Saturday, 4 April 2015

Bits and Pieces 3

"You're all missing the point. This blog used to be a forum full of interesting views and perspective on probation and CJ issues. Now it appears to be a site for disgruntled colleagues and others to vent causing anxiety to others. I feel the forum is losing its way so I wanted to put a different spin/perspective on things!"
We try to give customer satisfaction round here, so it's probably high time for another pot pourri of stuff that caught my eye recently. First off, lets mention Ben Gunn who, being a self-confessed 'media tart', unwisely accepted an invitation to make the long hike up to Media City and be wound-up something rotten by James O'Brien on his dreadful new daytime ITV bear-baiting show

It's naughty of me I know, but I don't have a great deal of sympathy as Ben is more used to being the centre of attention for groups of mostly mesmerised female undergraduates. He also has quite a penchant for winding people up himself, but he was comprehensively outshone during this encounter and mightily pissed-off as a result

This appalling programme was only salvaged towards the end by the moving contribution of a woman who spent time visiting the man serving time for killing her son as a way to try and understand the motivation and encourage his rehabilitation. Quite rightly, this example of Restorative Justice got a warm round of applause and the admiration of the audience, but there's no real media interest in this kinda stuff and it was soon lost in a tide of mostly ignorant banality. Sadly it serves to remind us what a great swathe of the public actually thinks.

Over on the Magistrates Blog there has been much discontent expressed regarding Grayling's new Criminal Courts Charge, including this from fellow blogger and recently-retired JP:- 

When some many years ago I contemplated my forced retirement through age from the Bench I imagined that it would be with regret. My exit from the car park after my final sitting last week was without that regret. It had crawed in my throat when so called victim surcharges had to be applied. It has been reinforced by the number of low income defendants deprived of legal aid who have had to be spoon fed their defence by a legal advisor and an increasingly intervening chairman. It boiled over by announcements that county courts had to be self financing and that convicted criminals should in addition to a tick box sentence pay financially for their offending and be transformed into good members of society by an emasculated part privatised probation service. Having resigned from the Magistrates Association long ago that organisation should be headed for the litter basket for all the good it does its members. Enjoy your remaining years Bystander and friends.

Other comments have a depressing familiarity about them:-

I'm leaving after 15 years on the bench. This is the final straw on the camel's back. I'd like to think I made a difference in my time. I simply can't continue and impose these additional, disproportionate charges with a clear conscience. What's next - charging for time spent in the cells? The van to get to court? At least I can walk away - I feel for the paid judiciary who may sympathise but need a salary.

Look, I agree with all the sentiments so far expressed, both here and elsewhere, but...

The reality is that this will happen and judicial office holders will impose the appropriate charge because they have no choice. No doubt some tweaking to this abomination will take place but the main thrust of it will remain. All the sabre rattling and huffing and puffing will change nothing. Resignations? There maybe a few but nothing dramatic and anyway there simply isn't a need for the numbers of magistrates we have now in any event.

Justice is being irreparably damaged but the general public doesn't know it. Their focus is on the NHS/immigration/cuts and any number of other issues. Justice isn't on their radar because most people never come before the courts. They simply fail to grasp the harm being done and cannot see how this erodes our freedom. So, complain away if you like, but no one who can make a difference is listening and the general public don't care.

Following on from Grayling getting another knock back from the courts, this time over the treatment of absconders, 'Jack of Kent' put the boot in by highlighting his extraordinary argument that he's effectively above the law:-

Grayling: the Lord Chancellor who told the High Court to disregard the Rule of Law

In a judgment handed down today the High Court held that yet again the Ministry of Justice under Grayling had acted unlawfully. It may seem strange to some that the very government department running the court system of England and Wales would ever be held to have acted unlawfully. Indeed, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has a duty recognised by statute to uphold the rule of law. But during Grayling’s time at the department, the Ministry of Justice has repeatedly been found to have acted unlawfully.

And today, on his birthday, came from the High Court another judgment that the Ministry of Justice had acted unlawfully, with a very telling passage. The case was about whether Grayling could ignore the Ministry of Justice’s own statutory “Directions” (rules formally made under a statutory provision) when forcing a change of policy about the treatment of prisoners.

The High Court, unsurprisingly to anyone with a basic understanding of public law (in essence, the law which regulates activities of public bodies) held that it was not open to the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice to simply ignore Directions made under a statutory provision. But in a revealing paragraph, the High Court detailed what the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice had instructed a barrister to make as a key submission:

54. Mr Weisselberg’s principal submission in response on this issue in oral argument was as concise as it was striking. The Directions were issued by the Secretary of State. He has the power to amend or revoke them; therefore he has the power to ignore or contradict them. They are not directions to him but by him, and he cannot be bound by them.

This was a remarkable submission. The judge described it as “striking” (which is judge-speak for “utterly bizarre”). It is dismissed with ease by the court:

55. We cannot accept this submission. The Secretary of State could indeed amend or revoke the Directions to the [Parole] Board. But so long as they remain in force they are binding on the Board and also binding on the Secretary of State, in the sense that he cannot lawfully tell the Board to ignore them or his officials to frustrate them.

The current Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice appears to believe that because he makes the rules, it is perfectly fine for him to break the rules.

One problem with this approach is that the rule of law works both ways: you can hardly insist that others should abide by the law if you are happy to casually “ignore or contradict” the law. Another problem is that it shows a serious lack of understanding of the nature of statutory provisions: he could not simply tell his civil servants to “ignore or contradict” Directions he had made under a statutory provision.

In a junior minister all this would be a deplorable attitude. But in the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, it is a disgrace. Grayling may well shrug at yet another court defeat, especially as he will “move on” soon. But paragraph 54 of today’s judgment will provide a lasting memorial to his period in this historic office: the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice who, in all seriousness, one day told the High Court to disregard the rule of law.

Not only are journalists and the Howard League being prevented from visiting prisons, according to this, the prison newspaper 'Inside Time' is being routinely censored:-  

Inside Time vandalism

I write in response to the Mailbag from your March issue titled ‘Inside Time seriously censored by staff’. Though the sender of this letter withheld his name he does raise some very relevant issues about how HMP Garth treat our newspaper. Today is March the 12th and we have only just got the March issue. The front page has been censored; a picture has been blacked out with marker pen. And page 8 also features a blackout in the form of a large black smudge. Whoever ‘vets’ the paper seems to have a colouring-in obsession that is both unnecessary and seemingly rather petulant.

On the subject of the cover being missing from the January issue, I think I may know why. I was told by my girlfriend that a letter from me was printed on page 2 (the inside front cover) and this was the reason the prison censor removed the cover. The letter was complaining about the lack of family ties and was also critical of the healthcare system here. My letter was not in any way offensive to any individual but I did dare to question my treatment for health issues.

I have tried to complain to the number one governor via ‘confidential access’ but was answered by another lesser governor, which is strange because I thought confidential access meant, well, ‘confidential access’ to the number one governor. Anyway I was told that this was not an issue for the governor. So much for the concept of free speech here at HMP Garth.

Editorial note: this letter has been forwarded to NOMS for reply.

Finally, I see that the Probation Institute have elected their new team:-

PI Council elects new Board of Directors

On Tuesday 31 March 2015, the Probation Institute held the first meeting of the newly elected Representative Council in London. The meeting was an opportunity for the new Council members to review the work of the Institute to date, discuss the key priorities for the Institute going forward, and to elect six Directors to the Board.

Council members agreed that the key drivers of the Probation Institute should be the protection of professional standards and training, as well as the promotion of evidence-based practice and policy through the development of the Institute as a centre of excellence.

The Council also considered the nominations of 11 members of the Institute for six Director positions. Representatives chose from a talented pool of candidates, which reflected a wide range of experience and roles across probation practice and academia. As a result the Representative Council has elected the following members of the Institute as Directors:

Doris Emerson-Afolabi

Professor Anthony Goodman

Sue Hall

Laura Martin

Professor Paul Senior

Nick Smart


  1. I see the probation institute likes the usual jargon: it will be driven by 'key drivers'.

    Will they 'look under the bonnet' though, of TR? And will they find what the six blind men found when the examined an elephant and each defined it differently?

    'Council members agreed that the key drivers of the Probation Institute should be the protection of professional standards and training, as well as the promotion of evidence-based practice and policy through the development of the Institute as a centre of excellence.

    I hope it's not too long before we hear the PI's view on kiosks and biometrics and how these sit with the protection of professional standards. And when we see Sodexo's post-redundancy delivery model, how it sits with evidence-based practice.

    I suspect it will be neither fish nor fowl.

    1. i have been trawling websites concerning the use of Bio-metrics and it could fall flat on it's face if people decide to say 'no'. From what I can see, with the exception of passport and the police, people can opt out. As is human nature people when offered to report to kiosk people are going to ask 'what's in it for me?' if the answer is reduced travel/expense then yes, probably the uptake will be good, but other than this, I cant see any reason why people would choose it. Sodexo appear to be putting all their easter eggs in one basket regarding this initiative.

    2. Netnipper, you are so right. I wait with baited breath to hear what the Probation Institute has to say about kiosks and biometrics. A real test of an organisation that aims for excellent professional standards.


  3. "54. Mr Weisselberg’s principal submission in response on this issue in oral argument was as concise as it was striking. The Directions were issued by the Secretary of State. He has the power to amend or revoke them; therefore he has the power to ignore or contradict them. They are not directions to him but by him, and he cannot be bound by them."

    I started to hear an old pop song in my head...

    "Its gettin' it's gettin' it's gettin' kinda hectic
    It's gettin' it's gettin' it's gettin' kinda hectic

    Quality I possess something I'm fresh
    When my voice goes through the rest
    Of the microphone that I am holdin'
    Copywritten lyrics so they can't be stolen
    If they are snap
    Don't need the police to try to save them
    Your voice will sink so please stay off my back
    Or I will attack and you don't want that

    I've got the power
    He's gonna break my heart
    He's gonna break my heart of hearts
    He's gonna break my heart
    He's gonna break my heart of hearts
    He's got the power!!!"

    Probation Flash Mob dancing to Snap in Epsom & Ewell on Polling Day, with the Grayling Puppet leading the 'Merry' dance?

    1. That's the song which prisoners repeatedly sang in their umpteen day revolt on the prison rooftops.

    2. Presumably you're referring to the Strangeway riot, the convenient one that MilkSnatcher's government tried to use to distract attention away from the massive poll tax protests; when media crews (BBC and all) were "directed" to attend at the prison and leave the scene of poll tax protest.

      London, 31 Mar 1990 - Steve Glennon reports:

      "The 31 March demo would clearly be massive. Reports from around the country showed that 800 coaches had been booked and campaigners were finding it difficult to book any more, as coach firms had run out of vehicles. So we decided that Trafalgar Square would be too small and Hyde Park should be booked. When applying to book Hyde Park, the Home Office said the booking had been declined as "the daffodils would be out and they would get trampled"!

      This was a spontaneous outburst of anger by ordinary people. Instead of the usual disciplined, regimented union demos, this was a wave of humanity moving as one, spread across the street 25 - 30 abreast, banners and placards randomly dispersed in the throng.

      Reports came in that Trafalgar Square was already filling up and the march hadn't even reached Parliament Square. Kennington Park, where the march started, was still full of people! Clearly this would be the biggest demo in living memory. One steward counted up to 120,000 as the march passed parliament, before the tail of the march left the park.

      A sit-down protest was taking place opposite Downing Street, so the rest of the march was diverted down the Embankment and along Northumberland Avenue. However before this part of the demo arrived, rows of riot police had cut off the top of Northumberland Avenue preventing marchers reaching Trafalgar Square. Up to then, there was no trouble on the march and speakers were addressing the vast crowd.

      Then it all kicked off. Reports from Downing Street said fighting had broken out, then riot police at the top of Whitehall attacked the demonstrators. Northumberland Avenue then kicked off as well, the sheer pressure of people broke police lines. The building between Whitehall and Northumberland Avenue was set alight by protesters and soon the fire had taken hold. A police car tried to force its way through the protesters and was attacked.

      Then the police horses were sent in, charging marchers repeatedly. The marchers, with nowhere to go to escape had to fight back. The police commander who appeared on the plinth of Nelson's column seemed to be directing the charges, and ignored appeals to stop.

      Hundreds of thousands of people started returning to their coaches and trains, spreading back all over the country. The TV news was full of the day's events, most starting with Thatcher's speech condemning anti-poll tax violence, followed by clips of marchers throwing things at the police, a police car being attacked and then riot police going in followed by the mounted police."

      Thatcher failed to keep the truth of police brutality & the strength of public feeling from the media and she was ousted in Nov 1990.

    3. oops! In my comment at 1927 - I missed out that the prison was Strangeways - - 100's of people injured and one guard died, and the prison wrecked.

  4. With many of the companies that now have TR contracts also involved in the work programme (a monoply on poverty and social disadvantage?), I think its informative to keep an eye on how they're preforming in other areas. I think that their approach to TR will broadly mirror the model applied to the work programme, profit first, people second, and morals and ethics bringing up the rear.
    With that in mind, I find this article from the other day very informative, and also (I believe), demonstrates well where probation is likely to be in 2 or 3 years time.

  5. Abridged version....
    "Paid to fail? The appalling record of the Work Programme contractors who find jobs for fewer than one person in 10

    10:53, 28 March 2015
    By James McCarthy , Rob Grant

    But the businesses still rake in millions of pounds of taxpayers' cash every year.

    The appalling record of Wales’ work programme contractors can today be laid bare by figures that show they got fewer than one in 10 people a job.

    Rehab Jobfit, which covers Wales and south west England, found work for just 3,460 job seekers out of 39,060 referred to them.

    The nation’s other provider, Working Links, helped just 3,930 people out of 39,620 referrals.
    As the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union slammed the findings the companies were stood accused of being paid for failure.

    “The problem with the work programme is the way it is set up,” a PCS spokesman said.

    “A lot of untested companies like this are able to get these referrals from Job Centres to deal with people that need expert help, advice, and support to get back into work.

    “They are not up to the job. This is emblematic of what is wrong with the work programme.”

    Firms rake in millions of pounds in taxpayer cash.

    According to Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) documents payments range “from a maximum of around £3,800 for a young unemployed person to £13,700 for someone who has a limited capability for work and, as a result, has been receiving benefits for several years”.

    That means Rehab Jobfit could have earned almost £48m while Working Links could have been paid almost £54m for those people they did get into work.

    Cut out some bits to get to Working Links....

    "Working Links were contacted but did not respond.

    But on its website the business claimed to be “continuing to deliver specialist services for people across Britain and around the world to enable them to create better futures for themselves and their communities”.

    Working Links not really commenting much on their plans for CRC either.

    1. Precious little detail in any of the Working Links presentations to staff as part of their roadshows across Wales and the West Country in the last few weeks. The main thing seemed to be a video of people who'd used to work for small, local service providers until they were swallowed up by Working Links, now seemingly press-ganged into telling us that WL aren't that bad. And a lot of talk about lots of job opportunities within WL which don't involve working for the CRC (followed by the CRC CEO hastily saying he wouldn't allow any secondments because we haven't enough staff).

  6. Hmmmm, "they are not up to the job".......yes I see the connection to the CRC contractors now

    1. £13,740 per person they've got into employment given the figures quoted.
      They can afford to cherry pick and park people if one successful 'outcome' will cover the annual salary of one member of staff.
      PbR? Good work if you can get it and be prepared to sell your social values!

    2. Working Links/Work Programme do not like offenders. They 'park' most of them.

  7. CRC MANCHESTER AND CHESHIRE4 April 2015 at 17:30

    I have much respect for Paul Senior but his association and unwavering support for the Probation Institute puts him massively down in my books. Paul talks about principles and values and yet not once have probation institute have publicly opposed TR. Not once have they supported the same professional who took action to strike in order to defend the same principles and values which he and Sue Hall talk so much about. Not once have they publicly acknowledged the stress and pressure staff have been placed under. Not once have they opposed the under 12 months supervision as a breach of human rights and an outright attack on communities and civil liberties. So - Excuse me if my comments offend. Yes they are designed to offend because I’m offended by the hypocrisy and double standards in which they and PI promote their self-interest and self-serving agenda.
    Paul and Sue should be ashamed of themselves.

    1. If you want evidence-based policy, consider the number of Tories in the Commons and the Lords who got themselves out of tricky corners by asserting their probation credentials by asserting their support – financial and political – for the Probation Institute, supported by probation chiefs and the unions. They knew it would play well to the gallery and it was often quoted in the same sentence as '£46 in your pocket'. The professors et al are 'useful idiots'. These people are not on the frontline, they are not facing redundancy; on the contrary they can look forward to research commissions. They are far removed from the fallout and from their vantage points, like giggling Greek Gods, they can look on as lesser mortals are skewered. The whole thing is an insult and a betrayal.

    2. CRCs bought the contracts on the basis that they had autonomy to develop their own 'innovative' approach to reduce reoffending.
      To that end how can the PI dictate what it is or isn't right for the CRCs to do?
      The PI is nothing but an extra layer of insulation designed to buffer government from fall out from really bad policy.

    3. The PI is just a knocking shop where members go to get their rocks off & temporarily feel better about themselves, safe in the knowledge they'll never have caused any harm really. A bit like peeking at the free taster porn online, getting a damp patch, feeling uncomfortable then coming up with some government funded, IT company sponsored intellectual theorising.

      A bit like letting the corrupt bankers monitor the banking industry. A bit like fining the low wage families who take their children out of school for a few days during term time because they can't afford the 200% price hike during school holidays. No-one seems to have thought about suggesting the price hikes get looked at.

      As someone else commented not so long back, a bit like gazing lovingly into your own navel and admiring the fluff, crumbs, fag ash and tide mark of dried tea stains. But not actually doing anything worthwhile. EVER.

  8. Like it or not the PI is the probably the best and perhaps the only, potential means of securing some common professionalism across the Crc's. If it is to achieve this it cannot denounce the profit making providers, however repugnant they might personally or individually consider the profit motive may be.

    1. It's the profit makers that will decide what the 'common professionalism' is going to be, not the PI.

    2. I don't disagree, but if there is a voice they'll listen to otter than their shareholders it's the PI, and for now at least the crcs are buying in.

    3. If a professional body cannot criticize the profession it represents, it has no credibility. It is like a university than cannot fail any of it's students. It undermines itself.

    4. PI is about as useful as a fart in a hurricane

    5. It's not professional and it wants to maintain a voluntary register. *Laughs a lot loudly.*

    6. NAPO - "The Trade Union, Professional Association and campaigning organisation for Probation and Family Court staff."

      You'll have to re-brand because the PI has muscled in & publicly stolen the 'Professional Association' element. Bizarrely, with your collusion and apparent blessing.

      Why would you do that?

    7. You know that supporters of the Probation Institute are scraping the barrel for justifications when professionalism is redefined as 'common professionalism'. This means deprofessionalization and it has happened in all public services that have been opened to the market. It's a major issue in education as there is no requirement for free schools to employ qualified teachers.

      Common professionalism can only mean one thing: lowering standards, deregulation, and lowering wages. This is what free schools can do: set their own pay and conditions for staff; employ teachers without qualified teacher status; determine their own admissions arrangements; decide upon their own curriculum; set the length of terms and school days; and operate independently of the local authority and outside the local family of schools. These are the 'freedoms' that CRCs will claim for themselves and they can market it all under the name of common professionalism, as blessed by the probation institute.

      The NPS does not need the probation institute, but the CRCs do. You need a body that is prepared to 'independently' give its endorsement to new arrangements that are motivated by profit, but with the backing of the PI these changes can be promoted as innovative. The PI in effect becomes a public relations arm of the CRCs and this is epitomised in the new terminology of common professionalism. Which is why those who in their hearts know the whole project is dubious, but believe they can ride the tiger, are 'useful idiots' to the CRCs.

    8. I had, originally, had hope for PI but once they started to allow the employers to pay for their staff membership it was, IMO, doomed! After a year they still have just over a thousand members.It would be interesting to know how many were paid for by CRCs! I suspect well over half. Many of the others are accodemics & some within MOJ who never worked in probation & have been involved in TR!

      There is no way PI will oppose cuts in staff and introduction of macines! Despite all their talk of defending ethics & values. I paid for my membership last year ( turned down employers offer to pay) won't renew or let CRC pay for me this year! Unfurtunatly I also don't hold out any hops for NAPO doing anything!


    1. Self-harm, drug-taking and sexual abuse more common in privately run prisons, new figures show.

      Twenty-five years after the first private facility opened in Britain, private jails are performing far worse than government-operated facilities on at least a dozen counts. They account for a higher proportion of fighting, sexual assaults, drug-taking, self-harming, hunger strikes, and prisoner escapes than public-sector prisons, according to an analysis by The Independent on Sunday of new government statistics.

      Private prisons were supposed to be the saviours of Britain’s crumbling penal system, leading by example to inspire better conditions for prisoners and safer jails. In the words of the former Home Secretary Ken Clarke, privately run prisons would bring “considerable” benefits and help “raise standards”.

      But the new data shows that while Britain’s 14 private prisons hold fewer than one in five (18 per cent) of the country’s prisoners, they accounted for 23 per cent of assaults in the first six months of 2014 alone and one in four prisoner escapes. And the jails, run by Sodexo Justice Services, Serco Custodial Services and G4S Justice Services, also accounted for more than a third of all drug seizures, half of “full close- down searches” and 32 per cent of “deliberate self-harm” incidents involving prisoners.

      The figures, from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), are a snapshot of incidents in all jails between January and June last year. They include a breakdown of the incidents in publicly run prisons and those in jails operated by private companies.

      About a third of all cases of vandalism by prisoners and hunger strikes – dubbed “food refusal” – occurred in private prisons. Almost a third (28 per cent) of rooftop protests took place in private facilities, which also logged one in four of all “mobile phone finds” and “key or lock incidents”.

      The statistics do not pick out incidents such as bomb threats and attempted escapes, but these are included in a category called “miscellaneous” incidents. Of these, more than 1,200 (around 28 per cent) took place in private jails. Private jails also accounted for 21 per cent of all cases of “concerted indiscipline” and fires. The statistics were obtained by Sadiq Khan, the shadow Justice Secretary and Labour Party candidate for Tooting, south London.

      “This data I have uncovered is really startling,” he told The IoS. “To see such differences between public and private prisons demands answers. Private prisons provide a very important public service paid for by taxpayers’ money. The public expect the same high standards from all prisons, regardless of who runs them. Yet this data suggests that the performance of private prisons in providing an environment that both punishes and rehabilitates offenders is lacking.”

      The Government, he said, should demand an explanation from the “multimillion-pound private companies” in charge of Britain’s private jails, with an “urgent plan” drafted to rectify the situation.

  10. Cedric Fullwood5 April 2015 at 07:35

    Paul you say that this blog has changed. And yet you don't even ask question WHY. Why do you think people come here to voice their issues. Because it's people like you have failed probation. Your an idiot and a clown.

    1. Couldn't resist revisiting this. It has a poignant resonance:

      "“Of late Ministers have demonstrated a nasty streak in their dismissive approach to Probation – a nastiness that demeans the High Offices they occupy. However nothing will diminish the achievements, contributions and intrinsic value of the Probation Service, and its magnificent staff.” ~ Cedric Fullwood (Chief Probation Officer, Gtr Manchester, 1982-98)

  11. It is staggering at the infomation put out above has been ignored by HM Government, as they have now superimposed that same failed Kenneth Clark logic on probation! Oh, and I can't wait to see the PI push through their idea of professional standards they will first need to look Professional Standards in a dictionary and Privateering, as far as I can see, they can't spell standards, and haven't noticed that privateers can do as they like, free from accountability and care!

  12. Cedric Fullwood5 April 2015 at 10:42

    Thank you for your message. The current bastards have all forgotten what we are, were an should be.

  13. Oh well said - if that really is you sir - what is STILL needed is those of your generation of the 'David Mathieson' era and sentiment to get your PR going - AGAIN - to get the issue onto the General Election agenda - the likes of Lord's Woolf & Ramsbotham and Baroness Stern and Professor Coyle maybe with you as well as a good few others who have received Honours and public acclamation.

    What a tribute to Mathieson, Hunt of Everest back to Rainer et al would that be?

    1. Hear Hear. What is needed is people of status and morals to stand up and challenge what is going on. I know that after 30 years I feel powerless and unable to actually do anything meaningful although I have written to my ex- MP etc, I really do feel like one of the infantry.

  14. 'They' have wanted to get rid of people who stand up and challenge, especially those who invented and developed probation for years. 'They' are now very close to achieving education, exam factories that suggest success but are only so because of their ability to create people who know so little they just accept what is...
    Probation people challenged their ability to abuse, take advantage and profit.. they had to destroy it, it has taken a while but not long in the greater scheme of change...

  15. Good read here. All sounds familiar.

  16. Just a mention for the TV election debate. Former PO Leanne Wood , Nicola Sturgeon and Natalie Bennett - what a breath of fresh air. Hope they put a large spanner in the Tory works.

  17. Annon@09:46.

    Here's a little you tube clip (a new twist in the tory election campaign) that may amuse you.

    Cassetteboy - Cameron's Conference Rap:

    1. Here's the new one by the same guy:

  18. Excellent article just published in the Guardian about probation/kiosks/noms and government failure to understand what they've done.

    1. It was necessary to check the date when reading Alan Travis’s report on plans to replace probation officers with computer terminals. But no, 1 April and Jeremy Clarkson joining the Guardian was yet to come.

      It was fairly transparent that the “transforming rehabilitation programme” (TR) would be another nail in the coffin of the probation service, but the speed of the burial is still breathtaking. While the words are fine, TR has only ever been about reducing costs and the handing over of lucrative contracts to companies adept at running rings round hapless, evanescent civil servants who, in the words of former cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell, lack skills in commissioning and procurement.

      Much was made by the lord chancellor and justice secretary, Chris Grayling, about the fact that for the first time, prisoners serving less than 12 months would in future receive compulsory supervision in the new service. At a stroke, some 50,000 prisoners were added to the caseload of those tasked with delivering the new service – but with no additional funding. Some may indeed benefit from supervision, many may simply not need it. It was an ill thought-through, empty gesture. But what kind of service will be delivered to these and the rest of the 80,000 offenders coming out of jail annually by these newly created community rehabilitation companies; and, more important, by whom?

      Traditional probation officers cost money: skills, competency and experience don’t come cheap, so finding a cheaper alternative was always going to be one way to cut costs. Hence a programme of government-funded early retirement and redundancies that will now roll out across the sector. The fat cats heading up the new companies are reluctant to say precisely what the skills and training of these new “deliverers of rehabilitation” will be, but there is a tempting model in the care system of zero-hours contracts at minimum wage, which will have set mouths watering.

      But even the care system has not, for now, replaced workers with computers, although I dare say someone, somewhere is developing a robot that can change a bedpan. We have already made commodities out of the elderly receiving care at home. They are no longer people but “tasks” to be completed in a set time. They may be entitled to a meal, but other needs that might happen to crop up in the 15-minute slot allocated must be passed over or the needs of the next slot will not be met.

      Those heading up the companies trouser millions, while not paying a living wage to those actually doing the work. The consequences are borne by the elderly themselves, their relatives and those paid less than £7 an hour to do what the rest of us would not. Large salaries, bonuses and dividends are not troubled by contractual or legal obligations. If anyone is taken to task then an apology and attendance on a greed awareness course will usually suffice.

      So we will now commodify rehabilitation. Advise, assist and befriend used to be the mantra of a probation service, much admired by other jurisdictions around the world. The degeneration into a community police force began a long time ago, and accelerated when the service was subsumed into the prison service under the aegis of the National Offender Management Service.

      The correlation between the service’s decline and the continued high reoffending rates has not been understood by governments of any colour, who eschew evidence and debate in favour of quick headlines and ministerial careers. We risk reaping a whirlwind as the management of offenders in the community is reduced to an algorithm delivered by untrained people or computer terminals.

    2. We have been good at locking people up for years. It is a particular skill of this country, whose prison population has nearly doubled since the Strangeways riots 25 years ago. Locking people up is easy, getting them out and ensuring they stay out is the problem. We know the issues of difficult damaged and chaotic people coming out of prison to meet unemployment, addiction and fractured relationships. Dealing with a multiplicity of complex issues is task enough for the highly trained and committed professional. In the new world, expect nothing more than “computer says no” and a quick recall to prison.

      The prison service itself expects a modest rise in the prison population beyond the “Savile effect”. Expect any such figures to be a gross underestimate. As the parties slug it out over the next few weeks about who is toughest on crime, there seems little likelihood of politicians heeding Lord Woolf’s plea to take politics out of prison. It seems we will need more than one new Titan prison in the next couple of years.

      John Podmore

    3. Impressed by John Podmores article and his obvious insight into probation services, I've just googled him. I'm suprised, but even more impressed to discover that he is an ex prison governor.

      John Podmore is professor of applied social sciences at the University of Durham, freelance criminal justice consultant and former prison governor. He is author of Out of Sight Out of Mind: Why Britain's Prisons Are Failing

      Well done John.

    4. Lets hope john doesn't disappoint by being a member of the
      PI. It was possibly the most informed & challenging article about TR in the press to date. Pity it wasn't in the Torygraph, the FT or the Mail.

      The comments about early retirement & redundancy are,sadly, now past their sell-by date of 31 March 2015 - and again it gives the public a misleading sense of the current misery experienced by probation staff.

      At least today I didn't have to identify cake or pizza to verify my humanity.

  19. Those three women on the political debate the other night were saying the right things: "end austerity, end poverty ,full employment and save the planet" and what is more I think they meant it. The men on the other hand were list regurgitating neoliberals, liars all three of them.

    The only hope is for those women to get some power and create a silent revolution and the Welsh one is an ex Probation Officer. They can see the corruption of selling off the state to their rich mates and Nicola Sturgeon is visibly moving to the left. There is a real need for the Probation Service pre 1990 to come back but before it does we must kill off managerialism , refashion NAPO and transform casino capitalism.


    1. It struck me watching the debate the other night, that the party leaders (big parties), that they don't make decisions or direction anymore.
      They are just 'overcoached' figureheads spinning out what their bought in advisors are telling them is best to say and how you should say it.
      There lays the real power perhaps?
      The smaller parties spoke with passion and belief, and the difference was very noticeable-even Farage stood out above Lib,Con,Lab-just on the basis of you might not like my policies, but thats who I am and I'm not trying to fool you.
      We need a total change in politics I believe, one where it's not decreed by Eaton and other private schools.
      It's practice thats lacking- not theory.

    2. papa,Nicola Sturgeon and her party lean to the left, or to the right, depending which seat they are fighting in Scotland - be very wary of that as a tactic - similar to Mr Clegg me thinks!
      exiled Scot PO

    3. Oh papa the last 3 chairs of Napo are just as bad ! Being a po does not make you honest !