Criminology, probation and stuff

Some musings on criminology with a focus on probation

Paperwork in probation

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According to this article, probation officers spend 75% of their time doing paperwork. Some time ago, in a completely informal situation, I spoke to someone high up in NOMS about this- he said that he wants to reduce the amount of time officers spend at their desks to 50%. The research which led to these figures is almost a year old so it would be interesting to do a similar but of research to see if things have changed. It’s interesting that they say the results were only indicative and so weren’t published- just because they’re not generalisable to the whole service (and I expect with results from 36 of the 42 areas, it would be possible to make some attempt at generalisation) doesn’t mean it’s not interesting. Interesting doesn’t seem to warrant publication… unless the research was being hidden for some other reason?

Although I agree that probation officers should be able to spend more time with offenders, there is a massive conflict with the demands of the media and the public. POs do a lot of paperwork because there is a lot of inter-agency working. MAPPA, to take one example, would not function without paperwork yet it is also the one aspect of probation which appears to be receiving most public attention. Much of the work done by MAPPA is done through the sharing of relevant information and discussion of offenders at meetings. If this paperwork isn’t done then the correct information isn’t shared and we risk a serious offender committing more offences. If this happens then the media and the public go mental with rage. So, if paperwork is to be cut, then it needs to be done sensibly. The probation service is managerial to its core and this is perhaps what has caused a rise in paperwork over the last few years. By ripping up paperwork we risk ripping the managerial heart out of the service. Although this may be no bad thing, we need to be able to fill the resulting gap with a different organisational credos. Managerialism was introduced to the public sector in order to maximise efficiency which, in the context of all things late 1970s and early 1980s, was probably no bad thing. The question is, will the increased efficiency introduced to the system as part of managerialism remain if we remove the processes (which is what managerialism focuses on) by which that efficiency is achieved? And if efficiency is no longer a key aim of probation, what is? Could it lead to a revival of long termism and a move away from the consumerism which is evident in government efforts to put the victim at the heart of the criminal justice system.

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Written by criminologyandstuff

November 2, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Posted in criminal justice

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