Monday, 15 September 2014

You Are a Deviant. Be proud

We have had a very direct e-mail from on high to say current sickness rates are not to be tolerated because we need to be a fit and lean service if people are going to want to buy us...... is this how we stop people wanting to buy us? Okay, then book me in for two weeks of sick leave please!

Once upon a time in Trusts it was a similar mantra but inverted: then it was, 'we must be lean, we must perform, we must hit targets - as this is the only way of making sure we are not sold off and to protect your jobs'. Now it's similar urgings, but with a view to being marketable. 

Probation managers don't really care whether you are marching left-right or right-left. They just require you to be in step with their thinking - not really their thinking, more whatever the MoJ instructs them to think. They are mercenaries who will do anything, but they do enjoy kissing up and kicking down. Anything that screws up targets, that sabotages and impedes, are the kind of workarounds that probation needs. It does not need good performance. After all, look where that got us!

Here's George Monbiot writing in the Guardian a few weeks ago, but was recently highlighted on twitter by Sally Lewis. Read the whole piece here:-
Sick of this market-driven world? You should be
To be at peace with a troubled world: this is not a reasonable aim. It can be achieved only through a disavowal of what surrounds you. To be at peace with yourself within a troubled world: that, by contrast, is an honourable aspiration. This column is for those who feel at odds with life. It calls on you not to be ashamed. 
I was prompted to write it by a remarkable book, just published in English, by a Belgian professor of psychoanalysis, Paul Verhaeghe. What About Me? The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society is one of those books that, by making connections between apparently distinct phenomena, permits sudden new insights into what is happening to us and why. 
We are social animals, Verhaeghe argues, and our identities are shaped by the norms and values we absorb from other people. Every society defines and shapes its own normality – and its own abnormality – according to dominant narratives, and seeks either to make people comply or to exclude them if they don’t. 
Today the dominant narrative is that of market fundamentalism, widely known in Europe as neoliberalism. The story it tells is that the market can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. The less the state regulates and taxes us, the better off we will be. Public services should be privatised, public spending should be cut, and business should be freed from social control. In countries such as the UK and the US, this story has shaped our norms and values for around 35 years: since Thatcher and Reagan came to power. It is rapidly colonising the rest of the world.
The workplace has been overwhelmed by a mad, Kafkaesque infrastructure of assessments, monitoring, measuring, surveillance and audits, centrally directed and rigidly planned, whose purpose is to reward the winners and punish the losers. It destroys autonomy, enterprise, innovation and loyalty, and breeds frustration, envy and fear. Through a magnificent paradox, it has led to the revival of a grand old Soviet tradition known in Russian as tufta. It means falsification of statistics to meet the diktats of unaccountable power. 
The same forces afflict those who can’t find work. They must now contend, alongside the other humiliations of unemployment, with a whole new level of snooping and monitoring. All this, Verhaeghe points out, is fundamental to the neoliberal model, which everywhere insists on comparison, evaluation and quantification. We find ourselves technically free but powerless. Whether in work or out of work, we must live by the same rules or perish. All the major political parties promote them, so we have no political power either. In the name of autonomy and freedom we have ended up controlled by a grinding, faceless bureaucracy. 
These shifts have been accompanied, Verhaeghe writes, by a spectacular rise in certain psychiatric conditions: self-harm, eating disorders, depression and personality disorders. 
Of the personality disorders, the most common are performance anxiety and social phobia: both of which reflect a fear of other people, who are perceived as both evaluators and competitors – the only roles for society that market fundamentalism admits. Depression and loneliness plague us. 
The infantilising diktats of the workplace destroy our self-respect. Those who end up at the bottom of the pile are assailed by guilt and shame. The self-attribution fallacy cuts both ways: just as we congratulate ourselves for our success, we blame ourselves for our failure, even if we have little to do with it. 
So, if you don’t fit in, if you feel at odds with the world, if your identity is troubled and frayed, if you feel lost and ashamed – it could be because you have retained the human values you were supposed to have discarded. You are a deviant. Be proud.


  1. Probation personnel abuse the Offenders by upholding and implementing punitive policy of your superiors, if this leads to recidivation then that means more money for your superiors and more money for yourselves.

    Being a self-realised hypocrite does not help you out of the mess that you have put yourself in and make a living out of.

    Have a nice Monday.

    1. It is infinitely more complicated than that. Managing people who MIGHT be dangerous is harder than managing people who ARE dangerous. Decisions made on a balance of probabilities, such a taking children away from a risky environment, amount to a no win situation. Whatever decisions are taken are likely to draw criticism. It is a dichotomy with which Probation staff work on a daily basis. Your obvious indignation may be entirely legitimate but can only ever inform a response, not define it.

    2. To Anon 07:06 - You don't say how you earn/extort your filthy lucre. I agree, though, with self-realised, but not with the hypocrite label. There is nothing hypocritical about foreswearing pay to go on strike because you realise that what is going on is wrong. This is not something a self-realised hypocrite would do. It's just a pity that only a minority have self-actualised in probation. Democracy is essentially about changing the system from within. And therefore there is nothing hypocricial about being in a system while wishing and agitating to change it for the better. After all who does the system belong to and whose wealth sustains it? You need a little pluralism in your thinking. Who know? You may even self-realise!

      Have a nice day!

    3. Is there nothing hypocritical in criticising your superiors about how they are dismantling and destroying Probation, but continuing to administer the practices of those same superiors?

      Is that not the definition of hypocrisy?

      I could also convince myself to do anything in order for payment.

      Being a hypocrite is all a part of it, just for your own sakes try not to hurt too many of the wrong people whilst you're at it.

      It may come back to bite you.

  2. Those black slaves who ran away from their owners were deemed to be suffering from a psychiatric condition: drapetomania.

    1. Drapetomania is considered an example of pseudoscience, and part of the edifice of scientific racism. Examples - Drapetomania:In psychiatry, drapetomania was a mental illness described by American physician Samuel A. Cartwright in 1851 that caused black slaves to flee captivity.

  3. "Be in the World, but not of the World"

    "It's only my Job"


  4. "Anything that screws up targets, that sabotages and impedes, are the kind of workarounds that probation needs. It does not need good performance. After all, look where that got us!"

    You see, the problem with that is you are dealing with Real People who have offended and by sabotaging and impeding you are wantonly putting the public at risk of harm.

    1. I'm all for sabotaging and impeding - performance has nothing whatsoever to do with what makes a difference. Once we start counting that which is dictated to be counted at the expense of all else we are not free, we are a captive bunch of glorified statistic collectors. Thanks Jim for a another thoughtful post shining a light onto the wider picture.

  5. How the F'ing hell can u say that performance and targets helps to reduce risk. None of the measures are linked to risk. And what about manipulation of figures to show targets met.

  6. No OASys document has ever prevented an offence. No ISP has, of itself, protected anyone. No risk management plan has ever managed risk. These are only recording tools. When Probation staff stop seeing offenders in order to complete admin tasks, they have cast aside what is acknowledged to be the most important element of inter; themselves and the relationship they have with the offender. It is apparent that, like the Prison Service, NOMS has embraced the idea that it is enough the create the ILLUSION of rehabilitation and the REALITY of effective intervention is not necessary. It is two-dimensional thinking and looks for cause and effect outcomes achived in the current financial year. It is dumb, unsophisticated and corrupt.

    1. A simply brilliant and intelligent post. Nails all the nonsense that masquerades as sense.

  7. OFF TOPIC -

    A post Scots Independence cartoon from Martin Rowson

    I especially like one of the comments: -

    Q. Where's Cleggy?

    A. Nowhere to be seen!

  8. Interesting article here at Essex CRC.


    2. Chelmsford Prison will see more than half of its inmates re-offend, according to recent statistics released by the Ministry of Justice.

      Official MOJ numbers put re-offending rates at 62.4 per cent for offenders serving less than 12 months in Chelmsford prison, and at 39.1 per cent for prisoners serving more than 12 months, with an average of 4.92 and 3.55 offences per re-offender serving under and over 12 months, respectively.

      The damning statistics follow a pattern of high re-offending rates nationwide, and have led to an overhaul of the rehabilitation service, which is in the process of being implemented.

      Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, who visited HM Prison Chelmsford and Essex Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) last week, said: "What we have done is effectively divided probation into two different groups.

      "We have created a single national organisation, the national probation service; a smaller, specialist team that will focus on public protection, risk management, and dealing with the most problematic dangerous high-risk offenders.

      "Besides that, we have created 21 local community rehabilitation companies, and we saw the one in Essex, to work with low and medium-risk offenders, and its focus will be more on helping those people organise their lives, providing more of a mentoring service."

      His visit to Essex coincided with the roll-out of the rehabilitation reforms, which mean all prisoners, even those sentenced to less than 12 months, receive a year of support from probation services on leaving prison.

      Key changes to the service also include the aforementioned division of responsibility within probation, and the share sale of CRCs to private companies, which will be paid based on results.

      As one of the top performing probation services in the country, the Essex team was of great interest to Mr Grayling, who said that he had met with staff from the probation team at the offices in Braintree Road, Witham.

      He explained: "I met a team of probation officers today who are enthusiastic about the reforms, and there are people who are saying they see opportunities with this new system.

      "There are also people who are saying I am pretty uncomfortable with the reforms but I am getting on with the job.

      "There are also people who are still very resistant to it – the unions had a rally at Westminster yesterday to protest about it, but this is the right thing to bring down re-offending."

      However, news of the reforms has not been popular with everyone in the county, with Nick Adams, chairman of HMP Chelmsford's Independent Monitoring Board, explaining that the new way of running the probation service was of particular concern.

      "Certainly there is trepidation as far as the prison is concerned, as past experience of contracting out services hasn't been positive," he said.

      "All things, for example healthcare, are contracted out to Care UK – education is contracted out, library services are contracted out, but when things go wrong, the prison is unfairly slammed."

      Each CRC is currently up for share sale. An array of organisations have met the end-of-June deadline for offers and the Government will be scrutinising them and deciding by the end of this year which bidder will take on each one.

      It is thought that around four organisations are in the bidding for Essex, including a mutual, formed by some Essex Probation employees, which has put forward its own bid.

    3. Mary Archer, the chief executive of the CRC, and chairwoman of the CRC Board, said: "It's been a huge transition for everyone and obviously quite an emotional one, but most people have moved into Essex CRC by choice.

      "We are really pleased to be working with offenders who have served less than 12 months. Some of the most prolific offenders we work with anyway, but this means we can grab hold of people who go in and out of prison, and look at what's needed in Essex."

      Despite many people within the system, including former offenders, suggesting that shorter sentences may not be as effective as working with the probation service, Mr Grayling confirmed that he has no plans to scrap sentences of less than 12 months.

      "I am clear on this – there are some people saying we should give everyone a community sentence. Some of the people who end up in prison have already done a community sentence, and so if they were the panacea we wouldn't have all these people turning up in prison," he said.

      "If we were to say 'you can't get a short sentence', you either say to people they are going to jail for longer or we say 'we know you have committed crime after crime and you keep on coming back but we're still not going to do anything more than give you another community sentence'.

      "And there's no deterrent there at all so, no, I believe prison is necessary, and I want to see more of the right people going to prison but then the objective is to have fewer of them coming back."

  9. Mary Archer says: "We are really pleased to be working with offenders who have served less than 12 months." I am not a PO any more. I thought we didn't work with that group and that this was an (alleged) intent of the MoJ for the future, as yet unrealised? Why then does Ms Archer say "We are really pleased to be working with offenders who have served less than 12 months."?

  10. Because she will say anything that she is asked to say. She has no integrity. It's not complicated.

    1. Point 1: My question is about a fact, not an opinion. If she had said "we have a lovely new CRC" then you could explain her words with your comment. There is a CRC. Its a fact. It just wouldn't be true to call it lovely. That's an opinion. What I asked was why is she saying that the Probation Officers are doing something they factually are not doing? She might as well say '"we are really pleased to announce that we have found Glenn Miller". They haven't. Everybody knows it.

      Point 2: I don't take rudeness from anybody. I am well versed in the difference between the complicated and the simple.

    2. Finding Glen Miller would be an easier task than making TR work

  11. Does everybody know about this ? First I've heard.

    1. ATTN. ALL NAPO ACTIVISTS: Home Visit to the Justice Secretary

      On Saturday 27th September Kent and Surrey Sussex and Greater London Branches will be engaged in a joint operation including a march, demonstration, and mass rally, in Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s constituency of Epsom and Ewell.

      We think that it is only right and proper at this stage of the campaign to exercise the rights and freedoms he has sworn to protect and pay him a visit to explain to his constituents why there are a lot of people in the justice system who don’t like his policies – in particular those working in probation.

      All Napo activists and our friends are hereby invited to come and join us at 11am at the Epsom Playhouse in South Street. We will then march noisily along Epsom High Street leafleting and quite possibly meeting a few of Grayling's misguided supporters.

      There will then be the biggest, loudest, and liveliest rally Epsom has ever seen at Mounthill Gardens where speakers will include: Ian Lawrence, Mike Rayfield, Pat Waterman and Chas Berry plus many more. Bring your friends, family, slight acquaintances, random strangers you made eye contact with briefly on the train, make a banner, dress up/down, bring a whistle etc. etc - only make sure that you can say you were there and we'll make this an event Grayling & Co will never forget.

  12. The Probation Services are creaking wrecks, those who implement their policies are no better than those offenders they believe they serve.

  13. Perhaps Probation officers can tell us about the most serious further offence they've had on their watch and then explain as to why their intervention didn't assist in causing such offence?