Monday, 11 February 2019

Parole and PR

The Parole Board are recruiting and in an effort to encourage a broader range of applicants the following piece of PR puff has been published by the MoJ. It all sounds pretty upbeat but I'm not entirely sure it fairly reflects the current situation at all and those of us with long memories will recall the sad loss of the 'independent' report on the grounds of economy.

Life at the Parole Board

A beginning

I joined as Parole Board member 175 in the year 2000. There were about 20 of us new recruits and most were connected in some way with the law — either judges, barristers, magistrates, ex-probation officers, or senior ex-police officers. There were no members representing any minorities.

There were no oral hearings at prisons, although independent members (non-judges, psychiatrists, and psychologists) did go to interview the prisoners and feed that information into the dossiers. Dossiers were thin and contained only basic information as there were very few offending behaviour interventions available. The hearings took place in an office at the Parole Board, when up to 18 cases were considered by a panel of 3 members.

The change

Gradually, the membership increased, and offence related courses and programmes were introduced into the prisons to address the identified risks for each individual prisoner. Panels of members then started to go to the prisons to deal with oral hearings where the prisoners voices were heard, and evidence was taken from probation officers, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Decisions were full and reasoned and delivered in writing within 14 days of the hearing. This has expanded over the years with more ‘professional’ input and decisions that now must stand up to public scrutiny.

The test to be applied

A panel consists of a Chair - either a judge or another trained and qualified member - and up to two other members, who hear the evidence and perform a risk assessment. The general test is whether the person whose case is being heard would pose a risk of serious harm to the public, and whether that is a risk that can be safely managed. The decision made by the panel is a majority one, except in panels of two, where it must be agreed by both members.

The members

Over the years the membership has increased significantly as the volume of work has greatly increased. The backgrounds of the members has changed so that it has become more representative of the public. However, in one important field it has shown little improved representation – that of the black and ethnic minority communities. It is vital that more members of those communities offer their services in this very valuable and fulfilling work.

Am I happy in my work?

I can honestly say that I would not have continued as a Parole Board member if I did not enjoy my work. It is onerous but satisfying, especially when you have been able to reach a decision that is fair to the prisoner, the victim, and the public. I have met, sat with, and made friends with so many different people, and discovered talent coming from many different walks of life. It has demonstrated to me that you don’t have to have been closely connected with the law to be a good Parole Board member.

Should you be afraid to do the work?

There is nothing to fear, as no one is sent out to do the work without proper training and help from mentors. There will also be refresher training at regular intervals. So don’t be afraid! Just give this important work some consideration.

His Hon. Judge Geoffrey Kamil, CBE


  1. Influx of soon to be ex probation officers... 5,4,3,2,1

  2. CV was submitted the day after discovering I'd been selected to take advantage of "the endless opportunities presented by the CRC". No vacancies at that time for lay members in our geographical area. Maybe this time...?

  3. I read somewhere that there's a shortage of around 1000 staff (nationwide) and my own experience is that both CRCs and NPS are looking for staff. How are there POs out of work?

    (Serious question and not sarcasm)

    1. The CRCs have appalling work conditions, provide a terrible service, and have a culture of blaming staff when cost cutting on resourcing causes omissions and errors so no one wants to work for them. The NPS aren't allowed to directly hire the staff who want to leave the awful CRCs in an effort to artificially prop up the CRCs, and when staff leave the CRCs and then try to join the NPS they get stiffed on pay thanks to no recognition of continuity of service , which of course is another step to prop up the CRCs.

  4. Replies
    1. I do not think we are maverick malcontents on this blog. Your expression of the job being shit is likely an emotive expression of general dismay. It is interesting that you used the word job rather than profession. I recall the moment that I started to view the consolation for my work as my end of month salary. Previously I had not noticed and this was not because I was being paid too much. It was because I was part of a purposeful profession that I believed in and my salary was welcome but not my overriding motivation. I would like to know the extent to which Probation workers view their work as a job or a profession? The reason I ask is because sometimes you get old and grumpy and frankly stuck in your ways. I wonder if some of that related to me, change resistant etc. In addition, noticing my own ever increasing dismay, I left and now do not feel fully able to comment. Probation got under my skin, I would return, but nothing I read here or elsewhere is something that is attractive other than a pay packet. Is Probation work truly that bad?

    2. it's worse than that

    3. Gawd what a load of rubbish. It is a ficking job and full time crap. Crcs total crap NPS more the same. Wordy self reflection on old out of date professionalism bunkem. Workers in job training is crap so we shovel shit. Get real professionals are doctors nurses rescue staff po probation get your shovel.

    4. You're not a court PSR writer by any chance are you?

  5. I am old and grumpy but far from stuck in my ways. My comments and criticisms of the current ‘leadership,’ are from an analytical perspective, evidence based and with the benefit of 30 years experience.
    In my opinion, probation is no longer a career, but merely a stepping stone to something else.
    We are seeing all the problems that the prison service had some years ago. No real problem with recruitment because it all looks good on paper, but severe problems with retention and , worse in my opinion, people putting themselves forward for management roles without the skills, ability or experience required and who have no hesitation in telling others how to do a job they were not capable of doing themselves.
    We have a silent leadership with nothing to say on any national stage, but having sold all of your principles, beliefs and ethics are they surprised that the workers do not support them. There has been little comment on here about the outcome of the staff survey which once again this year, and despite claims that things would improve,demonstrate that there is a significant gap between what they claim and what we experience

    1. Respect that comment. 30 years in voice of experience.

  6. 22:42 I wholeheartedly agree with your comments - for personal reasons I've remained a PSO / CM for the past 16 years in Probation and loved every minute of working with the experience and skills set of my SPO / PO colleagues and the excellent training we had available to us - the post 4 years since TR had been what feels like a living hell. There is no " leadership " as, like you say staff are catapulted to the dizzy heights of management with no skills or experience to complete the job in question other than to crack the target whip and bombard staff with endless oppressive emails. There is no longer effective supervision of staff with inexperienced staff being given high case loads of complex service users , no wonder we have issues with retention - it is no longer a profession but a business where people come and go without any care and our so called " leaders " are oblivious to the damage being caused within and outside of the service - sorry business, I work within a CRC and desperately searching for alternative employment as what it has become is not why I started in Probation