Can the probation changes cut reoffending?

  • 9 May 2013
  • From the section UK
Justice Minister Chris Grayling has announced reforms for the prison probation service
Image caption Former probation officer Mike Guilfoyle fears the new plan 'will sadly result in the demise of the probation service'

A former prisoner, former probation officer and two charity workers share their views on the government's plans to transform the prison probation service in order to cut reoffending rates.

Under the new plans private companies and charities will be offered payment-by-results for supervising people released from jail.

The system would also see every offender leaving jail - including those who have spent just a few days in prison - completing a year-long period of supervision that will return them to custody if they reoffend.

"Yoshik": Former prisoner

I have recently spent time inside and am now on licence. I have knowledge of many who have served 12 months or less and habitual recidivists.

If one talks to them it is a lack of support immediately on release and further down the road which has been missing.

It does have great significance as to whether this is seen as a commercial exercise or not. If it succeeds in reassuring offenders that there is a future and guaranteed support I laud the efforts.

We need to keep people from reoffending and thus this is a step in the right direction.

To support this there is a need for better support in jails for offenders to know what is available on release.

In the jail where I was this task was undertaken by prisoners who worked under the guidance of the Citizens Advice Bureau.

There must be a greater presence from outside agencies in the jail to ensure that advice is of the right quality.

Agencies such as St Giles Trust are very good but they do not have limitless resources, thus government bodies must step up to the mark.

"Yoshik" is a former prisoner who wishes to remain anonymous

Andrea Farley-Moore: Charity worker

I manage a voluntary sector project for a charity called Pecan, working with young women who leave custody.

We provide a resettlement and mentoring service pan-London for those aged 18-25.

This work is very challenging and although we are seeing some good outcomes the investment is significant and the measurement of success needs to be very flexible.

Payment by results is a frightening possibility because for some of our women the results will be a long term arriving.

Unless there is significant therapeutic intervention to counteract the separate and damaged lives of some of these young people they will struggle to move forwards.

There is also a risk that payment by result might mean organisations target those who will likely give them good results. So who will work with those who are most marginalised?

I have a team of eight mentors who are all high calibre, educated, paid staff from a variety of backgrounds.

Payment by results will make it impossible for small charities to bid for funding because we do not have the financial reserves.

I would say it is vital for mentors to be paid staff because the work of resettlement for someone with an incredibly chaotic life is time intensive and requires immense resilience. If there is no extra funding for this proposal I cannot see how it will be effective.

Andrea Farley-Moore works for Pecan, a training charity

Rose Fernando: Youth worker

I feel that this is a great idea because I witness the lack of support that offenders receive when they are being released after doing a minimal sentence.

I've been working with young people for seven or eight years. I'm currently working with an organisation that works with gang elders who are just coming out of prison.

Many see prison not as a deterrent but as a way of climbing up the criminal ladder. They think because they have been to prison they are a "big man", they have a higher status.

This mind-set needs to be challenged and broken.

It would even be a good idea to work with offenders as soon as they go into prison.

Rose Fernando is a youth worker in London

Mike Guilfoyle: Former probation officer

Having worked for 20 years as a probation officer I believe that the proposals outlined by Chris Grayling will sadly result in the demise of the probation service.

Clearly joint working to ensure a safer community is the right way ahead but adopting untested and poorly evidenced approaches will most likely increase the likelihood of offending.

Chris Grayling has already gagged probation areas from offering critical observations of his plans so the issue of transparency and accountability will suffer.

How will Freedom of Information on publicly funded projects aimed at reducing reoffending be made available?

Probation has been the glue that held the criminal justice system together and has recently been awarded excellent ratings, has a proven track record of success, but it now risks becoming the sticky tape.

Mike Guilfoyle remains active in the probation trade union Napo

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