Memorandum submitted by Professor Rod
Morgan, HM Chief Inspector of Probation
It may be helpful if I set out what I take to
be some of the major issues currently affecting the work of the
Probation Service and its performance. At the close I give a brief
indication of what HMIP is doing.
1. THE SENTENCING
Substantially greater proportionate use of custodial
sentences and significantly reduced proportionate use of fines
for roughly the same number of defendants. Slightly increased
proportionate use of community sentences. Offenders who would
a decade ago have been fined now supervised by the Probation Service
and medium serious offenders who a decade ago would have been
supervised by the Probation Service now being sent to prison,
generally for short sentences. Consequences: prison overcrowding;
the silting up of probation caseloads with low-risk offenders
subject to community penalties; as well as a significant increase
in the number of offenders on licence following imprisonment.
Overall the number of offenders being supervised by the Probation
Service has doubled.
Caseloads (calculated on the basis of all Probation
staff) up some 30% in the last decade, demand from courts for
pre-sentence and parole reports up approximately 20-25%. Cutbacks
in Probation staff resources in mid-1990s, now being reversed.
Nevertheless, significant pressures, reflecting, inter alia, the
current emphasis (supported in several instances by targets) on
the enforcement of orders, the delivery of accredited "What
Works" offending behaviour programmes, new work with victims
and better assessment of offenders to be achieved through the
introduction of a new joint (with Prison Service) risk assessment
tool, OASyS. There is also high priority on managing high risk
offenders (including sex offenders) released on licence. These
developments highly desirable and there have been significant
advances in Service performance in relation to all these objectives:
enforcement has improved (though not consistently across the country),
the delivery of accredited offender programmes has got better;
the quality and timeliness of pre-sentence reports has improved;
etc. Longstanding IT infrastructural deficiencies are also being
addressed. Nevertheless there is continued staff concern about
workloads reflected, currently, in the NAPO proposed industrial
action for later this month. There is a significant South East
factor here: the difficulty of recruiting and retaining staff
in the region.
3. OUTCOME MEASUREMENT
The key Government target for the Probation
Service is reduced re-offending by sentenced offenders. The "What
Works" agenda is based on the proposition that the best available
evidence indicates that tighter enforcement of orders and the
targeted delivery of programmes will result in significantly reduced
re-offending. Tighter enforcement and taking into account victim
concerns will also, it is hypothesised, enhance public confidence
in the criminal justice generally, another of the Government's
objectives. These outcomes are being monitored closely, though
attributing these outcomes to particular interventions will prove
problematical. The initial results on reconvictions are encouraging,
though the interpretation is not yet conclusive.
4. CHANGING PROBATION
Organisational shift in emphasis from "advise,
assist and befriend" and "welfare" to law enforcement
and offender control, evidence-based reduced re-offending intervention,
risk assessment and public protection. Emphasis on partnerships.
Increased joint working with the police (information exchange,
planning of supervision/surveillance in relation to high risk
offenders) and the need for even more effective joint working
with the Prison Service for effective sentence planning and the
resettlement of prisoners. Some of these changes predictably accompanied
by some staff resistance, but also emergent patterns of professional
pride in new skills and ways of working.
In addition, major organisational changes and
a welter of new legislation. On 1 April 2001 the then 54 local
more-or-less autonomous Probation Services abolished and the NPS,
divided into 42 Areas coterminous with the other criminal justice
agencies (with the exception of prisons), created under the direction
of the National Probation Directorate. Approximately half of all
Chief Officers new to the post. The NPD gearing up. At the same
time the proportion of probation staff who are qualified probation
officers gradually diminished to the point that they now constitute
slightly less than half of all staff. A new staff skills mix and
an emphasis on teamwork between increasingly differentiated staff.
Further changes in the pipelineprincipally, the Criminal
Justice Bill and the Halliday agenda for sentencing reform. The
desire of Probation staff for greater stability, but there being
little prospect of it.
This description naturally generates many questions
in answer to which I should be able to provide some answers. With
that in mind, it may be useful if I briefly sketch some of the
developments in which HMIP is involved.
In recent months I have personally written and
spoken widely about the need to reverse the sentencing trend of
recent years and, in particular, resuscitate the courts' use of
financial penalties. If the Probation Service is going effectively
to devote more of its stretched resources to short-term prisoner
post-release supervision then it must be relieved of some of the
work currently required of it regarding low-risk offenders. To
this end HMIP is emphasising (not least in my Foreword to our
Annual Report 2001-02) the need for the Probation Service to develop
an effective media strategy and communicate better with sentencers.
The demands made on the Service must, must through professional
dialogue, be conditioned and the Service needs to develop a higher
and more positive public profile.
HMIP, through its inspection programme, has
hitherto concentrated heavily on monitoring process performance
(compliance with National Standards, the quality of delivery of
accredited programmes, etc). It did so because, until April 2001,
there was no national directorate and the Inspectorate to some
extent fulfilled a surrogate directorate role. Henceforward, in
a new inspection programme to be rolled out in May 2003, we shall
be shifting our centre of gravity towards consideration the relevance
of interventions and their impact. We shall aim to focus more
closely on how the so-called "What Works" offending
behaviour programmes are fully integrated with case management
and supervision and work alongside practical interventions to
address the socially excluding factors (homelessness, unemployment,
debt, abuse of drugs, fractured family relationships, etc) characteristic
of most supervised offenders.
In addition we produce thematic reports. Last
year we published a joint thematic report (with HMI Prisons) on
prisoner resettlement (Through the Prison Gate, October 2001)
and we are currently undertaking a series of thematic reviews
on aspects of the new structureon the new arrangements
for the governance of the service, on work with victims, on Drug
Treatment and Testing Orders and probation training.
I will of course be happy to elaborate on any
aspect of the above account. It would be helpful if you were to
indicate in advance where you wish me to concentrate my attention
when we meet on February 11.