Friday, 7 October 2022

Some Reassurance?

Readers might well remember that back in early August there was quite a bit of alarm surrounding the so-called 'One HMPPS' plan being a smokescreen for basically subsuming probation completely within HM Prison Service. The blogpost 'Probation to Disappear' can be found here. Russell Webster was also concerned and wrote about it here and made an approach to Jim Barton for his response. I notice he has responded and Russell Webster has published the following:- 

One HMPPS

Last month I wrote about the MoJ’s new leadership model for HMPPS and what I could glean about the new ONE HMPPS model, questioning whether it was in fact a merger of the prison and probation services and whether probation would lose its identity as a result. I reached out to Jim Barton, the HMPPS official in charge of the programme, to see if he would be interested in replying and sharing more information about the programme plans. He was kind enough to find the time to reply. Below is his guest post on the aims of the One HMPPS programme.

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As the Senior Responsible Owner for the One HMPPS programme, I was keen to respond to Russell’s article and welcome the opportunity to share our early thinking and overarching priorities for this work.

History


Firstly I just want to clarify that both the Prison Service and the Probation Service already sit together along with the Youth Custody Service within the HMPPS executive agency and have done now for several years. Across the agency, we are all there to achieve the same things – to protect the public, reduce reoffending and change lives. One HMPPS does not therefore represent a ‘merger’ or changes in that regard. Instead, we want to build on what we already have and bring prisons and probation closer together to achieve better outcomes for victims, communities and offenders.

It has indeed been a challenging few years across the Probation Service and HMPPS as a whole responding to COVID, implementing major reforms and dealing with frontline staffing shortages. We also know the autumn is likely to present new challenges as it will for all government departments. We therefore want to ensure stability whilst also preparing for what may be ahead and ultimately make sure we have the very best model to deliver our core services with a greater focus on the frontline.

The One HMPPS programme

We have launched the One HMPPS programme with the aim of refocusing the agency on our core operational business making sure our Probation and Prison frontline staff have the right support to be able to deliver the very best services. We are in the very early stages of design but we are exploring how closer regional working and a greater focus on the frontline can help us to achieve this. In doing so, we absolutely commit to not only keeping but truly maximising the distinct professional identities of both the Probation Service and the Prison Service. We are one team but we all have different roles to play within this and that will not change.

Our Probation and Prison senior leaders already work closely together across a range of local partnership arrangements and they know and understand their offender groups and the issues which impact on their communities. We want to consider how we can empower them further and strengthen our joint impact regionally through devolved decision making and by building and delivering through stronger relationships with our stakeholders.

A range of models

To do this, we are looking at a range of models including our current arrangements in Wales where we have the HMPPS in Wales structure and considering how we could build upon this to provide greater autonomy to the regions to allow them to innovate and to build upon local networks to best meet the needs of their local cohorts. We are also taking the learning from previous models which have sought to do this. We are speaking to our front line staff and our senior leaders to get their thoughts as we want to make sure our future model works for them and enables them to deliver their important roles each day to the best of their abilities.

Conclusion

To summarise, the Probation Service is absolutely here to stay as a distinct professional organisation in its own right continuing to work closely with the Prison Service to deliver the sentences of the courts. What we want to do is make sure that the structure that wraps around it, is the most effective and efficient model it can be and helps our staff deliver their important roles. It is early days but we will ensure whatever we do, it will be with the very minimal change or disruption to the front line as they are our priority in all of this. Indeed, we want this to be a positive experience for them, putting them rightly at the heart of everything we do so that in turn they can deliver the very best services for victims, communities and offenders.

Jim Barton


Thursday, 6 October 2022

Guest Blog 87

Probation as Abuser

I am a senior probation officer and have been in the service for over fifteen years. Of course, I'd be happy to own the things I'm about to say, I believe them and I can evidence them, but I'd never get permission to publish these views and if I identified myself without permission, I'd be in breach of the civil service code and subject to disciplinary action. 

It's worth pointing out that a dedicated set of public sector workers have been silenced and reduced to anonymous blogging. This itself, is the first act of institutional abuse I'd like to mention. It's hardly the behaviour of a confident organisation that's not afraid of healthy debate, more the type of censorship that might be seen in a repressive regime. 

Some time ago senior management were pushing an agenda of "professionalisation", but that's a hard circle to square with a staff group that is unable to publicly comment on their work. Truly probation staff are the "hidden heroes", hidden in plain sight and forbidden to speak.

With a few years in the job I've seen some things. From TPOs to PQiPs, from new labour to coalition, from Grayling to Gove, from NPS Mk1 to NPS Mk2, I've watched and lived it all like many who read this blog. It's entirely subjective of course but I've never seen the service in such a bad state. The staff shortages, the chaos, the weariness of colleagues is at breaking point. I know of offices with huge lists of entirely unallocated cases. A panicky email has been sent out asking for staff who might be willing to go and live in a hotel to prop up London probation. 

Why any PDU head in a remote area would approve the loss of a member of their own staff to prop up the capital is beyond me. While London is clearly in utter crisis other PDUs are teetering on the brink. Weary SPOs tell me they've been "in red" on the prioritisation matrix for months. What's the cause? Well far from being the great panacea that was promised, reunification has not brought relief to the system. 

At times of change, people change and many have voted for the door. Helped perhaps by Brexit labour shortages, they've left for the many, many jobs that now look much more attractive both financially and emotionally. Lidl pay £12 per hour and there's no domestic abuse or sex offending, well not much. The remaining staff are increasingly shell shocked and off sick. Absence rates are through the roof further tipping the service into crisis. 

Any staff that have the ability or the wherewithal are applying for jobs elsewhere in the business to get away from sentence management. That said, those PDU heads are wise to this and are simply refusing to release staff when they get new jobs! What's the answer? An army of PQiPS. Hundreds of them, in some offices I'm told there are more PQiPS than POs. This is great news, but who will train them? The stressed-out experienced staff are too busy managing the dangerous cases, there's a shortage of PTA's. 

It's like Putin's great mobilisation, an army of conscripts with no officers to train them and no ability to fight. PQiPs are leaving (deserting?) before they even qualify. They look at their weary miserable colleagues, they look at the lack of support and the huge responsibility, they look at the SPO apologetically asking them to take another high-risk case with remote oversight and it's not painting an attractive picture of their future.

Of course, the senior management response to a service in crisis is to double down. Having submitted the probation service to repeated catastrophic re-organisations the time is clearly right for further ill-conceived tinkering. Despite many failed attempts to get prisons and probation to work seamlessly (end to end offender management anyone?) they're going to have another go. We will become "One HMPPS". It's a sick joke. It's almost as if change is the only thing they can do, despite little evidence of benefit and considerable proof of harm.

Change in probation has been the one constant in my time and the pace has accelerated. The expectation that staff will absorb more change is, in my view, abusive. Is it a coincidence that the service has a largely female workforce? Certainly, probation pay has been neglected conspicuously over the years. The message for some years now has been absorb more work, absorb more change and get paid less. 

The only counterweight they have to this is tin pot reward and recognition schemes doling out consumerist shopping vouchers or "wellbeing" programmes that have to be set up and run by staff themselves. Messages like "take five to connect with colleagues" circulate alongside emails to allocate more cases. Numbers cease to make sense with 120% being the new 100% on the workload management tool. 

It's abusive nonsense and don't ever be fooled, they don't care. I'm not saying they're evil, I'm not saying they're not kind to dogs and small children, but if you think they care about frontline staff other than as bare resource to be burned up and exploited then I think you're a bit misguided to put it politely. They know what would make things better, they know that lower workloads, less change, higher pay would improve morale and wellbeing (and probably outcomes for probationers) but ask yourself, have they ever done any of those things in the last ten years? No, they haven't, and no amount of moaning on the people's survey will ever shift that dial so don't even bother.

Lets put our senior management through the lens of OASys. What would be the crime? Hard to look past some form of domestic abuse. Repeatedly punching the face of someone you claim to love. Like many an abuser you've controlled the ability of your victim to interact with the outside world, controlling their freedom of speech. 

The constant change, the threats about performance, interspersed with daft awards and occasional cake (please bake your own), what is this but a form of gas lighting, leaving staff constantly dazed and confused. The restriction of finances, both resourcing and salary wise. The constant accrual of new victims, looking at you PQiPs. It all adds up. But you know what's the worst? The absolute worst is taking advantage of someone's love, someone's passion, someone's vocation and betraying that so they let you treat them so badly. That's proper abuse that is.

There's a new Lidl opening up the road. Might have a look.


Anon

Monday, 3 October 2022

Price of Everything and Value of Nothing

Jim,

Are you aware of an ongoing project to remove the band four staff from the delivery of sex offender programmes? There is currently a consultation ongoing and a job evaluation which is being done with the clear aim of down grading this work due to cost implications.

They want band 3 staff to deliver Domestic Abuse and Sex Offender programmes. Of course, this work used to be all done by band 4 staff (PO), it was only a cost cutting TR exercise that saw programmes work split with DA going to the CRC who immediately down graded the staff needed. However, CRC practice on DA was not generally well regarded as we know. HMIP found very patchy practice when they looked at BBR work in the report linked below.

You'd have thought that taking practices embedded in the totally discredited TR clusterfuckery and extending them to a further risky group of politically sensitive offenders might not be the best idea?

The excellent Probation Journal article by Renehan documents the impact of the Domestic Abuse work on largely female band 3 CRC staff. When I read this personally what I took was that the abuse of these staff by the organisation mirrored the abuse that the course was supposed to address. They were not adequately trained and supported to do this work. Again, doesn't seem the best footing on which to extend these staff into working with another group of POPs who's offending may bring a even greater degree of complexity and emotional labour.

In prisons Sex Offender programmes are delivered by a mix of "unqualified" prison officers alongside forensic psychologists I think, but then prison SO programmes have been found not be very effective so again, perhaps not the best model.

Ultimately, this is a cost cutting exercise and cutting costs while not cutting quality is always fool's gold. 

--oo00oo--

Domestic abuse: the work undertaken by Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs)

Foreword

An estimated two million people experienced domestic abuse last year. A good proportion of people in receipt of probation services are domestic abusers, and domestic abuse constitutes a sizeable proportion of the work of Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). In this inspection we set out to assess how well CRCs are working to reduce domestic abuse and protect victims. Overall, we found CRCs nowhere near effective enough in this critical area of work, and yet good work here could make so much difference to the families and individuals concerned, and to society as a whole. 

Yes, we found pockets of good practice, as we have come to expect, and we saw examples of good public protection partnership work as well. But overall the work was characterised by a lack of awareness and applied expertise. It is not an exaggeration to say that many individuals were drifting through their supervision period without being challenged or supported to change their predilection for domestic violence, and that simply won’t do. 

Those left unchallenged and unassisted pose a particular threat to others, most especially those close to them. Too often we were left wondering how safe victims and children were, especially when practitioners failed to act on new information indicating that they could be in danger. Practitioners often underestimated the level of harm victims and children were exposed to. Some practice was of grave concern to us. 

In the cases we looked at, we found that very little meaningful work had been completed in custody. In the community, domestic abusers were not making enough progress, and many had completed little work to help them improve their relationships and behaviour. While a range of domestic abuse interventions were being offered, I am not assured that these were all evidence-based, evaluated or delivered effectively. Too few individuals were either starting or completing Building Better Relationships, the only accredited domestic abuse programme that the court can impose as part of a community sentence. 

Many practitioners had unmanageable workloads. Inexperienced staff were managing complex issues with little training or management oversight. Some were too busy to do a thorough job, while others simply didn’t have the knowledge needed to do a good job. Some CRCs had introduced new structures, policies and case management tools but, generally, CRCs should be taking a more strategic and determined approach. In my view, they should be making sure that practitioners know the current evidence base and that they are equipped to supervise domestic abusers well in all respects. That is not happening: there is insufficient focus on domestic abuse. 

There is a lack of clear and specific contractual obligations and incentives for CRCs to actively manage domestic abuse. The Ministry of Justice has the opportunity to consider this, as and when it recasts contracts. 

Our recommendations are focused on what we see to be the big priorities. There is enough in this report to help CRCs identify what needs to be done and where things are working well. I encourage them to build on the pockets of good practice identified here and to give domestic abuse the priority and attention it deserves.

Dame Glenys Stacey 
HM Chief Inspector of Probation
September 2018

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Facilitators of probation-based domestic violence perpetrator programmes: ‘Who’s in the room?’

Abstract

The role that probation practitioners play in the desistance process has begun to receive much needed attention. Yet, the experiences of facilitators of probation-based, domestic violence perpetrator programmes have long been neglected. This article explores the experiences and wellbeing of eight facilitators from one cohort of the Building Better Relationships (BBR) programme in England. Drawing upon five-months’ observations and in-depth interviews, I demonstrate how working with domestically violent men with insufficient knowledge, experience, or support, exacerbated within the context of Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, impacted significantly on facilitator well-being, professional identities, and practice. Practice implications are discussed.

Discussion

The thematic inspection of domestic abuse work within CRCs offered a rare glimpse into the BBR programme. However, it was limited in scope given it did not seek to identify who exactly is ‘in the room’ (Burke, 2014). Understanding the capacities of group facilitators who undertake such work, and the effects on them, is crucial not only for desirable outcomes but for the well-being of those who are tasked with facilitating change in others. Unfortunately, to date, facilitators of DVPPs have been forgotten in between the debate of programme fetishism and desistance focused supervision with probation practitioners (Durnescu, 2012).

I have highlighted that facilitators were not enabled to work in ways that were commensurate with their own personal and professional values for many reasons: there was a lack of adequate training which focused on delivering (some) exercises from a manual and ‘lumped’ together amongst other accredited programme training; the video equipment which was used to record group sessions and monitor practice had not worked for over 2 years and so practice development was not in force; supervision was not supportive; facilitators felt de-valued due to a lack of pecuniary incentives, professional development, and promotional opportunities; and the emotional demands of the job was overlooked even though this affected how they felt and worked. This was further complicated in those cases where facilitators had their own personal encounters with trauma which had both positive and negative effects on them and in how this shaped their practice. What is important to note here is that some facilitators felt they had to leave their own trauma at the door, or face professional judgement or risk losing their jobs.

While many of the facilitators were able to humanise the traumatising but traumatised men with whom they worked, the lack of time, low confidence, and investment in them as valued professionals had impacted on their wellbeing and their professional identities, experiences that were interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Even while the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda of the Coalition Government of 2013 sought to de-professionalise part of probation services, the facilitators in this study, like many other probation practitioners in CRCs (Tidmarsh, 2020a), were still invested in the discourses of professionalism in which they endeavoured to deliver a service that valued the clients with whom they worked. But calls to ensure they were response-abled were met with solutions that diluted the standard of service they had strived to provide. Supervision was not adequate to deal with the emotional demands of the job, vicarious trauma, or the psychological impact of re-living their own traumas. The lack of due care towards facilitators resulted in them feeling devalued, exhausted, desensitised and disincentivised to do their job which was executed with a mixture of enthusiasm and dread. Almost 12 months on, five facilitators were either on long term sick leave or had left.

Nicole Renehan
June 2021

Sunday, 2 October 2022

A Beacon of Independence

In the tightly-controlled MoJ/HMPPS civil service bureaucratic world there is a beacon of light that continues to shine brightly and that is the remaining independent Approved Premises sector. They had a bit of a struggle to remain independent and viable during the dark days of TR and subsequent turmoil and I suspect further choppy waters lie ahead with talk of 'competitive tendering'. Happily, the sector has been fortunate in recruiting Andrew Bridges, former CPO and HMI, to offer support and guidance. Here he is writing in the latest edition of Probation Quarterly:-   

Approved Premises: the mid-2022 'State of Play'

In 2001, in England & Wales, Probation Hostels were redesignated Approved Premises (APs), and have undergone, and are still undergoing, major changes. These small institutions, accommodating usually 20-30 residents in the community, were mainly used to house individuals either serving a community sentence or on pre-trial bail. For some twenty years now, their residents have instead been almost exclusively individuals on release from prison – often following a long and/ or indeterminate sentence.

In mid-2022, about 100 APs are directly managed by HMPPS. An additional 14 APs are commissioned by HMPPS but managed by separate independent organisations, some of which are small historic charities whilst others are specialist accommodation providers.

HMPPS now requires all APs to accommodate only individuals that are “high-risk” and/or with complex needs. Both sectors of APs are therefore now better staffed and equipped compared with a few years ago, and cameras and monitoring devices are very evident. 

HMPPS has recently formally adopted a wider Accommodation Strategy nationwide, within which APs are the “Tier 1” provision, for the highest risk cases. It is seeking to expand this provision, while at the same time develop Tiers 2 and 3, for accommodating other individuals that are being released from prison.

What are the main current issues for the APs, in mid-2022? 
• COVID19 pandemic: All APs are now recovering from the hugely challenging effects of the pandemic. APs kept going when almost all of the rest of the probation ‘system’ was either shut down or ‘homebased’. 
• Expansion: HMPPS’s projections forecast a rise in demand for AP places, and the main route to increasing the number of beds by ‘200 in two years’ is to commission more independent APs, especially in London and the SE where demand should be highest. 
• Occupancy: At the time of writing, APs – especially the female ones – are not filling up with residents in the way that projections suggested that they should. The issues around this are complex, and might prove temporary. 
• A regrading within HMPPS’s own APs: A recent big step was the regrading of a whole sector of AP staff from Band 2 to Band 3 status and pay, to provide some recognition of the nature of this work. 
• New contracts for the independent APs: The contractual relationship with HMPPS is about to go through another major change, laying the ground for competitive tendering. 
• Referrals, especially in the female estate: Given that APs are NOT prisons, there are questions around which residents can or cannot be managed in an AP. Some of the most difficult cases to resolve are female cases, where much of the problem can be that the self-destructive behaviour of some female residents is so relentless, and so destructive to other residents as well as to herself, that she ends up having to be recalled, which means the cycle has to start all over again. Although the independent sector is only just over 12% of the total AP provision, independent APs have over 50% of the provision in the female estate. This is, thus, a very live issue for IAPs who face wider costs and challenges such as not having Crown Immunity, and so have to buy property and liability insurance in the commercial market. 
• Terrorist cases: Individuals imprisoned for terrorism offences are often required to live at an AP on first release, and while most residents are required to move on after just 12 weeks, new provisions mean that terrorism cases will be required to stay for a full year before moving on.
In both sectors of the AP world, life is currently not dull!

Andrew Bridges 
Strategic Director National Approved Premises Association (NAPA)

Friday, 30 September 2022

Reasons To Be Cheerful

This from today's Times:- 

Defiant Liz Truss set to curb benefits to fund budget 
Labour surges to 33-point lead over Tories

Liz Truss has insisted that she has the “right plan” for Britain as a poll for The Times found that the Tories have slumped to their lowest level of public support in a quarter of a century. The survey, by YouGov, showed that Labour had surged to a record 33-point lead over the Conservatives, after a week of market turmoil triggered by the prime minister’s tax-cutting budget.

Truss said she would not change course and would push ahead with government savings to pay for her £45 billion stimulus package. Ministers are drawing up plans for real-term benefits cuts, saving £5 billion by increasing them in line with earnings, rather than with inflation.

Well, who'd have thought that then! A week ago there seemed little prospect of a Labour government any time soon, what with a majority of the public not knowing who Keir Starmer was and those that did know thinking he was 'boring'. Politics has yet again been turned upside down with the Tory 'nasty' party proving their credentials by giving money to the rich as they prepare to rob the poor by cutting their benefits. 

Of course this wouldn't unduly worry the Tory faithful because it's just how they are, but trashing the economy in one day by causing a run on the pound and pushing interest rates up not only for government borrowing, but the nation's mortgages as well, has suddenly gained all our attention and in the process sealed the fate of possibly hundreds of Tory backbenchers. 

It's a slow burn situation that can only get worse as the next General Election date approaches, fixed rate mortgages end and the harsh reality of massive monthly repayments hits home. All self-inflicted by a new prime minister and chancellor who think they're playing a game and wonder which levers to play with next. Suddenly it's Labour that look to be fiscally responsible and a 'boring' prime minister might be just the ticket. Their approval rating has rocketed just as letters of no confidence start arriving at the 1922 Committee! 

So, with a genuine chance of a change in government at last, where is the campaign for probation breaking free of HMPPS command and control and regaining operational independence? Does the Labour Shadow Prison and Probation minister Ellie Reeves know what we're about and why being subsumed by a uniformed service is a disaster? I really, really hope so, but sadly her video message yesterday marking another one of those bloody pat-on-the-back award/thankyou things - 'Hidden Heroes' - hit entirely the wrong note with a suggestion we get medals!! 

Look - probation staff want proper payment and a break from the medal-wearing HM Prison Service - we do a different job; we have a different professional culture and we want our independence back!   

Thursday, 29 September 2022

IPP To Do List

Before we leave the IPP situation and move on to other matters, not least the increased prospect of a Labour government sooner rather than later, it's worth highlighting the recommendations from the Justice Committee report:-

Conclusions and recommendations

Prison-based barriers to progression

1. Given the extensive and complex nature of the challenges faced by IPP sentenced individuals, we find the absence of detail in the IPP Action Plan surprising. It lacks a clear strategic priority and ownership, as well as operational detail, timeframes, and performance measures. (Paragraph 38)

2. We recommend the MoJ and HMPPS develop a new action plan, which should include clear performance measures for each of its workstreams. The new action plan should also, against each workstream, include an accountable owner for the workstream, and a timeframe for completion of each workstream activity so that there can be greater accountability and scrutiny. A new version of the IPP Action Plan should be published by the end of Q1 2023, with a report on the operation of the plan and any revisions to it published annually thereafter. (Paragraph 39)

3. The psychological harm caused by IPP sentences is a considerable barrier to progression for some IPP prisoners. The indefinite nature of the sentence has contributed to feelings of hopelessness and despair that has resulted in high levels of self-harm and some suicides within the IPP population. In addition to this, IPP prisoners distrust the people and services that are necessary to support their progression. In identifying solutions to the IPP problem, the MoJ, HMPPS and Parole Board must acknowledge the psychological harm caused by the IPP sentence, and the challenges this presents regarding progression. The MoJ and HMPPS should also set out how they intend to improve access to mental health support for IPP prisoners, including transfers to secure hospitals and therapeutic settings. (Paragraph 58)

4. Additionally, there are a small number of mentally unwell prisoners who are subsequently transferred to a secure mental hospital. For these prisoners, the process for post-tariff release is more complex, and we are not clear what support is offered to those who, after a period of treatment, are no longer deemed detainable under the Mental Health Act 1983, but do not go on to meet the Parole Board’s test for release, and are then transferred back to prison from the secure hospital. The MoJ, HMPPS and the Parole Board should set out what support is available to those prisoners who are remitted back to prison after a period of time spent under section in a secure hospital, and how they are supported to progress in their sentence. (Paragraph 59)

5. We are concerned to hear that the availability of appropriate courses for IPP prisoners is limited. The MoJ and HMPPS must ensure that there are enough places on courses available to all those who need them. As part of the IPP action plan, the MoJ and HMPPS should set out what work is being done to expand provision of courses for IPP prisoners, reduce waiting lists, and ensure that IPP prisoners are being held in appropriate category prisons. (Paragraph 71)

6. Programmes, pathways and other interventions are often relied upon by HMPPS and the Parole Board to help determine risk, and so it is vital that they deliver the outcomes they purport to deliver. We are concerned about the lack of transparency surrounding programme evaluations, and so cannot be confident that existing programmes deliver adequate outcomes for prisoners. Some programmes have been evaluated yet have been found ineffective; other programmes are being used and relied upon yet have not been evaluated or, where they have, the evaluation has not been published, as has been the case with Professor Paul Moran’s evaluation of the Offender Personality Disorder Pathway. (Paragraph 80)

7. The Government should publish the commissioned report from Professor Paul Moran into the Offender Personality Disorder pathway by December 2022. In addition, the MoJ and HMPPS should set out what work is being done to ensure that all programmes delivered and relied upon by HMPPS and the Parole Board deliver adequate outcomes for prisoners; and, where they do not, they should set out the process for reviewing delivery of those programmes. (Paragraph 81)

Parole, release on licence and community-based barriers to progression

8. Our inquiry has highlighted wider resource issues within the Probation Service and the Parole Board. We have heard about frequent delays, untrained Parole Board members, frequent changes in professionals essential to the parole process, uncertainty following a negative parole decision and issues with the probation service. For the reasons set out, we consider the parole process as it stands, and the probation service’s involvement in it, to be ineffective, and posing a significant barrier to progression for IPP offenders. There needs to be sufficient resources for the Parole Board to consider IPP cases without undue delays. The Parole Board should prioritise people serving IPPs, and provide additional training to its members in understanding the impacts of the sentence. Only trained and experienced Parole Board members should oversee IPP cases. (Paragraph 93)

9. It is unacceptable that some prisoners do not have access to a community probation officer. HMPPS should set out why this is the case, and what work is being done to ensure that all IPP prisoners have access to a community probation officer to support them to progress through their sentence. We are also concerned that in some cases, the probation officer may have little knowledge of, or prior contact with, the offender. There needs to be sufficient resource for community-based offender managers to provide IPP prisoners with the support needed to prepare for parole hearings. HMPPS should set out what it is doing to ensure that probation officers have an adequate level of contact with the offender prior to their parole hearing. (Paragraph 94)

10. Spending an indefinite period of time on licence in the community is detrimental to the mental health and rehabilitation of IPP offenders, and in many cases is not proportionate to the index offence. We welcome the introduction of automatic referral by the Secretary of State for licence termination at the 10-year point. We would welcome regular updates on the number of IPP offenders whose licence is terminated as a result of this mechanism. (Paragraph 104)

11. Furthermore, we support a reduction of the qualifying licence period from 10 years to five years. This change would go some way to restoring proportionality to the IPP sentence. The MoJ should initiate legislation to this effect as soon as possible. (Paragraph 105)

12. The recalled population of IPP offenders is a growing concern and will soon be larger than the population of IPP prisoners who have never been released from custody. The Government needs to devote far greater energy and resource to tackling the “recall merry-go-round”, ensuring that IPP prisoners who do secure their release are able to live a successful life thereafter, avoiding unnecessary recall to prison. We agree with the Chair of the Parole Board that the Government should examine this issue in depth, covering, for example, the threshold for recalls, the use of Executive release, and the role of the Parole Board. The Government should discuss with local government how to ensure an adequate supply of approved premises that does not over burden specific local authorities. Emergency recalls should only be used as a last resort. Probation staff should be encouraged and supported to use alternative measures to emergency recall, such as adjusted reporting requirements, curfews and use of electronic tags. (Paragraph 120)

13. The Parole Board should have a greater role in decision-making around recalls. All IPP prisoners who have been recalled, not having received a new custodial sentence for committing a further offence, should have the right to an oral parole board hearing within two months of their request. The probation service should have to attend to explain their recall decision. Furthermore, all recalled IPP prisoners should be entitled to annual reviews by the Parole Board to consider whether they are fit for re-release. (Paragraph 121)

14. As set out earlier in this Report, the recall of IPP sentenced individuals is a growing problem. IPP prisoners face particular challenges with resettlement, and careful consideration must therefore be given as to how they are prepared for their release and subsequently supported in the community. We agree with the Prison Reform Trust that efforts to successfully reintegrate IPP prison leavers into society must match those efforts being made to help them to achieve release. (Paragraph 128)

15. We welcome the Government’s commitment to ensuring that all prison leavers leave prison with the basics, such as ID and a bank account, and ask that updates on this programme of work be provided to us. We would also welcome progress updates on the introduction of Resettlement Passports. As the passports are developed, we recommend that the MoJ works with stakeholders to give particular consideration as to how they can be used to meet the needs of IPP prisoners, including how resources such as psychologists can be most usefully deployed. In its response to this Report, the MoJ should also set out how IPP prisoners are prepared for their release, including the use of ROTL and the resettlement support and services that are available to prisoners who do not have a release date. (Paragraph 129)

Resentencing

16. Our Report has set out various steps the Government needs to take to help address the IPP problem. But it is clear to us that, while these measures are necessary, they will not be sufficient on their own to deal with the problems that have been identified in the way the IPP sentence continues to operate and is likely to operate in the coming years. The sentence is irredeemably flawed. (Paragraph 150)

17. As Lord Thomas noted in R v Roberts: “It was Parliament which legislated to establish a regime of sentences of IPP in terms which the courts have faithfully and properly applied. It must, in our democracy and in accordance with the rule of law, be for Parliament to provide a correction for the outcome if it so wishes”. We agree. In our view, a comprehensive and adequate solution to the IPP problem can only be achieved by primary legislation that deals retrospectively with the continued operation of the sentence and that allows a resentencing exercise to be undertaken. Paragraph 151)

18. Our primary recommendation is that the Government brings forward legislation to enable a resentencing exercise in relation to all IPP sentenced individuals (except for those who have successfully had their licence terminated). This is the only way to address the unique injustice caused by the IPP sentence and its subsequent administration, and to restore proportionality to the original sentences that were given. (Paragraph 152)

19. Concerns about available community resource for released offenders are valid and need to be taken into consideration. However, the lack of such resource is not a suitable reason for keeping people imprisoned indefinitely. We reiterate the words of our predecessor Committee:

as a matter of policy and common sense rather than law, it is wholly indefensible to incarcerate prisoners of any category beyond the expiry of their tariff or their eligibility for release on licence simply because of a lack of resources on the part of HM Prison Service or the Parole Board. (Paragraph 153)

20. We have not sought to set out the terms of the proposed legislation to enable the resentencing exercise, which will ultimately be for Parliament to consider. We do, however, recommend that it should comply with the key principles that we set out below. We also appreciate that establishing a resentencing exercise will be administratively complex. Accordingly, we recommend that the Government set up a time-limited small expert committee to advise on the practical implementation of the resentencing exercise in conjunction with the senior judiciary. (Paragraph 154)

21. In establishing how to undertake a resentencing exercise of IPP prisoners and what legislation would be needed, it will be important to keep in mind the following three key principles: (Paragraph 175)

a) Balancing protection of the public with justice for the individual offender: A resentencing exercise must strike a balance between protecting the public from the risk of IPP prisoners committing serious further offences if released and securing justice for individual offenders. To achieve that balance, it must be accompanied by sufficient resources to provide released IPP offenders with the support they need—including mental health support—to reintegrate into society. It must also avoid a one-size-fits-all approach and should prioritise the offenders most adversely affected by the sentence: those who were sentenced in the early years of the sentence, prior to the ‘seriousness threshold’ changes in 2008. Any resentencing exercise should also ensure that current sentencing practices designed to ensure protection of the public from serious violent and sexual offenders, such as the way Extended Determinate Sentences are applied and supported, serve as a model in relation to resentenced IPP offenders.

b) The independence of the judiciary: We agree with Lord Thomas that undertaking a resentencing exercise would not interfere with the judicial independence of sentencing. Indeed, it was the decision to curtail the usual discretion of judges to determine the most appropriate sentence for each offender that led to the initial proliferation of the IPP sentence. It would be important, therefore, for a resentencing exercise not to repeat that mistake. In resentencing IPP prisoners the judiciary must be able to make an independent and fair assessment of the individual circumstances of each case and have the discretion to determine an appropriate sentence.

c) Measures to prevent retrospectively increasing the sentence: Any resentencing exercise must be constrained by the general principle, derived from common law and natural justice and set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, that a person should not be subjected to a heavier penalty than that which applied when they committed the offence. A resentencing exercise must avoid imposing any new sentence that puts an offender at a disadvantage compared to their existing IPP sentence, including, where necessary, maintaining the opportunity for release from which IPP offenders currently benefit.

22. We do not underestimate the complexity of undertaking a large-scale resentencing exercise for IPP prisoners. It would require careful thought, significant planning, and sufficient resource. However, the potential difficulties do not justify failing to grasp the nettle. All three branches of the state—the Government, Parliament, and the judiciary—must now rise to the challenge. (Paragraph 176)

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

A Disgrace That Needs Sorting

An important report published today on the scandal that IPP sentences have become. Summary here:- 

Justice Committee finds IPP sentences “irredeemably flawed” and calls for comprehensive re-sentencing programme

The Justice Committee has called on the Government to re-sentence all prisoners subject to IPP sentences. In a report published today, the Committee finds that the current regime for managing IPP prisoners is inadequate in supporting their specific needs and calls for swift improvement in the quality of support they are given.

IPP sentences were introduced to prevent serious offenders being released when still a danger to the public. Despite being scrapped in 2012, nearly 3,000 people remain in prison having been given an IPP sentence. In some cases, individuals have been imprisoned a decade beyond the tariff for their original sentence which could be as low as two years or less.

Under the IPP sentencing system, release is based on successful rehabilitation and prisoners no longer being deemed a risk to the general public. However, the Committee has found that inadequate provision of support services inside and outside of prison has led to a ‘recall merry-go-round’, with almost half of prisoners currently serving an IPP sentence having been released previously.

The Committee finds that IPP sentences cause acute harm to those subject to them, with the prospect of serving a sentence without an end date causing higher levels of self-harm as well as a lack of trust in the system that is meant to rehabilitate them.

The report calls for all prisoners currently serving IPP sentences to be re-sentenced, with an independent panel appointed to advise on the practical implementation of what is likely to be a complex task. It further calls for the current time period after which prisoners can be considered for the termination of their licence following release to be halved, from ten years to five.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Justice Committee, Sir Bob Neill said:

“IPP sentences were abolished a decade ago but little has been done to deal with the long-term consequences on those subject to them. They are currently being failed in a prison system that has left them behind, with inadequate support for the specific challenges caused by the very way they have been convicted and sentenced. Successive Secretaries of State have accepted that change needs to happen but little has been done. The decision must be made once and for all to end the legacy of IPP sentences and come up with a solution that is proportionate to offenders while protecting the public.

We appreciate that establishing a resentencing exercise will be administratively complex. That is why we have called for time-limited small expert committee to advise on the practical implementation of the resentencing exercise in conjunction with the senior judiciary.

There must also be adequate support systems put in place to ensure prisoners are prepared for their release and given the right support to reintegrate into the community.

We do not underestimate the complexity of this undertaking, but after a decade of inertia the status quo cannot be allowed to continue.”

IPP Overview

Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences were introduced in 2005 for serious offenders who were deemed to pose an ongoing risk to public safety but did not merit a life sentence. In practice, anyone convicted of any one of 96 serious violent or sexual offences who had also a previous conviction from one of a list of 153 specified offences was liable to an IPP sentence meaning that they could be imprisoned indefinitely beyond their minimum jail tariff.

IPP sentences were abolished in 2012, however there are still 2,926 people imprisoned under IPP sentences, including 1,434 that were recalled to custody having been released. 608 have been in jail for over decade beyond their original tariff, including 188 who were originally imprisoned for two years or less.

IPP prisoners are subject to acute challenges. The psychological impact of an indefinite sentence leads to feelings of hopelessness and despair, resulting in higher levels of self-harm and suicide in the IPP population. Prisoners also feel distrust towards the people and services necessary to support rehabilitation and secure their release.

Current support for IPP prisoners

The Committee is concerned by the lack of impact of the Government’s current action plan for dealing with the unique challenges faced by IPP prisoners. It finds the IPP Action Plan lacks clear strategic priorities and ownership to ensure they are delivered. It calls for a new action plan to be developed to provide greater detail on how IPP prisoners are to be managed and supported, setting out timeframes for delivery and performance measures to ensure standards are met.

At present, provision of offender behaviour programmes and interventions, designed to change attitudes and behaviours that can lead to reoffending, is poor. There is also concern that they are failing to deliver the outcomes they claim and there is a lack of transparency over how these programmes are evaluated. Given the central role successful completion of these programmes plays in the Prison Service and Parole Board assessment of prisoner risk level it is vital that they are accessible and effective.

The Committee calls on the Ministry of Justice to work with the Prison Service to ensure that there are sufficient places on courses to ensure access for all who need them. They should also publish what work has been done to assess the suitability of current rehabilitation pathways, and set out how they plan to improve delivery where inadequate outcomes have been found.

Release and recall

There are concerns that resource issues in the Probation Service and the Parole Board are leading to frequent delays, high staff turnover and inadequate training for board members. There can also be a lack of clarity and uncertainty around next steps following a negative parole decision. The Committee calls on the Parole Board to ensure that people serving IPP sentences are prioritised and only fully trained and experienced board members involved in their cases.

At present, once an IPP prisoner is released they will be subject to licence conditions and risk returning to prison if any of these conditions are breached. The licence term for IPP prisoners is in place for life, but can be terminated at 10 years. It can act as a barrier to the rehabilitation of offenders and be detrimental to their mental health. The length of the licence period may also be disproportionate to the offence for which they were convicted. The Committee welcomes the introduction of an automatic referral for the licence period to be terminated but additionally calls for the qualifying licence period to be halved from 10 years to 5 years.

According to most recent figures, 1,434 of 2,926 current IPP prisoners have been recalled to custody following a release. The Committee finds that much greater priority needs to be given to ending the return of IPP prisoners to jail and ensuring that they are able to live productive lives once they are initially released.

The Government should examine why recalls are taking place and establish a framework that ensures recalls are only used as a last resort. Probation staff should be encouraged to use alternative measures as much as possible, including adjusted reporting requirement, curfews or electronic tags.

Resentencing IPP prisoners

While it is clear that current processes for managing IPP prisoners are inadequate and need to be improved, on their own, the changes the Committee has recommended will not be sufficient to deal with the fundamental problems caused by IPP sentences. The Committee finds that IPP sentences are irredeemably flawed. It calls on the Government to bring forward primary legislation that deals retrospectively with the continued operation of the sentence and initiates a resentencing exercise for all individuals currently subject to them, both in prison and released on licence (except for those who have successfully had their licence terminated).

This will be a difficult, complex exercise and will require care to get right. The Committee recommends that a time-limited small expert committee be established, in conjunction with the senior judiciary, to advise on the practical implementation of the resentencing exercise.

The Committee recognises that resolving the IPP problem will not be easy. It recommends that the approach taken by Government and Parliament should be guided by three key principles. First, it must balance ensuring protection of the public from the risk of further serious offences being committed against ensuring justice for the individual offender. This will require adequate resourcing to be put in place to support offenders’ reintegration into the community. Any measures designed to protect the public from violent or sexual offenders should also follow current sentencing models.

Second, the independence of the judiciary must also be maintained during the resentencing process. Judges must be able to make a fair and independent assessment of the individual circumstances of each case and have discretion to determine an appropriate sentence. Finally, any resentencing exercise must be constrained by the general principle that a person should not be subjected to a heavier penalty than that which applied when they committed the offence.

Saturday, 24 September 2022

Up Yours!

I see the Victim Commissioner has had enough and plainly stated what we all know to be true:- 
"It is no exaggeration to say that the criminal justice system is in chaos."
The Rt Hon Brandon Lewis CBE MP
Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

23 September 2022

Dear Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice,

The Victims’ Commissioner is the pre-eminent independent voice for victims. The role is to champion the interests of victims at the highest levels, to influence policy, legislation and practice on the ground. It is a unique and unrivalled office that delivers real and lasting change for victims of crime and I am immensely proud of the achievements secured under my tenure.

As you know, my first term as Commissioner was to end this June. In February, your predecessor informed me that he intended to open the post to competition. I was strongly encouraged by him, in public and in private, to apply. This was a perplexing duality: I was not to be reappointed (as my predecessor was), but I was at the same time actively encouraged to apply. Nonetheless, as suggested, I applied in good faith.

At the request of the former Lord Chancellor, I also extended my term by one month. At the time, the long-promised Victims’ Bill was finally emerging and in need of much improvement. My office had carried out a dozen victims’ roundtables and sent in abundant recommendations to officials but little of that work was reflected in the Bill. It was therefore vitally important to me that the Victims’ Commissioner make representations to the Justice Committee and I was happy to extend for this reason.

An important part of my role is access to ministers on behalf of the people I represent and serve. Prior to this year, we have made progress for victims largely through the responsive attitude of previous Secretaries of State. It was notable that the former Lord Chancellor had not met with me once since February. The lack of engagement from the top at a time of great upheaval for victims reflected poorly on the Ministry of Justice’s priorities and the government’s approach.

Early in July, I was phoned by officials and brusquely informed that there would be no appointment from the recruitment process after all. Subsequently, I sought and received assurances from the Ministry of Justice that I had in fact been an appointable candidate. Nevertheless, the recruitment exercise was still to be aborted and rerun. Months of additional uncertainty were heaped on an already disrupted and destabilised office and my excellent staff. Once more I was urged to apply. Once more I was asked to extend my term – this time until the end of the year. With the Victims’ Bill still in draft, I made arrangements as best as I could to stay until at least 30 September and to consider any further extension in due course.

Asking me to re-apply given that two opportunities to re-appoint me have already passed and my office is no longer given much access to ministers seems more a ploy to keep me in place as a nominal post-holder in the short-term than a genuine invitation. Coupled with this, the Victims’ Bill remains inadequate and the ‘British Bill of Rights’ so severely threatens victims’ human rights that it undermines what little progress the Victims’ Bill is set to bring. I am told the Bill of Rights is set to return in some form and that its withdrawal was only temporary.

Further, little has been done to effectively tackle the enormous and catastrophic backlog of cases, particularly in the Crown Court where the most serious crimes are tried. This has exposed victims of these crimes to intolerable delay, anguish and uncertainty. It is no exaggeration to say that the criminal justice system is in chaos.

This downgrading of victims’ interests in the government’s priorities, along with the side-lining of the Victims’ Commissioner’s office and the curious recruitment process make clear to me that there is nothing to be gained for victims by my staying in post beyond the current extension. As such, my term will end on 30 September.

I want to underline how significant this role is in driving forward much-needed change for victims. As Victims’ Commissioner, I have shone a spotlight on the dire state of rape investigations and prosecutions. I secured new privacy safeguards against intrusive and excessive requests for personal mobile phone data in rape investigations. I successfully campaigned for rape victims to pre-record their evidence and cross-examination, sparing them years of anguish awaiting their day in court. I continue to push for increased protections restricting the disclosure of victim therapy notes and third-party victim data. And I have maintained pressure on agencies to increase their shamefully low charging rates. I urge you to reaffirm the government’s commitment to the ambitions of the rape review to drive charging rates back to 2016 levels by the end of this Parliament.

I have consistently advocated for the victims’ sector at the highest levels, most notably ensuring emergency funds were directed to support services straining under the extraordinary pressures of the pandemic. Furthermore, I have spearheaded important research in much-neglected areas such as fraud, online abuse, and the rights of families bereaved from homicide abroad. This research has instigated much needed change. The Victims’ Bill must build on this and afford my successor the authority to make recommendations and compel relevant authorities to respond.

It has been an honour to represent victims’ interests during a period of immense and unprecedented challenges, most notably COVID-19. While the pandemic is abating, the criminal justice system has only sunk deeper into crisis. A strong, independent Victims’ Commissioner has never been more important. The role must not be allowed to lie dormant like the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

I am grateful to the former Secretary of State, David Gauke, and Prime Minister, Theresa May MP, for appointing me to this role. I pay tribute to the professionalism and dedication of officials and of the victims’ sector who work tirelessly to improve the position of victims. And I pay thanks to those Justice Secretaries and multiple Victims’ Ministers who have worked in good faith with me during my tenure.

My contract ends on 30 September. I seek no further renewal and will leave my post on that date.

Yours sincerely,

Dame Vera Baird KC
Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales

Thursday, 8 September 2022

Crisis - What Crisis?

So, here we have Brandon Lewis, the new Justice Secretary, having a laugh and joke at Petty France yesterday:- 

"I look forward to working with @trussliz and colleagues across Government on the many pressing issues we face. I will work tirelessly to protect the public from serious offenders, improve the safety of our prisons, reduce reoffending and deliver swift access to justice for all."

"Great to speak to staff @MoJGovUK this afternoon to set out my aims to cut crime and make the public safer, better support victims and boost the economy through the country's great legal services."

The Secret Barrister Tweeting in response:-

"A little surprised that your aims don’t include fixing the crisis in the criminal justice system. Or making it fairer for all - victims, witnesses and defendants. Or upholding the rule of law. Or defending judicial independence in the face of increasing executive interference…"

Note there has been no mention of probation at all. 

It might be all smiles at MoJ HQ but he and 'strong white' Romero are presiding over an increasingly dysfunctional department. There's the failing Court IT system recently featured on BBC Radio 4 File on 4, the Barristers strike and massive probation service staffing problem.

I was recently taken to task for suggesting that the repeated adverts for staff being put on Twitter by Regional Heads signalled an air of desperation about them - 'it was only a natural consequence of the MoJ agreeing to fund more staff' sort of response. So, thanks go to the reader for forwarding the following which, in addition to sounding like things are indeed desperate, has that distinctly prison command and control air about it:-

Detached Duty Opportunity - For PSO Grade staff in Lancashire, Cumbria and Cheshire (Excluding Merseyside and those scheduled to begin PQiP in September)

In response to an urgent and critical staffing position in the London Probation Region, we are seeking further volunteers at PSO grade from the above area only (excluding those PSO's in the September PQiP intake) to be temporarily re-deployed on detached duty. Thankyou to the volunteers we've already had from Merseyside area. 

The placement initially will be for 4 months and will be reviewed within that time. A non-consolidated but pensionable Detached Duty (DD) Scheme lump sum subject to tax deductions, will be paid to staff following completion of the agreed DD deployment as below

  • 4 weeks continuous = £500
  • 8 weeks continuous = £1,200
  • 12 weeks continuous = £2,000 
DD staff will be expected to stay overnight an agreed hotel near to the DD site which will be paid for. Travel, overnight or daily subsistence allowance will also be provided. All Detached Duty Scheme lump sum payments reflect full time 37 hours per week working. Amounts for part time staff will calculated pro rata. Volunteers will be expected to work for a minimum 3 days a week in London.

If you would like to register your interest please e-mail your completed application form to xxxxxxxxxx by 5pm on Wednesday 7th September 2022. Manager's and Heads should offer their views about whether they would be able to support the application and the final decisions relating to which staff we are able to release will be made at the Regional Board on Thursday 9th September 2022. Staff will be prepared to move quickly as the need is pressing.   

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Up For The Challenge?

Yesterday, in an ominous presage of things to come, the heavens opened and a new even darker chapter began. Undoubtedly the defenestration of Priti Patel and Dominic Raab is good news, whilst the arrival of Brandon Lewis as Justice Secretary must surely be cause for hope?
 

As we wait to find out, I thought I'd mention that viewing figures for the blog are still high averaging 2,000 a day and the post about the pay offer has been viewed nearly 3,000 times. Along with pay, it's clear there's widespread concern regarding the future of probation both as a distinct enterprise and as to its ethical basis. This is heartening for anyone who 'gets it',  cares for its survival and in particular seeks to revisit our famous mantra of 'advise, assist and befriend'.

In the course of this evolving discussion I'm always intrigued by historical perspectives, one being an editorial in the British Journal of Community Justice by Prof Paul Senior and as probation marked its centenary in 2007. I hadn't seen this before and I think it's worth reflecting on as part of a continuing discourse:-   

1907–2007 – PROBATION: WAKE, CELEBRATION OR RE-BIRTH? 

The history of the probation service often reads like a continuous roller coaster moving with the changing winds of political demands, research findings and/or policy innovation. 

It has rarely stood still and this year, one hundred years on from its inception as an ‘official’ service in the 1907 Probation of Offenders Act its capacity to adapt and survive may be under terminal threat at least in England and Wales. At a time when the concept of probation is impacting positively on penal reform in such diverse areas as Eastern Europe, South America and many other jurisdictions the changes being fashioned by the government's agenda for offender management and in particular its unbending desire for contestability processes to govern service delivery options might sound the death knell for probation as we know it. 

The National Probation Directorate only created in 2001 to run the then new national service - seeking to bring coordination and centralisation to the previous diversity of 50 + individual services - is to go out of existence. The creation of Probation Trusts with new governance arrangements could spell the end of the Probation Boards and the ending of the influence of the Probation Boards Association which, alongside Napo, has been crucial to probation’s survival in recent years. Does this matter to community justice? Has probation lost its direction and maybe its right to oversee community provision for offenders and to support resettlement processes? The answers may be partially located in the past, but also in the space the present uncertainties create and, maybe, there is a future still to grasp. 

Whatever else you level at probation over the past century it has been an organisation whose capacity for innovation and inventiveness, indeed re-inventiveness, has never dimmed. Often attracting practitioners of singular commitment and creativity, if within a maelstrom of philosophical differences, it has never stood still in trying to respond to the seemingly intractable problems people in trouble with the criminal justice system face. In 1978 David Haxby amongst others posed the question of what kind of agency probation might become. Could it hold on to its community orientation, would it become more driven by the needs of the court or would it transform itself into an agency of community control. This ‘care/control’ dilemma was seemingly always regarded as a driving feature of probation practice, though its interpretation and execution continually shifted as new ideas, approaches and values impacted upon its practical application. 

The control and enforcement perspective gathered political weight in the last two decades of the 20th century alongside a growing recognition of the role of victims. Probation practice retreated to the office, developed stylised programmatic responses using cognitive behavioural techniques, governed by risk assessment procedures which sometimes seemed to be followed to justify actions post-hoc rather than as a pragmatic response to need. Outside agencies, mainly, initially, from the voluntary and community sector, were engaged ever more readily to undertake the more community-oriented aspects of traditional practice and probation managers seemed to buckle under any demand to change their practices as government control under a penal populist bandwagon became more and more insistent. Indeed what is remarkable amidst all this is that probation, at least in terms of audit, seemed to reach most of the targets the Home Office has set. Yet this has not dimmed the political mission to make further changes. 

What conclusions can be drawn about this recent history? Has probation failed to be brave and should it have shown a more resistant attitude to the demands of Blairite modernity much as the police have attempted to do? Or is it its comparatively weak structural position which would always make resistance ineffective? Has it lost its influential parliamentary friends which protected it until the 1980s and has it, as a viable organisational structure, simply had its day? These are contested questions which in this year, the centenary of probation, we must explore. We need to draw once more on that spirit of creativity and innovation to continue to find a meaningful role into the next century. This means looking back to learn from some of the successes of our past history whilst shaping a modern probation service which can be a relevant and vibrant part of the criminal justice system. 

A consistent message from research is that the services which both support and rehabilitate and supervise and control offenders are essential and complementary elements to both a public protection, community safety, rehabilitation and restorative agenda. If probation did not exist we would have to re-invent the services. Our next issue will be focussed on a Century of Probation and you can still contribute. Let’s take this opportunity to grasp the place back for probation in a community justice system. Are you up for the challenge?

Professor Paul Senior, Director, Hallam Centre for Community Justice, Sheffield Hallam University