Criminology, probation and stuff

Some musings on criminology with a focus on probation

MoJ Business Plan

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The MoJ, along with all government organisations has today published its business plan. The Rehabilitation Revolution appears to be taking shape:

Create a system introducing greater involvement of the private and voluntary sectors in the rehabilitation of offenders, including use of payment by results, to cut reoffending

The Department will no longer…

…provide rehabilitation services directly without testing where voluntary or private sectors can provide it more effectively and efficiently

I was right.

Amused to note that the first action is already underway, but overdue:

Very interested to see what the Green Paper has in store.

Written by criminologyandstuff

November 8, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Posted in criminal justice

The panopticon

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Modern day panopticon:US offenders unmonitored as tagging system fails

Particularly this line: “The offenders – about 300 in the state, most of them sex offenders – were never aware they were not being tracked, state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Linda Eggert said.”

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November 8, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Posted in criminal justice

Compendium of reoffending statistics and analysis

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On Probation has blogged about the recently published reoffending statistics compendium. I couldn’t agree more with his analysis.

The important thing is persuading the public of the fact that so many offenders are so disadvantaged and that some (‘some’ being the operative word here) programmes appear to work- when the media focusses on the fact that 74% of offenders reoffend in 9 years, the difficulties of clearly representing and disseminating information about how we deal with offenders and reoffending statistics become clear.

It’s positive to note that the word reconviction is preferred over reoffending and that the frequency of offending is being taken into account but a shame that the statistics still fail to take into account any increase/decrease in seriousness of offending. I think I am mentally classifying it as ‘a step in the right direction’.

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November 8, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Posted in criminal justice

BBC drama about the Probation Service

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The BBC has commissioned a drama which will be set in the Probation Service. It will be interesting to see how accurately the Service is represented by Tony Marchant- if you need to consult with someone who has spent a considerable amount of time observing life in probation, do get in touch! The drama will be called public enemies- presumably this is a nod towards the way offenders are seen as the enemies of the public who need to be brought on side through reparation and restitution.

I enjoy looking for inaccurate representations of the Probation Service on TV. One memorable incident occurred on EastEnders when Ian Beale was doing his Unpaid Work. There he was, working away in his orange vest (they got that bit right) when along came his daughter who was having a crisis – she walked up to Ian, they had a chat and they then both walked off- complete with orange vest- without a word to or from his UPW supervisor about talking to members of the public and, basically, absconding from UPW without permission!

Written by criminologyandstuff

November 8, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Posted in criminal justice

New Probation Blog

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I have been very absent from blogging recently, partly because I’ve been busy but also because I’ve been kept so amused and interested by a newcomer to the blogging scene that I haven’t felt the need to add my two penneth. A real life probation officer blogging about probation: http://probationmatters.blogspot.com/. Strongly recommended reading.

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November 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Posted in criminal justice

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.

Written by criminologyandstuff

June 24, 2010 at 11:09 am

Justice issues from the new Coalition government

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Crispin Blunt has been appointed minister for probation and prisons. I’d never heard of him so I looked him up. His voting record doesn’t fill me with optimism (bear in mind this probably says more about my politics than his): against the hunting and smoking bans, against the EU (say goodbye to prisoners votes then), for stricter asylum, strongly for the Iraq War, for and against (how is that possible?) equal gay rights. At least he voted against ID cards and Labour’s anti-Terrorism legislation.

The coalition government has published it’s full agreement today, so I looked at the Justice section… I haven’t yet decided if I am dismayed or pleased to see that probation doesn’t get a mention in the whole document. On the one hand, does it mean that probation is going to be left alone, to carry on what it is already doing with no massive changes or has the justice agency which deals more people than prison completely slipped the new government’s mind? I suspect it is a mix of the two (prison doesn’t get much of a mention either so I assume they haven’t decided if they will attempt a decrease in the prison population). I suspect there are changes on the way, especially through this ambiguous, innocuous on the surface but ultimately scary sentence:

We will introduce a ‘rehabilitation revolution’ that will pay independent providers to reduce reoffending, paid for by the savings this new approach will generate within the criminal justice system (p. 23).
This can only mean one thing: more privatisation – it will be interesting to see how this pans out. The rest of the justice section is fairly unremarkable- they want to improve sentencing and treatment for drug using offenders and offenders with mental health problems, improve services for victims of rape and make sure that historical convictions for gay sex are “spent” under the Rehab of Offenders Act (which seems laudable if a bit esoteric when compared to the generality of the rest of the Justice section). They want to make Legal Aid more efficient0- they don’t say how but I can guess it will result in less people receiving the legal help they need and they want to target low level crime and ASB with… restorative justice! Using RJ for ASB makes sense but I don’t know why it’s limited to this group of “offending”.

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May 20, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Posted in criminal justice