Chris Grayling’s. ( P.M Cameron & Osborne) catastrophic changes were ultimately made possible by the erosion of an ethical commitment to public service. Prior to the 2010 election, the Blair government’s instrumental approach to supervision in the community, & its endorsement of the introduction of “independent providers” and its “tough on crime” mantra, did little other than fill prisons and left the prison system and now the Probation confused uncertainty. The private sector couldn’t believe their luck. Furthermore the then Probation Service’s values of “advise, assist and befriend” were viewed as Dickensian and the social work qualification for probation officers was ended by the then home secretary, Jack Straw. This was the beginning of a catalogue of failures that would cause chaos within the whole judicial system. The computer software namely: National Offenders Management Service (NOMS) was a failure from the start. This caused more confusion and uncertainty on every level within the prison service and public protection as a whole. Despite your correct assertion that “challenging relationships are the key to rehabilitation”. crime can never be tackled through technical controls and contracts alone. The driving force has to be value driven, this includes people and society. We have to face the fact that crime causation is a fraught topic without a complete scientific answer.
However, it is clear that gross social inequality, poor relationships and damaged families play a very significant role. The response to this requires a renewed Probation Service, accountable to the public, that manages offenders in the community with care, compassion and realism. Sadly this is not the case. We have a private sector probation service that has brought even more uncertainty to the realistic challenge of public protection and rehabilitation. It is a well known fact that Probation Officers in the private sector have actually been employed as Call Centre Telephonists. Their engagement with their clients is a check in phone call every three weeks.
Some may have the opinion that the Probation Service was respected body that, was the main cog in the workings of the whole judicial system. It was believed to be humane and enterprising service prepared to embrace new methods and challenges. Often derived by those who talked tough and advocated harsh prison sentences, it moved steadily to a more central position in the criminal justice system. Moreover, personal relationships and trust between officer and offender was somewhat unrealistic, as the probation service leaned more towards the victim and harsh tactics towards the offender. It was one of hope and a realistic faith that with tenacity and in valuing the positive qualities of even the apparently most hardened offenders we could influence for the good, says some old senior probation officers. No doubt this was true, Today none of this matters, because we have moved into a whole new world of financial restraints, that will bring the probation service to its knees, as the prison service started to further deteriate in the late 80s and early 90s. All this was a cost cutting ideology that the powers above believe in. As we learnt the hard way, it doesn’t work for the layperson on the factory floors of the judicial system.
Over the years a number of independent reports helped to shape criminal justice policy. Has the time come, with prisons in crisis and a lack of imaginative political forward thinking, for a commission to assess what may be needed to develop a system able to tackle the complex challenges of criminal behaviour? That would take time but, the quick fixes of political ideology result in the kind of disasters of Grayling’s ill considered policy. As with much else, the culture of public service has been sacrificed on the altar of privatisation. Again lessons have not been learnt…
Criminal justice legislation is riddled with “unintended consequences”. Prior to transforming rehabilitation legislation, no such cases of non-compliance would have occurred. Surely a return to custody in cases where no further offences have been committed is fundamentally flawed and realistically a major thorn in the side of the prison estates and the population figures. Not to mention the other voluntary and statuary services that effects the whole criminal justice system..
P.M Cameron and Osborne. None of them is involved now but public and privatised probation workers have to daily contend with the mess they hatched. Other than a few chancers hiding behind acronyms or faux logos of privatised companies, there are no winners from this fiasco.
Probation workers successfully grappled for years with trying to meet government targets, deliver a quality service for offenders, Realistically this did not and in so doing contributed towards public protection and services for families and victims of serious crime. The whole idea of cutting staff in the probation service was catalyst for a game of tennis between the prisons and the probation service. The prisoner being the tennis ball. Staff cuts in probation meant the caseload for every probation officer doubled overnight. Then the managers and powers above said, right you cannot cope with so many clients therefore any non compliance of licence conditions by a client will be recalled. The prison service could not cope with the severe influx of recall prisoners, they came up with such ideas as the early release scheme and electronic tagging. The point was both services was balancing their key performance targets on a knife edge and the client/offender was being severely neglected and abused mentally and physically being emotionally removed from their loved ones without ever committing another offence. Surely this cannot be right? They used public protection excuse in a lot of cases to meet their key performance targets. furthermore by throwing money at the private sector to keep the heads of probation out of the water is not the answer…
Accordingly for services to families and victims, for a cohesive criminal justice system and for a Probation Service whose internal communication is not daily thwarted by bureaucracy, it must be wholly brought back into the public sector. It’s very easy to say “We told you so” and to express our anger and frustration at the outcome of the privatisation of part of the probation service, and the side-lining of the voluntary sector, but what else can we do? I can see a small charity, that provides mentors for people returning to their area after imprisonment, could be the likelihood of reoffending on release is reduced by something like 60%. The mentee works with his mentor on his own release plan – being realistic about his personal situation – for a couple of months before release and is met at the gate on the day that the prison releases him. The stupidity of asserting that a tick box or a phone call can deal with the complexities of a person’s return to the community is unfathomable. What the public sector do works to greater extent. It costs less than £1,000 per person per year, as against £40,000 for return to prison. What cannot speak….Cannot lie ….
Or is it? do you have a take on this post? am I right or is there an alternative or realistic way we can put something back in to what’s been missing for 20 years…….I believe it’s ‘forward thinkers’ not money. Together let’s make better future for the whole judicial system, not just the individuals…..