etc, but this has never interfered with what my core role is to get the best for the community and the individual. However, I think we should all be feeling a little uneasy about having to include a punitive element to all Community orders as of this week. We should resist, not because of the diabolical companies involved, but concentrate on whether we include them in reports, having embraced the notion of 'the worth of the punitive element' or if, we should be pointing out whether or not such a course of action is required to rehabilitate or manage risk. It has always amazed me that colleagues forgot about senior attendance centers, and no, they are not merely the penalty for football hooligans alone (that was their original purpose I think, to scupper troublesome followers attending home games, i.e. why they are alternative Saturday afternoons). The maximum hours are at least a third of most unpaid work orders, but we have over time, relied on UPW, when more often than not a SAC would have been sufficient and in many respects, and I can only comment on what is available locally, a much more constructive/learning outcome. I recall many years ago being called to a Crown Court to speak to my report in which I stated a SAC was preferable, for that defendant, over UPW and the Judge saw the point I was making and followed my argument to sentence. Consequently, a young man, who had never managed to comply with a long community order, had it successfully completed in 3 months and subsequently, inspired went on to achieve a community leaders award, in sport. It is what is is, we will have to continue to work with companies we find ethically and legally flawed, but we can work hard to militate the damage done to our service users and the community by silly policies.

    1. A very good point indeed - SAC's do tend to get overlooked.

    2. My concern is that sentences may be up tariffed as a result of the expectation of a punitive element. e.g. court asks for a report on a drink driver and is considering imposing a "medium" sentence. Staff will feel obliged to recommend DID if person meets criteria, so supervision and DID would be recommended in PSR or FDR. Then with expectation that there is a punitive element a high community based sentence will end up being recommended as Upw or curfew will be expected to be considered as well.

  3. Just been reading the guardian:-
    "Teenage pregnancy, a success story of our time". It's a very good read by itself, but a link within the article takes you to an old news article about Grayling.
    I think its worthy of a mention as I think its something thats worth remembering when talking about TR.

    1. Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling has been accused of misleading the public in his use of crime statistics.
      The Tories have said data shows a big rise in violent crime during Labour's time in government - but the way the figures were compiled changed in 2002.
      Now the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority has told Mr Grayling his statements are "likely to damage public trust in official statistics".
      But Mr Grayling said the Tories would continue to argue that crime had risen.
      Home Secretary Alan Johnson has said his opposite number should apologise.

    2. Grayling will be toast soon his brand of political bullying is simply too toxic for Cameron to take him into the next election. With the work programme bulling the vulnerable and with the TR Omnishabmles I think the "mean machine" needs to watch his back. There is something about the night about Grayling too. You never know he might pop up in the jungle eating a rats anus come next December

  4. What Grayling, his conservative friends and his Lib Dems friends (who jump when he tells them to) seems to forget is that they are likely to have problems attracting voters in the election. What with them cutting jobs in public sector in addition to this TR nonsense. But hey hoe, they seen to have difficulties thinking ahead.

    One thing TR has guaranteed even more for me, is that I will never vote Conservative - not even if I was held down at knifepoint!!!

  5. Britain will pay the price for shafting the working class | Hugh Muir via @guardian

  6. Of the attributes Britons hold dear, the most potent is stability. Our traditions endure, institutions survive. We seem loth to countenance revolution. And yet we have experienced a coup d'etat of sorts and the question must be asked: just when did the middle classes take untrammelled control of the levers? It always was a force; but now there is hegemony. Today, a glimpse of what has happened to the vanquished.

    According to the conservative thinktank Policy Exchange, the under-representation of people from working-class backgrounds in public spheres such as parliament and magistrates courts can be reasonably described as shameful. It suggests an inquiry is necessary, perhaps run by the government equalities office and the equality and human rights commission. One can disagree with its diagnosis of the problem. Policy Exchange, true to its leaning, says the diversity policies of the last Labour government were too narrow – too much focus on race and gender – but that feels like scratching at the surface. Still, who can dispute that the problem exists?

    One can look to the figures. According to the Sutton Trust thinktank – which focuses on social mobility – 68% of "leading public servants" went to private schools. It says 63% of leading lawyers were privately educated, as were 60% of the upper ranks of the armed forces. Independent schools produce more than half of the nation's leading journalists, diplomats, financiers and business people. Policy Exchange says just 4% of MPs previously worked in manual trades.

  7. I totally agree with 18:04 post. My view of the Tory's has irredeemably changed I will never vote for them and I see them as a party of the rich for the rich. I can not see the slightest indication that they have any sense of social justice or care for society. I also will never vote for the Lib Dems because Clegg lied to us regarding university tuition fees. This is how we lose faith in politicians, out of touch with the very people they are supposed to represent. The death of probation is shaming to all involved and the idealogy of this government is to blame.

  8. Is it time for righteous anger to prevail ?

  9. Why would anyone vote for conservatives, they have a record of smashing large public organisations - as a child of the 80's I saw them reap havoc in the mining towns and villages , ruin shipbuilding , steel and significant manufacturing capability- They have a desire for a low cost economy.
    Now upon their return to power they have started on the next line - professional and essential services - of which probation is a small part ( health, teaching, police, social care, social services, fire, legal aid, legal services, DWP, tax collectors have all been made to feel insecure.
    I am sorry to say the country has got what it deserves!
    We have been conned into believing the crash of 2008 was as a result of Labour spending policy (despite it happening around the world too - and that the conservaties AGREED to match them if they won!
    With all these cuts the country will be on the brink of structural collapse and guess what ? This lot will be booted out and the next lot will have to SPEND just to keep things working, that is the economics of life , after all.
    So as working people - which we all presently are - any of us would be foolish to vote for a party which seeks to drive the workers to servitude....and the LIBERALS , don't get me onto them!!!

  10. Something to relieve any dull moments over the weekend - a puff piece about TR from MOJ!