Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Probation Institute Evidence

As we know, the Justice Committee is in the process of considering Prison Reform and I realise I never got around to publishing what the Probation Institute submitted by way of written evidence:-


1.1 The Probation Institute’s response is based on the following key foundations 
  • Prison Reform should not be considered in isolation. Prisons are one element of a criminal justice system. All these elements interact and significant changes to one impact on other parts of the justice system. 
  • Overemphasis on imprisonment as a punishment is one of the most significant shortcomings of the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales. Deterrence and punishment are ineffective in reducing crime as demonstrated by the very high re-offending rates amongst those imprisoned compared to those managed in the community. 
  • By all recognised measures, the volume of crime has been falling for nearly two decades, not just in England and Wales, but in most jurisdictions in the developed world. Yet during this period the prison population in England and Wales has more than doubled. The falling volume of crime presents an opportunity for justice re-investment into rehabilitative services in the community and into wider measures that reduce crime and protect victims or potential victims. 
1.2 Our response draws on the collective expertise of our members and fellows who work in rehabilitative services across the criminal justice services including within prisons. It also reflects our position paper on Penal Reform published earlier this year (see ) 


2.1 The use of prison should be restricted to those who present too great a risk to the public to be managed in the community. The present prison population is unsustainably high. The majority of those currently in prison do not pose a danger to others. The high prison population puts pressure on the prison estate and on staffing. Black and ethnic minority populations are significantly overrepresented in the prison population, an issue that will be examined in David Lammy’s review. Women are disproportionately imprisoned for nonviolent offences. The evidence for this has been set out in numerous reviews and inspections, most recently Baroness Corston’s review in 2007. A high proportion of the prison population have issues with addiction and/or poor mental health. 
  • Prisons punish those sentenced by depriving them of their liberty. The prison regime is not and should not be an additional component of this punishment 
  • The purpose of prisons should be the humane containment of offenders assessed as presenting too great a risk of harm to others to be managed in the community. 
  • Prisons should 
  • ensure the well-being and safety of prisoners 
  • focus on promoting those interventions that reduce the risks posed by prisoners and facilitate release and resettlement. These may be prisoner focused (e.g. education, offence focused work, life skills, promotion of family links). They may also be focused on the required monitoring, supervision and other external controls required to enable management in the community, an approach effectively delivered at present by the best practice within the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangement (MAPPA). 
2.2 Imprisoning people who do not pose a risk to others for relatively short periods of time results in very high re-offending rates. Those factors most likely facilitate reduced offending are stable accommodation, stable employment, stable and positive relationships, access to local services that can address underlying issues such as poor mental health and addiction. All of these are adversely impacted by a custodial sentence. 

2.3 The current size of the prison population actively restricts the ability of prisons to fulfil their key purpose. It is extremely expensive. Overcrowding makes the provision of effective services to prisoners more difficult and poses an increasing risk to staff working in prisons. A rational reform strategy should include sentencing reform and promote the management of non-dangerous offenders in the community. 

2.4 Re-investing the resources currently deployed to manage an unnecessarily high prison population into better resourced and targeted community-based programmes and preventative measures is the over-arching strategy most likely to achieve sustained reductions in re-offending. The strategy is being pursued in other jurisdictions including state and federal systems in the United States across the spectrum of political leadership. 

2.5 Adequate resourcing for staff within prisons must be an immediate priority to support regimes which can deliver more effectively on their rehabilitative goals. 

2.6 Re-offending rates of those supervised in the community are consistently lower than those for custody. The difference widens when applied to those serving sentences of 12 months and under. The differences are evident in groups with matching criminal histories.

2.7 Reinvesting in community sanctions that are demonstrated to reduce re-offending is likely to bring re-offending rates down further, faster and more cost-effectively. Further research into effectiveness will always be welcome but in essence the evidence is clear about what kind of approaches are most likely to be effective with most people. (MoJ, 2013) Rather than searching for a “magic bullet” that will transform re-offending rates, consistent investment in what research already tells us works, and in the training and recruitment of staff to apply this, is likely to bring sustainable results. 

  • The prison modernisation programme should enable 
  • sufficient, well trained staff to ensure that the key purposes of containment, safety and wellbeing and rehabilitation are fulfilled. These staff include Probation, rehabilitation, resettlement and voluntary sector staff who have important roles within prisons. 
  • A reconfiguration of the geography of the estate so that prisoners are held as close as possible to their home areas. This facilitates the maintenance of family links and links to services which will be critical to successful re-settlement on release. 
  • The modernisation programme should consider how the delivery of its key aims could be facilitated by greater prisoner involvement in prison regimes. Prisoner Councils have been successfully set up in a number of prisons. Providing prisoners with greater opportunity to influence and exercise responsibility for regimes is consistent with promoting desistance from re-offending. 

  • Humane containment 
  • Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of prisoners 
  • Promoting desistance 
  • Facilitating links with families and local services 
  • Leading regimes that deliver the above 
  • In a more locally configured prison system, playing a full part in local partnerships to ensure that the prison is integrated with local services 
4.3 NOMS 

The case for the retention of NOMS rests on it developing cross system leadership between prisons and probation. NOMS has arguably focused primarily on prisons which account for the vast majority of its budget. NOMS should liaise with key leaders in the new devolved government arrangements in particular Mayors, Police & Crime Commissioners and Integrated Commissioning Boards. These are key stakeholders in the criminal justice system. NOMS needs to work with them to develop whole system leadership. 

4.4 MoJ and MINISTERS 

Penal policy is an area marked by risk aversion, in the face of a perceived public appetite for exclusively punitive responses to crime and, with occasional exceptions, a lack of leadership to promote alternative approaches. The reform agenda presents an opportunity for Ministers and senior policy makers to promulgate a bold evidence based approach to policy. A policy of justice reinvestment can be promoted as both more cost effective and producing better outcomes in terms of reducing offending and improved social integration. 


The factors that contribute to offending and effective means to reduce re-offending spread across the range of government social policy departments. The Policing & Crime Act 2009 which came into force the following year, placed a duty on Local Authorities to consider reducing re-offending in the exercise of all their duties. This duty should extend to all central government departments and the exercise of this duty should be audited so that authorities are held to account. There are some excellent examples of good inter-agency work where non-criminal justice agencies contribute effectively to resolving re-offending (Prolific & Priority Offender Schemes, Integrated Offender Management, Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences for domestic abuse). These are inconsistent however, and are often undermined by a lack of commitment or awareness at senior levels in central and local government. 

  • The opportunity arises to pursue a policy of justice re-investment 
  • There is an opportunity to restate the purpose of imprisonment clearly and publicly and then reconfigure the prison system to deliver it 
  • The geography of the prison estate is one of the major challenges. A truly locally focused prison system would have enormous benefits but is difficult to achieve with the current estate. This difficulty will increase if the trend toward larger prisons continues. 
  • Introducing governor autonomy may have a part to play in delivering an improved prison system. The impact is likely to be limited because 
  • population management is centrally or regionally controlled. Governors will not have control over the type or number of inmates in their jails 
  • it does not address the disconnect between the delivery of services within prison and the community. This is a long term issue which has resulted in prisoners undergoing multiple referral processes with little coherent oversight 

6.1 The P.I. is not in a position to comment on details about the commissioning and procurement of private prisons. 

6.2 In relation to ancillary services the recent TR changes which have involved the commissioning and procurement of “Through the Gate” Services has been problematic. The principle of a “Through the Gate” service, integrating service provision within prisons and the community, is critical to improving rehabilitation. However, significant shortcomings are already emerging in the specifications of the contracts. The commissioning intention does not appear to match the service provision. For example, the intention appeared to be the provision of counselling, safety planning and support to survivors of domestic abuse and/or those involved in sex work. The reality has been that most CRCs have issued sub-contracts to their supply chain partners that require no more than a brief contact to “signpost” to specialist services outside the prison. Similar issues have occurred with respect to accommodation, employment, substance misuse and education services. HM Inspectorate of Probation picked up these concerns in their “early findings” inspections of Transforming Rehabilitation. Whilst some difficulties in gearing up supply chains and introducing new arrangements were inevitable, it appears that more fundamental flaws are emerging. There are significant and sometimes dangerous disconnects between the work of Prison Offender Management Units, Prison Probation Teams (National Probation Service) and “Through the Gate” teams (usually providers contracted by the CRC). 


7.1 Performance measures should focus on outcomes rather than process and be related to the achievement of the prisons’ key purposes (containment, safety and wellbeing, management/reduction of risk, promotion of desistance). The Prison Service already uses “Measuring of Quality of Life in Prisons” instrument. This is an effective tool for capturing both qualitative and quantitative measures. Greater input from prisoners themselves to performance measurement regimes would be beneficial. 


8.1 Other criminal justice jurisdictions can offer some valuable learning 
  • In the Netherlands responsibility for re-integrating those released from prison lies with local communities under the oversight of the mayor. This responsibility is exercised effectively and reoffending rates are lower than in England & Wales 
  • Norway has successfully promulgated a criminal justice policy where prison is a last resort for those who are deemed too dangerous to be managed in the community. Prison regimes in Norway stress the need for prisoners to take responsibility within the prison. 
  • The trend toward justice re-investment in North America has already been highlighted 

9.1 The independence of HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM are critical and must be preserved. 9.2 Independent Monitoring Boards sometimes lack the breadth of knowledge to address issues relating to “through the gate” and rehabilitation services. 


10.1 The Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) programme? 

A bold reform programme is likely to impact significantly on TR. If it resulted in a reduction of the prison population community caseloads for both the National Probation Service and particularly Community Rehabilitation Companies would rise. This need not be problematic and may indeed mitigate some of the difficulties faced by CRCs as a result of lower than expected volumes of cases coming through Courts. Reconfiguring the prison estate and greater governor autonomy would have significant implications for “Through the Gate” services which are currently centrally commissioned. As noted the initial performance of this service is not promising so this may provide an opportunity for contract variation in respect of these services. This in turn may promote a re-alignment of CRC based supply chain relationships to provide more effective services both “through the gate” and in the community. More emphasis could for example be placed on promoting community based services for women where the CRC commitment has thus far been disappointing. In short, a radical prison reform programme could facilitate the roles of Probation organisations and the voluntary sector in playing a more co-ordinated and effective part in resettling prisoners and enabling them to re-integrate as active citizens.


A bold reconfiguration of the prison estate would facilitate a more devolved approach. There are significant potential benefits in joining up local CJ provision and budgets under the control of Police and Crime Commissioners and/or elected mayors. This is likely to promote more outward looking prisons truly integrated with local services. 

10.3 Devolution would also present opportunities to involve local communities including victim, offenders, their families and others more directly in the CJ system, promoting greater transparency and understanding of the system. In turn this could have benefits in terms of public confidence. 

Professor Paul Senior, Chair, 
Nick Smart, Vice-Chair and Helen Schofield, ACEO 
On behalf of the Probation Institute 29 September 2016


  1. Just been having a browse & found this in a 2015 NPS press release. I wasn't aware that while probation staff were being shafted into CRCs & forced to jump out the first floor window, the NPS were sneaking Capita staff in through the back door.

    "Ten new enforcement officers from Capita have joined the North West regional probation workforce with effect from 1 February 2015. The appointments come after a successful 8-month secondment from the rehabilitation support provider.

    The new officers were initially brought in to the National Probation Service (NPS) as part of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme. By bringing them under the employment of the NPS, it allowed them to prosecute breaches in the courts. This has given probation officers extra capacity to focus on other enforcement activities, and therefore allows a greater flexibility for working with the courts.

    The secondment was so successful that the transfer was made permanent.

    Although the new officers will initially only be working on breaches, the intention is that they will take on responsibility for other enforcements in the future, which will give more probation coverage across all court work.

    Mohammed Farooq, Head of Stakeholder Engagement for the North West division of the National Probation Service said: “We’re really pleased to have among our highly skilled workforce a group of officers who will make a tremendous contribution to the NPS as it moves forward.”"

    1. I think this was to do with Unpaid work or curfews. But yes, a totally regressive move.

      "... This has given probation officers extra capacity to focus on other enforcement activities"

      Always grates me to hear this line. Total rubbish because if probation officers are restricted in capacity then employ more probation officers and not second rate applicants from the local jobcentre!!

    2. In Kent someone was brought into nps to deal with curfews while staff were sifted to crc. They just seemed to do what they pleased with TR.

    3. Capita took the EMS curfew contract from G4S. NPS took the Capita staff under their management only to prosecute the Stand alone EMS Curfews, nothing to do with UPW or anything else, A straight forward means towards prosecution of all community orders which is only an NPS remit. Prior to that G4S did all prosecutions of stand alone EMS Curfews but had no access to CPS documents as they were not a recognised prosecution service. Once TR came in and devolved all prosecution to NPS and capita took over the EMS contract, MoJ had no choice but to put Capita staff in courts under management of NPS. Hope that has stopped any dodgy hares running!!!!

    4. In some areas the prosecution of EMS breaches is undertaken by existing psos. Another example of inconsistent practice.

    5. Again I need to correct that. NPS have complete responsibility to prosecute ALL Breaches of COs and SSOs and therefore will be responsible for al EMS breaches. In NW England they have capita staff under their supervison prosecuting stand alone EMS. Where it is a MRO (Multi Requirement Order) with an EMS requirement then ONLY NPS PSOs or POs can prosecute. No Magistrates court will ever recognise Non NPS Staff prosecuting a MRO breach. In old money, MRO replaced the intergrated Case Management (ICM).

    6. I think these days anyone can be a "responsible officer".

  2. The Probation Institute, which panders to the MoJ and private probation companies, does not and can not speak for probation and probation employees. On the matter of prison reform it is simple for starters;

    1. Better staffed and resourced prisons, with prison reserved for very serious and high level repeat offenders only.

    2. Better staffed Probation Service working between custody and community. This should coincide with an increased use of community sentences and TTG incorporated as throughcare.

    3. Immediate access to benefits and actual housing and jobs for released prisoners.

    4. Noms, ministers and the MoJ to stop meddling with what works in prisons and probation.

    5. Put a probation officer in charge of Noms and lead the separation of probation from prisons.

    7. Get rid of Liz Truss.

  3. Whatever happened to Resettlement Prisons?

    1. Whatever happened to the Probation support and "best practice"?

  4. Four CRC staff (including myself) leaving in next few weeks from local office. All of us are experienced, but unable to face the demise of a public service we spent most of our working lives and emotional energy supporting and trying to make the ever-changing systems work to the best advantage of our cases.

    Just a snapshot of other locations across CRC's who are also shedding staff through VS. Who will be left to run the show? Probably those with less experience and knowledge of what 'best practice' should look like.

    Very sad times and Probation Institute far too late in the day for your involvement. How many of you have walked in to your local office and chatted with staff over a coffee?