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The Probation Service ‘fails to engage 50% of people on probation, drastically raising re-offending rates’, ground-breaking research shows

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National Probation Service is inadequate

Ground-breaking research conducted by the HM Inspectorate of Probation, found that a satisfactory delivery of probation services equated to a significantly lower re-offending rate by people on probation, and lower crime rates nationally.

The records of 3,000 individuals on probation were investigated by the HM Inspectorate of Probation. In each case, inspectors assessed the quality of the probation work and then checked the Police National Computer to see if the individual reoffended.

The subsequent reoffending rate was approximately 30% when probation officers were deemed to be engaging a person under supervision and assisting them to stop committing crimes. The reoffending rate was approximately 50% in circumstances where probation did not engage people and did not promote their desistance.

Desistance is defined as abstaining from crime, in the context of people who previously had a pattern of offending behaviour.

This same research found that the Probation Service was only delivering their duties to an acceptable standard in less than 50% of cases.

The research comes as ‘recalls’ to prison have skyrocketed almost 25% recently, despite 75% of these recalls not a result of re-offending behaviour.

Towards the end of 2022, every probation centre in London received the poorest possible ratings, with some scoring 0 out of 27 possible inspection points.

The findings in the research were taken as a showing the potential of what the Probation Service can do to protect the public, on a national scale. Justin Russell, Chief Inspector of Probation, said: “This vital research demonstrates the difference that high-quality probation supervision can make to reoffending rates.

“We have been able to show that where probation staff engage well with people on probation and ensure that the factors driving their offending are identified and dealt with, people are more likely to successfully complete their sentence and less likely to commit further crimes.”

Russell added: “Reoffending costs the country approximately £18 billion a year, so this clearly highlights the importance of investing in the Probation Service and ensuring that this work is of the highest possible standard. Less than half of the cases we have inspected over the past 18 months reaching our required standards, so there is still a long way to go to ensure that every case gets the quality of supervision it needs, but the pay-off to doing so would be enormous.”

During 2018 and 2019, the research included ex-prisoners who were being monitored by the Probation Service during their licence term, as well as persons sentenced to community sentences with a supervision requirement.

Robin Moore, head of research at HM Inspectorate of Probation, added: “Our inspection programme gathers a wealth of data, and this means we can drill down to the details of what high-quality probation supervision should look like through the eyes of our skilled inspectors.

“There are clear consistencies in terms of what positive work with people on probation looks like: working alongside a person via consistent and meaningful engagement during their supervision; tailored work and interventions that get to the heart of a person’s offending and tackle it; building upon strengths; and helping to remove barriers to engagement and completion.”

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