The process of stopping offenders from reoffending requires a professional and skilled approach. Developing and constantly improving probation practice in protecting the public and enabling rehabilitation is a top priority.
Public protection is central to the work of the Probation Service. It depends on the accurate assessment and skilled management of those individuals who pose a risk of harm or serious harm to communities or specific individuals.
The risk posed by individuals can never be completely eliminated but practice of the highest standards based on clear polices and procedures can minimise the threat. This approach is based within multi agency arrangements that are publicly accountable, eg Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) with statutory partners including the Police and Prison Service and Safeguarding Children Boards and other multi-agency bodies, eg Prevent and Counter Terrorism, Health and Mental Health Boards, Domestic Violence Forums etc.
The probation services’s role is to deliver the sentence of the court and take responsibility for the offender throughout their sentence. When an offender fails to comply with their community order or prison licence, robust action is taken to enforce it either through a return to court or a recall to prison.
To best protect the public, offenders may need to be housed in appropriate accommodation in the community that effectively manages risk. This may be in Approved Premises run by the Probation Service or voluntary sector or may be other supported accommodation appropriate to the risk posed by the offender, eg to help manage drug and alcohol or mental health problems.
Much probation expertise focuses on reducing the risk of further reoffending but it is well recognised that the voice of the victim is a major element in successfully delivering this. The Probation service works with the victims of sexual and violent offending to keep them informed about the progress of an offender’s sentence and, where appropriate, to seek their views in respect of release from long term prison sentences.
There are several key elements in practice to fulfil the purposes of a community order. These include punishment, motivating offenders to behave differently, assisting them to change their attitudes and helping them deal with issues that increase their desire to go straight. These might relate to supporting them to gain access to opportunities for qualifications and employment, to secure accommodation, to be treated for drug and alcohol problems etc.
Recent research on desistance has demonstrated the power of the one to one relationship in changing an offenders’ behaviour. Along with ‘What Works’ evidence based group programmes, a powerful suite of interventions is available to enable offenders to change their ways covering such issues as:
- Sexual offending
- Violent offending
- Domestic abuse
- Drug treatment
- Alcohol treatment
- Accommodation and tenancy guidance
- Family relationships
- Finance and benefit advice
- Confronting offending attitudes
- Reparation to communities through ‘Community Payback’, unpaid work
- Health mentoring
The skill of the probation officer is to work with the offender to create an individualised package of actions that builds credible routes out of offending and to motivate and support them to successfully achieve that end.