What is preventing fair and effective probation and resettlement?
Probation officers can play a key role in supporting people to lead crime-free lives, helping people serving community sentences and those on license after a custodial sentence to access housing, employment and support services.
However, probation officers have facedvery high caseloads in recent years, limiting their ability to support individuals in a meaningful way. The probation service was part-privatised in sweeping and ultimately unsuccessful reforms in 2014. The CJA and members raised significant concerns about these reforms. From June 2021, management of low and medium risk individuals will return to a reunified National Probation Service.
The voluntary sector, including many CJA members, worktirelessly to help people leaving prison resettle in the community. However, greater statutory support for prison leavers — such as a larger discharge grant, suitable housing, mobile phones and clothing —could improve outcomes and cut reoffending.
We set out how probation can be strengthened, including by employing more people with lived experience. We are also working with Porticus UK and a number of other partners as part of the Positive Pathways from Prison Project, calling for more support to help people gain employment and build family ties after release.
Responding to the Prisons White Paper
We published a briefing in advance of the Prisons White Paper, setting out how the government can better support people leaving prison to find employment and build positive support networks in order to reduce reoffending.
In September 2020, the government published a White Paper setting out its plans for sentencing. The White Paper contained many proposals relevant to probation. In the CJA’s response to the White Paper, several members welcomed plans for greater use of community sentences but warned that some measures to toughen community sentences could be counterproductive.
During the early stages of the pandemic, we wrote to the Prisons Minister highlighting the storiesof prison leavers struggling to survive and calling for the government to increase the discharge grant for all prison leavers.
In the summer of 2020, we gathered members to consider challenges faced during the pandemic and what is needed for recovery. Members working in probation and resettlement discussed the isolation and mental health difficulties experienced by people leaving prison and on probation; securing employment in a volatile job market; efforts by the government to tackle homelessness and more.
We held an expert group of members working in education, training and employment to respond to this consultation from the Education Select Committee. Members called on government to invest in the infrastructure around probation and community sentences, such as unpaid work placements, rather than investing in enlarging the prison estate.
In 2019, the CJA held a roundtable discussion on probation reform, hosted by Lord Ramsbotham at the House of Lords. Attendees discussed a range of issues on the future of probation, including what reforms areneeded to reduce use of short sentences, remand and recalls.