Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Guest Blog 58

In Other Words

I am soon to be an ex – Probation Officer and the early risk is to
immediately digress into Pythonest quotes from the dead parrot sketch
but the following is my choice in this case.

“The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime
and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of
any country. A calm and dispassionate recognition of the rights of the
accused against the state and even of convicted criminals against the
state, a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of
punishment, a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate in the world of
industry of all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of
punishment, tireless efforts towards the discovery of curative and
regenerating processes and an unfaltering faith that there is a
treasure, if only you can find it in the heart of every person – these
are the symbols which in the treatment of crime and criminals mark and
measure the stored up strength of a nation, and are the sign and proof
of the living virtue in it.”

The above quote is that of Winston Churchill’s (House of Commons
speech, given while Home Secretary, July 20, 1910) and its reference
was about prisons. It is a quote that I imagine has often been used
across the years. I first used it nearly fifteen years ago as a part of
an academic essay when training to become a Probation Officer. It is
possible to imagine Winston’s slow, drawn out, punctuated delivery of
this statement and it capturing the mood of many in and out of the
Criminal Justice System with its gravity, its steady determination, its
hope and virtue.

When David Cameron made his speech on prisons this year there was
guarded optimism about its temper, as there was when Michael Gove
became the Minister for Justice replacing Chris Grayling. Cameron does
this stuff well, I remember, before he became Prime Minister, his
headline grabbing ‘hug a hoodie’ maxim which captured my attention;
someone who seemed to intrinsically understand the complex human nature
of problem behaviour and was not a lock ‘em up and throw away the key'
type or of the short sharp shock brigade. Of course words are one
thing, they speak to people, but the delivery is yet another and let us
hope that they deliver some progressive changes to Her Majesty’s
Prisons for all concerned.

What a lot of people on this blog have noticed is the near complete
lack of mention for the Probation Services, indeed it is almost as if
the word Probation has been erased from the political lexicon. You can
imagine a dusty wind swept town, almost deserted, with tumbleweed
blowing down the main street, called Probation. I suspect the reason
for this is that it is a bit of a sensitive subject given the mess that
has ensued in the Probation Services since the Transforming
Rehabilitation (TR) reforms were implemented. Sticking with the word
Probation, however, I want to know what the vision for the Probation
Services is and the means of delivery that most of us can
professionally (and other stakeholders) support into the future.

At present TR has split the Probation Services into the National
Probation Service (NPS) and the Community Rehabilitation Companies
(CRC) with the mission of doing better for less, effective
rehabilitation at a better value to the taxpayer, support and
supervision for short term prisoners where none existed previously.
This was to be achieved by bringing in the best of the public,
voluntary and private sectors to work with offenders and in doing so
ensure that public safety was not impacted and year on year reductions
in re – offending rates were achieved. I think many on this blog have
realised that when the reoffending figures are finally published, in
all likelihood following the long term trend of reduction, then the
case for TR, as made above at least, will risk being largely accepted
by the public and many politicians. That will dishearten many who read
this blog. However, such acceptance is far from inevitable but let’s
consider, at least, that it is a possibility.

What we need is a Probation vision that captures the mood of
politicians and the public, that says invest in us, believe in us. I,
along with others, on this blog have pointed to the evidence of what
works, understand what effective Probation practice is, the skills,
knowledge and attitudes that support our work and the centrality of the
relationship between a Probation worker and those we work with. I,
like you, know that this is work that we need to do in partnership with
others and for which we have a good track record of doing. I, like
you, absolutely believe that we can deliver great results for people,
value for money if you prefer, if we are given the chance to practice
our profession, a unified profession I would argue, with greater focus
on what we know works. There has long been an economic, value for the
taxpayer, case for investing in community sentences and supervision and
also a very strong individual, family, community and wider societal
case. Probation is also ideally placed and has been the bridge, some
say glue or oil that lubricates the cogs, between various parts of the
CJS and others beyond. The problem I have, we have, is that we do not
know at this stage how to put that vision to our politicians and the
public so that they will buy into us and raise our professional
profile. As Probation professionals we don’t want to be just good
enough or sufficient we want to be excellent. To do this, to fulfil
our potential, we need the professional structures that allow for it.
We also need a vision of Probation that inspires us and the means of
delivery that we can find joy in again. It has all become, to my mind,
far too moribund but then maybe that is more to do with me?

Who amongst us is going to produce a seminal piece of work that will
bring us back together again and inspires not just those who fervently
believe in Probation work but also the politicians and the public in a
way that means they will invest in us once again? A place called
Probation that is attractive, draws people toward it, celebrates its
successes and progresses relentlessly with its mission firmly
established always ahead of itself? I will watch with a keen interest
and eager anticipation.



  1. Probation Officer15 June 2016 at 08:02

    I'm not sure what you're trying to say. In response to your ending, the problem we are now led by people and policies intents on ripping probation apart. The Sodexo CRC's seem to be doing whatever they want to run their share sale into the ground and all the CEO's seem to have left or gone missing. The NPS is plodding along straight into this E3 downsizing with the prospect of Reforms "give probation to PCC's" as the brick wall at the end of the long winding tunnel. There is nothing probation officers can do unless external factors first raise the status of probation officers to what it was pre 2010.

  2. an interesting blog, particularly Churchill's quote, but.... ethics no longer count. The NPS, now sucked into into the Civil Service, is there to save money, and the unscrupulous greedy CRC companies are in it to make money. If the stats do not match up with the aims of successful support, well, quality and results will just be tweaked. Those words make me feel sick, but particularly in the current atmosphere of austerity, where will the money come from to put it all back together?

    (If the last sentence remains underlined in red, it is a glitch which keeps popping up on my newly installed windows 10)

  3. I'm a Probation Officer who wants to be "excellent" in all my interactions with clients and partners in the CJS but unfortunately that's not what my masters want They want me to be excellent at filling in forms and meeting meaningless targets They don't want quality reports anymore just tick box tempkates and minimum time spent with clients I am finding the conflict too difficult to manage anymore

  4. 16.21 i know exactly how you feel. Yet when i raised this with manager was told, no, we do want you to do good quality one to one work! Meaning this is what working links expect. They want it all despite stretching us to breaking point. Moving office in two weeks from a duitable building with private interview rooms to one where we will be interviewing in public area! How can i do my job in this completely crap situation!

  5. Jim your a total disgrace in your censorship and only allowing Ngative comments on here.

    1. I would love to post positive comments but unfirtunately nothing positive has come out of TR I think you should just stick to reading the websites of the CRCs and the rubbish that NOMs put out and leave us alone

  6. Anyone from DLNR CRC care to comment now that the Derby CRC have moved office away from the NPS?......Bobbyjoe

    1. Same in Hertfordshire. Sodexo CRC are going it alone, moved to their own office in Hemel Hempstead. Good riddance.

  7. 2112 nooooo cmon lighten up on jb no one has any positive comments that is not his fault you must be a senior manager,

  8. Jim is not a disgrace.full stop!