Criminology, probation and stuff

Some musings on criminology with a focus on probation

Delays in delivering the Sex Offender Treatment Programme

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The media reporting of the joint inspection by HMI Probation and HMI Constabulary into the work with sex offenders in the community has focussed on the sentence on page 7 of the report which reads ‘Those who were expected to do [SOTP] often faced lengthy delays in starting the programme…’. Interestingly, a probation officer I spoke to recently said that the delays in beginning SOTP actually worked to their advantage because it meant they had sufficient time to do pre-programme work to make sure the offender understood what was expected of them, was motivated to do it and was, quite simply, ready. This probation officer said that 6 months on either side of the programme was about right to do this work properly. In light of this, the rest of the paragraph becomes more important than the headline-creating clause quoted above:

…and the pre-programme work was incomplete in far too many cases. Many of the probation staff we met during the course of the inspection said that they felt inadequately trained or supported to work with sexual offenders outside the groupwork programme, particularly those in denial.

If probation officers appreciate the time they have to do pre-programme work then they must be given the training to take advantage of it. One problem here might be that SOTP training is not delivered to trainee probation officers until very near the end of their two year training programme, meaning that by the time they put this into practice, they probably don’t feel all that confident in doing so, because they won’t have co-worked sex offenders and they lack the support they used to have from their personal development assessor. Unfortunately, the report also cites experienced officers feeling unqualified to work with this group of offenders, particularly those who are in denial or maintaining their innocence.

What is perhaps most worrying about this is that, in order to make sure offenders have time to complete SOTP while on a Community or Suspended Sentence Order, probation officers propose, and are usually successful in getting, a 24 month Order: despite SOTP being a 12 month long programme. This might not be a problem because it means they have time to do pre- and post-programme work, making the whole thing more effective in the long run- it is not unnecessarily imposing longer sentences on people who might not deserve it because it represents a greater opportunity to rehabilitate them. However, if sex offenders are not receiving this additional rehabilitative help, but are still being given longer sentences because of the delays, then we face a case of injustice which stems directly from a lack of resources in the criminal justice system and it is how to overcome this which should be high on the priority list of NOMS and the Probation Service.

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Written by criminologyandstuff

June 24, 2010 at 11:09 am

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