We welcome the joint inspection report of life sentence prisoners published today (12/09/2013) by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Probation. Such joint inspections will be crucial in the future to ensure that both policy thinking and service delivery joins up, so that the public are protected and those who have been rehabilitated can resettle safely and effectively in the community.
We believe the report amply demonstrates the complexities of managing offenders as they move to different phases of their sentence, and responsibility of their management changes.
This underlines the PCA’s anxieties over the Transforming Rehabilitation reform plans about fragmentation resulting from dividing the case load on risk, with management and service delivery of probation provided across the public and future contracted sectors.
The report also highlights the importance of building relationships between the probation officer and lifers prior to release from custody, improving the effective planning of continued support and rehabilitation interventions. It finds that lifers who have been released on licence appreciated the quality and commitment of support which offender managers in Probation Trusts have given them. The vast majority of life sentence prisoners are successfully integrated back into the community, with only 2.2% of those sentenced to a mandatory life sentence and 4.8% of those serving other life sentences re-offending in any way.
A key recommendation made by the report is that offender managers should be allowed to exert more influence over the release decision-making process within prisons, and to be offered further training on how to plan and deliver work in a way which engages offenders over the full licence period.
We welcome these recommendations in particular over the training of offender managers. We see the professional development of probation workers as critical in supporting improved performance and outcomes irrespective of how the services are organised in terms of employer. We support the proposal in Transforming rehabilitation to establish a Probation Institute, and the PCA are working with a wide range of stakeholders to see how best that can be brought about.