Tuesday 29 November 2022

Probation's Journey

The latest Academic Insight paper from HM Probation Inspectorate very succinctly charts the journey 'probation' has found itself on over recent time and how it might yet be restored to something worthwhile following the TR omnishambles, the pathetic justification for which still makes my blood boil. The following is the first of two lengthy extracts, but as always readers are encouraged to read the whole document.   

Professionalism in Probation


HM Inspectorate of Probation is committed to reviewing, developing and promoting the evidence base for high-quality probation and youth offending services. Academic Insights are aimed at all those with an interest in the evidence base. We commission leading academics to present their views on specific topics, assisting with informed debate and aiding understanding of what helps and what hinders probation and youth offending services. 

This report was kindly produced by Dr Matt Tidmarsh, reviewing the literature on ‘professionalism’ and applying it to the probation service. After years of instability, the recent unification of the service provides an opportunity to refocus on the professional status of practitioners. It is vital that there is sufficient recruitment and that staff then benefit from ongoing investment, developing their professional knowledge, expertise and autonomy, so that they are able to deliver a high-quality service. At the same time, the history and culture of probation should be respected, embracing its identity as a relational, collaborative and person-centred service. Practitioners thus need to be empowered to develop positive relationships with people on probation and other key stakeholders. Within our inspections of probation services, we will continue to examine whether staff are being enabled to deliver a high-quality, personalised and responsive service for all people on probation. 

Dr Robin Moore 
Head of Research

2.1 Probation’s professional project 

McWilliams’s (1983, 1985, 1986, 1987) seminal quartet of essays on the professionalisation of probation comes closest to a ‘life history’ (Abbott, 1988) approach to the study of the service as a would-be profession. He documented how, over the first few decades of the twentieth century, the service came to exhibit ideal-typical professional traits. For example, after several decades of ad-hoc provision coordinated by the Church of England, the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 established probation as a public service with a clear mission, to ‘advise, assist, [and] befriend’ – words that constituted an ideology of service premised on relationships with those subject to supervision in the community. Religious influences on practice were gradually displaced by social work knowledge learnt through education and training, which proved the ‘scientific’ basis for autonomy over work delivered with people on probation. That McWilliams (1985, p.260) considered such knowledge, methods, and values the ‘justification for claims of professionalism’ hints at the importance of the acquisition of ideal-typical traits in shaping the service’s professional identity and legitimacy (Tidmarsh, 2022).

Probation’s ‘professional project’ (Larson, 1977) was consolidated in the postwar period, as the service was unequivocally recognised as a profession. The 1962 Morison Report, for example, recognised the probation officer as ‘a professional caseworker, employing in a specialized field, skill which he holds in common with other social workers’ (c.f. Jarvis, 1972, p.66). Given this institutional support, the service continued to expand: it assumed responsibilities for prisoners’ pre-release ‘throughcare’, post-release ‘aftercare’, and community service (Jarvis, 1972). Between 1951 and 1981, the number of full-time, qualified probation officers increased from just over 1,000 to nearly 5,500 while the service’s total caseload grew from 55,000 to approximately 157,000 (McWilliams, 1987). As such, imbued with state support for its knowledge, methods, and values, the probation officer was viewed as: 
‘an independent practitioner, supported and supervised in professional practice by the probation service hierarchy’ (May and Annison, 1998, p.161). 
However, the ideal-typical tenets on which probation’s claims to professionalism rested have, in recent decades, been subjected to considerable challenge. This has occurred against the backdrop of several significant changes, including a more punitive socio-political climate; the rise of risk management practices; and numerous, centralising organisational restructurings oriented towards greater efficiency and accountability. Heightened political and media hysteria over crime (Downes and Morgan, 2007) heralded the emergence of ‘tough on crime’ policies and a significant increase in the prison population (Garland, 2001). As political confidence in the service waned, successive governments targeted the autonomy of practitioners, chief officers, and locally administered services (Robinson et al., 2012). The convergence of performance targets and National Standards (introduced in 1988 and 1992, respectively) and monitored via an intensification of audits have thereby limited practitioners’ ability to exercise discretion (Mair and Burke, 2011). 

Following the growth in those subject to criminal justice supervision, in prison and in the community, risk management practices became entrenched within probation. Following the abolition of social work training requirements for practice in 1995, risk has arguably become the dominant knowledge-base within probation (Tidmarsh, 2021a). While evidence indicates that practitioners have welcomed the greater consistency provided by risk assessment tools such as the Offender Assessment System (Mair et al., 2006; Phillips, 2016), for their use promotes ‘defensible’ decision-making (Kemshall, 1998; see also Academic Insights paper 2021/14) in ways that are not ‘anti-professional’ (Robinson, 2003), pressures to record information have nevertheless detracted from the time available to spend with people on probation (Tidmarsh, 2021b).

Since the turn of the century, the service has undergone numerous restructurings which have sought to enhance central control over services – such that, for staff, organisational change has become ‘a defining characteristic of their professional existence’ (Robinson and Burnett 2007, p.332). And yet, despite changes which have attempted to bring organisational culture into line with prevailing punitive ideology (Robinson and Ugwudike, 2012), probation’s ideology of service has persevered. Mawby and Worrall (2013) have shown that several generations of probation staff are united through a shared value base centred on working with people. Indeed, research has consistently emphasised the durability of ‘probation values’ premised on a belief in the capacity of individuals to change (Deering, 2010; Robinson et al., 2016; Tidmarsh, 2020a). These values remain key to professionalism in probation, especially after the changes wrought by Transforming Rehabilitation.

2.2 Transforming Rehabilitation: the ‘diminution of the probation profession’ 

As argued above, ‘professionalism’ was integral to the justifications given for the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. This was primarily expressed in terms of professional discretion: top-down, bureaucratic state provision of services, it was contended, contributed to ineffective practice and the spiralling costs of justice, as practitioners were focused on meeting performance targets. Competing for services, by contrast, would spark the ‘innovation’ required to reduce reoffending and render probation more efficient (MoJ, 2010, 2013). The desire ‘to unlock… professionalism’ (MoJ, 2010, p.9) to improve performance thus sought to bring together the interests of diverse groups – the public, private providers, practitioners, and people on probation – with appeals to the superiority of the market over the state. 

However, Transforming Rehabilitation merely continued the decades-long challenge to the ideal-typical tenets on which professionalism in probation was grounded – such that, in her final report as Chief Inspector of Probation, Dame Glenys Stacey lamented the ‘deplorable diminution of the probation profession’ (HM Inspectorate of Probation, 2019a, p.3). For example, the manner in which staff were allocated after the reforms spoke to the Government’s view on professional knowledge, education, and training in the private sector (Tidmarsh, 2020b), with most qualified probation officers being shifted to the publicly-owned National Probation Service (NPS) – which was presented as a specialist body, ‘drawing on the expertise and experience of its staff… and managing those who pose the greatest risk of harm to the public’ (MoJ, 2013, p.4). Many experienced staff also left the service in protest at the reforms, leaving a much diminished ‘pool of collective professional knowledge’ (Kirton and Guillaume, 2019, p.12). That less qualified staff in the privately-owned Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) were doing work formerly undertaken by qualified officers (HM Inspectorate of Probation, 2019a) meant the boundaries between Probation Service Officer and Probation Officer roles were blurred, part of an attempt to render services more ‘efficient’ through cheaper labour (Tidmarsh, 2020b). As such, the NPS were perceived, by many in the service and the wider criminal justice infrastructure, as the superior organisation in a ‘two-tier’ system (HM Inspectorate of Probation, 2017). 

Relationships between staff and people on probation were not ‘sufficiently protected’ (HM Inspectorate of Probation, 2019a, p.9) after services were split. Some staff in Robinson et al.’s (2016, p.167) ethnography of the transition to employment in a CRC reflected on ‘the pains of separation from service users with whom they had built good working relationships but who were now in the process of being transferred to the NPS’. Staff-client relationships were further exacerbated by the financial strains under which CRCs operated. Initial caseload estimates suggested that CRCs would supervise 80 per cent of people on probation, but the reality was closer to 60 per cent – in part because concerns over the CRCs’ quality of services meant fewer were assessed as low-to-medium risk (NAO, 2019). The subsequent funding shortfalls resulted in ‘substantial reductions’ (HM Inspectorate of Probation, 2019a, p.74) in staffing in the CRCs. Accordingly, while organisational caseloads decreased, individual workloads increased (HM Inspectorate of Probation, 2017). One such implication is a loss of professional autonomy: practitioners in the CRCs were focused on meeting the ‘fee for service’ targets through which providers derived the majority of their income, reducing the time available to build relationships with people on probation (Tidmarsh, 2020b, 2021b).

Relationships with other organisations also deteriorated under Transforming Rehabilitation. HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons (2017) found that ‘Through the Gate’ provision was over-reliant on signposting to other agencies, particularly in the voluntary sector. Both the NPS and CRCs referred to such agencies, many of whom were external to supply chains, without being financially obligated to contribute to their delivery (NAO, 2019). This disincentivised many smaller voluntary organisations from involvement in probation while entrenching a ‘tick-box culture’ of monitoring (Clinks, 2018, p.24) among those that continued to deliver services, as downward pressures inhibited their ability to build meaningful relationships with clients and partners. The financial instability that characterised partnership working with the voluntary sector demonstrates how Transforming Rehabilitation damaged probation’s function as a ‘broker’ between different social spheres (Senior et al., 2016). Dominey (2019) conceptualises probation relationships through notions of ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ supervision: 
• ‘thick’ supervision refers to a productive relationship with the person on probation, embedded within the community 
• ‘thin’ supervision is predominantly office-based, with poor links to the community. 
Dominey concluded that, if probation is underpinned by networks of relationships, both among people and between people and organisations, then the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms pushed supervision in the CRCs ‘in the direction of thin supervision’ (Dominey, 2019, p.298; see also Tidmarsh, 2021b). 

The contractual pressures faced by CRCs thus created barriers to realising an ideology of service in probation. Indeed, the ability to build relationships – with clients and other stakeholders – is at the heart of probation staff understandings of professionalism (Tidmarsh, 2021a). However, both supervisor-client and probation-community relations were diminished nationally as a result of Transforming Rehabilitation (HM Inspectorate of Probation, 2019a). The practitioners in Tidmarsh’s (2020a) ethnography of a CRC, for example, struggled to reconcile client-centred values with caseload pressures and a heightened focus on performance targets. These ‘thin’ practices also permeated intra-organisation relationships, thereby impacting practitioners’ capacity to develop professionally. Staff in Coley’s (2020, p.237) study of a CRC valued supervision time with Senior Probation Officers; however, the combination of caseload pressures and staff shortages meant that staff supervision time was often ‘compressed, offering less space for individual and personalised activities’. Likewise, in the NPS, Phillips et al. (2016) observed the ‘relentless’ emotional impact of working exclusively with high-risk offenders, for which practitioners did not receive enough organisational support or opportunities to reflect meaningfully on practice. 

As such, Transforming Rehabilitation further undermined the wide range of relationships on which professionalism in probation is founded. Professional knowledge was lost in the CRCs, eroded by an enforced contractual focus on targets. An ideology of service persists within probation, but the convergence of increased workloads and the financial consequences of a failure to conform to performance metrics impeded the autonomy to enact such values. The ways in which Transforming Rehabilitation failed to enhance professionalism in probation raises questions as to how the service can reclaim its ideology of service and the frameworks needed to recapture meaningful relationships with people on probation and other stakeholders. The next section, then, advocates for a relational, person-centred, and co-productive approach to the future of services.

to be continued

Sunday 27 November 2022

The Probation Experience

It's long been recognised that, whatever the prevailing political and institutional directive of the day may be, it's the relationship between probation practitioner and client that remains absolutely key as to whether the process is likely to prove positive or not. Here is an extract from an article in the latest Irish Probation Journal that sheds light on that relationship. It's worthy of note that the Irish Probation Service remains founded on the original Probation of Offenders Act of 1907 and hence the core mantra of 'advise, assist and befriend'.

‘Helping, Hurting, Holding and Hands Off’: Preliminary Findings from an Oral History of Probation Client Experiences of Supervision in Ireland


This paper presents preliminary findings from the ‘Histories of Probation in Ireland’ project which aims to provide an extensive, detailed account of Irish probation practice from the 1960s onwards. The core objective of the paper is to highlight patterns emerging from client participants’ lived reality of probation, which is achieved through the application of an oral history methodology. The paper provides an overview of relevant literature, before outlining the research design and explaining the methodological approach of the project. Findings are presented from interviews with current and former probation clients who experienced probation in the 1980s up to present day. Inspired by the work of Fergus McNeill, a thematic framework of analysis, ‘helping, hurting, holding, and hands off’, is employed in order to understand the individual and collective voices experiencing probation in Ireland during the timeframe.

Preliminary findings 

The following analysis draws on McNeill’s (2009) framework for understanding supervision experiences and aims to build on his work in two ways: first, by adding a new dimension to the framework; and second, by exploring the powerful emotions elicited by the supervision experience. Such frameworks constitute useful tools for conceptualising supervision experiences but also run the risk of over-simplifying complex phenomena. As McNeill (2009) notes, the different dimensions are closely interlinked and frequently overlap. To contextualise the findings and avoid over-simplification, it is important therefore to discuss briefly the nature of the supervisory experience, which is revealed by our findings to be complex, subjective and porous. First, our research confirms that supervisory experiences are multifaceted and cannot always be neatly classified into distinct ‘types’ of encounters. For example, supervisory experiences varied both within and between individuals; most of our sample had been on probation more than once and recounted different kinds of experiences at different moments in their lives. PC2 (2010s cohort) had a short-lived supervision experience as a teenager and characterised officers of that era as being ‘all about authority’ and ‘ticking boxes’. However, he believed that officers encountered later in his life displayed more empathy, support and understanding. He attributed these shifts to changes in the Service and in his own attitude, acknowledging that, as a teenager, ‘I wasn’t in the right place, state of mind to realise what they were trying to do for me.’ Interestingly, his experience contrasts somewhat with other accounts, which suggest that, while probation practice changed little during this period, it has become increasingly structured and less welfare-focused in recent years (see, for example, Healy, 2015b). This highlights the need to consider personal as well as ‘official’ accounts of supervision, leading to our second observation – that supervisory experiences are subjective, and similar practices are perceived differently by individual probationers. For instance, in our study, home visits were described as helpful by some and as intrusive by others. To illustrate, PC1 (1980s cohort) commented, ‘She [Probation Officer] was very good. She called out to the house, got to know the family and became a friend of the family.’ Conversely, PC6 (1980s cohort) stated, ‘It’s kind of like, OK, the Government is coming to my house to see if I am OK or is everything OK in the house, like, you know, and I remember my Da wasn’t working and he got offside [as a result of the visit].’ Third, supervision does not operate in a vacuum, and people’s experiences were sometimes shaped by external circumstances, both positive and negative. For example, PC16 (1980s cohort) felt apprehensive when first placed under supervision because he had previously experienced institutional abuse and maltreatment, becoming distrustful and guarded around authority figures as a result. Consequently, his engagement with probation was, in his words, not ‘the healthiest’, and he believed that the order had minimal impact on his life or offending. Bearing in mind these caveats about the nature of supervision, the different dimensions of the supervision experience are now explored. 


According to McNeill (2009), ‘helping’ relates to the classic probation philosophy of ‘advising, assisting and befriending’. Helping experiences were described by many of our participants who tended to characterise supervision in positive terms if officers offered advice and practical support, attempted to build rapport, put a clear supervision plan in place, and actively sought out rehabilitation opportunities. Existing research shows that such experiences can contribute to increased satisfaction among probationers (e.g., Durnescu et al., 2018; Healy, 2012). Probationers also valued officers who demonstrated empathy, were caring but assertive, were willing to advocate on their behalf, and communicated a belief in their ability to change. They appreciated officers who listened, took the time to get to know them, and communicated clearly. The following quotes, in particular, highlight the powerful impact of high-quality professional relationships built on trust, acceptance and support. PC15 experienced significant difficulties with gardaĆ­ on release from prison, explaining: ‘Every time the police seen me, they just arrested me.’ Feeling hopeless, he contacted his Probation Officer to say, ‘Look, I’m going to finish my sentence and just leave me alone.’ However, instead of accepting this, the officer arranged for him to decorate her house and spend time in the probation office to keep him off the streets. He remained in touch with his Probation Officer and still has some contact over thirty years later, saying: 
‘They tried to do their best for you. […] Now the one that stood by me, [NAME], she stood by me through thick and thin, through everything and I was even asked to go to her retirement party, that’s how well I got on with her because I done her house up and minded her husband, […] she didn’t judge me.’ (PC15, 1970s/1980s cohort) 
Despite initial reservations around engaging with probation, PC18, a life-sentence prisoner, found that his relationship with his Probation Officer created a safe space to complete difficult personal work. Though many years have passed, he continues to meet this officer regularly for coffee and a chat. 
‘I felt that somebody was actually listening to me, that I could talk about stuff that was very important for me that I never spoke about before and I could speak and, you know, not fear it going anywhere else … every aspect of my life was opened with [PO], you know.’ (PC18, 1990s cohort) 
Testifying to the strength of this relationship, he concluded, ‘I remember saying one day, I said there was only two people in the world who know me – my wife and [PO].’ In terms of the emotions activated by helpful supervisory experiences, hope emerged as the strongest. Hope, as expressed by our participants, reflected Burnett and Maruna’s (2004, pp 395–6) definition as having ‘both the “will and the ways”: the desire for a particular outcome, and also the perceived ability and means of achieving the outcome’. 


McNeill (2009) found that probation may be experienced as hurtful when overly focused on surveillance, enforcement, or threats of enforcement. These kinds of pains were also evident in our study. Probation was characterised by participants as hurtful when perceived as intrusive, inflexible, and focused on monitoring and punishment, rather than support. Hurtful experiences often arose from relational issues; for instance, some participants described their encounters as disrespectful, while others found it difficult to build trust with Probation Officers because of personality clashes. Frustration also emerged when participants felt that officers did not listen to them or failed to recognise attempts to change. PC11 (1990s cohort) described probation as overly intrusive and highlighted a power imbalance between the officer and himself, noting that non-compliance with even some requirements could be met with a bad report or a ‘threatened’ return to court. 
‘Probation Officers think they’re guards and fucking have the power to send you to prison if they want like they can easily write a bad report and you’ll get locked up, so I was, like, well, we’re not getting on so what’s the point in getting a report? I’ll go back to prison meself. […] I know that’s part of their job – I understand that part – but when you have your appointments, you’re going to your appointments. “What did you do with your week?” Well, it’s none of your business really. I’m here because I have an appointment. I’ve done – whatever you asked me to do, I’ve done. If you want to know everything … and then you don’t tell them, or they threaten you with the courts.’ (PC11, 1990s cohort) 
PC24 (2010s cohort) did not get on with his first Probation Officer, describing her as ‘grumpy’. He felt that he had been labelled by her as a ‘bold person’. At the time of the interview, he was no longer in contact with his family and believed that his Probation Officer’s negative view of him, expressed during meetings with his mother, was a contributing factor.
‘Just really the old woman [PO], that’s it. She was negative, you know what I mean. She was labelling me. Like my ma was with me and all so she was making my ma fight with me and all. Where me ma wouldn’t really be like that. So, she was making people act different around her. So that was negative. She changed. She changed me ma’s perspective to who her son is. Said like, “He’s out robbing cars, you don’t have control over him”, this that and the other, you know what I mean. I don’t have family so there was no point fighting for family all them years.’ (PC24, 2010s cohort) 
The pains of probation are, of course, already well documented in the literature (see e.g., Durnescu, 2011; Durnescu, 2019; Griffin and Healy, 2019); however, our findings also highlight the emotional burden imposed by these pains. In particular, feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, and resentment are palpable in the above quotes. Ultimately, PC11 became so exasperated with the supervisory experience that prison seemed a preferable option. He was subsequently returned to prison on a different charge. PC24 also ended up back in court, although his later experiences were more positive. As he explained, the judge gave him a ‘second chance’ and assigned him a different officer who proved more helpful and supportive. While it could be argued that these examples show Probation Officers simply doing their jobs (by holding people to account for their actions) or participants deflecting responsibility for their behaviour (by blaming the officer for causing conflict in relationships), we suggest that these experiences should be classified as ‘hurtful’ when experienced as such by people under supervision. While the pains arising from perceived power imbalances and stigmatisation may be subtler than those arising from overt abuses, these examples show that they can still elicit a powerful emotional response and may ultimately undermine the utility of supervision. 


In McNeill’s (2009) framework, ‘holding’ describes a sense of being monitored and restricted or, more positively, a kind of harm-minimisation strategy where a chaotic life is safely contained, albeit temporarily, within the confines of a probation order. Other scholars have highlighted this dimension of supervision; for instance, Hayes (2018) observes that the structure of probation can help some people to feel a greater sense of control in their lives. This theme was less evident in our research, tending to overlap quite strongly with either the helping or hurting themes. The first quote, from PC17 (2010s), illustrates an experience at the boundary between helping and holding. As can be seen, PC17 found that the structure of the probation order helped to change his routines, expose him to law-abiding lifestyles, and generate a sense of calm and security. 
‘The most helpful for me personally was just keeping out of trouble, having a structure, having a plan, so Monday to Friday, between two and four, I’d have to be here so that was definitely most helpful because it was good structure, it was a good opportunity to see how – I hate to say normal, but how normal working people was living and how much more calmer and better it was than the life that I was living previous to that. So that would have been the most helpful, just as a bit of an eye opener. […] And it wasn’t too overwhelming, like two hours isn’t a lot just to come in and see what they had to offer.’ (PC17, 2010s cohort) 
Alternatively, PC5’s (2000s cohort) experience is located at the intersection between holding and hurting. On the one hand, he was reassured on being told that the purpose of supervision was to help him stay out of the prison system, as illustrated by the following quote: 
‘Like, they keep making it clear: “Look, we’re not here to put you back into prison […] we’re here to try and get you out, stay out and manage your sentence” – so, that’s good they kind of say that from […] so kind of reassured from the start, but yeah, as I say, I haven’t had much experience working with probation outside; it’s all been inside, so yeah, I think it will be all right.’ (PC5, 2000s cohort) 
On the other hand, he felt constrained by the knowledge that post-release supervision would tie him to a criminal past he wanted to leave behind. When asked if he wanted probation support after release, he responded, ‘To be honest, no. […] I’d rather forget about jail completely and move on. Now I have no choice.’ (PC5, 2000s cohort) 

Hands off 

The final theme does not appear in McNeill’s (2009) framework but has been added here to capture another dimension of participants’ supervisory experiences. For some, probation supervision seemed inconsequential, constituting a minor commitment that imposed minimal restrictions on their lives and asked little of them in return. Such individuals typically said that probation meetings were rare and/or brief, or that their officers seemed detached and laissez-faire in their approaches to supervision. Others admitted that they themselves were disengaged from the supervision process. Many of these supervision experiences, particularly if they took place many years earlier, were only half-remembered. Some appreciated the hands-off approach, largely because they preferred not to engage with the Service. PC16 (1980s cohort) was apprehensive about his first probation order due to a distrust of authority figures and a deep immersion in criminality and drug addiction. Consequently, he engaged instrumentally with probation supervision, complying merely to avoid prison rather than to stop offending, and felt it had a minimal impact on his life.
‘It didn’t have any restrictions for me. It didn’t … you got probation and you seen it as a victory, didn’t go to prison – you got out of it. I’ll go in and I’ll tick the boxes. The Probation Officer tells me to turn up at two o’clock; I’ll be there at ten to two, you know what I mean? The Probation Officer asks me a question or wants me to do this: yes sir, no sir, three bags full, sir. Play the game, you know, play the system, like, and that’s what I done, so it didn’t impact on me. It certainly didn’t stop me committing other crimes.’ (PC16, 1980s cohort) 
Such experiences generated little emotional response in those subjected to probation supervision. However, probation supervision was also perceived as irrelevant in a more problematic way. Several participants wanted and needed assistance, and even asked for help on multiple occasions, but found that none was forthcoming. In such cases, strong emotions were provoked, including resentment, feelings of helplessness, and anger, as is evident in the following quote: 
‘So, what’s the difference if I’m clean or not ’cause I was going to her for weeks and weeks and weeks clean and she didn’t really do anything for me […] and then I go in dirty and she doesn’t really do anything for me, so […] It’s just a formality. She has an appointment with me today – it’s just to see how you’re getting on and off you go.’ (PC10, 2010s cohort) 
This aspect of the supervision experience is perhaps less well documented, although Crewe and Ievins (2021) describe a ‘loose’ form of penal power within the prison system that imposes few restrictions or requirements on prisoners but can be experienced as painful by those subject to it. In such cases, prisoners can feel forgotten because they receive little support and are offered few rehabilitative opportunities.


The research employed and developed McNeill’s (2009) ‘helping, holding, hurting’ framework to further comprehend probation supervisory experiences in Ireland from a historical perspective. However, as noted above, experiences of supervision are complex and can vary both between probationers and within probationers over time, making it difficult to categorise individual experiences distinctly (McNeill, 2009). In some ways, the findings also mirror Crewe and Ievins’ (2021) work on ‘tight’ and ‘loose’ forms of penal power. For instance, ‘helping’ experiences may be evoked by approaches that are responsive to people’s needs, that respect and preserve their sense of self, and that enable them to take an active role in decision-making. ‘Tight’ forms of penal power that impose strict obligations on people – even when they are provided with the resources to meet these requirements – may generate the kind of ‘hurting’ experiences discussed earlier in this paper. Lastly, ‘hands-off’ experiences may be elicited by ‘loose’ forms of penal power, described as fairly undemanding in terms of their requirements, but also unresponsive to people’s needs. As our participants’ experiences showed, such approaches can have a powerful impact, leaving some people feeling frustrated and abandoned. 

The findings have contributed in several ways to knowledge about supervision. The ‘hands-off’ dimension added by this paper highlights experiences where probation supervision bore minimal relevance to the lives of probation clients. This approach was welcomed by some but in others brought about feelings of hopelessness and of being left behind. The research also shows that being under probation supervision can elicit a broad range of powerful emotions – an aspect of the supervisory experience that is currently under-researched. As can be seen from the findings, emotions varied from hope to anger, frustration and hopelessness. Moreover, the research revealed that there are instances where the lines between ‘helping’, ‘holding’ and ‘hurting’ can become blurred (see also Hayes, 2018). Experiences of supervision were considered helpful if probationers felt listened to and Probation Officers took a solution-focused approach to rehabilitation. Efforts to help became hurtful if supervisory techniques were considered intrusive, if a probationer felt misunderstood, or if their efforts went unacknowledged by their Probation Officer. With regard to ‘holding’, the findings show that probation can offer a more stable routine for clients, which can lessen anxiety and promote an alternative lifestyle. However, for those who want to move on, probation supervision is seen as a constant reminder of a criminal past. 

While participants acknowledged that they had to be in the right state of mind to accept help, the findings suggest that Probation Officers play a significant role in adding meaning to the client’s experience of supervision. Irish research on the experience of probation supervision is scarce, but this finding is consistent with existing Irish and international work, which suggests that a positive supervision experience is contingent on the building of rapport with the client, the implementation of clear and achievable supervision plans, the offering of practical support and advice, and the provision of opportunities for rehabilitation (Durnescu et al., 2018; Healy, 2012). Positive supervisory experiences that incorporate these practices are more likely to evoke feelings of hope in the probationer. 

While this article has focused on the experiences of those under supervision, it is important to note that others, such as Probation Officers, may offer very different accounts. Every perspective is equally valid, though, and our research project attempts to capture the experiences of diverse stakeholders, including people who have been subject to supervision, Probation Officers, and policymakers (see e.g., Healy and Kennefick, 2019; Healy and Kennefick, forthcoming; for overviews of probation in Ireland, see Healy, 2015a, 2015b; Carr, 2016). Ultimately, historical accounts such as those discussed in this paper provide a better understanding of supervisory experiences, illuminating the lived experiences of people under supervision, animating official accounts and adding nuance to existing scholarly research on the evolution of probation practice.

Louise Kennefick, Deirdre Healy and Niamh Wade

Saturday 26 November 2022

Raab Update

This from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies eBulletin yesterday:- 

Is the Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, prepared to take decisive action to address the multiple injustices of the imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence?

Speaking to the House of Commons Justice Committee earlier this week, he acknowledged the many problems with this dreadful sentence. He also told the Committee that, had he been an MP at the time the sentence was introduced in 2003, he would not have voted for it.


Despite the “foul stench” of injustice the IPP sentence continues to represent, Raab showed little appetite for the decisive action required. He appeared to reject the Justice Committee’s central recommendation of a resentencing exercise for all those currently subject to an IPP.

Given the government is yet to give its formal response to the Justice Committee report, we must hope that his remarks do not represent a settled position.

Raab also appeared daunted by weight of history. “I am stuck with the legacy of something I didn't vote for,” he said at one point, “but that is the way our system works.”

“So we are stuck with an injustice because it was done in the past?”, the Committee Chair, Sir Bob Neill, replied, leaving Raab thrown and flailing for an answer.

The eleven-minute section of the Committee hearing dealing with IPP (you can watch it on the Centre’s Youtube channel), concluded with a revealing comment by Raab. “I will be responsible, and held responsible, for mistakes that are made in relation to public protection and risk”, he said.

If the government were to accept all the Committee’s recommendations, including on resentencing, Raab will gain plaudits from some quarters as a bold reformer. He also faces political risks, including from unforeseen and unpredictable developments over which he has little or no control.

Put bluntly, when it comes to IPP reform, what’s in it for Raab?

Politics, of course, is a risky business. Politicians have to be prepared to make the big calls, accepting the risks that come with them. If not, they are merely enjoying the trappings of office, without accepting the responsibilities that come with it.

If Raab is not prepared to take the big decisions to address a major injustice, then he should make way for someone who is. Given the current difficulties he is facing from other quarters, the decision may, in any case, be taken out of his hands.

Richard Garside


Oh and there's this:-

A whiff of scandal

Last month, we called for the use of electronic monitoring (so-called ‘tagging’) as part of a criminal justice sanction to be based on proper evidence and guided by clear principles. Our call came in response to a report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, which painted an alarming picture of government failure and waste.

According to the Committee, nearly £100 million of public funds have been wasted, with the Ministry of Justice still unable to determine if tagging works. Yet the government still plans to press ahead with a £1.2 billion programme, expanding tagging to an additional 10,000 people over the next three years.

Our submission to the Committee was the only written evidence that it published.

Our Research Director, Roger Grimshaw, said, “The whiff of scandal over EM should be a wake-up call for a much more informed and wide-ranging discussion, developing a platform for reform which delimits a place for EM in a modest, humane and purposeful system”.

Read more about it here.


Finally, I saw this in the Telegraph:-

Prisoners treated as 'residents' despite demands for no more 'woke' terminology

Prison Service admits the term should not have been used and has since been removed from HMP Moorland in South Yorkshire

Prisoners have been treated as “residents” in jail despite demands by Dominic Raab for staff to stop using “woke” terminology.

HMP Moorland in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, put up a sign directing “residents” or prisoners in the jail to facilities despite an instruction from the Justice Secretary that inmates must no longer be called by such “politically correct” terms.

The language which has also seen offenders called “clients” or “service users” has been part of efforts by prison officials to avoid “labelling” people as offenders in order to help them move on from their lives of crime.

Other prisons have renamed cells as “rooms,” prison blocks as “communities,” holding cells as “waiting rooms” on the basis that deprivation of liberty is sufficient penalty and to help rehabilitate offenders.

Woke terms 'undermine public confidence'

However, guidance issued in April by Mr Raab to prison governors and their staff made clear they should stop using woke terms for offenders because it undermined public confidence that they were being punished for their crimes.

Instead, the Justice Secretary told them that inmates should be called “prisoners” or “offenders” rather than “residents”, “clients” or “service users”. In addition, cells should not be labelled “rooms”, as they are known in two of the newest and largest jails in England and Wales.

On Wednesday the Prison Service admitted the term should not have been used and had been removed.

"We are very clear that this term should not be used and have directed that all communications should follow strict rules. The sign was painted without the knowledge of the prison’s leaders and has been removed,” said a spokesman.

What else is being missed?'

Ian Acheson, a former prison governor and ex-adviser to Government on extremism in jails, said: “HMP Moorland holds high risk high harm sex offenders judged by a recent inspection to be failing to manage them safely.

"I'm told this sign was up for six weeks. If prison 'leaders' which I take to mean senior managers and the governor haven't been visible enough to notice this sign after a month and a half in one of the prison's House Blocks what else is being missed?"

HMP Moorland has also raised eyebrows by putting up a 12-foot high map of the prison on a main walkway, including a “you are here” sign.

“It is a bit contentious when you're locking up people in secure conditions who you're trying to stop escape,” said one insider. “The obvious risks include being able to coordinate drugs being thrown into prison/delivered by drone.”

There was this comment from a reader:-

"Dominic Raab needs to stop using "the public" to justify his every argument when it is clear he is wholly out of touch with what the public actually want. Apart from the ignorant "throw away the key" mob, most people do not want prisoners "punished" as the loss of liberty is quite sufficient.

We want the focus to be on rehabilitation so that the prisoner can be part of society again and benefit from prison time, rather than prison time mean that that person is forever shunned and scorned.

As for Dominic Raab's reaction to the scandal of IPP where prisoners have done years above their tariff often for very minor crimes originally, his response that "he hadn't voted for it" as if that meant there was nothing he could do now, was lame to say the least. He is the justice minister!

Justice is in total decay. It is time MPs woke up to it, because it would appear they are taking no responsibility for it at all and any issues arising are seen as simply too much of a "hot potato" to confront. Sad times, and terrible for so many innocents implicated in something which never happened, because the system in so many ways has gone wrong and there appears to be no accountability whatever."

Thursday 24 November 2022

Another Set of Poor Ratings

 At some point the politicians are going to have to face up to the fact that probation is effectively broken and something has to be done. Of course it wasn't broken when Grayling & Co got involved and it was a gold standard service. Being part of HMPPS isn't working and a grown-up discussion is needed now to find a better solution. In the meantime, the appalling inspection results keep mounting up. HMI press release today:-

Remaining inspections of London probation services conclude a ‘hugely disappointing’ inspection of the capital

HM Inspectorate of Probation’s remaining inspections of London probation services, also known as Probation Delivery Units (PDUs), have resulted in another set of poor ratings for the city.

Lewisham and Bromley PDU has been rated as ‘Inadequate’ – the lowest rating possible – with inspections of Newham PDU and Barking, Dagenham and Havering PDU both rated as ‘Requires improvement’.

They join Hammersmith, Fulham, Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster PDU, Lambeth PDU and Ealing and Hillingdon PDU – which were all rated ‘Inadequate’ in reports published in October 2022 – in completing our inspections of a third of the city’s probation services.

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “These reports conclude a hugely disappointing period for our inspection programme, with all the London probation services we have inspected requiring immediate improvements. We knew that they were struggling to cope with the unification of probation services in 2021, and the lasting impact of Covid-19, but we have been shocked by the level of poor-quality services. The Probation Service must look at these six inspection reports and bring about swift and effective change in the capital.”

Only 25 per cent of cases we inspected were satisfactory in relation to their assessment of risk of serious harm. And domestic abuse checks with the police were not made in 64 per cent of the cases where they should have been.

Mr Russell continued: “A vicious circle has been created, whereby high vacancy numbers – 500 vacant positions in London remained unfilled at the time of our inspections – and high sickness absences mean higher caseloads for those staff that remain. As a result, cases cannot be managed properly, increasing the chances of a person on probation reoffending. The assessment and management of the risks of serious harm to the public are far from satisfactory in the cases we have inspected. And not enough safeguarding and domestic abuse enquiries are being made to safely manage risks of serious harm. London expects better from its probation services and deserves to be protected from such risks.

“We are confident these poor ratings aren’t due to a lack of effort by individuals within the service, who show a commitment to the people they supervise, but they need help. Their determination, though admirable, cannot be realised without vacancies being filled, better management oversight and better delivery of all the services that people on probation need to turn away from crime. Local services must get significant support from regional and national level, to face the challenges ahead and halt the level of decline.”

In October this year, Mr Russell called for “urgent action” after the first three London inspection reports all resulted in ‘Inadequate’ ratings – his full statement is available on the HM Inspectorate of Probation website.

“Finally, it is important to note that we did see some areas of positive work at these London PDUs – driven by probation officers and their managers – including a clear understanding of the diverse needs of people on probation in their boroughs. In addition, the delivery of unpaid work is improving and developing, despite the lack of staffing, as is important work in supporting the victims of crime.

“I remain hopeful for the future, given the determination within each service to drive change. However, these inspections serve as clear warning to the Probation Service – London region, and the Probation Service at a national level, that it will take a significant effort on their part to make this happen.”


From the full report:-


This was the first Probation Delivery Unit (PDU) inspection of services in Lewisham and Bromley since the unification of the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and National Probation Service (NPS) in June 2021. The overall quality of work delivered to manage people on probation was insufficient across all four of the standards we inspected for casework, consequently, the PDU has been given an overall rating of ‘Inadequate’.

In common with other PDUs we have inspected in the London region in 2022, staffing was a significant challenge and workloads were too high for many staff across all grades as a result.

Our case inspection work found few meaningful interventions taking place to reduce offending or minimise risk of harm in individual cases. Overall, the quality of sentence management work was poor. Too often assessments and plans failed to identify all the relevant factors linked to offending or risk of harm. Critical information necessary to minimise the risk of serious harm was not obtained from police or other agencies in too many cases, leaving potential victims unprotected. 

Despite insufficient resources, the leadership team were making progress in building links with others in Lewisham and Bromley. Strategic partners praised local probation leaders for their commitment and contributions to multi-agency forums which, in itself, was a challenge as the PDU covers two distinct London boroughs. 

Staff recognised the efforts made by the leadership team to listen to their views and support the retention of staff whilst recruitment took place at a regional level and staffing levels started to improve. Staff did not yet feel they were part of ‘One Team’ which is the PDU vision and more could be done to build a positive, unified culture. 

People on probation expressed largely positive views on their experience of probation services but more could be done to incorporate their views of service delivery. At present there is no forum to gain their feedback within the PDU. 

A comprehensive range of services was available both commissioned and non-commissioned, and delivery partners were positive about communication with PDU staff and the ability to have a presence in PDU offices where required. 

Lewisham and Bromley PDU has some necessary foundations for improvement in place. If they are appropriately resourced so that plans for the PDU can be fully implemented.

I hope that improvements in service delivery will follow. 

Justin Russell
Chief Inspector of Probation

Saturday 19 November 2022

Sham Investigation Announced

Lets be clear here. We know it's a sham because 1) Raab requested an investigation 2) Politics is rife with bullying, discrimination and lying 3) There's no ethics adviser 4) There's precedent - Priti Patel; Gavin Williamson 5) PM can ignore report findings. But lets go through the motions anyway! 

"You will be aware from media reports of allegations about the Deputy Prime Minister. There are two separate formal complaints, one of which relates to his first tenure as Justice Secretary, which are now subject to a formal process being overseen by the Cabinet Office. The Prime Minister has asked for an investigation into the two formal complaints and will appoint an independent investigator to lead this process.

Staff wellbeing is central to what we do at the MoJ - ensuring the Department is a supportive and inclusive place to work and putting in place processes to support all staff continues to be a top priority for me and my ExCo colleagues. Any issues brought to my attention will be raised with the relevant people.

The civil service has a zero-tolerance approach to any form of bullying, harassment and discrimination. There is lots of support available in the MoJ for staff experiencing any of these issues. You can find these in our Chief People Officer Mark Adam's blog from last week.

As always you can contact me directly and confidentially at any time."

Antonia Romeo
Permanent Secretary

16th November 2022


This from the Guardian:-

Dominic Raab faces independent inquiry into bullying claims

Rishi Sunak will appoint an independent investigator to examine claims of alleged bullying against Dominic Raab, after the deputy prime minister requested an inquiry into two formal complaints that have been made against him.

Raab, who said he will stay on as deputy PM and justice secretary while the process takes place, used a stand-in appearance at prime minister’s questions to insist he had always behaved properly towards staff, despite a growing list of accusations from officials.

Sunak, who is returning from the G20 summit in Bali, will appoint an experienced external figure to conduct the inquiry, as No 10 has yet to replace Christopher Geidt as independent adviser on ministerial standards after his resignation in June.

However, Downing Street said the prime minister would not be obliged to accept any findings, as he was the “ultimate arbiter” of the ministerial code, raising questions about the independence of any investigation.

Raab has suggested he would stand down if the prime minister wanted him to, saying he would “respect whatever outcome” Sunak decided, although he has denied the bullying allegations and told MPs he was “confident” he had always behaved professionally.

The Guardian can reveal that one of the formal complaints was from a group of mid-ranking policy officials at the Ministry of Justice. Sources said the complaint was initially made in spring this year in a letter to the permanent secretary at the MoJ, Antonia Romeo.

They said the department’s top civil servant had “acted on” the complaint at the time by speaking to Raab and providing extra support for the officials. However, the complaint was revived in light of the recent allegations, reported in the Guardian, and a request by Sunak for complainants to come forward.

Some Conservative MPs have questioned Sunak’s judgment in reappointing Raab and for insisting that his government will demonstrate “integrity, professionalism and accountability” at every level, in contrast to his predecessors but also meaning that any ministers who are regarded as falling short will have to be dealt with.

In another development, Raab told MPs he had been subject to a separate complaint about him before entering parliament, with a settlement involving a confidentiality clause.

Asked by the Labour MP Bambos Charalambous if he had “ever entered into a non-disclosure agreement connected to a complaint against him”, he told the Commons: “He is referring to an employment dispute that was settled before I entered the house. It wasn’t an NDA, but it did involve a confidentiality clause, which was standard at the time.”

After days of allegations about Raab’s behaviour towards civil servants in three different government departments, he tweeted a letter to Sunak saying he had “just been notified” of two separate complaints against him, relating to his time as foreign secretary, and his first period as justice secretary, both under Boris Johnson.

“I am confident that I have behaved professionally throughout,” Raab subsequently told PMQs on Wednesday. “But immediately I heard that two complaints had been made … I asked the prime minister to set up an independent investigation, and of course I will comply with it fully.”

Sunak wrote back to Raab, saying an independent investigation was “the right course of action”. A Downing Street spokesperson said later that an independent outsider, backed up by a team of officials, would look into the allegations, although it remains unclear if they will also examine any further complaints that might be made.

In his letter to Sunak, Raab said following news of the complaints, he was “writing to request that you commission an independent investigation into the claims as soon as possible”, adding: “I will cooperate fully and respect whatever outcome you decide.”

Raab said he would remain in his posts and had “always sought to set high standards”, adding: “I have never tolerated bullying.” In the Commons, he said he would “thoroughly rebut and refute” any bullying claims and he took Sunak’s commitment towards professionalism as a “personal article of faith”.

On Tuesday, Civil Service World cited a series of unnamed officials as saying that staff felt Raab was “gaslighting” them after telling a recent all-staff meeting at the Ministry of Justice that he had a zero-tolerance attitude towards bullying.

The report, denied by a spokesperson, said Raab would often interrupt civil servants during briefings and criticise them. One source said: “We just didn’t trust that he wasn’t going to cut you off after half a sentence and say, ‘I don’t want to hear that, I don’t want to listen to you,’ which I would never want any of my staff being subjected to.”


That Civil Service World piece:-

EXCL: Raab telling MoJ staff he has zero tolerance for bullying ‘felt like gaslighting’

Justice secretary ‘created culture of fear’ by ‘belittling’ civil servants, sources say

Dominic Raab was “known as a bully” at the Ministry of Justice and made a habit of “intimidating and belittling” civil servants, a former senior official has told CSW.

Raab, who was reappointed as justice secretary in October, recently told an MoJ all-staff meeting that he had a zero tolerance attitude towards bullying – a statement which, CSW understands, led some officials to feel like the minister was “gaslighting” them.

More than one civil servant who has worked with Raab has said he “created a culture of fear”, and another Whitehall source said: “Far too many anecdotes about Raab end with him literally shaking with rage at an official.”

Prime minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday that he did not recognise the “characterisation” of Raab as a bully, despite a slew of allegations that have emerged in recent days about his behaviour.

CSW spoke to multiple sources who corroborated claims of Raab bullying and berating staff. They all agreed Raab had created a culture of fear in the department, where he spent a year as justice secretary until Liz Truss’s September reshuffle, which saw him out of the role for seven weeks until Rishi Sunak brought him back.

The ex-senior official said Raab’s behaviour did not appear to be “targeted” at specific people or groups. “It wasn't that there was this inner coterie that he was polite to, or even civil to. He would shut down some advisers in the middle of a meeting and say words to the effect of: ‘Don't talk. I don’t want to hear from you,’” the official said.

They said they and others had “spent all of our time managing” the secretary of state and trying to insulate more junior civil servants from him. They said the justice secretary would frequently interrupt civil servants during briefings and berate them.

“We just didn't trust that he wasn't going to cut you off after half a sentence and say, ‘I don't want to hear that, I don't want to listen to you,’ which I would never want any of my staff being subjected to. Or [he might] ask you for some entirely spurious bits of data, which you felt was asked just to test you – and then he would just keep on asking in front of everyone,” they said.

“He’d say things like, ‘Oh, come on. Why don't you know it?’ And he’d bang the table and say ‘Guys, it's ridiculous, you don't know basic data’”.

Raab's spokesperson said the justice secretary has always had a zero-tolerance attitude to bullying and does not recognise the characterisation sources described to CSW of his behaviour, or of the environment in any of the departments he has worked in.

While Raab expects officials to have a good understanding of their subject areas and will ask questions about important data points, he does not berate anyone or hit desks, they said. They also denied that he had shaken with rage or used the phrases attributed to him by the senior official. The official said they were concerned about “what that culture of fear does to the quality of advice and therefore how the country is served." 

"It's shit for the civil servants, but this overall culture is even shitter for the country,” they said. “The expectations he set – he would characterise them, I suspect, as driving delivery. Actually, they were just beyond realistic and you couldn't challenge them.”

Raab’s “reputation” also hindered recruitment for a principal private secretary, according to the official. “Nobody would apply... nobody wants to work for him,” they said.

Two sources said Raab had removed his first PPS from the role because he felt they were too junior. CSW understands the PPS was offered the chance to stay on as a deputy to their replacement, but chose instead to move to another team within the department. Raab then demanded a director be appointed instead, despite the fact that principal private secretaries are normally deputy-director level, because he believed it would strengthen the private office. The same job was advertised this September – during Raab's brief absence from the MoJ – as a deputy-director post. Recruitment is now open again for a PPS at director level.

The claims are the latest in a series of allegations about Raab’s conduct. Around 15 officials in his private office who had described being traumatised by his behaviour are said to have been offered “respite or a route out” of the department when he returned, according to the Guardian.

CSW understands his private office staff – including those who have left – have been offered trauma-informed resilience coaching. The cabinet minister's spokesperson noted that all civil servants have access to mental-health and other wellbeing support, and said Raab had bolstered the support on offer following the Covid pandemic.

The Mirror reported last week that the deputy PM had been nicknamed “the incinerator” because he “burns through” staff so quickly; and the Sun alleged that Raab had thrown tomatoes across the room during a “tirade” in June.

Former FCO permanent secretary Simon McDonald told LBC on Monday that Raab had been a “tough boss” in his previous post as foreign secretary, and that he considered it plausible that the minister could bully staff.

The news follows the resignation of Raab’s former cabinet colleague Sir Gavin Williamson, who is alleged to have bullied staff at the Ministry of Defence. The former defence secretary reportedly told a civil servant to “slit your throat” and “jump out of the window”. Williamson has denied all claims of bullying, but has not explicitly denied using those phrases.

The senior official CSW spoke to said they had never heard Raab use offensive phrases similar to those Williamson has been quoted as saying. Instead, Raab was “more systematic, intimidating and belittling those he came into contact with”, they said. “He was known as a bully in the department,” they added.

“It was more insidious because there was nothing you could ever [report to the perm sec] that was equivalent to ‘He just told me to slit my throat’. It was just sort of, ‘Well, it's just Dom, isn't it? And he's just a bit like that.’”

The official said Raab’s behaviour had made their working life extremely difficult, despite considering themselves “fairly resilient and hardened” after having worked for several secretaries of state. “I remember coming out of a meeting and feeling utterly shaken,” they said. At other times, the justice secretary would be “absolutely charming, so you weren't ever sure who you were going to get”. “Although mostly you knew,” they added.

A spokesperson for Dominic Raab said: “Dominic has acted with professionalism and integrity in all of his government roles. He has an excellent record of driving positive change in multiple government departments by working well with officials. He holds everyone, and most of all himself, to the high standards that the British people would expect of their government.”

The MoJ directed CSW to Raab’s spokesperson and declined to comment further.

Wednesday 16 November 2022

Prison Sentence or Death Sentence

This from the LancashireLive website yesterday serves to highlight many disturbing aspects of our Criminal Justice System:-

'Model prisoner' found dead at Leyland prison after being refused parole

Ryan Barry James Jewell had been in prison for "most of his adult life", having spent the last 10 years behind bars after being given a sentence of indeterminate imprisonment for public protection. The 28-year-old had been imprisoned at HMP Garth near Preston for a few years before he was found dead in his cell on January 9 of last year.

Although Mr Jewell was at a Category B prison, he had been downgraded to a Category C prisoner, which allowed him to be moved to a lower security jail, and he had hoped to be further downgraded to Category D which would mean he could have been moved to an open prison where he could spend time in the community.

Prison capacity and availability meant Mr Jewell remained at Garth but, as well as being downgraded, he was also on the highest level of privileges - known as enhanced - which is afforded to the best-behaved prisoners. These privileges typically include the use of a TV in a prisoner's cell, a maximum spending allowance of £25 a week, and for family and friends to be able to bring in items such as clothing, games and DVD players.

As he had been given a sentence of indeterminate imprisonment for public protection, Mr Jewell had no release date scheduled and so would have to apply to the parole board to be released or re-categorised. He had already served the minimum jail term for his sentence at the time of his death.

An inquest which started today (November 14) at County Hall in Preston heard that Mr Jewell, who was born in London, had "behaved well" during his time in jail and was well-regarded by staff and his fellow inmates. Despite this, on December 8, 2020, Mr Jewell was informed that his request to be re-categorised as a Category D prisoner had been refused by the parole board "contrary to the Probation Service's assessment".

Assistant Coroner Nicholas Rheinberg said that Mr Jewell was "very disappointed" with the decision. The coroner added: "He said things like 'I can't see myself doing another five years in prison'."

One month after Mr Jewell was refused permission to move to an open prison, an officer was conducting their check of D Wing at 5.26am on January 9 when they found him unresponsive in his cell. Paramedics were called but Mr Jewell was pronounced dead.

In a statement read out by the coroner, Mr Jewell's sister Sasha Richardson described her brother as a "kind and caring soul". She said: "He was a son, brother and uncle who was loved very much. He would do anything for anyone and was highly thought of by other inmates and staff. He was hard-working and he enjoyed his job in the prison and he spent time socialising in the gym and in the library."

Miss Richardson said her brother had an "infectious laugh" and would be sorely missed. She highlighted the impact of his death on their mother. "Our family is heart-broken," she said. "My mum especially. A part of her has died with her son. There is a part missing that can never be replaced."

The inquest, which is due to last five days, heard from Kerry McLaughlin, one of the governors at HMP Garth, who described life for inmates in the prison. She explained that there was a "backlog of spaces" in allowing prisoners to be moved to lower security prisons after being downgraded.

"From everything I have seen [Mr Jewell] was a model prisoner who was doing everything correctly," she said. "He worked in the woodwork shop and he had quite a flair for woodwork."

The governor was asked if there was a problem with illicit drugs at Garth. "There is and unfortunately it's not a situation unique to Garth Prison," she replied.

"Every prison in the country has drugs. We suffered during the pandemic when we had issues with drones being flown into the prison which would fly to people's cell windows. We've also had an issue with drugs being sprayed onto mail and mail looking like legal mail when it's actually full of drugs."

The inquest, which is being heard by a jury, continues


Guardian Opinion piece from 31st October:-

In Britain, a jail sentence is often a death sentence. What’s going on in our prisons?

Britain has the most draconian prison system in western Europe. Recent deaths in police custody have increased public consciousness of state violence and its relationship to institutional racism and sexism. And yet we are still often oblivious to the inherently harmful and too often fatal consequences of imprisonment that affect our most vulnerable people beyond the scrutiny of the general public.

Last year, 371 people in England and Wales died in prison behind closed doors – the highest death toll since records began. Yet, despite this, there has been near silence on the issue. On the few occasions when prison deaths have garnered attention on a national scale, they have often been dismissed and even rationalised on account of the status of those who die as prisoners – as if they deserved what was coming to them.

People in prison are some of the most marginalised in society, with experiences of institutional care, homelessness, educational disadvantage, addiction, mental and physical ill health, and abuse, underpinned by poverty and inequality. Many have been failed by other statutory agencies before entering the criminal justice system.

What is clear is that deaths in police custody and in prison are two sides of the same coin. Both occur at the hands of the same criminal justice system that disproportionately polices, prosecutes and imprisons the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people, and are most sharply felt across the intersections of race, gender, disability and class.

Across successive governments, prison expansion has become a de facto policy. In 2021, the government outlined plans for the biggest prison-building programme in England and Wales in more than 100 years. It would raise the prison population to close to 100,000 by 2026.

This latest project fits neatly into a broader historic move towards punitivism. In the last 30 years alone, the prison population in England and Wales has ballooned by 70%, with Britain having the highest imprisonment rate in western Europe.

Official statistics provide useful quantitative analysis of deaths in prison, but they can obscure the human stories behind them.

Tommy Nicol was a 37-year-old mixed-race Middle Eastern man who was being held under an indeterminate imprisonment for public protection sentence. He took his own life in 2015, six years after he was jailed on a minimum four-year tariff.

Sarah Reed was a 32-year-old mixed-race Black woman who was remanded to prison for the sole purpose of obtaining psychiatric reports. Her mental health worsened severely in prison and she was treated as a discipline problem.

Mohammed Afzal was a 22-year-old man of Pakistani background who lost almost a third of his body weight during his 48 days in prison.

Garry Beadle was a 36-year-old white man on remand with a history of mental ill health and was briefly homeless. He told an officer he was a suicide risk, but the officer did not fully record this. He died after only six days in prison.

Thokozani Shiri was a 21-year-old Black man with HIV/Aids. Prison healthcare failed to provide him with life-saving antiretroviral medication during two periods of imprisonment. He told a prison officer: “I can’t breathe … I need to go to hospital,” but an ambulance was not called until five days later. While he was in an induced coma, prison staff restrained him with handcuffs.

An 18-year-old mother gave birth on her own in prison without medical assistance. Her child, Baby A, died, with a pathologist unable to determine if they were born alive or stillborn.

These tragedies reflect recurring issues arising from deaths in prison. Prisons, by their very nature, are dehumanising places that create and intensify vulnerability to violence and premature death.

The poor standard of mental and physical healthcare, ignored risk warnings, a failure to implement suicide prevention plans, the overuse of segregation, and slow emergency responses – as well as indefensible levels of neglect and despair – are problems that cut across all deaths in prison.

Our latest report reiterates that the deaths of racialised people in prison are among some of the most violent, contentious and neglectful of all prison deaths, with racial stereotyping and the hostile environment surfacing as specific issues. The death of Baby A and condition of countless women in prison demonstrate the broader systemic neglect of women’s health.

A constant stream of prison inspectorate reports, inquiries and inquest findings have produced rigorous, evidence-based recommendations to protect the health and safety of prisoners. However, these have been systematically ignored.

Families engage in post-death processes with the aim of ending preventable and premature deaths and seeing meaningful change.

And yet we see similar deaths repeated with depressing regularity, often in the same prison. This raises questions about the lamentable complacency around accountability at all levels of the Prison Service and government.

Prison is an expensive intervention that does not work, as demonstrated by high re-conviction rates. It fails prisoners, victims and communities. Instead of protecting the public from harm, it in fact perpetuates the cycle of harms and deaths. The morally indefensible tide of prison deaths, and the contentious nature of so many of them, reveals the intrinsic problems of the system.

To prevent future deaths, we must immediately halt prison-building, dramatically reduce the prison population and redirect resources from the criminal justice system to welfare, housing, education and health and social care. Through holistic investment in communities, we could address the root causes of crime and violence.

To build the public pressure required to do this, we need the public to stand with us in shining a light behind the closed doors of prisons, and speaking out about the deaths of people in their care. Say their names, and stand with their families for justice and change.

Deborah Coles is the executive director of Inquest, an independent charity working with families bereaved by state-related deaths; Jessica Pandian is a policy and research officer.

Sunday 13 November 2022

Who's the W*nker Now?

During PMQ's last week Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister and Lord Chancellor, can be seen clearly mouthing 'wanker' at Keir Starmer and now we learn he throws his tomatoes around the office when upset. No wonder senior staff at the MoJ are likely to require counselling facing as they do having to deal with morons like Dominic Raab. 

I guess he's too arrogant or just dim to understand that you insult and abuse senior staff at your peril. I seem to recall a previous incumbent, Chris Grayling, found this out the hard way when officials simply stopped 'watching his back' and let the hapless minister stumble into one elephant trap after another. This from the Guardian:-  

MoJ staff offered ‘route out’ amid concerns over Dominic Raab behaviour

Senior civil servants at the Ministry of Justice were offered “respite or a route out” of the department when Dominic Raab was reappointed last month, amid concerns that some were still traumatised by his behaviour during a previous stint there.

Several sources told the Guardian that about 15 members of staff from the justice secretary’s private office were taken into a room where departmental officials acknowledged they may be anxious about his behaviour and gave them the option of moving roles. Some of the civil servants were said to have been in tears during the meeting and several subsequently decided to move to other positions in the department, with one thought to be considering leaving entirely, although sources suggested a couple of staff had since returned.

It is also understood that Antonia Romeo, the MoJ permanent secretary, had to speak to Raab when he returned to the department to warn him that he must treat staff professionally and with respect amid unhappiness about his return. One source, who was not in the room at the time, claimed she had “read him the riot act”.

The Guardian has spoken to multiple sources in the MoJ who claimed that Raab, who first held the post between September 2021 and September 2022, when he was sacked by Liz Truss, had created a “culture of fear” in the department. They alleged that his behaviour when dealing with civil servants, including some in senior roles, was “demeaning rather than demanding”, that he was “very rude and aggressive” and that he “wasn’t just unprofessional, he was a bully”.

The claims once again put the spotlight on Rishi Sunak, who made Raab his deputy prime minister and justice secretary just over two weeks ago, with some Conservative MPs already questioning the prime minister’s judgment over some of his cabinet appointments. In his first speech outside No 10 last month, Sunak promised that his government, in contrast to that of his two immediate predecessors, would have “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level”. However, some Tory insiders felt his vow would prove a hostage to fortune if any ministers were viewed to have fallen short.

There has been a renewed focus on unprofessional behaviour in Whitehall this week after the Guardian reported allegations that Gavin Williamson told a senior civil servant to “slit your throat” and “jump out of the window” in what they felt was a sustained campaign of bullying while he was defence secretary. There is no suggestion that Raab made similarly extreme comments. Williamson was forced to quit the cabinet for the third time after the former Whitehall aide lodged a formal complaint to parliament’s independent complaints and grievance service and the senior Tory’s former deputy chief whip, Anne Milton, claimed he had also subjected MPs to “unethical and immoral behaviour”.

One former MoJ civil servant, who worked in the department during Raab’s first stint there, told the Guardian: “On more than one occasion I saw him blow up at civil servants – sometimes very senior ones – in meetings. While he was demanding, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the way he spoke to people was uncomfortable to witness. He was very rude and aggressive.”

Another insider said: “His behaviour was demeaning rather than demanding. You get into bullying territory because it’s systemic and sustained and creates a culture of fear in the department. But even if you could somehow argue that what he’s doing isn’t bullying, it’s certainly not professional.” A third MoJ official added: “They will try to say he just drives the department very hard to get results. But he frequently belittled and undermined us. It wasn’t just that he was unprofessional, he was a bully. The atmosphere when he came back was terrible.”

The Guardian also spoke to officials who defended Raab’s approach, but even they said his behaviour could be interpreted by some colleagues as unprofessional, or even bullying. However, it is understood that no formal complaints have been made. One source close to the minister said: “Dominic makes no apologies for having high standards. He works hard, and expects a lot from his team as well as himself. He rates MoJ officials very highly, and he is always professional and clear with them.”

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: 

“These deeply troubling accusations of bullying and intimidation raise yet more questions about Rishi Sunak’s judgment. The prime minister must come clean on what he knew about these allegations when he reappointed Dominic Raab as deputy prime minister as well as justice secretary, and they must be investigated urgently and independently. With each new scandal and grubby deal, it becomes more obvious that he is a weak leader, who puts party management before the national interest. He claimed zero tolerance for bullying, promised a government of integrity and pledged to urgently appoint an ethics adviser, yet is falling far short on every promise. Rishi Sunak is already showing he’s not just failing to stop the rot but letting it fester.”

Raab’s reappointment in October was criticised by opponents who claimed he had failed to resolve barrister strikes and presided over growing court backlogs. He has already said that his highly controversial plans for a British bill of rights, which were shelved by Truss, will be revived. An MoJ spokesperson said: “There is zero tolerance for bullying across the civil service. The deputy prime minister leads a professional department, driving forward major reforms, where civil servants are valued and the level of ambition is high.”

Saturday 12 November 2022

Would You Like to Talk to a Human?

The direction of travel is becoming clear. 

'You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile'. Seen on Twitter:-

I’m a Probation Officer with the purpose of sharing a positive gaze through the keyhole of Sentence Management. I’ll be sharing the wins, positive reflections and rewards of being a Probation Officer. #probation @hmpps #PositiveVibesOnly #criminaljustice #offenderrehabilitation

I think it’s really important to share our theoretical bases in our #Probation work w/ PoPs. I really enjoy sessions discussing #desistance #cycleofchange #GeneralAggressionModel #SocialLearningTheory and how these can conceptualise their behaviour and reflect to make changes.

Usually I provide them with an out of session task to research the particular theory (taking into consideration their technology capital and diversity needs). Turns into effective work and is a move directly out of #desistance playbook in developing autonomy and self-efficacy.

Had a #BBR post-programme review yesterday with a case. His reflection on his “internal state” influencing his aggressive problem solving solutions was insightful and clear how much of the material he has digested. Spoke fluently re: strategies and skills to prevent reoffending.

A great example to showcase the attitudinal developments and awareness of various risks with a motivated case and a team of knowledgeable, engaging and supportive programme facilitators. #probation #rehabilitation #utilitarianism #criminaljustice


Also on Twitter - Antonia Romeo:-

From Virtual Reality prison simulation to Robot Dogs - great to experience some of the future tech that could help transform service delivery at @MoJGovUK.@Justice_Digital Innovation Campaign in full swing today!

Innovation in service delivery to be more efficient & effective is an important part of our work in MoJ. Good to see how the future of tech is developing & its practical use in the justice system - including thro’ VR which has the potential to help train prison officers.