Thursday, 5 February 2015

Guest Blog 22

“Go ahead and judge me, just remember to be perfect for the rest of your life”

At the invitation of Jim, I am writing a guest blog for the site looking at the experience of probation from the client’s point of view and touching on some of the points made in various recent posts about the probation service.

I wish I could say that my experience of probation has been a positive one but it has, unfortunately been anything but. This applies to probation both inside prisons and outside in the community. To date I have had five different offender supervisors and four offender managers in four and a half years. Just one of those individuals, an offender supervisor, was what I would deem even competent at the job and who treated me as a human being and did anything to help. The rest have left a lot to be desired on a professional level. This, to me is a shocking indictment that lays bare a crisis in the probation service that seems not to be touched on at all by anything I’ve read in the media or on blogs and goes far beyond the current reorganisations and the chaos thereby caused. The attitude of a large percentage of probation staff towards clients appears to be, at best, unproductive and, at worst, offensive and potentially a breach of legal rights.

At the end of the day, all of the OM’s and OS’s, bar the one mentioned, have treated me as nothing more than a crime statistic; an attitude everyone who has been in prison gets heartily sick of because it appears to be the default setting of the majority of prison staff, that is when they aren’t treating you as a really really stupid child.

Absolutely none of my OM’s and OS’s have bothered getting to know me as a human being or have attempted to find out what my background is (no PSR was done so there is nothing in my file about my background). I apparently came into being the moment I was imprisoned and everything that went before is completely irrelevant according to these various OM’s and OS’s simply because it is not in the file. If it’s not in the file apparently it doesn’t exist. Quite how I managed to get through life to my late 40’s apparently not existing is perplexing.

On a personal level, I find this attitude highly offensive, not the least of which is that a crime statistic didn’t commit any crime, a human being did. I am the sum of my experiences and if you do not understand where I come from you will not be able to understand what I did or where I am going or what I need to get there.

On a more esoteric level this complete lack of interest in me as a human being is really disturbing. How can anyone possibly help me to lead a law abiding life, help me reduce my risk of committing crime and help me turn my life around if they have not the slightest understanding of me as an individual, as a human being or even any interest in getting to know that human being? All the assessment tools in the world will fail to accurately predict my actual risk or my actual needs if you do not engage with me and ask those very basic questions that for some really bizarre reason simply do not get asked. Ever. These are:

What caused you to offend in the first place?

And what would stop you from reoffending in the future?

I know the answers to those central questions. Absolutely no probation officer does because they simply haven’t bothered to ask these questions. Therefore every single OASys or other assessment that has ever been done of me is a waste of paper because these central and essential questions have not been asked. This is clearly a major failing in the system and appears to be directly due to a total lack of interest in the offender as a person.

“But we have no time to get to know clients” I hear many voices wail. Really? You don’t have the time or the interest in making the time to get to know the client? Just consider that there may well be a lot less breaches of licence and community sentences and a lot less offences committed by people on licence if you did.

If you really did have a genuine interest in getting to know your client and this attitude was built into all interactions with a client this would raise your ability to accurately predict risk and identify needs and problems as assessments would be based on actual fact and accurate information rather than guesswork, assumption and personal bias. You’d also build up a relationship based on trust and mutual respect which could only be beneficial for everyone involved. On a personal level I’m far more likely to be open and honest and forthcoming if I believe that that person has a genuine interest in me and is someone I can trust to act in my best interests and who works with me not against me. I can’t see that this would be any different for anyone else.

I would suspect that any offender if asked would be able to tell you, based on their actual experience of probation, what they understand the role of a probation officer is. We also understand what it SHOULD be and the huge gulf that exists between the two. Theory and practice simply do not meet.

Shouldn’t one of the central tenets of a probation officer’s role be to get to know and understand the client and what their needs actually are (as opposed to what their perceived needs are) so that you are able to tailor any challenges and interventions to the actual, real, tangible needs of the client? If you don’t bother to engage the human being and get to know the human being and only go by what is in a file (which is quite often completely inaccurate with incomplete information and in some cases information that is so wildly wrong as to verge on defamatory) how can anything you do possibly be argued to be of any use, relevance or applicable?

What follows on from this is absolutely no probation officer actually understands what my needs are and makes decisions based on an assessment of what they think my needs are which bears zero relation to what the needs are. They certainly don’t understand my needs better than I do - after all I am the one living my life and not my PO. I live my life every day; they see me once a month for 20 – 30 minutes and an awful lot less than that when I was in custody. I am not stupid (in fact I have more qualifications and a much higher IQ than my current OM). I am perfectly capable of analyzing my behaviour accurately especially after having undergone several years of very productive counselling both in and out of custody. I know myself and my needs far better than my current OM who has never made the slightest effort to get to know me as a human being in the two years she has had my file. She wields enormous power over me and clearly relishes being able to wield such power over people leading to what I can only describe as the most dysfunctional relationship I have ever had with anyone to the extent that I feel physically sick with stress and worry in the 48 hours before each monthly meeting.

Challenging me, which Jim has said is the role of probation (whatever happened to befriend and advise?), is a fruitless exercise because the challenge is being made without the proper knowledge behind it. I have already identified the problems, the needs and yes, the wants, which to be frank are often completely indistinguishable from the needs. I know what needs to be put in place to help me get back on an even keel and lead a law abiding life. My PO doesn't because she has never bothered to get to know me in any way in the past two years. Our “conversations” degenerate into total farce as a result.

In fact, nothing any PO has ever said to me has been in any way helpful, reasonable, viable or useful in terms of either analyzing my behaviour, challenging it or providing help and support as to the way forwards because they have pretty much zero knowledge of me as a human being, of the way I think and how I view the offence. Of course this may be down to PO's who are simply bad at their jobs and who really shouldn't be working in probation just as there are a significant number of prison officers who took the job so that they can legitimately bully people and shouldn't therefore be in the job.

Ironically considering challenge is supposed to be a central feature of the probation relationship, I've noticed that PO's don't like to be challenged by clients over anything even when the client is wholly justified such as when a PO breaches a client’s legal right. Why? It’s a very hypocritical stance to take. If someone is able to challenge me about my failings, I am certain able to and will turn round to judge them for their failings whether that be a failure to do the job properly and in accordance with the law or whether that is an actual breach of my legal rights. If I am expected to take responsibility for my actions so is the PO. It’s hardly unreasonable to expect that a PO does their job in accordance with the law and the provisions laid out in the various PI’s at the very least, leaving aside anything else and I very much doubt anyone would disagree with me on that. Yet simply because someone is a probation officer this apparently gives them leave to never accept responsibility for any of their actions. Being a PO does not mean that you have some magical get out of jail free card that excuses and are absolved of any failure of responsibility. Stones and glass houses and all that.

I agree with Jim that the relationship between client and PO shouldn't be about winning popularity contests but there is a huge difference between winning a popularity contest and actually treating clients as human beings who have a brain and use it. What the probation relationship should be about is building a genuine meaningful relationship where there is trust and respect on both sides. Where the PO has a genuine interest in the client and in helping them with their actual (as opposed to perceived) needs and the client genuinely does their best to comply with their licence and lead a law abiding life you will have a meaningful, productive and beneficial relationship. It’s not rocket science but it does require that both parties in that relationship invest the same level of commitment into making the relationship work and it isn’t left to just one party to do so. Which appears in the minds of the PO’s and also management to be the sole responsibility of the client.

I’ve had some interaction with management due to being forced to file a complaint about my PO. I was very patronisingly informed by a senior manager that it was MY responsibility and mine alone to build a productive relationship with my OM. Excuse me? Any relationship is a two way street and both parties in the relationship need to put in the effort to build a productive working relationship not just one party. We’ve all had at least one relationship in our lives where we did all the giving and the other party did all the taking and know how destructive that relationship was. But apparently management does not consider it part of a PO’s role to make any effort to build a productive relationship with a client because they have made it abundantly clear that my OM has no responsibility at all to make any effort to build a productive working relationship with me. No wonder there is no interest from the OM in doing this.

Unfortunately my experience is far from unusual. During the time I was inside and since release I have talked to hundreds of people who have firsthand experience of the probation service. Sadly, very few of them have had positive experiences of probation because of the way probation officers both inside and outside of prison treat their clients. Oh the client may tell you to your face when they leave supervision that you’ve helped them and no doubt some of them will genuinely mean it. But far from all of them.

Most of them are probably telling you what you want to hear. Just as 99% of those going on offender behaviour courses tell the course facilitators what they want to hear. Sorry if this comes as a surprise. I’ve seen so many offenders literally blow sunshine up the ass of the course facilitator and their probation officer simply to be able to progress/get parole/get probation off their back and not mean a single word of what they are saying.

They are simply playing the game because that is what the system is all about at the end of the day. Just like the judicial system is not about finding out the truth of what happened but about which side plays the game the best, progression through prison or probation in the community is not based on understanding why you committed an offence and putting in place concrete and productive steps to ensure you don’t reoffend, it’s about keeping probation happy with your answers by telling them what they want to hear and fulfilling the tick box mentality that appears to exist throughout the sector even if you don’t mean a word of it. This also strikes me as a wholly dishonest way of running anything. Ticking boxes, fulfilling criteria, hearing what you want to hear seems to be more important than building productive working relationships with human beings. Absolute madness.

Prisons do not work in cutting or reducing crime no matter what Michael Howard and Chris Grayling like to think. Probation does not work either. Sorry to burst the bubble. I’m pretty sure that the recent statistical reduction in people reoffending whilst on probation has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the probation service but is more likely to be a direct result of people doing what needs to be done themselves to get their lives straightened out.

Until the whole ethos of probation changes, probation is going to fail as a service. I honestly can’t see how reporting to a kiosk once a month is going to be any less advantageous to either client or service provider than the current system is because the current system is failing clients for the most part. In fact for a lot of people it may well be more productive. I’m aware that politics and political rhetoric and agendas have overtaken probation and changed it from its original goals and ways of working but that does not excuse the change in attitude of either probation management or probation staff towards clients which has apparently occurred over time.

I do not know what the answer is nor whether the changes that are occurring in the system will make it better or worse but I can categorically state that probation will continue to fail clients for as long as the majority of PO’s fail to see or treat clients as human beings.


Probation Client.

44 comments:

  1. Thank you for taking Jim up on his offer of a guest blog. Speaking personally, I felt that a lot of your previous comments have come across as hostile, even deliberately so. But I appreciate your efforts in fleshing them out and putting your point of view across in this way.

    Again speaking personally, I always try to develop some kind of relationship with my clients. Some people aren't interested in that, or don't feel they can trust me, and that's fair enough. I always ask the question about why they feel they have offended, though. Sometimes I don't believe the answers, or don't agree with them, but that's a matter for us to resolve.

    You say that you've had several different OMs and OSs over the years - that's never a recipe for a good working relationship! Personally I strongly dislike getting cases transferred from colleagues for the same reason - the client has made the effort to allow someone to get to know them, and then they're faced with repeating the same thing over again. I do wonder, though, whether an early bad experience with an OM led to you being labelled "difficult"? Not that that excuses anyone from trying to engage with you subsequently, but it might explain it.

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    1. I do find it amusing that I am labelled difficult by probation and was also labelled this way in prison simply for standing up for my rights and wishing to be treated as a human being with a brain, no matter how politely and reasonably I may do so. It's really nothing more than common courtesy after all to be treated with courtesy and respect but it appears that you are no longer even entitled to common courtesy when you've been convicted of a crime

      I liken it to people who are devoted to their particular religion but who are completely unable to engage with you in a meaningful debate about why that particular religion is so great/better than all the others/the "truth" above all other religions and so on.

      Surely if your religion is the truth you should be able to engage with people about it and be able to answer questions on it. But people seem to get very upset with you when you do this or even assert that your own religion is better/more truthful etc than theirs is..

      The prison and probation systems function in exactly the same way towards the client..

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  2. Excellent post, Probation Client. Sad to hear, but not surprising. I doubt the new format of NPS/CRC provision will help probation providers deliver what you argue for because that was the old hat & much maligned way of working; expensive, time consuming, not focused on maintaining records, collusive, not punitive, etc etc.

    For many years I and many other 'dinosaurs' have placed our caseloads at the centre of our work. Over the last 15/20 years this approach has been rubbished. I would suggest your experiences are the embodiment of the NOMS-driven policies of "offender management" as opposed to the practice of a Probation Officer... many of whom have now had enough of the rise of control & command, & are leaving, me included.

    But I wish you well.

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    1. It might be old hat and old fashioned but that way of working is going to be far more effective than a relationship where I'm constantly judged and spoken down to. If I have a productive working relationship with my OM, I'm going to be able to talk to the OM if things are going wrong and be able to ask for help and be confident I will get it. If I don't have that sort of relationship they are going to be the last person I talk to about problems which will probably mean things will go horribly wrong, I'll do something stupid and end up being recalled. I would suggest that an awful lot of recalls happen for this very reason and are directly due to a failure in the OM/client relationship. Yes some of that may be the client's fault but, as I noted in my post, two people are in the OM/client relationship so the OM will bear some of the responsibility for any failures.

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    2. The new paradigm of 'offender management' has driven priorities towards achieving targets set by remote bureaucrats. What used to be a role with 80% of the working week (& more) as direct client contact has been turned around to 80% chained to a computer inputting data & reading pointless email directives.

      That leaves me 30 hours a month to see 64 people, 23 of whom I have to see weekly. So in effect that's 30 hours for 130 appointments in a 4 week period.

      Like the teaching profession, where the experienced qualified professionals are locked in a cupboard processing data whilst the teaching assistants are delivering the lessons. BONKERS!

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  3. It's depressing to see that someone can still be lumbered with such an acute external locus of control in their late 40s, but then I guess if you're so committed to seeing all the problems affecting your life as being other people's problems then there'll really have been little opportunity for anyone to help you to broaden you perceptions. Your attempt to pathologise a Probation Officer exercising the responsibilities of her position as her relishing the wielding of power is a clumsy, but less than surprising presumption that everyones outlook on life and on relationships with others is the same as your own. There's little wonder that you feel you've gained nothing from contact with Probation staff if you perceive supervision solely as a battle of wills, where you have to decry and deny every effort to help you in order to 'win'. It doesn't have to be like that, but that's up to you....

    Simon Garden

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    1. Interesting point of view but I would also note that my counsellors have also said that I go out of my way to look at and understand other people's points of view. I would also note that if you knew me you would also know that I do not expect everyone to have the same attitude to anything as I do. Nor do I view any problems in my life as being caused by other people. I am well aware of where I go wrong, what the triggers are etc and that I am responsible for my own fate. I'd also note that I had productive relationships with prison officers in every prison I was in. I have productive relationships with family and friends, colleagues and seem to manage that with people that I come into contact with through every day life. I would like a productive relationship with my OM. I've wanted one with all my OM's and OS's but met with at best total disinterest. And my experience is far from unusual.

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    2. So the only ones you *don't* get along with are the ones charged with the responsibility for helping you to take responsibility for your own behaviour? Hmnnnnn...

      Simon Garden

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    3. I have read a lot on this blog over the years which has been highly critical of the probation service in terms of its management, direction and its values. And much of this criticism has been valid, coming from various perspectives. So few are in denial and many are aware of shortcomings.

      However, I share Simon's sentiments on this one. I tried to read, got halfway and gave up. It's just too self-possessed and self-indulgent – and it becomes a boring diatribe.

      It is easy to knock any service or institution if you hold utopian views. What would satisfy this writer? The drumbeat seems to be one of treat me like a human being – a widely-shared aspiration, best achieved perhaps if we always try to take the initiative and live by example.

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    4. Simon Garden in a character out of "The Parole Officer" so whomever is behind the postings clearly wanders through the probation office like they are in some hollywood movie.

      You are all little pieces of shit swimming about in a toilet bowl.

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    5. Well look, it's clear that this Gentleman who has contributed this blog today has not received the service he feels he deserves from PO's/OM's in work time and by looks of it he's being lynched by PO's/OM's outside of work time.

      Interesting that.

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    6. The post obviously hit a very sore spot with Mr Garden and Netnipper. The Probation Client is more than entitled to his views on the service because that is his experience of the service. I suspect it is also unfortunately the experience of a lot of probation's clients in the current day and age. I read the blog as an invitation to look at why clients feel they get a raw deal from probation and a number of posters have responded to this in like spirit. Sniping at someone simply because you disagree with them is counter productive and says more about you than the person making the original post. I do not think it is at all self indulgent to wish to be treated with dignity, respect and common courtesy no matter who you are or whether or not you have committed a crime and are now on probation.

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    7. Uncomfortable reading at times for me speaking as a Probation Officer, but you make many salient points and I think you are spot on in a lot of what you say...unfortunatley. i don't think offending behaviour programmes make a jot of difference for a lot of clients on them. There was once meant to be a period of preparing and looking to motivate people before they went on a course, not any more. I have just taken over a load of cases from another PO and who is nice enough and I like as a colleague. I was sat cringing however at the patronising way she spoke with her clients, using jargon etc and just talking over them. Keep challenging, good on yer! P.S take no notice of Simon Garden whoever he is, it's quite reassuring to see the sanctomonious way he has spoken to you above and gives an insight into what sort of PO or PSO he/she is, he/she has been a constant whinge on this blog since it started.

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    8. 'gives an insight into what sort of PO or PSO he/she is'

      Yeah: not a patronising and collusive one like you - and you think this guest blog makes 'many salient points' but my contributions on here constitute 'whinging'? Your inanity is only surpassed by your ignorance. 'good on yer' indeed...

      Simon Garden

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  4. I have to agree with everyone so far today.
    I found the guest bloggers previous comments quite hostile and bitter, with an unnecessary tone that did little to contribute to the discussion.
    I aldo agree however that the probation service is a fragmented one with its personal identity long lost. However, I can't blame the people who staff the service for that. It's piss poor political policy, and a detatchment of blame for those policies thats ruined the service.
    Once upon a time, a probation officer was a community asset, now (because politics has pushed it that way), they're an agent of the state, bound to proccess that in my view do not belong with the probation service.
    I think their are two types of staff in the service now. Those that joined with a social work based approach, and those that joined more recently under the offender management umbrella. I don't actually think both models intergrate well, it almost recreates the age old arguement of punishment or rehabilitation within the service itself.
    As for the attitudes of staff? Well I've had some nasty ones in recent years, but also some damn good ones and pretty nice people to boot!
    I think its important to be object when engaging with the service. Theres good and bad everywhere, wheather its at the checkout at the supermarket, police force, teachers and so on. But I do think its important to step away from individual experience an look at the whole picture in an attempt to understand why things are like they are.
    Will the new system improve things? Personally I think no. CRCs will still have to explain themselves when a SFO occurs, so will have to evidence their "robust" management plans, which I think will always have an impact on staff/client relationships, and of course theres also money to think about now too. That consideration will also come before the clients needs.
    For my own concerns, I think TR could have a serious impact on my life. Heading to'wards 60 now with decades of acciction related offending behind me, I feel my chances of a custodial sentence next time I'm lifted have increased greatly. Only so I can get the support I need on release that I haven't had up to now. Thats not suitable for me. Nearly 40 years an addict and just as many years of interventions. TR wont help me, but may make my life a lot more difficult.
    But stay objective, look at the whole picture, and don't get soured by individual experience, wheather you're staff or client.

    "Getafix'

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    1. You can easily blame those working for probation, they are more than happy to uphold the crap from MOJ and recieve payment for it.

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  5. Like all such challenges, it smarts because, deep down, we know it is true. The system is now more important than the people it is supposed to serve.

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  6. Off topic, but interesting article here regarding prof. David Wilson, (bring back borstal), that may gather a little momentum.

    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/penal-critic-warns-of-lockdown-in-progress/2018287.article

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    1. A senior academic has accused the Prison Service of stopping researchers critical of government policy from working in UK jails.

      David Wilson, professor of criminology at Birmingham City University, said he “would not be allowed in” to research the state of prisons “because I write stuff that’s critical of what is going on”.

      But the Prison Service branded the suggestion “nonsense”.

      Professor Wilson recalled that research for a 2003 paper he wrote on the life of black men in prison – “‘Keeping Quiet’ or ‘Going Nuts’” – had been carefully managed, with interviewees and institutions pre-screened by the service. But it was still allowed to go ahead, despite criticisms from senior prison officers.

      Suggesting that this would not be the case today, he said: “I meet prison governors every single week. I meet prison staff every single week. It is quite clear to me that I would not be given access to the kind of research that I wanted to do. I think the people who are allowed access are those who have a less critical viewpoint.”

      His comments come as scrutiny of the prison system grows in light of a series of damning investigations.

      Last month, Nick Hardwick, the chief inspector of prisons, published a report into HM Prison and Young Offender Institution Feltham, which found that daily life there was dominated by “unpredictable and reckless” violence.

      Professor Wilson described the report as “the worst I have read”.

      “The chief inspector actually says that if you had a child in Feltham, you would be terrified,” he said. “And yet no scandal seems to be created by that.”

      Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the current system for vetting researchers and allowing them access to prisons was “good”, but was sometimes undermined by ministerial interference.

      “A lot of people want to do research in prisons, [but] these [are] people’s homes, they’re a work environment. You cannot have people trampling round doing research all the time,” she added.

      However, she referred to a recent research proposal looking at sex in prisons that had been turned down. Ms Crook said the bid was “very robust” but “we were given to understand” it had been rejected “as a result of political interference”.

      A former prison governor, Professor Wilson said research into the system was more vital than ever because of its current problems.

      The Howard League published research in 2014 showing that prison suicide levels had reached a six-year high, with Ministry of Justice data revealing that incidents of violence and self-harm were also on the rise.

      Professor Wilson added that reoffending rates were “scandalous…if a school failed to teach four out of five of its children to read, we wouldn’t be trying to work at piecemeal programmes…we’d be saying there’s something fundamentally wrong”.

      A Prison Service spokesman said: “It is nonsense to suggest that those critical of the Prison Service are prevented from accessing prisons. Independent inspectors and legitimate campaigners have full access and report on their findings regularly.

      “We have to balance openness with ensuring prisons continue to operate normally. Sometimes it will not be possible to give everyone access.”

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  7. This is the second guest blog in a week by a client who knows why they offend, what will stop them and how useless the Probation service/criminal justice system has been, in their opinion.

    This is a non sequitur. Why moan?. YOU are far too clever for the likes of this blog. TR is your route to prosperity!. All those ideas to stop your re-offending will obviously be the one size fits all template that has evaded the blinkered thinkers of a century old service. Put in a bid for a CRC, you are wasting your precious intellect. Perhaps you could train up your thicko OMs?. Seize the day!. Pfft.

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    1. I appreciate the sentiment expressed and we are all very stressed - unforgiveably I yelled at a journalist doing a telephone interview recently - but in the spirit of open dialogue and keeping trolling at bay, I'm also trying to facilitate measured discussion of some serious issues. In that vein the invitation to submit a Guest Blog is open to all.

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    2. http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9431352/in-two-years-ive-seen-the-prison-system-fall-apart/

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    3. Anon 10:19

      I come here for a laugh. When you get disgruntled that's when I LOL!

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    4. 15.07. I think you need the Daily Mail website for a proper fix. Go on, knock yourself out!.

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  8. There is also the issue that a lot of people seem to be overlooking which is that in prison the only way you get anything done in a dysfunctional system is by making a hairy nuisance of yourself. Be shy, retiring, meek and mild, polite and respectful and you get ignored, overlooked and dismissed and your needs are not met sometimes with catastrophic consequences in respect of death due to failures in medical treatment or suicides as recent reports of the crisis in the prisons system highlights. You learn that the only way you get your needs met is to be bolshy, aggressive and to kick off when things go wrong. You learn this behaviour as a means of survival in what is often an extremely hostile environment designed to pretty much strip you of humanity.

    Unfortunately it takes a long time after release to unlearn these behaviours. Probation doesn’t help as they continue treating you as you were treated whilst incarcerated. Asking nicely for help and support or even to be treated with the common courtesy due to you as a human being with thoughts and feelings doesn’t work. Being difficult at least does work in that you get treated better and more in accordance with guidelines, PI’s and the law simply because management doesn’t want to deal with complaints and the hassle you can potentially cause them if they don’t treat you with kid gloves

    We have an adversarial judicial system and an adversarial incarceration system. It appears we also have an adversarial probation system in which the two sides are pitted against each other by the politicians by a system that is dysfunctional on a good day and does little to address the causes of offending nor identify the solutions.

    This translates into a crisis in the system above and beyond the current mess caused by Grayling and which won’t change or get solved until there is a fundamental shift in probation’s thinking of offenders and their treatment of the same.

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    1. Anon 11:12 I think a lot of Probation staff are aware of what is required to 'survive' in prison, and make allowances for that when a person is first released. But if I could pull this discussion back to the personal for a moment..... It probably goes without saying that a probation client will be mainly concerned about him/herself and how s/he is treated by Probation, but it should be remembered that a PO/OM may also have 50,60, even 80 other Probation clients they regularly see. Both players in this 'professional encounter' (I'll refrain from calling it a relationship) are human beings, and it is a tad unfair in my view to make one's PO/OM the focal point of one's antipathy with the system and all its failings. Your PO/OM may well share your views, and may have actively campaigned locally and nationally (as in deed you can) to change things via their MP's etc, and feel as frustrated as you do. First impressions count both ways (and I am not referring to what someone has done to get them to Probation), however, to be brutally honest, if you (colloquial you) constantly attend your probation appointments in an attitude of resentment and hostility then I am likely eventually to expend a little less energy on attempting to break down that barrier with you and save it for other clients who are less hard work. Sorry if that offends, but being human cuts both ways and emotional energy/resilience is not limitless, and that's the reality. There is only so much hostility I can suck up in any one week.
      Deb
      PS. The guest blog title cuts both ways.

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  9. Sums up the new robot p.o.

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  10. Excellent blog today. Maybe the best I have read on here. I find it hard to disagree with anything that has been said.

    Rather than its 'clients' I believe Probation's main benefactor has been NOMS, followed by its staff (who get paid reasonably well with decent pensions). After that we are scratching around to include the Courts, Parole Board and, oh yes, the clients.

    I know exactly the sentiment of the blog today and feel it every day I turn up for work. I still feel that we do meet the basic needs of those most in need, and for them we do OK I believe. There are some staff who get seduced by the nice comfy office job and trot out OASys assessments, there are some who are more client centred. Amongst both groups though there are not enough who have real life experience, and can properly empathise with the problems our clients bring through the door. I think that is why the simple questions don't get asked - because not enough staff know how to respond with empathy to the more complex answers. So, I'm dismayed that we are again recruiting young female trainees fresh out of their criminology degrees who may never have actually met an 'offender' or anyone with complex needs. It's a job I looked at when leaving university but only came to after two other careers. Surely life, or at least work experience should be a pre-requisite of becoming a Probation Officer.

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  11. I would be interested to see the Probation Officers view of the difficulties with Probation client, but thank you for giving us an insight into your experiences. One of my first questions after introducing myself is always 'tell me how you got to this place in your life' and find it baffling that any officer wouldn't ask a similar question and then take time to listen to the answer. I was trained in the Dip PS, got to Probation after advise assist and befriend were consigned to the bin and yet all my training, mentoring and peer advice continues to emphasise the individual as key to their own rehabilitation. I also try to pass these values on to new trainees both in discussions and by example. You've either had exceptionally bad luck with your string of officers, other areas work very differently to my experiences or maybe, just maybe something about the way you interact with those staff contributes to what you clearly identify as a negative relationship. Just a thought.

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  12. Sometimes on here you have to be a bit offensive to prove your point, I mean, come here and say you are a Client and that you have had bad experiences with the Service, a few will attempt to make a slight agreement with you, the majority will gang up on you and attempt to take your own experiences to pieces and rubbish them worthless.

    The reasoning behind this: You are an Offender and they are in charge.

    The criticism they have with MOJ, NOMS, Grayling etc are the same ones that they themselves expound towards their Clients on a day to day basis and they themselves so singularly fail to see it. Hypocrites.

    Of course if you uphold your corporate Zen then that's a fine way to be. You can go to work and it's like a mere extension of a reality TV show, no effect on the equanimous mindset...

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    1. As an offender, but not a current client, at least not in the last 9 months, and a regular reader and contributer to this blog, I have to say that my experiences over the years with probstion, (and they've been extensive), have not brought me to a place where I feel as much anger or loathing towards the service as todays guest blogger.
      I agree with him/her that the services extended (and the way their presented to) the client has deminished and reduced over many years now. I also agree that the direction of the service has changed, leaning more towards an extention of custody, rather then support and client needs based ethos.
      But thats NOMS, run from a prison formulated understanding of the CJS, with staff recruited from the prison service. Staff that have been recruited from prison managerial possitions and not from the 'coal face' where really you get the practicle as well as the theory.
      Theres no doubt that the whole of the CJS is broken, courts, prison, probation, cps you name it, its knackered.
      The reason it's broken is because polititions find it an easy target to raise emotion in an attempt to gain votes. Unrealistic promises to victims, longer sentences, less cautions ect ect, all create an unrealistic and somewhat utopian expectation of what the CJS can deliver for them. But as these policies are politically driven by people with no experience of the CJS, they frequently go wrong, or have unforseen consequences or impact on other areas of the CJS. Who takes the rap? Front line staff, whether probation officer police officer or prison officer, anyone but the polititions. It becomes not about resolution of a problem, but the attriubution of blame for allowing that problem to occur. Blame game. And Blame doesn't make a possitive impact on the CJS. It strangles it, prevents it from development.
      IMO, the only way to have a functional and effective CJS is to remove the politics, and allow those at the coal face, trained and qualified, to get on with it.
      I think focusing anger or bitterness at the service as it now presents itself is missing the mark by quite a margin.
      It's a bit like blaming the monkey for the organ grinders mistakes to coin an old phase.

      "Getafix"

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  13. I didn't enjoy this blog - just full of moaning and I don't believe half of it.

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    1. Ah, but which half?

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  14. It may be worth reflecting that nobody 'needs to be perfect for the rest of their lives' - they just need to live within the law. I'm quite sure you could sit and cite chapter and verse about why you are either unable or unwilling to do so, but if you want to know who is mostly to blame look in a mirror. If you dislike your contact with the legal authorities so much, just behave yourself and that problem kind of solves itself...

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  15. Anon 14:54. 17:31 21:05 . Agreed.
    Jim when they said challenge the behaviour..did they say argue ? did they say reject any other perspective than their own ? did they say focus on finding out, presume or assume every possible negative about a person ?

    Is there no significance to the fact that in the accountability and performance world a successful completion of a sentence is accorded the same whether a person is recalled to custody to serve to the end of the sentence OR the person and PO attended every contact over several years without further crime or failure.

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    1. It's quite obvious that many of the comments posted today have been 'responded' to by the same person that made the comments in the first place.
      It's pretty pathetic, and even quite sad really, that someone who appears to be of good intelligence chooses that way to ammuse themselves as it really goes a long way towards destroying some of their arguement.
      Sad.

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    2. Well said

      Simon Garden

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    3. Anon 22:48.perhaps another example of rejecting any other perspective , you may be right in your presumption, but then again you may not.

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  16. Recall doesn't count as a 'successful completion'

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  17. What has happened to this blog? It used to be worthwhile.

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  18. 'I would suggest that an awful lot of recalls happen for this very reason and are directly due to a failure in the OM/client relationship.'

    Your fate is in your hands. You made the decision to commit a crime so stop moaning.

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    1. My very point at 10.19. The superbrain has no sense of self-awareness. I sit here now, having played but a walk on role during the earlier attempts at comprehension of the superbrain and its criminal preoccupation but have to walk away defeated and live off of my gold-plated pension, paid for the superbrain. Trebles all round!.

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  19. It's sad, disappointing and depressing to see such lack of realpolitik and empathy in this individual who points the blame very much at probation staff as individuals. Had we the choice, we'd have caseloads of 12-20 and be trying to make meaningful dialogue - and in cases relationships - with those people. Unfortunately, dystopia rules. I left the community probation office when my caseload was over 100, with Court and Office Duties, training, meetings, child protection meetings, MAPPas, Sentence Plan Reviews and Lifer Panels at prisons all over England,....(contd for the next 94 pages). My life became devoid of any meaningful relations anywhere in it. So, some cheapskate comments from a self-centred individual casting judgement really doesn't impress me. You may have a high IQ but your emotional intelligence is grossly underdeveloped and you lack nous.

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