Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Back To the Good Old Days

"Really not bothered about the Tories or Napo top table in the grand scheme, here today and gone tomorrow. The future will be guided by ideas for tomorrow which we can influence. Where I have some issue with this blog, much as I admire it, is the idea that harking back to the 'good old days' will not inspire the changes we can find some new consensus around. I am heartily sickened by what has happened to Probation but I am ever more convinced that moaning and groaning (I moan and groan a lot about it) will achieve very little. Have some faith, this blog has got some legs left in it yet."
On the theme of harking back to the mythical 'good old days', here's an interesting quote from a long blog post entitled 'Do We Still Need Prisons?' by Paul Kirby and republished on the 'VolteFace' website and it seems to hark right back to our Victorian foundations:- 

Japanese Hogo-shi

One of the biggest problems about prison is that it takes, mostly, socially excluded people and excludes them even further from society.

Hardly anybody from mainstream society visits or engages with prisoners. There is a lot to learn from the Japanese system of probation (Hogo-shi). Unlike Western countries, 98% of the State’s 49,000 probation officers are volunteers. They have the status of part-time but unpaid civil servants. They supervise and give support to 40,000 offenders on parole and probation. They mostly use their own homes to meet the offenders. They commit to working with the offender’s family, help them find jobs and make social connections. Post-prison Hogo-shi halves re-offending rates. I think this would be a great idea for non-custodial sentences in other countries. But we could take this idea a step further.

Whenever a person is sentenced to prison, part of the sentence could be that they accept the supervision and support of a volunteer probation officer. The prisoner could be required to meet the volunteer probation officer at least once a week and they could enjoy visiting and communication rights similar to a lawyer. The volunteer probation officer could be a formal part of any decision-making about the prisoner (e.g. education, therapy, moving prison, internal sanctions, parole, exit plans, etc).

Critically, part of the sentence would be to fully co-operate with the volunteer probation officer for a defined period after leaving prison (e.g. 12 months) and for the volunteer to play an active role in helping the prisoner get a job, a home, stay clean, sort out any benefits and keep out-of-trouble. Like other probation officers, they would have the right to take offenders back to court if they are breaching their sentences.

This would have the added benefit of opening-up prisons to the community and reconnecting the excluded with many privileged and compassionate individuals. If every prisoner had one volunteer probation officer, we would have some 60,000 new people involved in our criminal justice system.

--oo00oo--

In case you are wondering, "Paul Kirby lives in Oxfordshire in England. He is a Visiting Professor at the LSE and Non-Executive Director at the Cabinet Office in the UK Government. His career included being a partner at KPMG and Head of the Number 10 Policy Unit."

"VolteFace is a new space that offers fresh perspectives on drugs policies, lifestyle and culture. We are launching as a magazine that will draw in a wide and essential array of voices.

VolteFace will cover the policy and politics of drugs but also science, health, lifestyle, culture and business related matters. We look to provide a space that can help revivify the debate about drugs in both countries and bring new voices and views to the fore from across civil society and popular culture.

Our ambition is to commission lively features, promote intelligent commentary and provide breaking news updates. We want to allow new voices to flourish and fresh perspectives be aired, nurturing new journalistic talent alongside the best current writers. We’ll certainly want to address shibboleths, but we are also in the business of winning hearts and minds. We will be constantly innovative in how we curate our content and engage with our community of readers.

VotleFace is a space where ideas are freely shared and your voice can be heard.


VolteFace was founded by Paul Birch. An entrepreneur by trade and a long time drug policy reform advocate, Paul is interested in alternative methods of activism and policy change."

--oo00oo--

Paul Birch seems a fascinating character. This from the New Statesman April 2015:-

Paul Birch, Bebo founder: "I’ve been consuming [cannabis] since I was 23"

For somebody who has achieved so much in the past ten years and could comfortably rest on his laurels for the next fifty, Paul Birch is surprisingly restless, almost impatient. Sitting in his big, airy home in North London on a sunny morning, he is fidgety and disquieted as he outlines the manifesto of Cista (an acronym for Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol), the political party he set up in February of this year.

In 2005, along with his brother Michael and Michael’s wife Xochi, Birch founded the social network Bebo, which became wildly successful while Facebook was still limited to students; the website was later sold to AOL for $850 million. A couple of tech ventures and ten years later, Paul Birch decided, only three months before the General Election, to dedicate himself to the founding (and funding) of a political party that would strive to change the “farcical” drug policies in the UK – and so Cista was born, “quite late in the day,” he admits, “but in time”.

“I got interested in the UK drugs policy and understood it’s quite silly, what we’ve got and what we continue to have, based on the information that’s available,” Birch says, citing huge “levels of ignorance” that surround cannabis consumption. According to its manifesto, Cista’s chief proposal is “a new approach to drug reform, starting with cannabis, one that is evidence-based, cross-party, humane and non-partisan.”


--oo00oo--

This comment came in yesterday:-
Does missing appointments matter? Japanese Hogoshi (volunteer Probation Officers) have observed that the most consistent keepers of appointments are the repeat offenders. European probation officers view the clients attitude as more important than keeping appointments. Is there any evidence that clients breached for technical reasons are more likely to re-offend?
It might be worth noting that the third World Congress on Probation is to be held in Japan.

28 comments:

  1. I wanted to write
    Something in
    Support of the Blog

    I gave up reading the catfight on the previous blog. I had assumed the blog was (a) Jim's baby & (b) a means of keeping a full and frank account of the 'end of probation' using officially released & leaked information, formal and informal views, personal accounts from all sides and Jim's own narrative.

    At not time did I expect the blog to produce a working alternative to TR ideology (although the debates and ideas on here have been fascinating and may have prompted or contributed to some changes).

    I have been variously dismayed & angered by the vicious nature of some of the attacks through the blog on individual contributors' views. The general trend for these nasty interventions does seem to come from either (i) TR advocates, e.g. those with a vested interest in TR for whatever reason or (ii) simple, unpleasant people wanting to to cause distress and disruption.

    I get the impression that Jim has been extraordinarily tolerant of much unpleasantness on the blog in the hope that the debate can progress in a way that is increasingly rare in 21st C. UK, i.e. that all views are considered. Sadly some blinkered binary thinkers have abused this privelege. Perhaps some or all of the abuse is prompted by a fear that reality will finally burst through the carefully crafted & highly polished veneer of bullshit?

    I'm glad Jim started this blog, nurtured it and allowed it to grow 'organically' with the contributions of many. I'm 'cock-a-hoop' for Jim that the blog will be officially archived as a document of social commentary; maybe, as happens now for lost languages and tablets/scrolls/etc, in 3,000 years' time there will be dedicated curators in splendid isolation enthusiastically analysing the blog?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Umm, more than likely not! Given that even the original moon landing recordings no longer survive, I've got doubts that any sort of digital archive of this kind of niche ephemera will last longer than 50 or so years... No one'll give a monkey's a decade from now, let alone a century!

      Delete
    2. Boom 14. 02. You're on the money. No one gives a shit now. It's business as usual and those trouble makers have been booted into touch.... Or the nps hahaha

      Delete
    3. Oh I've no doubt that some people do give a shit now, but they're the ones with zero influence to alter anything (and no, even if that socialist mountebank Saint Corbyn were voted in tomorrow would anything be done to reverse it at this point). This blog really only exists for the same reason most other blogs, forums and chatrooms exist: As a perpetual argument engine and electronic whining machine.

      Either commit to doing the jobs the way the CRCs and NPS now want it done, or get out and do something you consider more fulfilling - ultimately that's the only choice left (unless you count turning up, doing the job on auto pilot, constantly harking back to the good old days - which weren't that good either btw , and moaning your way through the day!)

      Delete
    4. I'm with you 15.28. You're so right and I'm sure the same old idiots would have been on the blog pre TR harping on at how bad things are!

      Delete
  2. When was something last leaked to this blog. Never. This blog is like Mike Tyson. Once Al mighty but now forgotten and making the odd appearance. It's not Jim's fault. It's the people who visit this site failing to take it to the next level.

    ReplyDelete
  3. ok taking this blog to the next level.
    Most immediate threat to the NPS is E3. We have had a couple of blogs about it, a bit of a rant in the comments section and we know the effects of E3 will not be to our benefit.

    So what do we do? What can we do? How should it be done?

    Personally, i feel the only way to effectively do this is by active union participation. After all this is work, we have an employer and we have a voice - via our unions.
    Our unions keep us safe from persecution, they provide a lawful outlet for employees to air concerns and influence the decision makers.
    For sure Ian is a waste of space, we know that. We change that by becoming active in the union, from talking about issues while at the watercooler to seeking election into a branch officials position. Its all possible.
    Through our unions we engage with our employer. Our employer is not our dictator, its a partnership. Sometime they need reminding of that, unions act as reminders.
    What would we say to someone fresh from prison moaning about how hard life is. We would say do something about it, dont give up, try another tactic.
    We can give up, accept our place, watch our careers be destroyed, see our wages drop and moan all day long until we wake up and realise we are wearing G4S uniforms. Or we can organise with our unions, stand together and make those above accountable for everything they are doing. We can demand our stake in this is recognised and that we are recognised for the professionals that we are.
    We may lose, we could win, we will have our self respect intact.

    One thing for sure though, as it stands we are having the piss ripped from us.
    See you in the union when you finally get fed up getting wet x

    ReplyDelete
  4. That's the funniest thing I've ever heard. Thank you. Join the union hahaha. The union is a waste of space and why should Ian try. He knows you all hate him. Have you ever worked your ass off for someone you dislike! No you just take the money!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Our customers have same problems and needs,present the same challenges,and come from the same places. Has the politics and the organisation changed for the better. A resounding no. Case of hankering for the past.no. Looking back when times were relatively better.yes

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Better how. Elaborate

      Delete
  6. The Blog serves no effective purpose. It used to inform during the TR debacle. No longer. It's a sounding board for cranks, the whingeing and Jim's niche interests. Never saved one job or stalled government policy. I sometimes wonder whether it's some form of fifth columnist sponsored by NOMS. Sure I don't have to read it but like a moth to a flame I revisit it when I should know better. I imagine most of the hits are from repeat offenders.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thought provoking post Jim. Raises many issues for debate to inform forward thinking. It appears that your efforts are being sabotaged. Shame. Drugs policy seems key to making progress as does the culture that prison risks creating. Clearly the community and the relationship that those that we work with have with their community is also key. Probation culture similarly needs reviewing, desistance theory seemed to promise much but fallen to one side. There are many, many other topics that can usefully be debated. Keep on blogging Jim.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Pretty poor standard of comments on here today, mostly unworthy of the blog. Anon 14:43 popping up with his/her lame buffoonery and adding nothing whatsoever to the debate (now there's a "boom!" for ya). More sinister is Anon 15:28's "get on with it or get out" agenda - we can see through your attempts to shut down the discussion, you know.

    To quote Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Jim is clearly both thoughtful and committed, so more power to his elbow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. (It was me @ 15:28) Shut down the discussion? Which discussion was that? The dead horse of TR has been flogged until its bleached bones are showing, as for the rest of the debate, you'll have to talk up a bit, I can barely hear you over the bolting of stable doors... (Btw, interested to hear of the 'we' that you mention - which 'we' are we referring to here, just to be clear? The 'we' that's waiting for NAPO to spring into action? Or the 'we' that have signal failed to deter the government's plan by one inch?)

      Here's a mis-quote back atcha in return - "frankly my dear, they don't give a damn!" Now if you don't mind, I'd better get back to my sinister agenda :/

      Delete
    2. Wow, did I touch a nerve?

      When you say "Either commit to doing the jobs the way the CRCs and NPS now want it done, or get out and do something you consider more fulfilling", you're telling people to get out or shut up.

      Now tell me, whose interests are served with that attitude? The CRC owners and NOMS - not clients, staff or the public. Why should I just accept things for the way they are?

      Since you enjoyed my last quote so much, here's another one for you: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

      Delete
    3. (Dodge of previous question noted) Do tell me then, as you've apparently gone for the third option I suggested - how has your lack of acceptance of the situation helped any of the groups you mention? Try to answer without parroting a quote from the internet if you can, and try and do a bit of critical thinking about the situation.

      You don't have to accept the scenarios I put forward, certainly but living in denial of the facts of how probation is now doesn't make it any less true... The interests that are served are those of the role you are getting paid for. Your inability or unwillingness to looks facts in the face isn't changing anything you know... I'm not sure probation (either now, or in its fictional rosy past) is right for you now - why not consider moving your skillset to somewhere you might be able to make a difference?

      Delete
    4. With such a spectacularly arrogant condescending attitude, you must be in a senior management position or on the fast track there. Possibly you're a consultant, busy telling people how to do a job that you don't understand yourself, and couldn't do.

      I'm not living in denial of the facts of the situation. It's abundantly clear that none of the people currently in charge of probation work know the slightest thing about it, which makes it all the more important for people who care about the job to stick around and pick up the pieces when it falls apart. Life isn't about binary choices.

      Delete
    5. Interesting that you choose to project me as an incompetent, touchy senior manager with a sinister agenda - after all, anyone who disagrees with your all-knowing wisdom couldn't be anything else, right?

      Cutting through your self righteous butt-hurt for a moment, what have you with your attitude changed? I don't disagree that the changes forced upon probation are for the worse, but at some point everyone left in it needs to make a fundamental choice (this is different to a binary choice btw, but let's not deprive you of your fancy buzzword eh?) Will you accept the new parameters of your job, and do your best in it, or is your disagreement with what's happening so severe that you no longer wish to be involved with it? Once this choice is made, it's possible to strategise for the longer term - I understand that you may not like having to make that choice, but make it you must!

      Delete
  9. http://www.vice.com/read/bernie-warner-management-and-training-corporation-uk-probation-privatisation

    ReplyDelete

  10. More dumbing down of probation training!

    New qualification:

    No relevant degree required. A foundation degree or HND is enough to apply.

    Police vetting is required.

    A £75 fee is required to apply.

    http://www.traintobeaprobationofficer.com/apply/#/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. £75 fee to apply to check if you're eligible to apply. Never heard of that before. Either they don't want any applicants or they only want applicants with a bit of spare cash. Typical tory thinking!

      Delete
    2. Nice that the picture on the website shows someone sat in front of a computer, though. That's all the job is these days.

      Delete
    3. Foundation degree or HND will not get you a PO qualification

      Delete
  11. As Joe Hill once said, "Don't mourn, organise". It really is a waste of time wringing our hands. We lost the TR battle and I'm sad about that but there's plenty still to defend and to fight for as long as we organise to do it. You can criticise Napo all you like but what other organisations are there trying to stem the tide? If you don't like the current leadership get involved and change it, I am only too happy to be challenged by anyone with different ideas. Dropping out or looking out for number one may give you temporary relief and sastifaction but it won't help you in the long run. As probation practitioners I think we should be more aware of this than most!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've invited Chas to pen a guest blog but he's declined "No. Let's just do it."

      "I am only too happy to be challenged by anyone with different ideas". But sadly the debate can't get going because it seems Chas prefers soundbites Nike-style.

      Delete
  12. Haha that website (http://www.traintobeaprobationofficer.com/apply/#/) has this on the home page:

    ""The woman who didn't need treatment, For the overdose that was never caused, By the drugs she didn't buy, Because you proposed a curfew.

    Set the boundaries. Change the outcome. ""

    I never knew changing lives was so easy! A curfew will take away the cravings and its common knowledge that drug dealers are not mobile, and i can be trusted not to buy drugs outside the curfew hours.


    ""The woman who needed treatment, For the overdose that was caused, By the drugs she did buy, Died. Because you proposed a curfew, nobody was able to put her in the recovery position.

    Set the boundaries. Change the outcome. ""

    Oh dear to what did i dedicate my lifes work :( :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The likelihood of reoffending drops to zero, and precious state resources are saved - it even frees up accommodation for someone else - a triple win! (gallows humour, as I hope the majority can see!)

      Delete
  13. The Good Old Days? For me that would be the late 1980s. Prison secondment with essential car user allowance, home-to-office mileage, daily lunch allowance and environmental allowance. Effectively a doubled salary. As Mr M. Loaf put it,"It was long ago and it was far away and it was so much better than it is today"

    ReplyDelete