Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Guest Blog 19

OK, I've gotten around to it. I am a former Client, the same former Client who has, in the past, forced Jim to adopt moderation to his comments due to admittedly occasional offensive remarks, so I expect most of you to be reading this with a certain predisposition towards me. I do seem to have developed a certain hatred towards the Probation Service and several individual Probation persons in particular, so here it is, maybe a little rambling and repetitive in places and without recourse to offensive and abusive language...

I was convicted of Exposure charges towards adult Women, I fully accept that what I did was wrong, offensive and abusive, the potential full effect of my actions I'm never likely to know, but they disliked my offending so much as to involve the Police and there is a possibility that I could have caused a great deal of psychological abuse towards those whom I offended. For this I am very apologetic and if I could do anything feasible to help them I would do so. Even if I do say so myself, I was well aware at the time of the offence to the reasons as to why I was offending. There was no intervention that ever needed to attempt to explain any of that to me. I was not given a Custodial sentence but was given a period of time of supervision and ordered to attend a Sex Offender Treatment Programme.

Anything to do with Sex Offending is of course likely to stir up negative emotions in many, Sexual activity is, to the vast majority, considered private and precious, only to be to be engaged within the most intimate of relationships with significant others. Any attempt to explain why these offences occur are likely to attract the comments of those claiming them to be "Sex Offender apologists", I am not going to apologise for anybody's offending except my own and neither do I have any reputation or career to protect, I am here to express my opinions on what I have experienced. This is my attempt to exorcise some of the grief I feel towards those who personally see fit to implement and enforce these Programmes and explain how participating in an SOTP has left me with continued feelings of offence and abuse, been a major contribution to my development of a personality disorder and to try to explain why and where I believe, from my side of the argument, with little other than my own observations to back my own opinions up, that you are implementing an intervention with a high likelihood of causing not only what it attempts to prevent: reoffending, but also more subtle abuses with potential lasting damaging effects on those who have attended these Programmes.

I am not going to attempt to minimise anyone's Sexual Offending, but there are quite clearly different categories of offences and if any public survey was conducted I strongly feel that we could all come to a similar conclusion about which we would each consider to be of a general higher severity than others. I shall directly contradict the reason that was given to me by a Group Manager for putting all offences together in the same group programme: Offenders have the same reasons for committing their Offences. Incorrect. Everybody has a different etiology and everybody should be "treated" differently in an individualised setting. The levels and types of punishment are different for each offence, therefore it follows that the levels and types of "treatment" should also be different for each individual offence. 


When challenged on this or in fact anything to do with the standard of treatment the party line would appear to be "lack of resources" what does that mean I wonder? Not enough pens and pencils? Or not enough strong persons in your service who can clearly see state sanctioned malpractice taking place and are more than happy to uphold senior directions and never challenge their Bosses? The Facilitators and Group Managers clearly do not care for the mental well being of the Client. The Facilitators and Managers are clearly not the correct persons to be providing any sort of assistance to the Client, yet whatever I say does not make the slightest difference, they shall continue to do anything they are told to do, provided they are paid for it.

I can manage to prevent myself from re-offending, don't try to suggest to me that I can prevent someone else from doing so, as much as it is a fine idea, I do not have that ability, I am not a Councillor, Therapist, Psychologist or Psychiatrist. In particular, interests in Children for sexual purposes is apparently a disposition that people are born with, why was I being asked to challenge their beliefs? I have no training whatsoever in dealing with such persons or views. I have no want to speak, or associate, or be challenged about my Offending by them either. I do not wish to invite them into my life. Why do Probation personnel believe that this is a valid and workable way to approach working with Sex Offenders? Do they believe that what they are doing is in some way a fantastic intervention? Do Facilitators and Group Managers have an equanimous mindset on their approach to this work they are making a living out of? Do they not take their work seriously? If you are involved in SOTP and I know some of you are, then please detail your reasons in the comments below...

The idea being that the Facilitators only facilitate the conversation, they introduce a topic and set the conversation going with an intention of getting these Clients to confront each other about their own understandings on the matters, so you have the manipulative persons questioning the more impressionable persons and the Facilitators assessing you by means your of response and body language. Unfortunately if innocently playing Devil's advocate this is likely to be interpreted as your own personal view on the matter. The whole idea of putting Sex Offenders, some of whom have been through custody, displaying highly manipulative traits and are responsible for some of the most higher-end Sexual Offences into the same room as young, impressionable Men who are responsible for some of the more lower-end Sexual Offences is entirely wrong for the exact reasons those who uphold and implement it, have conviction in believing it to be the correct thing to do.


I vividly recall listening to one offender explaining how he, as a Teacher, molested young Boys, I did not have any training or preparation for listening to such a story, I am not interested in any detailed explanations as to why he did what he did, of course at the end we are supposed and invited to challenge on as to why he did such a thing. I was not in any way comfortable being there listening to that, being asked to challenge that. I can only guess as to what the young Man who had previously been abused by a Teacher had to think of it. It is quite a disgusting thing to make a career out of, how do Facilitators of these groups right what they do with themselves? A great deal of positive delusion must take place in the thought processes of such people, they must be unconcerned as to the damaging effects that they enforce, either they do not care, they do not see the potential for harm or they are convinced that they are doing it for the greater good and I suppose they are, the Facilitators and Managers of such groups are the main beneficiary's as they receive a wage for their attendance.

I am at a loss as to why thousands of pounds are spent putting Offenders through this intervention, it does not make any sense in either an economic stand point or as real beneficial treatment for the individuals concerned. I can only see it as a huge waste of time and money.

Nobody is assessed as to whether they are suitable for the SOTP, the pre work that is undertaken does not address any existing mental health issues, levels of deviousness or amount of potential learning that may be achieved by completing the course.

I would like to believe that those Facilitators were genuinely interested in promoting effective change, however the content of the sessions and my perception of the attitude of most of them led me to think differently... Perhaps they hold unresolved, deep seated resentment, perhaps they had been treated badly in previous relationships, or even abused themselves. Putting themselves into this position acts as a form of revenge or soothing for them, they are covert Sexists. Or perhaps naive attempts to help Offenders? There are undoubtedly those in society who feel that they are to be a Hero and that their own personal intervention can inspire positive change in peoples lives for the better, they shall of course receive the highest prizes for being the person responsible for any perceived positive outcomes...

The voyeuristic nature of Facilitators, under a shroud of caring, confidence tricksters, experience junkies... barbed sentences with multiple interpretations easily explained away in the event of a complaint as incorrect or paranoiac on the part of the Offender, double talk is rife amongst Facilitators. Continuous blaming of "Lack of resources" I would suggest that perhaps to those delivering such things that the lack of resource is a little closer to home than they are ever likely to comprehend.

Amateur attempts to break you down to build you up, challenge perceived cognitive distortions and if none are readily apparent, invent some to challenge...

There is little doubt that some Probation personnel may know who is writing this. I'm unconcerned, maybe they are too. I am just another one of the many faces that they have had through their doors and, if anything, this should be considered a part of my supervision, it should be a positive that I am choosing to use Jim's outlet to express my feeling and concern, especially seeing as, there is no real outlet to do so through official Probation channels.

As for the future well I am now talking to real people with real holistic natures who can respond to what I say without a guarded stance or barbed bitchiness or being interrupted by Joe Sex Offender.

Perhaps this blog will help a few more of you see the light and leave the Service, I'm sure many of you are decent enough people, it's a great shame that you are not allowed to demonstrate it in your day to day working. I could no doubt do the job of Probation Officer, attain the required qualifications and be equanimous towards my own better judgement and delude myself with the brand of wishy-washy corporate Zen that would appear to go hand in hand with institutionalised abuse... You can bring yourself to do anything if you do not care less... I quite simply wouldn't though.

I myself caused an amount of harm to some Women who survived my abusing, I deserved to be punished for doing that. There are ways and means of punishing and rehabilitating people, unfortunately SOTP is in no way the correct method to go about doing it, it in itself is undoubtedly at least in part responsible for numerous SFO's.

If you don't know what you are supposed to be doing anymore then I'd suggest you are maybe a little slow on the uptake, everyone, and I mean everyone who leaves an SOTP session and goes outside onto the street are united in one thing and one thing only: what a crock the entire thing is.

Best wishes, Anonymous Client 1...

90 comments:

  1. An insightful look at the way probation works from the point of view of a service user. Although I am not a sex offender and have never suffered through the SOTP I have been forced to undergo the absolutely ridiculous crap called Offender Behaviour courses which quite frankly are insulting and beyond useless as a tool to get people to examine their behaviour and change their ways.

    "But its all we've got" wail probation officers when you point out the fact that these courses do not work and have been shown not to work in a number of studies. All I can say is good grief! Are the entire probation service so pathetic that they cannot come up with anything better? How about, for a start, actually talking to offenders, finding out what caused them to offend in the first place, what would have stopped them and what would stop them reoffending and then devise something in concert with the offender that might actually work? Its not rocket science.

    But the last thing any probation officer seems interested in is actually talking to the human being and getting to know the human being as a real person. Crime statistics do not commit crime, human beings do therefore in order to understand why the crime was committed you have to understand the person. The real person and not the probation officer's pre conceived notion of who that person is from reading a file. As a profession you should be involving ex offenders from start to finish in every aspect of the probation process. We are the ones who know why crime is committed, what led to it, what could have stopped it and what needs to change. You don't unless you have been convicted of a crime yourselves. All the book learning in the world is not expertise. You sit in judgement over us and dictate what we can and cannot do without any real conception of what it is like to have been convicted of a crime. All the academic studies in the world about risk of harm etc are really worthless because the only person who knows what their risk level is is the offender themselves. Your tools for managing offenders do not work and never will work because they were not designed by anyone who really understands crime and offenders i.e. an offender. Not forgetting the old adage of you shouldn't judge someone unless you're pretty damn perfect yourself and I've yet to come across a PO that was in any way close to being a perfect human being. Or the adage of you will never understand me until you've walked a mile in my shoes.

    The probation service in any guise will never work until it realises these basic home truths and changes completely and provides an individually tailored approach to each offender that is non judgemental or preconceived or uses any of the current "tools".

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    1. The probation service in any guise will never work until it realises these basic home truths and changes completely and provides an individually tailored approach to each offender that is non judgemental or preconceived or uses any of the current "tools".

      Blimey that pretty much describes the Service I joined and was swept away partly because of 'inconsistent' practice!

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    2. Thank you a very helpful blog article.

      I was a probation officer and whilst working in a prison an accredited Enhanced Thinking Skills Programme Tutor for which I had quiet a lot of specialist preparation. Previously I had undertaken other group work training, worked with various types of sex offenders, but never been an SOTP trainer.

      I have also, as a client taken part in voluntary therapeutic groups, led by very experienced trainers where the format was for clients to share experiences, but the experiences allowed to be shared were, relevant to all present. Serious sex offenders did take part in those groups, but the details of their addictive behaviours were never revealed in detail in the groups for people with any addiction. Sex Offenders did go into more details - I believe - but in specialist groups. That seems the right approach so it our guest blogger makes some excellent points.

      Obviously discernment is needed in matching group members for SOTP or any other group - including (probably) Induction Groups for new probation clients, which will not be suitable for EVERY client.

      I hope our guest blogger has found ways of minimising his vulnerability to offend. There are specialist Sex Addicts Anonymous groups, that use the programme of Alcoholics Anonymous for folk with sex addictions in similar ways to which Al-Anon, Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Codependents Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous etc. apply the AA programme. Other 'treatments' are also available via medical agencies and other practitioners.

      I have known people get successful help via all those programmes and also Treatment Centres that apply parts of those programmes in their own work.

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    3. Yup. That was how it worked in my day too, Jim

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    4. I'm pretty antiestablishment, decades of drug addiction low level offending, and I've had life saving help from the probation service, but also some shite money wasting and usless interventions that have been foisted on me for no other reason then they were available at the time, or someone needed bums on seats.
      Still, I try to remain objective, and rather then look at individual experiences, look at the service as a whole. It ain't half changed since my first probation order in the 70s.
      For me it is a service that has been destroyed by politics. Although theres always been a need to help clients comply with court orders the service itself was not one primerily focused on 'law enforcement'. But in my view thats what its become today.
      Indeed, I think the free hand given to CRCs to develop their own methods and approach to dealing with clients should be seen as a recognition by NOMS of the things that are now missing from the service. However, I doubt if they'll accept that there missing because they're responsible for bleeding them out of the service in the first place.
      I cannot blame the service itself for its demise, nor can I blame the staff that work in it. The job is after all the job that you joined. If you joined in the days of advise assist and befriend, then obviously your experience training and even your perception of the job is much different then someone who joined with focus on oasys risk and public protection.
      It's a service thats been pulling itself apart for years. Its sad but it wasn't its own choice.
      Bring back the old days and holistic approaches. Probation today is prescription based, and the same pill dosen't work for everyone.

      'getafix'

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    1. Let me guess, you are trained in RESOLVE facilitation?

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    2. And have you ever been on the receiving end of one of these programmes as a service user? If not you cannot possibly state that they are going to work

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    3. Let me guess some people don't like acc programmes.

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    4. Programmes are a tool in probation like any other. They stand or fall by the quality of delivery. They add to individual work and are at their best embedded in a relationship of significance between service user and probation officer. Hasn't really changed whatever the piece of structured work that is used in the 34 years I've been part of this process.

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    5. Probationrelic, can you not see that your opinion in itself is a major part of the problem?

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  3. "How about, for a start, actually talking to offenders, finding out what caused them to offend in the first place, what would have stopped them and what would stop them reoffending and then devise something in concert with the offender that might actually work? "
    This is already embedded within and integral to every current offending behaviour .

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    1. ...programme

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    2. Then why is it implemented in such a shit manner?

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    3. It may be embedded in every current offender behaviour programme in theory but the practice is something very different. My OM for example clearly has zero interest in me as a human being. The previous three didn't either. Nor did any of the OS's I had whilst in custody. Not once in four and a half years have any of them showed the slightest interest in getting to know me as a human being and certainly none of them have ever asked me those central questions. It clearly is something not limited to the odd PO but endemic across the service.

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    4. I am really sorry you have had bad experiences with probation anon 12.05. I am relatively new to the service joining in 2005 in administration and working my way through to a Po in 2010. I have always been interested in all my clients and believe strongly that everyone has the capability to make positive changes if encouraged and supported. I also believe that offender programme are more beneficial than 1:1 work and support my clients listening to their concerns before and throughout their attendance. In addition personal belief and motivation is extremely important and it appears that is what has helped you to continue to make the right choices now.

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  4. Although I think this article is more to do with Grayling trying to detach himself from an ever increasing prison crisis snd shift the blame for it, it seems quite relative to todays blog, as it gives a slight insight into the goverments thinking on the treatment of sex offenders.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2927786/Britain-s-courts-sex-offenders-warns-Grayling-Savile-effect-led-explosion-number-rapists-sex-attackers-prosecuted.html

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  5. After the ORA2014 is implemented for new offences from Saturday 1st February, will Courts be able to impose SOTP conditions or will it just be part of a RAR - this is something I am too far away from practice to have a clear understanding about - what amazes me is the lack of media attention, seemingly anywhere including in blogs I have read.

    Surely - I AM misunderstanding and the assumptions I am making here are wrong re "Magistrates & Judges Sentencing Powers Diminished?"

    http://www.napo2.org.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=925

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    1. Accredited programmes sit outside RAR and their administration will continue as before, except SOTP s will be run by NPS only. They are due to be changed over the next 18 months. The changes will be quite significant.

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    2. Thank you, Probationrelic at 11:36 can you point me to relevant sections in extant legislation re SOTP & accredited programmes please?

      Am I therefore right that Courts are losing powers to impose Community Punishment and set the amount of time the work is to take?

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  6. Thought provoking blog today. I'm with JB & anon 09:48 - the service I joined used to operate like that until politicians and other egotistical arse-wipes interfered. On a different tack (and apologies in advance that I've lowered the tone):

    Some spam type advertising crap arrived on my computer today and intrigued but cautious not to open a virus I followed the link - it led me to read the following, which has left me bemused. Jordan on CBBC? I must be missing something?

    "mum-of-five Katie Price revealed that her disabled son Harvey has his own driver to take him to school, as well as a nurse who sits with him on the journey... She added that the driver is funded by the government... asked why [she] doesn't pay the driver, she said: "Do you know how f**king expensive that would be? It would be up to a grand a day."...

    One fan on Twitter blasted Katie, writing: "Is Katie Price taking the p**s? A multimillionaire has her sons disability benefit paid for by the taxpayer @David_Cameron have a word #CBB."

    Another posted about the busty businesswoman, tweeting: "£40 million in the bank, but the taxpayer is still paying to ferry Katie Price's kids around. Modern Britain," while another wrote: "Not impressed she gets taxpayer money to care for her son :(."

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    1. What does this have to do with the Probation Service?

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    2. Cameron also a multi millionaire also claimed disability benefits for his child.

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    3. Anon 11:28 - nothing directly, but it leaves me puzzled that someone with such personal wealth benefits from taxpayer subsidy whilst a lone parent client of mine can't get any financial support to allow her to attend university because she can't afford the childcare necessary for 2 hours after school, plus they will stop her primary benefit payment because she'll be unavailable for work, which will stop her housing benefit, and she can't apply for a student loan until she's accepted on a course, so she doesn't know if she'll qualify or how much she might be loaned, plus her abusive ex (who's done a runner) has left her with approx £5k of debts. Neither of her children have any disability. My client is 28 years old, very capable, very resourceful and now she's free of her abusive ex, wants to make a positive life for herself and give her children a future.

      Maybe she should just get her tits out? Or vote Tory and get Equal Rights Supremo Dave back into Number 10.

      It stinks.

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    4. "and she can't apply for a student loan until she's accepted on a course, so she doesn't know if she'll qualify or how much she might be loaned"

      So maybe she should apply, get accepted, then find out how much loan she is entitled to - which she will be entitled to if she hasn't previously had a student loan. Universities are quite flexible for parents so I imagine that they can support her with childcare or scheduling that suits her family needs.

      What all this has to do with Jordan claiming benefit to which she is (rightly or wrongly) entitled to is beyond me.

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  7. re today's blog - as a retired officer, who underwent 'advanced' training to assist in running the 'Friday' group- a discreet name for the SOTP, as well as regular programmes and the doomed Priestley One to One Programme, I still squirm at the memory of sitting in a huge room, surrounded by 16-20 nervous, resistant, reluctant, Friday participants, with significant ranges in age and offending history. Although the large group dispersed into smaller groups in the afternoon, there was always a sense of discomfort for several of the people there.

    The philosophy of being supported and challenged by other group members can work for many clients, but not all, particularly those who are fearful, or with embarrassing personal issues. I worked with my own clients, taking time to develop trust and confidence to admit and disclose, as did many other officers. But dare I say it again, not all, and I suspect that with the cack-handed way staff have been hurled about in the last 12 months, there has been a loss of experienced staff in group work programmes and supervision of sex offenders, and a rise in staff working with cases which are outside of their own personal skills.

    At the opposite end of the group v individual programmes, 15 years ago, the Service must have spent huge sums of money on specialist residential training in posh country hotels, spread over a 4 month period, for the 'elite' One to One Programme (described as such by my manager when instructing me to attend). We were given huge booklets and told we had to use the wording as it was written, which was in such a complex style that even I didn't understand some of it, and tried to adapt it into simpler language. The dryness and length of the programme, and the fact that we were supposed to record every session on camera, to be judged by elected staff supervisors, made it doomed to fail, and it was eventually dropped, with some exercises being incorporated into the supervision induction programmes.

    I suspect that some bloggers will disagree with what I have said, but programmes which create fear and humiliation, or bore clients to death with gobbledygook, will never work. And most crucially, the chances of the success of any programme, will ultimately depend on the skills and personality of the facilitators, rather than being plucked out of the 'one size fits all' hat.

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    1. Despite your experience a programme is like any other tool in probation. It can be delivered well or badly. A mechanical delivery is never appropriate and from my direct experience of supervising facilitators was not the norm in my area. I witnessed facilitators using the material in an extreemly sensitive manner with some vulnerable individuals, helping them to achieve significant and sustained change.

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    2. You sound like a Politician.

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    3. Perhaps the "Tool" is crap in the first place? So whether the "Tool" is presented well or not it is still crap.

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    4. I'm a little confused today, but very 'thought provoked'.
      The guest blog made very good sense to me, it seemed open and honest, with good insight and good perspective.
      The point that hits me strongest is that all sexual offences are lumped together under the sex offender umbrella label, and attend groups all together.
      My offending is drug related, but the person who sells me the drugs are also a drug related offender. Yet I would be very unhappy to attend group sessions that included drug dealers. I hate them. They use my weakness to provide themselves with posh cars, nice holidays and designer clothes aswell as fat bank accounts. The reasons the dealer/user commit offences in my view are polarised, and putting them in a group situation to challange their offending behaviour would be a bit like bringing your washing machine with your car to get fixed.
      I think when situations like that occur, any significant sustained change brought to an individual, may also incur significant damage to others.
      I would arguee, that regardless of the abillity of the facilitator to deliver the programme well or badly, the variables (those attending the group), do not belong together, and the objective of the course is somewhat flawed from the begining.

      'getafix'

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  8. Probably changes for the worse no doubt? Do you have information of these changes?

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  9. I opened today's Probation Blog to comment on the headlines in today's Newcastle Journal but was overtaken by today's very interesting blog. Before I move on, I would add to my own comments on the SOTP, that it was still very effective for some, but not all, and some of that I believe was due to the large numbers of participants which it had evolved into, and the inappropriateness of some referrals. I had 2 cases where I had the SOTP referral removed, one was an 18 year male's first conviction of an inappropriate approach to a younger girl at a party when he was 17. The other one was a first conviction of a 40 plus man, in very poor physical health (and could never have made the weekly journey) and mild mental health issues, who had invited a young door-to-door caller into his house and made what she received as inappropriate approaches. Both these Orders were readily revoked in Crown Court and the issues were dealt with in individual supervision.

    Back to the Journal, which headlines the damning report by Nick Hardwick of Sodexo's running of HMP Northumberland, which the Howard league have commented on -

    Nick states that 'the prison now approaches its 4th year of significant change.(since Sodexo took over), most of it significant. Safety outcomes have worsened and in most respects it would be true to say that the prison has yet to start improving'. It also said that the prison had failed to act on 42 of the 80 recommendations made 3 years ago and identifies 3 suicides since its last inspection.

    Frances Cook from the Howard League commented on people becoming used to reading critical reports on overcrowded public sector prisons with deep cuts in staffing and resources but - ' Northumberland is neither publicly run, nor overcrowded. What is Sodexo's excuse?'

    She also says 'it is extremely worrying that Sodexo runs the prison with so many problems and has also been handed the contract to run community sentences from next month'.

    Sodexo robustly (I use a word I have come to hate, as much as '£46 in their pocket' but suits the scenario) defends itself, stating that ' Sodexo Justice Service's track record in other prisons shows that we continuously improve our performance and positive new safety records.'

    Check it out - 'Prison branded a "shambles' after scathing report".

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  10. Still no current SOTP facilitators coming forward with their views and reasoning as to why they uphold SOTP ad are happy to make a living out of it.

    I suppose it is a part of the Human psyche that we cannot or at least find it a great difficulty in smelling our own stench.

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    1. Patience! It's only midday and most people are working.

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    2. In olden times I worked with numerous clients who had committed sexual offences, primarily against children. It was one-to-one usually, with some groupwork facilitated by skilled external specialists - and intensive supervision by same external team (nspcc).

      As for my own experience In the 'new world' - I was required to undertake an assessment centre. The assessors (majority being managers, not skilled practitioners) decided I had "unresolved issues" and refused to accredit me. My "unresolved issues" were, I suspect, that I didn't kiss ass and that I asked questions and challenged them to the effect that there is great value in groupwork, but not in formulaic processing on which large sums of public money have been invested. I wasn't "on message".

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    3. I think your guest blog today client1 was well written, well considered and very thought provoking.
      I'd say that you shouldn't risk diminishing your arguement by showing impatience or anger, or risking drawing responses that focus on impatience or anger rather then the core issues you've put on the agenda for discussion and debate.
      Thsts only my opinion though.

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    4. I agree - lets keep the reasoned debate going.

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    5. Still no confirmed SOTP Facilitators/Managers willing to participate in the reasoned debate Jim...

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  11. This is fantastic we are debating with no power imbalances it doesn't come better than that. I liked the old service better too, the people we worked with were central not the "tools"

    papa

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    1. Just shifting off topic a moment.
      But Grayling in the mail today was trying to shift the blame for the prison crisis onto unforeseen circumstances- the Saville effect.
      In light of that 'interview - statement or propaganda exercise - whatever) this is an extremely interesting development!
      Don't want to change the topic, but its worth noting.

      http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-31003716

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  12. This is quite extraordinary reading. Being but an admin bod but also involved in a piece of work on PSR improvement, a while back. One of the things we tried to address was to ensure that clients were made fully aware presentence, what was expected of them, if a condition was being proposed. The experience was that anxious people would agree to absolutely anything to avoid custody but then go into denial post-sentence and swear they had agreed to nothing of the sort. The revelation here, that a man was ordered to undertake something he had no forewarning about or assessment of suitability for, makes for shocking reading. It is quite plainly, from the description above, an exercise in shaming, no more. If we think that works, fine, but public stocks would be a lot cheaper (I'm being satirical). Tony

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    1. I aimed - but did not always achieve it - to offer clients about who I had written a PSR or Parole report a chance to read it and question me about the contents before court or the parole board hearing took place - I recall many early morning pre court cell interviews for the purpose over many years, admittedly before 1997 after when I did little PSR work because I worked in a prison or after that mostly with serving prisoners or parolees.

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    2. I just can't stop myself - my 4 and a half-th comment today - I think I should go anon! Andrew, I do indeed remember. In the 90's it was essential that we offered 2 PSR appts - minimum, one to write up the report - then one to go through it with the client, to see if I had got the facts right. I continued that until I moved to another office in 2003, indeed kept on doing it until I was told by admin, that I was the only PO doing that!

      Have to admit, it did help my time management! Just a tad..

      But - remember gatekeeping?? The role of such, circulated each week in the office, and your report could not go to court until it had been gate kept - and those days, pre computer, admin had to re-type. And I have had reports in my first year gate-kept, then the gatekeeping was gate -kept and altered and then on one occasion I went mad and changed it back to my original words, and my manager said 'that's much better'!

      And I swear that is true.

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    3. I have to disagree with the above post. My original OS stated that he saw no need for me to do any OB work and in any case even if he did want to recommend something there were no suitable courses available that he knew of to put me on to. Two years later I had an OS who tried to get me on every OB course known to man just because she could and I was promptly rejected as unsuitable/not meeting criteria for all of them much to her disgust. Then about three months later at a different prison a course magically appeared on my sentence plan that had never been discussed with me and that no PO will admit to placing on the sentence plan. The OS and head of OMU even admitted that it made no sense for me to do the OB course that miraculously appeared on the plan because I did not need it or fit the criteria for it but they then decided that I'd better do it anyway simply because it was on the plan. So I spent 8 weeks doing a really dumb OB course that had absolutely no relevance to me or my offence simply to tick a box. It was a complete waste of time and money.

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  13. I must be on a roll today - my 3rd comment. But I have to say, recalling the years when I grappled with quality client time versus feeding the one-eyed ever hungry info chewing monster on my desk, it is very satisfying to see the general opinions of users or ex users, and I feel vindicated at last.

    Through my prior experience in work with youth and young adults, and my own nature - developed with the help of my own caring parents long ago -, when I was working with exasperating, even dangerous offenders I would always see the damaged defensive child behind the grown-up, and explore their individual childhood experiences. And oh, what that often revealed, and offered opportunities to link into their later behaviour to address and support. And then I would get reprimanded by my manager for researching too much and spending too much time with offenders. But - like many of my colleagues - I received many thank you cards and chocolate from grateful offenders, at the end of their Order, or sentence, one who I will never forget, saying, 'I wish someone had spoken to me years ago, the way you have spoken to me now'.

    But - I was once told by my ACPO (now ACO) that although I did 'amazing work with the most dangerous, violent offenders which no one else would go near - if it isn't recorded, it didn't happen'. Ironically, all my high risk cels were recorded in detail, and I kept brief notes on paper, written as we talked, or immediately after, on every file to later be typed up - but I would not type directly onto the computer as I talked to them, as it de-personalised and acted as a barrier to engagement. And of course 'timely' meant 'targets met', and stuff the individual spilling out of horrors buried deep in their pyche.

    As a result, a brand new manager decided that Capability proceedings would be required against me, taking up even more of my time with meetings and union involvement. That went on for 6 months, until the Service realised that NO ONE worth their salt was able to keep up with the paperwork, and Capability proceedings faded out.

    I am not the super saint it sounds like, and I have had my fair share of threats. There are lots of officers like me, then and now, with compassion and common sense, firmly believing that the current behaviour is unlikely to stop unless the client has addressed the oft long buried causes. And just sometimes - it works.

    Sadly, some brill officers are now being limited in the amount of quality work they can do.

    I will now shut up.

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    1. almost shutting up - I meant to say ' grateful EX- offenders'.. on 13 32.

      Delete
    2. Grateful People sounds best.

      Delete
  14. To Andrew... I have the same abilities and mechanism to not re-offend as I did on the day I was arrested: don't do it again! Hopefully I demonstrated enough during SOTP that I have sufficient awareness as to where and when I did offend, locations, time of day etc but that is by the by, if I do not reoffend then it is of no consequence where I go, and ML self awareness does not appear to count a jot in SOTP, you'd may as well act as thick as a brick, come the end of the sessions you'll get the same nonsensical assessment either way, there's no reward if you demonstrate insight, you have to do whatever your court requirements are and my PO made it quite clear to me that it was a simple case of attend SOTP or go to Prison.


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    1. Thanks, I think there is research that shows that for some the only prompt needed for change to be stimulated is detection, so a police caution or conditional discharge + where appropriate compensation order MAY suffice as a response, especially for a first offence. Others need/welcome(sometimes) more attention.

      It can be hard to know what is needed from one interview & little other information, though repeat offences can be indicative.

      I complement our blogger on his achievements & hope eventually his understandable resentment diminishes.

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    2. I am really engaged by the guest blog today as I have struggled with the SOTP concept and the 'one size fits all' mentality, as a practitioner. I noticed that colleagues who trained as facilitators started to set themselves apart and talk in terms of "working therapeutically" which on one level made me laugh at their pomposity but, eventually started to jar.
      Many service users agree to SOTP at the PSR stage on the advice of their legal reps "if you are offered a programme take it, it is your only chance to avoid custody". So to be fair, engagement was always going to be an issue for those men.
      I always see each of my service users for supervision weekly whilst on the programme, it is the only supportive way to work. I am very concerned about those who learn to talk the programme talk to demonstrate progress without achieving any real insight. In my professional assessment most effective work is done during supervision taken at the service users pace and with genuine dialogue.Sometimes there simply has to be a safe place to discuss what needs to be discussed and that can never be in group work with the video running in my opinion. That said, I have also seen service users benefit from the programme too.
      What should be resisted at all costs is any practitioner off loading their responsibility to their service users that SOTP is the only means of working for change and somehow taking their foot off the pedal during supervision. I have seen this with colleagues honestly.
      I am aware from today's blog that the group work can be traumatic for the service users not, as we had all been led to believe, because they were facing their behaviours, but rather by having to listen to the behaviours of others. I had not considered that before and will reflect on this.
      Change is NOT evidenced by psychometric testing, it is evidenced by no more harm being done ( not the same as reconviction).

      Delete
    3. Thanks for the understanding response, I'm sure there are Facilitators/Managers who feel similarly, doesn't stop them from continuing to implement these abusive policies.

      Delete
  15. I'm so tempted to name names...

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  16. There are Facilitators who are no doubt well aware that what they do has the high potential to cause more harm than it is worth, none of them have come here to address why they continue to uphold the rubbish, is it the misplaced equanimity I wonder?

    I am waiting patiently...

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  17. As a Probation Officer of some experience, I think today's blogger is spot on. The reality is that each programmes team has a target to have x number of 'completions' per year and that is all that matters - I think 'guest blogger' this is what the facilitators try to hide from you, and I don't think favourably that we speak of 'completions' rather than about people who have completed a pathway.

    These cognitive behavioural based groups (accredited programmes) were implemented because their effect could be measured, not because they were effective. Now that their impact has been measured the evidence seems to point to the fact they are both expensive and ineffective when compared against the alternative - an individual one to one approach between an experienced, knowledgeable and empathetic PO and client. The problem is that the evaluations show that they work for some people, but as the guest blogger points out, what about the people who find it torture and destructive - this element has never been measured. It is only by measuring destructive and constructive outcomes that any real evidence of effectiveness and value could be measured.

    I have had several men on my caseload for indecent exposure and only ever insisted that one go through full treatment. As practitioners we have to be more assertive with the corporate nonsense that these programmes work without exception, and also concede that for many lower end sexual offenders the risk is of 'over treatment'. We use the blunt RM2000 assessment tool to determine 'treatment pathways' and to my mind that is crazy. Each person should be interviewed after their Treatment Needs Analysis is completed and a more collaborative approach taken.

    Well done Guest Blogger! I'm sure if we were in conversation you would have some difficult and hurtful things to say about the way I work, but a mature and realistic PO should be able to take that. I would just ask that you try to get whatever positive crumbs you can from a negative experience, and not blame the facilitators who have been 'trained' rather than educated into their role. In my area these people are decent and of genuine empathy to people's plights, especially those who have become very vulnerable through their convictions, publicity, loss of employment, family and supports.

    And by the way, empirical evidence shows that the group of people who deny their sexual offending are less risky than the group that admit it and go through treatment. Now let's think about that for a while!

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    1. "And by the way, empirical evidence shows that the group of people who deny their sexual offending are less risky than the group that admit it and go through treatment. Now let's think about that for a while!"

      Are you suggesting that from your own empirical observations that participation in an SOTP is of the likelihood to trigger reoffences?

      Delete
    2. Well either you are or it is another example of the open-ended multiple interpretation statements made by Facilitators...

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    3. Anon 20:17

      Hang on. I didn't say that at all. All I am saying is that if you split the national sex offender caseload in two - between deniers and non-deniers the evidence suggests that the deniers have a lower reconviction history. I'm absolutely not saying that SOTP interventions cause offending. I'm saying we should think about pathways before blindly 'challenging offending behaviour' which to me seems like a little naïve sometimes when it only breeds resentment and poor treatment outcomes. Indeed, the whole suite of SOTP courses is being replaced with a suite of programmes that focus on a strengths, rather than deficits, based approach, and this will include deniers. My worry though is that there will be even less discretion for allowing some people not to do the courses.

      The evidence does point towards us over-treating the lower risk sex offenders, and we absolutely shouldn't be filling up courses with these cases just to achieve nationally prescribed 'completion' targets. That to me seems to be the whole point of the author's commentary - his personal experience is based on feeling like he is a part being processed rather than properly engaged with, and the experience has left him feeling bitter.

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  18. Only snag is, Anon Client 1, is that there is no way of knowing who reads this blog. You may need to factor in to your enquiries that perhaps not many SOTP facilitators do!
    Deb

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    1. I know for a fact that the Facilitator who wrote my report reads this blog.

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    2. So are you waiting for him/her to specifically respond, or are you hoping to hear from other SOTP facilitators who might also be reading the blog?
      Deb

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    3. Any SOTP Facilitator or Manager who cares to read the blog and explain to me precisely why they choose this particular area to work in... I'm not going to hold my breath.

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    4. Well, in their absence I'll chuck in my two pennyworth if that's ok. I found your blog very interesting and it does no one in the field any harm to hear a participants perspective. However, I really dont think it was the deliberate intention of any programme author to vicitimise the participants by making them listen to material they find personally difficult. Perhaps its time for a rethink. In fact, there are programmes around that are not offence specific so provide the freedom to discuss generalities rather than focus on an individual's offence per se. As ever, some people gain a lot from doing a programme; others nothing, so I always encourage my probationers to approach a programme with an open mind and see if may they find some of it useful. I never expect anyone to swallow the lot hook line and sinker, and am a bit concerned if it looks as if they have..... But none of this will replace the constructive professional relationship built with the probationer over time.
      Deb

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    5. Cheers Deb, I agree, unfortunately despite those on this blog who have some nice dreams about what you used to do or what you could do in some mythical future probation paradise you are further away from being in the position to create constructive professional relationship than you have ever been at any time in your history.

      Do yourselves a favour and resign.

      Delete
  19. "TR Briefing for Napo Branches ? Update": -

    http://www.napo2.org.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=926

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    1. I have read with interest the link on napo2 above Andrew - thank you for post. To many staff, Union and Non-Union members failed to listen to the risks TR posed and simply were to apathetic to fight. NAPO tried, but got of the starting block to late and Unison just did not really do an awful lot because their membership in Probation is not large enough to make a costly fight worth their while. I anticipate being out of a job within weeks, not because I do not care or serve my clients well, but because I do not prioritise the feeding of a machine. I know not of one public sector service which has been privatised, which in some way has not courted controversy over increased costs to customers/services users and taxpayers with the additional demise of a poorer customer/service user experience. Reading and hearing the latest news today on the privately run prison HMP Northumberland will come as no surprise to any Prison/Probation staff and I suspect no surprise to the MOJ either. This Government and indeed preceding Government have long hoodwinked the public into thinking taxpayer money is being saved. It is only when it is too late that the truth begins to unfold - Labour have much to answer for with PFI deals within our NHS and lets be fair they have played in significant part in the privatisation of both our Prisons and now Probation. I hope I survive long enough to watch the fall out from Probation privatisation, it will come sooner rather than later I am certain of that. Sadly it will come at a significant cost, sadly this will not just be a financial one. How many of our prisons are described as power kegs just waiting to blow, how many are seeing increased suicides, increased assaults on staff and inmates alike, how many have become overrun by illicit drugs and legal highs. Watch the future headlines for both the publicly run National Probation Service and privately run Community Rehabilitation Companies - to quote a Jim Brown Blog Headline - the future is bleak, very bleak for all.

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    2. Your wages are not being affected. So what?

      Delete
  20. " On the 26th January 2014 the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, gave a keynote speech outlining his vision to reform the criminal justice system. This event was hosted jointly by the Centre for Social Justice and the Prison Reform Trust. A copy of the speech is below "

    http://www.napo2.org.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=927

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  21. So, if an offender says 'it's ok. I don't need treatment because I know I will never do it again', that's enough? If an offender doesn't accept the value of an intervention, that intervention has no value? If an offender spends hours researching the effectiveness of a programme instead of engaging with it, it has no value? If we accept that premise, uncritically, we have no role.

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    1. Well think of it like this... unless you lock everybody up and throw away the key there is no possible way of knowing that what you do has an effect on either preventing or exasperating the likelihood of reoffence, what you could do is take an holistic, individualised approach in a comfortable setting away from the barbed bitchiness inherent in SOTP.

      Perhaps restorative justice is the way forward? As I see it if anybody has some defence to make of SOTP it's due to their own private fantasies of being in a position of power over others...

      But it's unsurprising to me that SOTP is now the jewel in the crown of the NPS, it has been preempting TR for a quarter of a century.

      Delete
  22. The probation service in any guise will never work until it realises these basic home truths and changes completely and provides an individually tailored approach to each offender that is non judgemental or preconceived or uses any of the current "tools".

    Blimey that pretty much describes the Service I joined and was swept away partly because of 'inconsistent' practice!
    It does doesn't it !!
    Interesting comments , fairly easy to tell which commentators have 'trained' in the last 15 years or so !

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  23. I have been seriously abused by my experiences with the probation service and those who work for it may well have the best intentions but unfortunately the lesson for you all to learn is that despite your best intentions you will continue to uphold abusive policy.

    The only positive that I shall take from my probation experience is that I shall not trust anybody again, you're not a service that is fit for purpose. I am now off to shed a tear and let some blood.

    Can you see where I come from when I say you deserve every problem TR brings to you. If you are questioning your employment in the service then TR is a blessing in disguise, you have been implementing highly psychologically abusive policy for many a year.

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  24. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The nature of probation intervention is such that its rare to get positive or negative feedback from those we've worked with. One case on 23 years has told me of their appreciation of my work with them. Several (fewer than 10 that I know of) have made formal complaints which were approx 50:50 justifiable & nonsense. Of those justifiable, I had one-on-one meetings with al and we came to some agreement. In terms of sexual offences, I had one person accept they were being defensive and 5 adamant they were innocent & I was victimising them. No-one ever said they were guilty, culpable but felt further damaged by the intervention/s.

    But that's just one PO in the last 23 years. I inderstand your argument in principle, I just don't think its that simple - for either the academics who claim success or the clients who claim its a fuck up. I remain convinced that the financial commitment to sotp over-rides data that is honest.

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    1. Whatever piece of shit is put in front of you you will uphold it wont you?

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    2. Stop fooling yourselves that you are there for the benefit of your Clients. You are there to line your own pockets no matter what crap you are presented with by your superiors. TRUTH

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    3. I'm sorry. You started this discussion quite rationally, but you are descending into a caricature of someone who didn't get the bus fare he was hoping for. My experience of Probation is that there are people in the service who are a little deluded with their sense of power, but a vast majority come into the job to help others. They are usually bright intelligent people who could have made more money doing other things, but were never motivated by personal profit.

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    4. 22:43 You are right. I am not there for the benefit of the people on my caseload. I am there for their victims.

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    5. Anon client 1 - I am anon 22:33 & I was trying to argue your case had merit, not discredit your views. Your anger & resentment is blinkering/limiting your understanding. Please take a step back & re-read how the day has gone. You had made some progress, until you resumed irrational ranting. Take five, tiger. It won't change with a single blog.

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    6. Oh and you think by abusing the People on your caseload you are not creating more victims yourself?

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    7. We dont 'line our pockets' - we do a job, and actually, at the end of the day, if you really dont want to have any dealings with this probation service 'crap' in any format, it is probably best to avoid breaking the law.
      Deb

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    8. Nothing will change with you lot implementing abusive policies and not thinking less about it.

      The best people leave the probation service it's the shits that stay.

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    9. Yes Deb I broke the law, I expected to be punished and given help to rehabilitate, instead the probation service have been a major part in creating the wreck that I am today.

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    10. I can tell you that I have been a PO for many years, and live in the same town that I work in. I have never had any animosity in my community, and when I see ex-clients we both stop and have a good chat. The same goes for my colleagues. You are clearly speaking from your own personal experience, but please don't try to represent that this is the view of all or a majority of people who come through our doors.

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    11. Why did you keep going to the group programme? Why didn't you breach it, get taken back to court and explain your reasons for not attending?

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    12. Started off as a rational blog providing some insight into SOTP and the view of a participant caught in the headlights but has descended into trolling. Any sympathy I had has evaporated. It's not the rest of the world, it's you.

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    13. Very few stop going to SOTP, unlike other programmes. They find value in it and their relationships with the facilitators are usually very positive. I think the symptoms of your PD are coming out. Please don't blame the PD on us though. PD is something that develops during people's youth, usually as a response to trauma, identity difficulties or attachments.

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    14. I am not well

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    15. Then ask for help and be patient with those you ask.

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  25. Off topic but it seems a prison in Kent has been closed http://prison-governors-association.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Press-Release-27_01_15-Temporary-Closure-Blantyre-House.pdf

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    1. PRESS RELEASE
      ANNOUNCEMENT – TEMPORARY CLOSURE: HMP BLANTYRE HOUSE
      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
      The Prison Governors' Association (PGA) is surprised to learn this morning that NOMS are to temporarily close HMP Blantyre House in Kent. The PGA has not been consulted on this decision and it leaves us with some major concerns as to the under-usage of the capacity within the open estate.
      We are led to believe that this decision has been borne out of the inability to recruit enough prison officers into some of the prisons in the South of England, and in particular the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, which has been widely reported by most media outlets.
      NOMS have previously stated there would be no further prison closures in this Parliament and therefore the PGA will seek assurances that this is just a temporary measure and there are no further planned temporary or permanent prison closures.
      National Officers
      PGA

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  26. You want me to die.

    ReplyDelete