Friday, 13 April 2018

The Academics Speak Out 5

Yes, another helping of academic evidence submitted to the Justice Committee:-  

Written evidence from Dr John Deering and Professor Martina Feilzer (TRH0018) 

Submitted by: 
Dr John Deering, University of South Wales 
Professor Martina Feilzer, Bangor University 

Our submission is concerned with point 7 of the Inquiry Terms of Reference but may touch on aspects of the other topics. 7 When should there be a review of the future of the Transforming Rehabilitation model and the long-term plan for delivering probation services? 

We feel that this ToR needs to go beyond the limits of ‘when’ there should be a review and to encompass a wider range of issues than the managerial and practice-based areas outlined in ToR 1 – 6. Clearly, these are of vital importance, but we are of the view that the Inquiry should also take into account: a) the ‘corporate’ values of probation organisations and the values of practitioners and b) the legitimacy of probation organisations and probation practice post Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) in the eyes of staff. In our view, values and questions of legitimacy have always had and will continue to have a significant impact upon practice and service delivery as they relate to the basic motivations held by those within probation about why they do the job and to the principles, aims and purposes of probation. 

With regards to the question posed directly above, we are of the view that a review into the future of the Transforming Rehabilitation changes is urgently needed and long overdue. 

This is due to three main conclusions from research into probation values and the legitimacy of probation practice, namely: 

1. The values of Government, probation organisations and practitioners have been diverging and that the emerging tensions have now reached crisis point. 

2. That the self-legitimacy of probation practitioners is under threat which will have a long-term effect on probation practice. 

3. A review of probation needs to consider whether the current organisational structure is ‘fit for purpose’. 

Probation’s ‘corporate’ values 

The debate around probation’s corporate values and those of practitioners has emerged and developed over the past 30 years or so and one issue that has come to the fore is the increasing divergence between corporate (governmental) aims for the probation service and the views of practitioners. 

From approximately the mid-1980s successive governments have become increasingly involved in the probation service and have followed policies aimed at moving it from its roots in social work with those who have committed offences (with an aim of rehabilitation) to one where, whilst rehabilitation is still retained, it has a much reduced role, being superseded in importance by law enforcement, risk assessment, managerialism, monitoring, and punishment (Deering 2016; Newburn 2003; Raynor 2012). One significant point in this process was the 1991 Criminal Justice Act which abolished the requirement for probation officers to ‘advise, assist and befriend’ those they supervised and changed the probation order from an alternative to a sentence and a chance to reform to ‘punishment in the community’, a sentence subject to judicial punishment for failures to comply with the terms of an Order. Also as a result of the Act, new sets of National Standards laid out clear and strict standards for levels of reporting etc. that limited probation officer discretion. Alongside the move to a more punishment-base system came the ‘rise of risk’, which required practitioners to assess those coming before the courts in terms of their risk of re-offending and risk of harm (Kemshall, 1996). The purpose of such assessments included the facilitation of the notion of ‘resources following risk’ (in this case risk of harm) which presaged the increased role of monitoring and surveillance by the service of higher risk of harm individuals and the related reduction in service afforded to the service’s more ‘traditional’ supervisee, the higher risk of re-offending individual who did not pose significant risk of harm (Deering 2011). 

These changes revealed an increasing tendency in government to place less faith in rehabilitation and more with a limited monitoring and punishment role and a Conservative Home Secretary, Michael Howard abolished social work training for practitioners, seeking to recruit ex-armed forces personnel in order to ‘toughen up’ practice. In this period, a merger with the prison service and the ending of a supervisory function were also mooted (Deering 2016). Whilst the Labour Government elected in 1997 restored professional training, it was not based within social work, but had a narrower focus based of ‘effectiveness and reducing re-offending’. 

Increased management of practice by government perhaps peaked with the creation of the National Probation Service for England and Wales in 2001. The new service had five main aims including the punishment of offenders and the protection of the public; rehabilitation was placed last of the five (Home Office 2001). Within a few years of the setting up of the new service, the government created the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) as a result of the Carter Report which considered the marketisation of the service under ‘contestability’ (Carter 2003). NOMS developed a commissioning model which along with the Offender Management Act 2007, laid the foundations for Transforming Rehabilitation (TR). 

Practitioner values 

Until the mid-1980s, in very broad terms, probation’s organisational values might be seen to be ‘traditional’ in the sense of being humanitarian, allied to social work, and seeking the rehabilitation of those under supervision via the provision of ‘help’ in its broadest sense. This aimed to ameliorate a range of personal, social and economic problems faced by supervisees that were seen as underlying most offending. There had also been debates around the efficacy of ‘treatment’ models of rehabilitation and arguments were made for a more collaborative problem-solving approach (Bottoms & McWilliams 1979) but for the most part probation practice followed a case work paradigm (Vanstone 2004) based upon social work training. In the mid-1990s, Williams (1995) considered probation values to be: opposition to custody; opposition to oppression; commitment to justice for offenders; commitment to the client’s right to confidentiality and openness; valuing of clients as unique and self-determining individuals; aim to ensure that victims and potential victims are protected; belief that ‘purposeful professional relationships can facilitate change in clients’ (Williams 1995: 12- 20). In a similar vein, Napo (2006) published its own view of professional values, arguing that individuals have the ability to change. It set out the following values to which it was committed: respect and trust when working with perpetrators and victims; open and fair treatment for all; empowerment of individuals in order to reduce the risk of harm to themselves and others; promotion of equality and anti-discrimination; promotion of the rights of both perpetrators and victims; building on individuals’ strengths as a vehicle for change (Napo 2006). 

However, whilst these values represent statements of belief, there is empirical evidence that reveals practitioners holding such views. Moreover, evidence suggests that practitioners have seen these values coming under pressure over the past few decades, something that they felt Transforming Rehabilitation would exacerbate, perhaps irrevocably so. Studies (e.g. Annison et al. 2008; Deering 2010; Deering 2011; Mawby & Worrall 2013) have consistently shown that practitioners have joined the probation service to work empathically with individuals experiencing a range of social and personal problems that underlie their offending. They desire to ‘make a difference’ with individuals who are seen as capable of change within an organisation able to assist such change. However, studies have also shown practitioners becoming concerned at top-down changes to the values of the organisation as outlined above, which have put their professional values under pressure. These included an increasingly pervasive managerialism which promotes procedures ahead of practice and outcomes, an emphasis on law enforcement and punishment. Moreover, whilst acknowledging that the assessment and management of risk are a vital and central element of probation practice, there was a feeling that (other than with high risk of harm individuals) the best way to protect the public was to assist in rehabilitative behavioural change, rather than a more reductive surveillance role. As a result, studies showed values adapting to some of the new government agenda, but also to a schism between the views of government, probation organisations, and those of practitioners about the aims of purposes of probation, what constitutes ‘quality’ probation practice, the process of enforcement and other matters (Deering 2011; Farrow 2004; Mawby & Worrall 2013; Robinson & McNeill 2004; Robinson et al. 2014). Moreover, practitioners were describing how they ‘adapted’ government policy to enable them to continue to practice in a manner that fitted with their own values. In other words, some degree of resistance to changing organisational values was emerging (Deering 2011; Mawby & Worrall 2013). 

Regarding the government’s proposals for Transforming Rehabilitation, we received over 1300 responses to an online survey conducted in March/April 2014 with probation staff about the prospects for probation following the changes (Deering & Feilzer 2015). The survey revealed feelings of anger and betrayal about the changes, linked to the aims of probation and values but also the prospect (at the time) of a marketised and partially privatised service. Most respondents felt that the service should be wholly maintained within the public sector and that the private sector (and to a lesser degree the third sector) had different priorities, aims and values related to the demands of a commercial operation. Many respondents feared for the future of the service and their own position within it. Clearly, the split of probation and the outsourcing of CRCs raised for practitioners some fundamental questions about the ethics of private companies making profits from crime, victimisation, and punishment. Furthermore, recent ethnographic research which looked at the formation of a CRC from the inside, identified a number of themes that are important to the discussion here. These include separation and loss, status anxiety, loyalty and trust, and liberation and innovation. Authors concluded that the notion of ‘liminality’ – of being caught in transition between the old and the new – the ‘public and the outsourced’, was the most fundamental and important theme (Robinson et al. 2016). 

Thus, we argue that the value systems of government, probation organisations, and practitioners have been diverging to some degree and this has significantly accelerated since TR. We would suggest that this divergence will lead to a legitimacy crisis for probation practitioners and we turn to this point now. 

Legitimacy of Probation – organisation and practice 

Here, we would like to highlight a possible long-term effect on probation practitioners’ sense of the legitimacy of their practice. We consider this a vital element of successful criminal justice agencies. Legitimacy is also important in terms of the views of people and organisations outside probation and of those supervised by the NPS and CRCs and TR poses challenges for both. However, our concern here is the impact of TR on the self-legitimacy felt by practitioners. 

Bradford and Quinton (2014) developed ‘correlates of self-legitimacy’ when studying the self-legitimacy of police officers which comprised: respondents’ confidence in their own authority and their sense that they occupy a special position in society; the extent to which police officers feel that they are enabled and supported by their organisation and that they internalise the values represented by their organisation and identify with the organisation; a shared group identity. We adapted these for the probation service and concluded that the split of the probation service into the NPS and the CRC had a significant effect on some probation practitioners’ sense of self-legitimacy, which appears to have been severely disrupted. Moreover, some respondents to our survey were convinced that their concern for the legitimacy of probation practice would be shared by those under probation supervision and might thus affect levels of compliance with court orders. 

Our research suggested that practitioners had grave concerns about the ethics of the CRCs and they were frustrated by a perception of an erosion of common organisational values. There was apprehension about having two different organisations involved in probation – one ‘real’ probation service and the other a ‘second class probation’, a fear that was also identified in further work in a CRC (Robinson et al. 2016). Indeed, Robinson et al. (2016) noted that probation practitioners thought the CRC to be ‘socially invisible’ without a clear identity and that practitioners felt a strain on their previous identity within the ‘honourable profession’ of probation due to being ‘tainted’ by perceived private sector values and priorities. 

Research on the impact of restructuring on both the CRCs and the NPS by Kirton and Guillaume (2015) argued that probation practitioners feel that TR has de-professionalised the service and that stress levels are high, due to higher workloads, job insecurity, less autonomy and reduced opportunities for training and progression. Since the introduction of TR, both CRCs and NPS have seen an exodus of experienced staff and Kirton and Guillaume (2015) suggested that many respondents in their study were considering leaving the service and that a further attrition is likely. 

More recently a number of HMIP reports into probation performance after TR have pointed to concerns about practical challenges caused by increased workloads, flawed CRC delivery models, concerns over the quality of PSRs, supervision arrangements, breach procedures, sentencers’ trust in community sentences and Serious Further Offences (SFOs) (HMIP 2016a; HMIP 2016b; Panorama 2017). 


In our view the cumulative effect of the changes to probation’s corporate values, the divergence of values between practitioners and government and the recent dramatic changes to governance and organisational arrangements, may have already started to affect practitioners’ sense of self-legitimacy. This, in turn may have a long-term corrosive effect upon probation practice and its wider legitimacy. An important aspect of self-legitimacy is the extent to which practitioners feel that they are enabled and supported by their organisation and that they internalise the values represented by their organisation (Bradford and Quinton 2014). In our view, the current situation means that the self-legitimacy of many practitioners is, at the very least, in some doubt. This in turn may lower morale and foster discontent with the quality services provided to those under supervision. If practitioners come to feel that the service provided to supervisees is not what it had previously been, this may have a negative effect on their feelings of being the holders of legitimate authority. 

There is evidence to suggest that practice is already changing and that probation provision is becoming increasingly fragmented with clear differences emerging between NPS and CRCs, different CRCs owners, and different regions (HMIP 2016a). In our view, considerable damage has been done to some individual probation staff’s sense of being a member of a ‘collective of professionals doing an important job well’ (Ugelvik 2016).


  1. "Security Giant G4S Faces Record Fines Of Almost £3m For Breaching Of Ministry Of Justice Contracts
    Under-fire company fined almost £7m since 2010."

    1. Global security giant G4S faced a record £2.8m of fines for breaching its contract with the Ministry of Justice last year, HuffPost UK can reveal.

      The huge sum collected in 2016/17 was higher than the previous three years combined, with two prisons - HMP Parc, in Bridgend, and HMP Rye Hill, in Warwickshire - forced to pay the highest amounts.

      G4S’s justice contracts include five private prisons, a secure training centre and two immigration removal centres.

      The latest figures mean G4S has been fined almost £7m since 2010, but the firm has refused to say how many separate fines that represents or what they were for.

      Ministers can levy fines for contract breaches, including failure to conduct searches, smuggling contraband, security breaches, serious cases of “concerted indiscipline”, hostage taking, and roof climbing. Other cases could be failure to lock doors, poor hygiene or a dip in staffing levels.

      Staff have frequently lost control of inmates at HMP Parc, while an inspection report criticised HMP Rye Hill for poor healthcare and failures to tackle prisoner-on-prisoner grooming. But it is not known what the fines were for.

      G4S was also handed a new £25m contract for the electronic tagging of offenders despite an ongoing Serious Fraud Office investigation into overcharging by G4S and Serco.

      Last year, HMP Parc faced fines of £558,763 while HMP Rye Hill was subject to £90,662.

      The MoJ - which prefers to call the fines ‘financial remedies’ - said the Government would not accept breaches of contract, adding: “As these figures show, we will not hesitate to impose tough financial remedies where standards fall short.”

      But Labour said the soaring fines exposed flaws in the private sector involvement in justice services.

      G4S’ managing director for custodial and detention services, Jerry Petherick, said: “Financial remedies are applied against a range of measures depending on the contract specific to each prison.

      “It is our duty to self-report any circumstances where we under deliver against a contract, and it is right and fair that there is a financial remedy applied in these cases. The fact that there have been instances where we fall short of our rigorous standards and contractual obligations shows that we are open and dedicated to continuous improvement."

      A Ministry of Justice spokesman said it would take further action should G4S continue to breach contracts.

      He said: “Private prisons achieve the vast majority of their performance targets, and are an important part of our reform plans. However, as these figures show, we will not hesitate to impose tough financial remedies where standards fall short. We continue to closely monitor the performance of all private prisons, and will take further action if and when required.”

  2. The Telegraph headline blames probation, but the Independent headline blames the parole board.

    1. A woman killed by a convicted murdered had complained to the probation service fearing for her life, her family have revealed.

      Mellors was released from prison in 2014 and was in a relationship with Mrs Scott while she was temporarily separated from her husband in 2017, and killed her after she got back together with Mr Scott.

      Mellors stabbed her at her home in Nursery Road, Arnold, Nottinghamshire, on 29 January then drove her towards Nottingham city centre.

      She escaped and ran towards a traffic officer for help, but Mellors drove his car into both of them, injuring the traffic officer and killing Mrs Scott instantly.

      Mellors died in prison after being charged with her murder and the attempted murder of the traffic officer. He is thought to have killed himself.

      Mrs Scott’s sister Susan Thomson confirmed that complaints had been made about Mellors to his probation officer.

      "I knew that my sister sent texts to the probation officer because she rung me up when she did it and told me so," said Mrs Thomson.

      "I feel that Simon should have been told, or pulled in, or something done about it, while he was stalking my sister."

      Janet Scott, 51, was murdered in January after dating convicted killer Simon Mellors, and now her husband Chris Scott has told of how the probation service failed to protect his wife.

      Simon Mellors, from Nottingham, murdered his former partner Pearl Black in 1999, then killed Mrs Scott after being released from prison on licence.

      Mr Scott said Mellors threatened to kill them both and followed Mrs Scott to work before she died.

      "If the probation service had done something and informed the police and had Mellors been arrested my wife would still be alive," said Mr Scott.

      Speaking to the BBC he said that his wife knew Mellors was going to kill her. "She knew it was coming," he said.

      "I said 'Look, you've got nothing to worry about, I'm here, I'm going to protect you, nothing is going to happen'."

      Before Mellors’ release Pearl Black's brother and sister, George and Mary Black, wrote to the Parole Board to warn them that he would kill again.

      Ms Black said: "The Parole Board have let us down totally. The justice system has let us down by not listening to us when we warned them this man would commit murder again.

      "Two good women died by the hands of this monster. The different agencies should have picked up on this because he had been stalking Janet."

      The Ministry of Justice said a full review into the case is under way.

      A Ministry of Justice spokesperson added: "Serious further offences such as this are very rare, but each one is taken extremely seriously and investigated fully. A full review into this case is under way, and we will carefully consider the findings to make sure all possible lessons are learnt."

      An inquest to examine the circumstances of Mrs Scott's death has also been opened and adjourned.

    2. I have not read the Independent article BUT the Telegraph one seems to be based on a report from BBC who interviewed the widower.

      It is the sort of tragedy I always realised I could be involved in as we can never know what our supervisees are up to every moment of every day.

      I hope the supervision was based on good decision making - sadly the widower is understandably critical - horrible, situation and what those who criticse may not realise, that managing such stress on a daily basis is part and parcel of being a probation officer, hence such workers should be so much better paid than they are for bearing such responsibility on our behalf.

  3. "An important aspect of self-legitimacy is the extent to which practitioners feel that they are enabled and supported by their organisation and that they internalise the values represented by their organisation (Bradford and Quinton 2014). In our view, the current situation means that the self-legitimacy of many practitioners is, at the very least, in some doubt. This in turn may lower morale and foster discontent with the quality services provided to those under supervision"
    A few days ago, under pressure, I cancelled an appointment to visit a vulnerable, traumatised woman in prison, in order to get ahead of the "performance" priorities. I didn't seek authority for this decision, and when I mentioned it to my manager, it was nodded through. After an afternoon battering a keyboard, and hitting every performance target I had, I came home feeling... like a bit of me had died. Lord knows how my client feels, I don't, seeing as I wasn't there.

    1. Let's see if those issues are mentioned at the justice committee on Tuesday.

      On the committee corridor, the Justice Committee winds up its inquiry into Transforming Rehabilitation with evidence from Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, and the prisons minister, Rory Stewart (10am).

  4. RAF bomb disposal squad at ongoing incident at Sodexo run HMP Peterborough.

  5. This blog post more than most struck a chord with me. I did not start in the Probation profession to make my fortune, I had a zeal to make a tangible difference in all quarters that we were tasked with. I valued being a part of a cohesive profession that reached beyond itself and sought to connect with all who had similar ambitions. I was interested in creating a relationship with the people I worked with and engaging with the evidence of what worked. I valued the experience of those before me and learning from them. I valued professional supervision and on going professional development. My skills after a decade and more of working with people is way beyond what I could have imagined when I started. When we talk about culture, it is hard to reconcile my ideas with making a profit and dividend payments to shareholders. Culture and values matter to me and those who we serve I believe.

  6. As a client of the probation service, this article has given me a very valuable insight into the difficulties faced by those who want to actually help people better their lives. It must be soul destroying to be under the influence of such regressive policies. Hats off to anyone who sticks at it. Surely the tide will have to turn soon.