Thousands of offenders supervised by phone calls after release from prison

first_img Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. In some CRCs, staff numbers have been pared down in repeated redundancy exercises, with those remaining carrying exceptional caseloads Recently released violent criminals are being supervised by telephone because of tight budgets, the Inspectorate of Probation has warned. Thousands of people are having their contact with the probation services limited to a single meeting followed by “remote supervision” by private providers, its annual report said. In some areas up to 200 ex-offenders are being managed by each member of junior staff with very little experience, who speak to them for less than half an hour by telephone every six weeks. The cases managed by telephone are those assessed to be the lowest-risk, but in some cases they have included offenders with a history of violence who go on to commit more serious crimes.  In one case, a man with almost 30 previous convictions including one for domestic abuse was supervised by telephone only. He assaulted his former partner after becoming homeless and moving back in with her. In another a man with a conviction for supplying Class A drugs was charged with wounding after being managed with six-weekly telephone calls. center_img The damning report about the probation service found that private “community rehabilitation companies” (CRCs) who managed low and medium-risk offenders are failing to meet Government targets and could be putting the public at risk. In 2014 the probation system was reformed to transfer responsibility for low and medium-risk offenders to 21 private CRCs, while the national probation service retained responsibility for the highest-risk people. Dame Glenys Stacey, the chief inspector of probation, said face-to-face work was “vital” and added that she had concerns about how staff knew they were speaking to the correct person on the telephone. “We should all be concerned given the rehabilitation opportunities missed and the risks to the public if individuals are not supervised well,” she said. “In some CRCs, staff numbers have been pared down in repeated redundancy exercises, with those remaining carrying exceptional caseloads. “In most, probation officers have been replaced by more junior professional staff.”The most junior staff could have less than a year’s experience having only just left college, the inspectors said. Dame Glenys said that workload pressures and remote monitoring “are undermining a central tenet of effective probation work – a consistent, professional, trusting relationship between the individual and their probation worker.”Speaking at the launch of the report Helen Rinaldi, an assistant chief inspector who also worked on the report, said: “We would advocate that good-quality probation delivery absolutely relies on that central element of the relationship – you can’t really influence someone’s behaviour unless you’ve got a relationship with them, and we would just question whether that’s as readily achievable if it’s purely done on the phone.” The report also found that the Government underestimated the number of higher-risk offenders that would be managed by the companies, with around two thirds of their cases classed as medium rather than low risk. It had initially believed that the vast majority of their cases would be low-risk ones. The companies have also invested funds in new computer systems which do not work properly with the Ministry of Justice’s older IT, the report added. Richard Garside, director of charity the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies said: “So dysfunctional have the government’s probation changes become that active sabotage would look much the same.”Secretary of State David Lidington said: “We have already changed CRCs contracts to better reflect their costs and are continuing to review them. We are clear that CRCs must deliver a higher standard of probation services.”A Ministry of Justice spokesperson added: “In some cases, lower risk offenders can be supervised by telephone after a thorough, face-to-face risk assessment, and their continued suitability for this type of monitoring will be kept under review.”last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *