Saturday, 12 November 2016

Time For Urgent Action

Apart from Liz Truss, obviously, pretty well everyone else is clear that we have a crisis in our prison system. Having watched the shocking tv footage the other night, I'm coming to the disturbing conclusion that the situation is almost getting beyond redemption and certainly can't be sorted by the recruitment of 2,500 extra staff. Something drastic needs to happen and quickly. I was struck by this blog contribution from a former prisoner and regular reader 'Getafix':-

The recruitment and retention of prison staff is just one aspect of the current crisis, but I feel that by itself it is only part of the solution. HMP Frankland was opened during a near year dispute with the POA where staff were working to rule. It was opened and staffed for several months by the army. I think that given the dire state of prison staffing levels, Truss should consider the use of the army again, if only to help 'hold the Fort' until they can be replaced with newly recruited prison staff. 

But its every area of the prison system that's knackered, and she needs to take action fast, and she needs to be pragmatic, and some of the actions she needs to take may not please her Tory friends, especially where substance misuse is concerned. Where there's a demand there will always be a supply. It would be foolish to think that drug use in prisons can be stamped out completely. So for me it needs to be damage limitation. 

Prisoners choice of drug was once upon a time cannabis. Drug testing introduced punitive penalties, and less detectable drugs like herion replaced cannabis on the supply chain. Then came 'legal highs' spice, which was totally undetectable until recently, and that replaced herion as the drug of choice. Prisoners will use whatever drug that is less likely to get them caught and therefore less likely to attract punishment. 

It's not all about trying to stop in total drugs in prison, although keep working to restrict the supply. It's more about how you can dictate what drugs prisoners are going to use if they are indeed going to use them. If herion use or the use of psychoactive spice was to attract a punishment of 28 days addition to your sentence, but the use of normal cannabis attracted a £5 fine, then it would be cannabis that was used in prisons, and not the harder harmful ones that are causing such disorder and misery.

I'm not arguing for drug use to be allowed in prisons, I just think it's time to get real, and take a pragmatic approach, that can help the welfare and wellbeing of all in the prison system staff and inmates alike.


I would add to this and say that the time has come to bite the bullet and institute some form of emergency executive release of short-term prisoners. As with the suggestions from the contributor above, almost certainly a decision likely to cause alarm and consternation amongst the Tory-supporting popular press, but there's possibly even greater political danger by the public being exposed to yet more alarming tv footage from prisons. 

It's happened before, it's just extremely unfortunate that in addition to creating a crisis within our prisons, the government has also done irreparable harm to the probation service, the very agency that historically would have been expected to assist in delivering such emergency action.       

Understandably, much is being written about the current situation and it's always a measure of just how bad things are if the Financial Times begins to take notice. Here are two recent articles, the first:-  
Prisons in the UK are stretched past their limit

The violence at Bedford prison, which lasted more than six hours on Sunday as officers put down a riot by 200 inmates, is no surprise. Britain’s prisons are overcrowded, underfunded and under-resourced. The conditions in which inmates are held are increasingly inhumane; the conditions in which prison officers work are increasingly unsafe. Something was bound to blow.

The population behind bars in Britain has doubled since Michael Howard, then home secretary, introduced more aggressive criminal justice policies, declaring in 1993 that “prison works”. England and Wales have the highest imprisonment rate in western Europe, locking up 148 people for every 100,000.

The correctional services’ capacity to cope has not risen in parallel. Quite the opposite, according to the Prison Reform Trust, which says staff numbers have been cut by 30 per cent over the past five years, during which budgets were slashed by nearly a quarter.

The cuts have created immense pressure. In the 12 months to September there were 36,440 incidents of self harm and 107 suicides in prisons across England and Wales, the highest levels seen in at least 25 years. As shocking were increases in attacks on staff — up 43 per cent from the previous year to 5,954, according to the ministry of justice. Drugs and other contraband are increasingly available.

The system is at breaking point. In September a report by Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons, said standards at Bedford, where there are 493 inmates in a space designed for 322, fell short of “basic decency”.

As a result of staff shortages, it was not unusual for some prisoners to spend 21 hours a day locked in cells. This is the factor that appears to have sparked Sunday’s violence.

As if to highlight the problem, on Monday two prisoners made a rare escape from Pentonville — a prison built in Victorian times and singled out by former justice minister Michael Gove as “the most dramatic example of failure within the prison estate”. Mr Gove was drawing the conclusion that prison does not work in the UK. It fails to rehabilitate criminals and inflicts “pointless and enforced idleness” he said. Then Britain voted to leave the EU in June, and he lost his job.

Liz Truss, his successor, announced her own reforms last week — including building new prisons, closing old ones and hiring 2,500 extra prison staff. This could go some way to ease the crisis but even if the government succeeds in recruiting staff to a profession widely perceived as dangerous and poorly paid, the numbers are still far short of what they were before the cuts.

After reviewing a quarter-century of aggressive criminal justice policies in the US, the National Research Council found no clear evidence that greater reliance on imprisonment achieved its intended goal of substantially reducing crime. Locking up more people for longer was delivering diminishing returns at ever greater cost to the state. Some US states have begun to change gear, releasing more prisoners early, and initiating more community-based programmes for petty offenders — a far cheaper option than incarceration.

Britain should follow suit. Prisons should be for serious criminals. The rehabilitation of offenders cannot occur in conditions that are neither humane nor safe, and building more capacity is only part of the answer. The government must introduce a wider range of reforms, notably on sentencing policy and the range of non-custodial penalties available, if pressure on the system is to be sustainably reduced.


And the second:- 

English prisons in grip of crisis, justice experts warn

Critics say league table will not fix a system where violence and drugs are rife

Prisons in England and Wales are in the grip of a crisis created by staff cuts, a rising jail population and increasing availability of drugs but government remedies do not go far enough in tackling the problem, justice experts have warned.

The issue was dramatically illustrated by grainy video shot inside HMP Bedford on Sunday showing rioting prisoners storming the jail’s corridors, bellowing and screeching, while one inmate jabbed at the window with a large wooden beam. Less than 24 hours later, two prisoners had escaped from Pentonville jail, in north London, after drilling through their cell bars with diamond-tipped cutters and stuffing their beds with pillows to mimic sleeping bodies.

Some now fear that following years of austerity and tough justice policies, such incidents will become more routine as violence and disorder spread across the prison estate. After visiting HMP Bedford, the scene of the weekend riot, the jail watchdog reported it was easier for inmates to access drugs than clean bedsheets. A snap inspection of Pentonville raised concerns about vermin, cockroaches, bloodstained bunks and inmates being stuck in their cells for 23 hours a day.

“We are just living through a different sort of crisis,” says Peter Dawson, a former prison governor and now director of the Prison Reform Trust. “In the late 1980s there were riots, then there were escapes from category A prisons, and in the last two to three years, the number of people injured and who have died as a result of the state of our prisons is extraordinary and is a daily catastrophe. What you saw in Bedford and Pentonville … is likely to become more common.”

The statistics tell a story of decline. Since 2010, the number of frontline prison officers has fallen by a quarter to 18,000 after cuts to the prison budget. Reduced levels of supervision have contributed to rising levels of violence: in the past year alone, the number of deaths in prison has risen by one-fifth, while suicides in jail have gone up by 13 per cent and incidents of self-harm have increased by a quarter.

Prisoners’ assaults on each other have risen by a third, and attacks on staff are up by more than 40 per cent. Meanwhile, the prison population has more than doubled in the past two decades and continues to climb. Figures from Eurostat show that England and Wales has 148 prisoners per 100,000 head of population — the highest rate in western Europe and the 11th highest across the whole of Europe.

Liz Truss, justice secretary, last week announced reform plans to contain the crisis. She promised 2,500 more staff and the creation of “no-fly zones” over prisons to prevent drones dropping drugs and other contraband over perimeter fences. In addition, prison governors will be given more powers over budgets for education, work and health, while each jail’s performance will be published for the first time in an annual league table.

Critics suggest that Ms Truss’s measures do not go far enough. Kevin Lockyer, former deputy governor at Belmarsh, says that, while extra resources for staffing are welcome, it is difficult to undo the effects of the cuts because years of under-investment have made jails more difficult places to work. The starting salary of £20,500 is too low for a job that is exhausting and potentially unsafe, he explains. “Hanging on to people at that kind of salary level is fantastically difficult.”

There are more fundamental problems. Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for penal reform, accuses politicians of being “too feeble” to admit to the public that prisons are a scarce resource and that custody should be used sparingly. “Someone, somewhere, has got to come out and say there are too many people in prison,” Ms Crook says. “You don’t build more hospitals [just so] everybody with a cut knee [can be treated]. Nor do you want people to bed-block. It’s the same with prisons … We are sending people to prison who are merely annoying.”

Governments elsewhere have taken radical measures to reduce the prison population. Dutch officials have closed 19 jails in the past few years, having cut the number of inmates from 14,468 in 2005 to 8,245 a year ago, the BBC has reported. The reduction was achieved through better rehabilitation services as well as increased use of community service orders, fines and electronic tagging.

Mr Lockyer, who now works as an independent justice consultant, believes the only potential for change of this nature would come from devolving full responsibility for prisons away from Whitehall. “You’ve got the frankly bizarre situation in which justice secretaries worry themselves about how many books prisoners have got in their cells and the dimensions of their bath mats that they’re allowed to have,” he says.

“I’m absolutely convinced that the long-term, sustainable answer is one where responsibilities for offender management services … are devolved.”

For now, the Ministry of Justice is determined to pursue a limited devolution of powers to governors alongside the introduction of new prison standards that reinforce the notion of central control. A £14m investment in emergency staffing has also been promised, with a Teach-First style scheme to attract graduates into the prison service. But Mr Lockyer is sceptical of surface-level changes. “If you just chuck money at the problem,” he says, “all you’ll do is spend a load of money and not necessarily make it any better.”


  1. Getafix makes some very valid points here. It makes me incredibly angry that the political establishment choose to go their own way for political gain rather than listen to people who may actually be able to offer real solutions. They do this to supposedly please the electorate..including all the pathetic mantras like 'tough on vtime and tough on the causes of vrime' or the ' Just say no'campaine. They should be listening more to practitioners such as probation, drugs workers and prisoners or ex prisoners for the solution. Also looking at the plethora of research around drugs, both here and abroad. My view is that prohibition does not work and will only fuel the dealers. This is certainly the case in prisons where it creates a network of dealers both inside and outside. Spice certainly seems to be one of the most harmful drugs I have witnessed in a long time. You would not see such extremes of behaviour, heart attacks, self harm with cannabis, although long term use can contribute to paranoia and psychotic symptoms in vulnerable groups but more as a gradual deterioration whereas spice can lead to sudden psychosis. The poor man who slashed away repeatedly at his penis being a case in point. I believe that was in Bristol prison and the ex prisoner interviewed on the C4 doc. knew about that. Prisons and outside community are not seperate, they are linked. The desperate situation of some men spending more time in prison than out is very disturbing. One of the men shown looked skeletal and it reminded me of the victorian times when the dedperately poor had no choice but to go to the poor house and if they were classed as 'non deserving poor' would be treated inhumanely and worked to death. Prisoners such as some of the men shown have become the modern day equivalent of the 'non deserving'. Yet look beyond whatever their crime is and you will see the failure of society. The man from lawrence weston in Bristol pointing at his former care home. We all know how over-reprasented people who have been in the care system are. Also the shocking number of people with mental health problems who are behind bars..autistic spectrum and ADHD and dyslexia also massively over reprasented. We have handed over the care and rehabilitation of of vulnerable groups ( offenders sre also far more likely to be victims of crime ) to private, for profit companies. How wrong is that! I am a PO, getting a bit long in the tooth. I still want to help and make that effort but I know the company I work for are only interested in being target driven. No one monitors the work I do with service users. All i get is my spo asking why i occasionally miss an oasys deadline! It is soul destroying but I carry on regardless,although the situation is getting increasingly desperate for service users facing benefit cuts or going from job to job or sofa surfing. My job is made that bit harder by constant change at work, crap IT, lack of admin, poor office and reporting conditions, staff sickness, HR shrinkage, staff leaving due to cuts.

    1. Apologies for late publication - stuck in the spam filter I'm afraid.

  2. There are numerous articles on Guardian website about failure of prisons. Can someone put a link!

    1. Yes there is a queue of Guardian pieces plus others - I'll do a compendium for later today.

  3. Like that idea of devolving prison and maybe more cj services from Whitehall to stop them being political footballs, and I believe this is how sensible changes to change systems in other parts of the world are made. Obviously there still has to be accountability. But if cj services end up working well or even just better than now it will bless everyone+ whatever government is in. As someone posted this week the political and civil service amateurs need to be replaced by those in the operational know, by organisations such as Howard league and by user groups+ investment funds to make a realistic start.

  4. Thanks 9.42, I think it was me that suggested this! However not sure what happened to my last posting here..promise I didn't swear! It is urgent now that moj and noms begin to listen to those involved because we are being replaced by private sector corporate types whose only motivation is money and the power that goes with it.

    1. You mean this one?

      "They need to put a group of real experts in charge so that they can work together to sort out the mess. Get rid of Truss and replace with a team of experts including Judge, magistrate, prison governor, maingrade Prison Officer and PO..Howard League representative..drugs and mental health experts and some reformed ex prisoners..forget about MOJ and NOMS as experts because they have clearly failed by allowing all the power to shift to private companies. Scrap NOMS!"

  5. It's just so bad that stories of deaths, suicide, and fear no longer have the shocking impact on the reader they should have.
    It's common place, everyday, and people's emotions are acclimatised to the horrific state of the UK prison system.

    A team of experts would be ideal, someone who knew what they were doing would be good, but at least have someone in charge who gives a shite.


    1. Prison staff failed to protect two vulnerable young inmates found hanging in their cells and did not discipline bullies who plagued them, inspectors have found.

      A prison watchdog has called for improvements at Glen Parva young offenders institution after investigations into the deaths of Liam Lambert, 20, and Jake Foxall, 19.

      Both men had complained of being bullied shortly before their deaths.

      Mr Lambert died in hospital on March 24, 2015, after being found hanging in his cell on March 19.

      He was due to be released on April 1.

      Mr Foxall was found hanging in his cell on November 7, 2015. He died in hospital on November 12.

      Both were considered vulnerable, and had a history of self-harming.

      After looking into the deaths - which followed the self-inflicted deaths of eight other prisoners at Glen Parva since 2010, some suicides, other accidental - an investigator acting on behalf of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has said staff had not protected Mr Lambert and Mr Foxall properly from being bullied by other inmates.

  6. Visiting HMP Leeds yesterday to do a cold oasys (cos someone was sentenced to 4 years without a report - not unusual these days. Time slot 3-4, and I had a home visit to do at 4.30pm. Got to jail at 2:44, plenty of time. However, I joined a queue in the visitors centre, waiting for -A LOCKER! Seems the center has delivery of a new batch of lockers, but nobody availabek to fit them. Consequently, solicitors, me and a number of famikies were unable to commence our viits at the time planned, as we had to wait for the 2pm visitors to leave, to provide the lockers, for us to place all items we cannot take in, such as car keys. I finally got one at 3.30pm and it the took 20 mins for me to be escorted to visits room. The man is was visiting was newly sentenced and had been placed in the 'holding area' since 2pm....I was then asked to leave at 4:20, just as well I wasn't interviewing for a Court report, as I did not have sufficient time. It then took me 10 mins to get out I was glad a colleague at the office was there, when I rang to ask someone to let my 4.30 home visit know that I was delayed. I got to him at 5:15 and home at 6:00.

    It feels like a parrallel universe, where public money and my time is wasted, where prisoners become exasperated by long periods of waiting to see officials and family because there are not sufficient numbers of lockers to support the prison's security policy.

    1. "sentenced to 4 years without a report - not unusual these days."

      This job really is completely fucked and the Probation Institute recently had the bare-faced cheek to chastise me in a tweet because I suggested they were 'silent' on the issue of TR.

      "Jim, I am surprised at you. We have made many comments on TR, in publications, blogs, to Justice Committee, to members. Peddle your myths."

    2. I got sentenced to 7 yrs in 2010 with a pre sentence report and was far from the only person I came across in 4 prisons to be in this situation so this has been going on long before the current mess

    3. Can you clarify please? Was there a pre sentence report for the Judge prior to your sentence or not and if there was, what was the sentencing suggestion? Thanks.

  7. You have to scroll to the bottom to find the link, but I'm sure that a more erudite (and less sweary than myself) person may wish to contribute. Prison/probation is quite a current topic at present and I'm sure any article would be well received.

    1. I’m the person who assesses whether or not your medical condition is stopping you from being able to work – and I have never felt so dejected by a job.

      It’s my job to carry out work capability assessments to see if people qualify for Employment Support Allowance (ESA). For 18 months, I’ve been working for a private company to which the the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) outsources this task.

      I’m a healthcare professional who joined after being disillusioned with working in the NHS. I will be honest: for me, as for many of my colleagues, the salary, which is far higher than NHS pay, was a big draw. But like all healthcare professionals, we want to do a good job. We go into caring professions because we care.

      But in this job I just don’t always have the time to be as sympathetic as I’d like to be or give people the time they need. We are under constant pressure to assess at least six claimants a day, spending 65 minutes on average with each.

      If the company I work for fails to meet its assessment targets it can get fined by the DWP. So I often get a knock on the door to ask how much longer I will be and when I can pick up another case.

      ESA is a contentious type of benefit and the people who walk into my assessment room are often anxious, angry, scared, pessimistic or resigned. Many have lost faith in the system and feel the government is abandoning them. We are often the sounding board for the people who come in. They confide in us about the horrific things that have happened to them.

      About 80% of the people we see have mental health problems. I have assessed clients who were actively psychotic, in a manic bipolar phase, or severely depressed to the point where they couldn’t speak and a family member had to do the talking for them.

      There has been a general improvement in reports since the company I work for took over the contract, but there still isn’t always the time to give full consideration to the complexity of cases. Some people have as many as 15 medical conditions and we have to document and obtain a history for every single one. When this happens, staff know it will take longer. It can lead to us rushing and missing things because we are so concerned about not seeing enough people during the day. It is relentless.

      Most people I assess understand we are just there to do a job. But some people are very volatile and some do resort to verbal abuse, intimidation, and occasionally, physical violence. They’re angry at the system – and I can understand why.

      As the face of that system, I am the one who bears the brunt of their ire. We all try to placate and soothe the people who come in as best as we can. But sometimes we just can’t. I have had to abandon cases and there have been countless times where the emergency services have been called. Sometimes I feel genuinely scared.

      As we don’t make the ultimate decision, we never find out what happens in the end. When someone asks how they have done, it can be very difficult. I’m not allowed to tell them anything, but I know that if I have scored them little or no points, they will most likely lose their benefit and be expected to hunt for a job. It makes me feel so dishonest and I imagine their face when they’re hit with that letter or phone call, delivering the bad news.

      It is most difficult with the ones who are trying their best to get by but just aren’t deemed bad enough to qualify for any support. Many claimants are older and underskilled, which makes it much harder for them to find work. I have cried on two occasions after an assessment because I felt so awful that I couldn’t help.

      The job is incredibly demoralising and psychologically draining – by the end of the day I’m exhausted. I honestly don’t know how much longer I will last.

  8. Probation Officer12 November 2016 at 11:59

    Interesting comments about solutions to the prison crisis. I'll respond to a few points for anyone interested in reading. I think people ignore that prison numbers have steadily increased since 1950/60 and conditions have slowly deteriorated or maybe retuned to the sorry state they were in Victorian times.

    Staffing: Recruiting 2500 prison officers is a fantasy. Because of the poor pay and conditions staff cannot be recruited or retained. In fact the majority of staff that can be recruited or retained will probably be of the poorest quality. Let's face it, apart from the older prison officers hanging on for retirement and who deserve utmost respect, only the desperately unemployed would go for a job in a prison.

    The Army: Sending in the Army is always an option but God help prisoners if soldiers are used as prison officers. It probably won't be any worse than the current management but it certainly won't be better. I remember a time when a lot of prison officers were ex-military and many were ruthless barstards. Yes they'd probably run a tight ship but is a military regime really the answer? Even if it were possible the Army has suffered cuts too so with an impending war in Syria I doubt they'd have the manpower.

    Early release: I recall the last early release scheme to reduce prison overcrowding. Not going to happen with this Tory "prison works" government. Even if it was an option it would not work simply because this government decimated the probation service and let really crap private companies manage CRC's. They would be unable to manage huge numbers of short term prisoners because of the Offender Management Act's minimum 1 year supervision for all, and the crimes that would follow would end Liz Truss' career.

    Drugs: Spice can now be tested for but as its synthetic this means it will be easy to design a new form to evade tests. We'd all like prisoners to use a less harmful drug if they are going to get high but no Tory government is going to implement a policy that could be seen to encourage use of one drug over another. If they really want to stop drug use in prison then somebody should get a bunch of ex-drug users/dealers (serving prisoners) for a chat as they will have the answer.

    The solution: we have a culture of locking people up and branding them as criminals for life. This is very odd when other countries with lower reoffending rates place much less emphasis on imprisonment and delete criminal records to give people a chance. There isn't a UK solution using the current culture of justice and punishment. Because prisons are the main form of justice and punishment it is easy to 'lock people up, throw away the key and forget about them'. The answer is in alternatives to custody, use of community sentences, investing in a single probation service as the 'fourth arm of the CJS' to serve as both punishment and rehabilitation, and this requires suitably trained probation officers and a return to an ethos of 'advise, assist and befriend', not all this PbR and civil service code nonsense. There also needs to be a wider culture shift that requires state run community services to provide a minimum level of immediate support for offenders to stop offending such as access to benefits, housing and employment, which should be right through from point of arrest to end of sentence. This would save prisons for the most dangerous and the entrenched repeat offenders only, and with checks and balances in place to ensure the Courts are towing the line.

    1. Probation Officer12 November 2016 at 12:04

      Oh and if the Tory response for non-action id austerity and cuts, I'm sure they can gain a few pounds by cancelling Trident, suspending the refurbishment of Parliament and reversing that MP pay rise!!

    2. You forgot Hinkley and HS2

  9. On the subject. Of conditions in prisons and pay rises, can anyone advise what is happening in terms of the pay award that should have been received on 1st April.
    Nothing on the NAPO website, no published pay claim and no reports of any negotiations.
    The employers want E3, which should come with a price tag. The time to discuss wage sis when the employers want something, not after you have given it away!
    Equally, what is happening with the prison environmental allowance which has remained static for decades while conditions have deteriorated dramatically.
    Some 'managers,' are aware that experienced staff don't want to work in prisons and so are talking about directing newly qualified officers to do the job!!!
    I hope they accept responsibility when we have a tragedy as a result.

  10. I could do so much more to genuinely assist prison leavers if I had a lower caseload. Some social workers have limits of 20 or as low as 10 and that is per child not sibling group! Government and private companies think we can field all this work out but what they get is limited lip service. As the 'key worker' i need time and that is something in short supply. I often ebd up doing family work which is vital but not really accounted for. Things like going that extra mile, calling the boss of an 18 yr old to smooth things over when he thought he had lost his job for swearing! It seemed to help and he is still working but I am pulling my hair out because i just don't have enough time to do all the supportive stuff with a caseload of 50 and all the targets to reach. The more support i give the more the service users want to come in and see me to report problems. All stuff they should be sharing eg. One man on autistic spectrum close to hitting his partner, again worked on a strategy but he was back again soon after and i was too busy to see him, just called him later. Tried volunteer mentors but this doesn't free me up. Service users need more input to make a real difference plus joined up services. I am sinking! Would be so much easier for me if i didn't give a shit but i do!

    1. Probation Officer12 November 2016 at 16:14

      This is how we've always worked - 'going the extra mile'. Sadly what TR has created is a service of nothing. The worse thing is that the private companies running CRC's are creaming revenue off this nothing and the MoJ/NPS are dumbing-down probation work. Probation support is now more about what we can't do which makes me wonder what we can do. I remember just a few years back when services were partnerships or in-house, and probation helped people. Now it's abysmal due to directors and managers stripping back services and tripling our workloads.

      Offender - "Can you help me I'm homeless".
      PO - "We're not a housing service, try the housing department".

      Offender - "If you can help me get a job I can rent a room"
      PO - "We don't have an employment officer, try the job-centre"

      Offender - "I can't get there, I have no money"
      PO - "Have you made a benefits claim?"

      Offender - "I'm awaiting payment, I haven't eaten for days"
      PO - "Try the food bank"

      Offender - "Can I have a food bank voucher?"
      PO - "We haven't any"

      Offender - "How about a tenner for the bus and some food?"
      PO - "We can't give out money"

      Offender - "Why not, you made me come here"
      PO - "You might spend it on drugs"

      Offender - "But I am on drugs, that's why I'm here"
      PO - "We don't have a drugs officer, try the drugs service".

      Offender - "But I can't get there, it's a long way".
      PO - "We can only give you fares to probation appointments"

      Offender - "Can I have fares for coming here today then?"
      PO - "Your last address is within 3 miles, our 'fares policy' says you're not eligible"

      Offender - "But I'm homeless, I just told you so".
      PO - "We're not a housing service, try housing".

      Offender - "I don't know where it is?"
      PO - "Try google"

      Offender - "Could you come with me?"
      PO - No, I'm busy, I have 50 other case"

      Offender - "How about a lift, I'll wait until you're free"
      PO - "Our 'car policy' says we're not allowed to take offenders in our cars"

      Offender - "I won't be an offender if you help me!"
      PO - "If you breach your licence I'll recall you".

      Offender - "That's not what I meant!"
      PO - "Time's up, I've somebody else to see now!"

      Offender - "Can I use the phone?"
      PO - "No"

      Offender - "Have you got a cigarette?"
      PO "No"

      Offender - "My old probation officer used to help me, can I have her instead".
      PO - "She's retired"

      Offender - "Probation is useless, what's the point of me coming here every week?"
      PO - "Risk management and public protection".

      Offender - "Huh?"
      PO - "See you next week!"

    2. And that's about it Probation Officer! In its current form I struggle to see anything useful offenders can get help with from probation services. Even those POs that will go the extra mile have their hands tied. May aswell sign on at the local police station instead of going to probation appointments. That's all it is really. Turn up, tick the box, and go back to where ever you came from. NEXT PLEASE!
      Accommodation help where I'm from consists of a group sitting in a room having your 'housing rights' explained to you. That's the help with accommodation requirements dealt with, box ticked, invoice the MOJ for payment.
      It's the same for everything, process and payment.
      There is a big issue just around the corner for a lot offenders, that some may or may not be aware of regarding benefit payments. Most offenders I know have a post office account (often opened with assistance from the job centre), but shortly benefits will only be paid into a proper bank account only, non will be paid into a post office account.
      So it's my guess that this will cause a significant problem for many, particularly those just being released who may have a post office account, but may struggle to open a bank account.
      Guess that's just going to be another headache for probation services?


    3. 13.36 and probation officer both brilliant posts, it is so true. Only reason why I still practice is it gives me an even more enormous buzz doing the 13.36 things regardless of what is expected, and against all expectations I'm still here. It puts a smile on my face swimming against the current, and it boosts me to see and read when others do the same.

    4. Probation Officer - you are nailed on with problems we face and a good post - if it doesn't fit in the box, we can't help. That's what TR has created. Unfortunately, we don't deal with objects that fit into boxes, we deal with complex people who have needs. Maybe the politicians need to give us back autonomy and let us do our jobs. At the moment, I am a glorified referral agent with no time to carry out any meaningful one to one work to facilitate genuine positive change in people who want to change. With the state of Prisons and Probation at the moment, politicians have blood on their hands. Nevermind though, the general election and getting votes counts for more then actually helping those who need it. What a shameful country we live in now

    5. Probation Officer12 November 2016 at 19:31

      It's disgusting what consecutive governments (particularly this Tory one) have done to probation. The prison crisis is a direct result of Tory meddling. Where as I was once a very resourceful probation officer, I should now update my CV to state;

      1. Professional box ticker
      2. Extensive experience of sign-posting
      3. Proven track record of saying "No" to clients.

      We can do so much more, but this is what the current probation leadership wants (NPS and CRC), because it's what their Tory and privateer masters require.

    6. I would suggest that the strength of probation is and always has been as a referal service. In my time under supervision I had contact with about 40 various different probation officers in about 2 1/2 years. My relationship with them was more on the very unsupportive side, infact if you asked a question about their lives it would 9 times out of 10 be met with very evasive responses. Real support that makes a meaningful difference to peoples lives doesnt come from the relationship dynamic of the PO/Offender. I'm sure there have been instances of genuine emotional support given by Probation Officers in the past, but I get the strong impression that many PO's overestimate the importance of what they do. Like the recent Work Programne report there may be a chance that Probation supervision is "worse than doing nothing".

    7. 20:13 I disagree, and to be honest I don't believe you had contact with 40 probation officers, not in a supervisory manner. We were always a supervisory service and building the relationship was always important. I remember a time when we didn't need to refer as community services were either run by or partnered with probation. This has changed in recent years and moreso since TR with the focus on cost cutting. In fact there was a strategy a few years back to bring back these ways of working, but that disappeared with TR. I've known many offenders that appreciated and benefited from the support of a probation officer, both in prison and following release, sometimes post supervision too. Many probation officers still try to work like this but are prevented by the politics and economics. Saying that, not all are happy with probation contact and you're clearly one such person.

    8. If you honestly believe I didn't have supervisory contact with 40 different probation officers then you are calling me a liar in the first instance. If you were my probation officer, with that attitude, do you think that would be the best way to approach supporting me? Or is your natural inclination to give a false impression of yourself towards offenders?

      You overestimate the importance of your role in desistance. In my experience you serve a basic function as a form filler. If you passed GCSE English you are qualified enough to do the job.

    9. Maybe you're a liar, or maybe just plain confused as your ramblings suggest. You've obviously had a bad experience of probation but you seem clever enough to know better than assuming this is the same for all.

    10. As a Probation Officer, I work best on one to one basis. After all, having been in the job many years that's what I joined. I do tell people or 'service users' as the people I work with now are labelled now about personal aspects of my life - its called trust. As a PO, I have to delve into the personal lives of so called 'service users' (again not my choice of language but more imposed upon me by the powers that be!) so only fair to divulge aspects of my own life. It encourages engagement and trust is a two way thing on a one to one basis. Going back to my earlier point, I joined this job to genuinely help people - its rewarding and I can give examples of the label that I will attach 'ex-offenders' who contact me at work to let me know what they are up to now. Now, that's not allowed. Its not in the box that this shite government have created. Instead, I am a referral machine. Referring 'service users' to the private sector or "third Sector" to tick a box and cover my arse and pass on blame to some poor soul who 9 times out of 10 has no life experience (no disrespect intended}. Nothing will be achieved as a result but apparently all is dandy according to the bollocks this government spins. Hate this job now and not what I signed up for. So may genuine and really good probation officers with an aim to really help people have seen this shite and left. A big thank you for the shite created goes out to the buffoon that is Grayling - you knob. No, too nice - YOU F****** ABSOLUTE BELLEND WHO NEEDS TO BE HELD TO ACCOUNT. But also Gove and also to Truss who seems happy to sit back and ignore the shite that is going on in the hope it magically disappears. Wake up - we're in a mess due to austerity and the fantasy world all politians seem to live in where everyone fits nicely into a box. Apparently, people (or that blasted service uses label) don't have complex or individual needs.

  11. Intermission!! There are popular songs of protest currently available, including some I have recently been introduced to by a young man known as YG, I think from an album of his music called "Still Brazy"; the most striking being "FDT" and "FDT pt.2". He does seem to prefer the use of profanities, so perhaps not for those of a sensitive disposition. It made me tap my fingers on my zimmer with a sense of hope that the young people are not giving up. Oh, and Fuck the DWP!!

  12. Lol 15.02 shame you can't post a video here! Don't think you will find too many PO's who can't cope with a few swear words! Enjoy polishing your zimmer frame.

    1. Can you publish the howard league graph that they showed to financial times showing the correllation between falling prison officer numbers and deaths in custody? It is absolutely shocking and the link between the two inescapable.

    2. I will do my best, but images can be notoriously difficult to copy and paste.

  13. You have to wonder at Theresa May's competence as PM for appointing Liz Truss as SSJ. She must have known Truss is an incompetent nitwit from her time in Environment but she appointed her anyway to a department that was clearly in crisis when Gove was in p[lace. But at least Gove had the beginnings of a plan. Truss has none. She refuses to release anyone which is beyond ridiculous. Her conduct over the past few weeks makes it crystal clear she is not fit to hold the office. She should either resign or be sacked

    1. They will only replace her with another 'nitwit' maybe borris or foxy-loxy! We need a complete overhall as described above. A team of experts/ experienced people and ex offenders/ howard league etc.

    2. Changing justice secretary will achieve nothing. For any significant improvements we need a new government!

    3. Good point - this government needs to hang their heads in shame about the mess they themselves have created

    4. I think she appointed the current minister BECAUSE she is a nitwit thereby sidelining her with a problem she cant fix and as a result negating her influence in cabinet-its called politics

  14. Well done to the Tories for bringing back Victorian values! The sweat shops both aboad and in the U.K, goods and clothes mass produced by child labour and dangerous conditions abroad sold in U.K, zero hours contracts, people working 12 hours a day to make ends meet, bedroom tax, homelessness, huge social divides, ghettos, commercial gain put above all else, the rise of modern slavery, the undeserving poor and mentally ill locked up in rat infested prisons, women giving birth in prison having babies snatched from the breast. Well done...what a brilliant achievement!

    1. And don't forget the benefit cap that kicked in on 7th November. Anyone living in areas with high rents will find themselves in arrears from the outset. Expect geographical divides between rich and poor to become increasingly apparent.

  15. Russell Websters blog
    today has a little video embedded which is worth a watch, and should be viewed in conjunction with any of the recent tv coverage of what it is really like inside our prisons atm

  16. I mean (still me from above) shouldn't the MoJ be putting out information, not really REALLY crap propaganda? And please heaven, can't we just get rid of NOMS?

  17. We could of course decrease our prison population by renting a Dutch Jail as Norway an Belgium already do. For prisoner due for deportation at the end of sentence this is ideal. The attraction for them well Skype for one, International calls for 1p a minute not £1 which our prisons charge.

    It has been scientifically proven that chemicals affects the brain. The effect of Vitamin D deficiency sunlight causing depression has been known for many many years, More recently the lack of Omega 3's as in the prison diet has been shown to increase violence and aggression by about 40%. NOMS knows of these studies, but illogically disbelieves them. The science is fine nothing to dispute, so why not give prisoners a healthy diet, not just sufficient carbohydrates to sustain life.

    Two cheap instant fixes for the problem. I agree with cannabis. A Dutch policeman told me its far easier to deal with stoned people than drunks.

  18. I agree about the diet issue and importance of fatty acids. Increase in fatty acids has been proven to improve behaviour and concentration in school children. Surely access to a healthy diet, excercise and sunlight are basic human rights? I believe the prison diets have deteriorated since privatisation. This is certainly the impression i am getting from ex prisoners. Someone neefs to insist that health checks on a % of prison poulation take place on admission and pre release to get an idea about what is going on. Noms should not be allowed to ignore research that could help and other experts offering advice. They are behaving more like guards in a prisoner of war camp by showing no mercy despite the huge spike an violence, self harm and suicide.