Thursday, 14 August 2014

A Thousand Posts

Yet another milestone. I've just pressed the 'publish' button for the thousandth time, so I guess I ought to find something profound to say. Some four plus years ago this blog used to be a pretty modest affair - a vehicle for the musings of a very unhappy probation officer in the twilight years of their career. 

Stress had eventually caught up with me and I was driven onto long-term sick. I refused the GP's offer of medication for depression and instead opted for eight sessions of pretty mediocre 'talking therapy'. Being CQSW-trained and a long term Samaritan volunteer, it was always going to be a bit of a tall order for the hapless counsellor, but being a very responsible sort of person, I felt duty-bound to keep turning up and ensuring that the '50 minute hour' was filled somehow. 

It all started sat on this very same (hellishly uncomfortable) sofa and out of sheer boredom and a sense of mischief, having read the blogging efforts of Bystander and Inspector Gadget for several months. Fortunately I've always enjoyed writing and the PSR was one of the best bits of the job until bloody OASys killed the art stone dead. Also, I've always been able to knock out a 'paper' on a wide range of stuff, pretty much at the drop of a hat, and to the bemusement of colleagues. So I suspect the advent of the internet and the 'weblog' was always going to hold a deep fascination for me.

All blogs start with virtually no readers, but to my astonishment, the dizzy heights of 50 on the 'hit' counter soon became a couple of hundred a day. When it became obvious that I had a few readers and the comments started rolling in, it definitely became fun, quite addictive and within a relatively short period, highly therapeutic. I'm told I've created a blogging widow though.

But then TR came along. Affable lawyer Ken Clark was ousted by PR zealot Chris Grayling as Justice Secretary and suddenly the profession I loved and cared so much for appeared to be in mortal danger, and I saw red. Overnight this blogging lark assumed a bit more significance in my life and it's effectively morphed into a campaign, sustained by an astonishingly erudite, witty, responsible, sensitive and caring readership, it has to be said. But of course anyone who's ever been close to probation, would not find that any great surprise. 

In full campaign mode, hundreds of readers soon became thousands a day and a post every couple of days, turned into two and sometimes even three a day, sustained by readers contributions either by way of blog comments or direct e-mail. I certainly read all the comments and endeavour to answer or acknowledge most e-mails, especially those from clients. Yes, some of our customers read this blog and on quite a number of occasions I've had to assume the role of agony aunt and offer constructive suggestions in order to try and help resolve apparent breakdowns or misunderstandings in professional relationships with officers.

This blog has taken me down many fascinating avenues and whilst other blogs have fallen by the wayside, just like the Duracell bunnies, this one seems to keep on going and that's pretty much down to the readers and contributors. It remains my intention to keep on blogging until our fight against TR succeeds and we consign it and Chris Grayling to a small footnote in the political history books. I believe the internet is one of the best things that has happened to democracy and we all owe a great debt of gratitude to Tim Berners-Lee.

I know the blog is widely read by Napo, the MoJ, probation management, academics and journalists, in addition to practitioners and the general public, so I'm always acutely conscious of the responsibility to tell things as I see them, not as they might be spun. As a result I've made a number of enemies along the way, but I really do feel I owe it to the readership to try and be as honest as I can and repay their loyalty in tuning-in every day. It's difficult though sometimes because I know way too much for my own good and I have to choose my words fairly carefully in order to avoid that ubiquitous solicitors letter...... 

On a lighter note, I'm continually being told that people up and down the land are regularly being accused of being 'Jim Brown'. That's not only a source of some personal relief, it also brings a smile to my face to know there's a helluva lot of us out there! 

So, thanks for being part of this and I'll end on some recent quotes that caught my eye on twitter, just because I like quotes:-
Much as I find Probation disagreeable, the mendacity of the Government in this leaves probation rightly angry. Ben Gunn
It's not the way I would have wanted to leave Probation, but I'm in good company! Sue Hall 
Not sure we left Probation....I think it left us. Sally Lewis
For all SW/Probation students - the basic ingredients of the job are honesty, humanity, integrity & fairness. Don't ever compromise them. Allan Weaver
All probation trusts in England and Wales rated good or exceptional - yet they have been abolished and 70% of work privatised. Alan Travis
For all Probation Trusts to have delivered good or exceptional performance amidst TR transition says everything. Peter Wright 
Impressed but not surprised that all Probation Trusts ranked good or exceptional in last year despite upheaval. Sarah Billiald

35 comments:

  1. Well done - keep going (Vicky Beeching {Who I had never heard of, but is famous} - came 'out' today and seems uplifted). It seems personal revelations can be helpful. So I hope your bit of extra personal sharing has a good impact on you. Thank you.

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  2. The brilliance of the blog is that we can all be Jim Brown !!!

    So if anyone asks , Yes , I am Jim Brown
    (reference Spartacus)

    Congratulations Jim on such a milestone, it really is a mammoth effort.

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  3. Thankyou for your contribution, it has been a helpful outlet for all the madness that is being thrown about by Mr Grayling, his minions and upper management. There is a large gulf between the ivory towers and what is happening on the ground so long may the fight continue.

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  4. Thank you. I am Jim Brown.

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  5. Always have my support Jim !! Whatever it is worth we are in the same fight wherever we come from. We are united in that struggle which makes us stronger collectively. There may be the odd skirmish but collectivism and solidarity are key to achieving the aspirations with NAPO. I am sure there is mutual respect for what we all want to achieve with and for the members.

    If everyone else is now Jim Brown what happened to Spartacus ?

    Congratulations on the success of your blog Jim. It is a testament to your energies for which I am sure many will join in and encourage your continued help as we look to see the next thousand blogs ! .
    Dino

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  6. Its been top of my "most visited" sites for over 12 months; I don't know how you do it Jim but I'm glad you do.

    papa

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  7. No!!

    I'm Jim Brown.

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  8. Thank you for your work so far.Sally Lewis' remark really resonated with me personally.

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  9. I'm Jim Brown and so is my wife.

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  10. I was actually asked if I was Jim brown and I am a stroppy fifty year old female PO, so yup me too, I am Jim Brown....

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    1. Ha... same happened to me...also a fifty + female PO...so yes I am... I am Jim Brown.

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  11. For the last 18 months or so the ONLY credible up to the minute source on TR around, and my lifeline. EVERYTHING else from EVERYWHERE else (Joe Kuipers blog excepted) has been smoke and mirrors, lies or just too darn late. Thanks, Jim.
    Deb

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  12. Congratulations Jim Brown. Bang up to the minute, tough, honest and decent.

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  13. For some time my colleagues thought I was Jim Brown and to be honest Jim we have never been seen in the same room.... so who knows???? Well done. You and your Blog are the source of many a heated discussion and that was a rare thing until recently in my office. We don't always see eye to eye but as my old dad used to say 'I admire a man who speaks his mind and has a mind to speak'.

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  14. I'm the 1,000,000th hitter. I'm not Jim Brown but I have had the pleasure of meeting him and drinking his gin. Thanks Jim for providing such light in a very dark time x

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  15. Thank you for all you have done for Probation and the fight against TR Jim. I wish I had the opportunity to work with you.... maybe I will one day, stranger things have happened. Thanks for sharing a bit about your story and I really hope you continue to blog.

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  16. Originally found via the Napo GLB Facebook page - this could be a 'gamechanger' in my opinion - if the info can be understood and publicised in meaningful ways to the media and those who think the Government have our best interests at heart - really - deep down - I find it genuinely frightening as if Orwell's 1984 was a genuinely helpful warning - who won't end up being monitored - I presume any 'troublemaker' such as a younger version of me eventually will - the outsourcers will be setting the conditions of supervision with the RAR's if the ORA2014 is actually implemented - legal aid has nearly gone - Judicial Review made ever more difficult - along with employment tribunals - are Labour (the begetters of probation outsourcing) more trustworthy than the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats? (none of them stick to their commitments)

    http://www.napo2.org.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=794&p=3365#p3365

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    1. This is one of the most important and quite frankly brilliant articles I have seen. It drills into the heart of the entire vile mess. Thank you for sharing this it has really opened my eyes.

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    2. http://ejp.sagepub.com/content/6/2/169.abstract

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    3. http://ejp.sagepub.com/content/6/2/169.abstract

      Upgrading electronic monitoring, downgrading probation: Reconfiguring ‘offender management’ in England and Wales

      Mike Nellis

      University of Strathclyde, UK

      Mike Nellis, Emeritus Professor of Criminal and Community Justice, University of Strathclyde, School of Law, Graham Hills Building Level 7, 50 George Street, Glasgow G1 1QE, UK. Email: mike.nellis@strath.ac.uk

      Abstract

      England and Wales is currently privatizing most of its Probation Service and simultaneously planning to create the largest and most advanced electronic monitoring (EM) scheme in the world, using combined GPS tracking and radio frequency technology. Downgrading one, upgrading the other. Using a mix of published and unpublished sources, discussions with some key players in these developments, (and a ‘critical policy analysis’ perspective), this article begins by documenting the post-2010 development of GPS tracking, and the emergence of strong police support for its large-scale use. It notes the role of a right-wing think tank, Policy Exchange, in promoting the view that the GPS-based tracking of offenders’ movements is an intrinsically superior form of ‘electronic monitoring’ that should fully replace the discredited but still prevailing radio frequency EM, which can only restrict people to a single location. In the course of devising a third contract with commercial organizations to deliver EM, it transpired that the incumbent providers had been systematically overcharging the government for their services. Although a public scandal, and a series of official enquires – summarized here – resulted from this, the general momentum behind the outsourcing of penal interventions has not been slowed: the Conservative-led Coalition government is pursuing a relentlessly neoliberal agenda, driven far more by financial imperatives and technological preferences than anything that makes proper penal sense. The creation of a large, advanced GPS-based EM programme may not in fact work out in practice, but the government’s readiness to envision it shows where untrammelled neoliberalism points in respect of ‘offender management’ techniques. Although England and Wales have always been anomalous in their fully privatized delivery of EM, its preparedness to invest massively in GPS tracking and to simultaneously sacrifice the state-based Probation Service should serve to warn other European services of the penal challenges that neoliberalism may present them with.

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  17. I look forward to reading your blogs and want to congratulate you for everything you are doing in the fight against TR - you are a man of integrity, openness and passion. Keep it going.x

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  18. I am just yet another p o somewhere out there. And your blog, and the comments of others like me all over the country, during this shambles, has been my greatest source of information. I sincerely want to thank you for your efforts. It is appreciated by so many like me, I am sure.

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  19. Well done Jim, keep up the good work and never stop being the grumpy old sod we all love!

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  20. Your addicted to writing, I'm addicted to reading!

    Thank you Jim!

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  21. We all know that integrity is a concept with which this government is unfamiliar. Keep shining a light on their lies and misinformation Jim. Here's hoping TR goes tits up soon.

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  22. When the vacuum of news about TR from NAPO dried up this was the only place to get up to date information, Jim Brown you deserve to be knighted

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  23. Chapeau, M. Brown. Your blog has literally been a fucking lifesaver. I'm still alive. Oh, and I'm Jim Brown.

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  24. Jim you've been a source of inspiration, a breath of fresh air and most importantly for me, helped me through difficult times by venting and connecting with others who feel similarly. I really don't know what I would have done without you. Thank you.

    Anarchist PO

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  25. The Godfather of Probation. James Brown. Papa's Got A Brand New Blog. Well done, Jom.

    Rob Palmer

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    1. Thanks very much indeed to all you Jim Brown's - everywhere!

      It reminds me of this sketch from Not the Nine O'Clock News - "The BL Ambassador - Hand Built by Roberts"

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FU-tuY0Z7nQ

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  26. Thanks for everything Jim. Keep it up x

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  27. I am Jim Brown and I work in Manchester. A lifesaving blog amongst LIES by those who do not know our job. You should be commended for all you have done to highlight all that is wrong with TR. Your effort and commitment to keep us up to date is beyond words. Thank you. I hope the 1001 blog nails TR.

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  28. And business people read it too. Great job Jim.

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  29. After the split it seemed that a lot of the support and banter and rebellion on Twitter and Facebook withered away. Your blog has kept the fight alive. Thank you .

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