Friday, August 19, 2011


The second group on most prisoner's lists, only just being edged out by prison psychologists is probation.

A recent interview with a probation officer gave me the opportunity to point out some harsh truths:

That the evidence that being supervised by Probation reduces rates of re-offending by Lifers is zero.

That there is no evidence that forcing Lifers to live in probation hostels on release reduces re-offending.

That there is, overall, no evidence to suggest that Probation involvement in Lifer's lives on release has any beneficial effects whatsoever.

In the context of utility and rationality, my view of Probation falls somewhere below my view of astrologers.  They are, in respect to Lifers at least, an agency looking for a reason to exist.  So far, they have hoodwinked society into believing they are a good thing.


  1. I think probation makes no real difference. The ones that don't want to reoffend, won't reoffend and their programmes cater for that. The ones that do want to reoffend, a twenty minute conversation every 1-4 weeks won't stop them.

  2. You just keep on proving that you don't ever want to get out don't you Ben.... It's ridiculous. Shut your mouth. behave Stop letting everyone down who supports you. Your criticisms of the system are utterly irrelevant other than that they just stop you getting out... Pathetic little man.

  3. I understand what you're saying Ben, it sounds to me like your view is 'boo hoo its not fair, everyone hates me' 'boo hoo if it's not the prison staff, medical staff, or probation, its the (insert employee or agency)' 'oh deary they all have it in for me' 'oh why oh why won't they let me wear sandals? the injustice!' is that a fair interpretation?

  4. JK, above. Pathetic little man, you say? You get placed in a strip cell at 14, grow up in prison, suffer bereavement and loss with no comfort, not get married or have a family, or even eat a meal in a restaurant or wake up next to a woman and see how you like it! Would you find the strength to educate yourself and attempt a PhD, then write a blog to give people an insight to life inside? Or would you go raving mad? Ask yourself that question and then decide who is the most pathetic?

  5. Spot on Ben, After being on probation myself, i haven't the faintest idea what their job discription is. Absolutly useless the lot of them, and get everones back up to boot.

  6. Anonymous @ 1.39am - well said.

  7. Let's have it right, a lot of lifers come into jail at a young age and do over 20 years. if you're mentally strong you can use it to sort yourself out and come out to enjoy the rest of your life. Not everyone can do it, a lot go under and turn to drugs and the prison subculture. It takes a big man to admit he's frightened of getting out and struggling to cope - Ben Gunn would be a bigger man if he did that instead of keeping himself in by picking pointless fights with the system and then relying on well wishers out here to publicise how badly he's being treated.
    As for Anon 3.48, there are good and bad probation officers. Some will get you grants and places on training courses but others are spiteful and lazy. Guess you got a bad one.

  8. @anon 4:21pm

    Very well said! As with any profession, there is the good and the bad, but the majority of probation officers are not 'out to get you', they are there to support you, and you doing well is in their best interests (and makes their jobs a whole lot easier). Your Offender Manager can link you in with any number of resources, including accommodation, employment, education, drugs and alcohol support, mental health agencies, and most importantly they can aid you with resettlement and reintegration (which you WILL find difficult after so long in custody - don't get sucked into thinking you're just going to slip back into it, it really isn't that easy!).

    In return for this support you'll be expected to do a few simple things (you don't get anything for free in life!!):
    1) stay out of trouble
    2) be open and honest
    3) discuss things which you find difficult, such as your offence, emotions, and your own faults - this is designed to ensure you know where you've gone wrong in the past, and how you can avoid it again in the future.
    4) abide by any reasonable licence conditions imposed

    Ben, you may think you're above all this, and that anyone wanting to keep tabs on you, or monitor your behaviour, and make decisions based on your behaviour is interfering or 'just not fair', but get over yourself! This god complex of yours demonstrates that you honestly don't believe that any of the rules or regulations which the majority of the population abide by, apply to you. In committing your offence, YOU have placed yourself in this position, NOT prison/probation/psychology staff. It's just a bloody shame for them that they now have to try and support you in getting out of it! Unless you embrace the support networks open to you instead of fighting them, you will end up right back in prison, either through committing another offence, or through non-compliance with your licence.

    There may have been injustices committed against you in your time in custody, but you've bitched about them for long enough now. Man up, stop bleating, and look at how to move forward. Stop 'bending the rules', and testing the boundaries, and start working WITH professionals. You are perpetuating your punishment. Grow up and allow yourself to move on with your life. It would be a a shame to see such academic intelligence wasted on another 30 years in prison, just because you're too proud/stubborn/stupid to just man up and do what is expected of you!

    And just as an aside, can we all get some perspective and remember that although Probation staff are working WITH the offender, they are ultimately working FOR the victims, in terms of public protection.

  9. @Anon August 20, 2011 7:52 PM

    Complete and utter nonesense written by a typical probation officer who uses every enotive term they can. Man up, stop bleating etc, you are truly pathtic!

  10. In amongst the debates here about the helpfulness or otherwise of the probation service and probation officers there is a discussion about Ben's situation and circumstances.

    On the first issue about the probabtion service, it might be relevant to look over at prisoner's families voices website which there is a link to on here to see the varying experiences people have of the probation service, some good, but many bad, leaving many prisoners and their families feeling worse than neglected, frustrated and misunderstood.

    Probation officers have an advantage over the prisoners for starters as they are in paid employment, so what really gets my goat is not so much some of the points people are making on this thread to do with Ben's personal situation, it is the disrespectful, unnecessary and undermining comments such as JK's "pathetic little man", "man up" and so on.

    If you are making relevant points why undermine someones manhood? What is that all about? It makes me wonder about the whole profession if that is the way you go about your business.

    Your have an advantage to start with so to put the boot in like that is as anon august 20 @ 9.53 said and I reiterate; truly pathetic.

  11. Some probation Officers are nice people but that doesn’t make their existence any more valid!

  12. Aside from the discussion above of how Ben can get out of prison, I was really intrigued by the claim:

    "That the evidence that being supervised by Probation reduces rates of re-offending by Lifers is zero"

    So I decided to do a little research for my self in the peer reviewed literature. Ben is partially right, there is not a lot of evidence. However, I did come across the following, published in a respectable academic journal, which does provide some evidence (title, author, source and abstract below):

    Title: Offending behaviour programmes in the community: The effects on reconviction of three programmes with adult male offenders
    Author: Palmer, EJ et al. (2007)
    Source: LEGAL AND CRIMINOLOGICAL PSYCHOLOGY Volume: 12 Pages: 251-264

    Abstract: Purpose: This study presents the findings of an evaluation of the effect on reconviction of three general offending behaviour programmes in the English and Welsh Probation Service with adult male offenders.

    Method. The study employed a quasi-experimental design comparing the reconviction rates of three groups: offenders who were allocated to and completed a programme, offenders allocated to a programme but failed to complete, and a comparison group.

    Results. The main finding from the analyses indicated that, controlling for salient population factors, the offenders who had completed a programme had a lower rate of reconviction as compared with non-completers and comparison groups. Additionally, the non-completers had a higher rate of reconviction than the comparison group. Conclusions. The findings are discussed in light of the extant literature and a range of explanations is presented.

  13. That's just lifers. I've heard of them being useful with younger, more volatile prisoners.

  14. MikeR: Ben was talking about Lifers when he made that claim; not all ex-offenders are Lifers. Lifers are released into the community on a life licence; they are not truly free and are closely monitored for the rest of their lives. Hence the term "Life Sentence". I am certain that, being a criminologist vis-a-vie his extensive academics studies, Ben would have made that claim based on research.

  15. You will find, on the whole, lifers are normaly "straight goers" rather than career criminals. As murder is a mandotory life sentence, there are people who have killed in an fit of rage, (anyone of us could do that in certain situations) it may have been a fight that got out of hand etc.

    YOur typical in-mate is a drug addict, who does a crime to survive, and feed a habit, more often than not, they are always in and out of jail, on short sentences, their lives are manic.

    Sadly, probation are useless. I was able to sort my own things out, in fact, turned things round to my advantage. But some prisoners can hardly read or write, and can hardly blow their own nose. Probation fails these people, the people most in need of their help. And if i ever saw my old probation officer in the street i may not be able to refrain myself from a metophorical punch in the face.

  16. How can probation ever be based on 100% honesty, when a prisoner may think (for whatever reason) that telling the truth is likely to delay his/her release?

  17. Well, as a probation officer, lets have a stab at a response. I'm speaking for myself and how I see things from the perspective of over 25 years experience and when we all had to be qualified social workers.

    Being a probation officer is not about winning a popularity contest, it's about doing a job that has two elements that can be in conflict. On the one hand we're there to help an offender stop offending and on the other we're aiming to help protect the public. If you succeed with the former, you achieve the latter. But it doesn't always follow and it is often much more complex.

    Lifers are a special group that present particular challenges. Like it or not, probation officers have the job of helping the Parole Board decide if it is safe to release someone. I can say, hand on heart, that I have always done my level best to help every lifer make progress towards release. It would be naive in the extreme to pretend that this is easy for some prisoners who, for whatever reason, decide not to co-operate. But I have always taken the view that the State pays my salary to just keep on trying and to the best of my professional ability.

    It takes a degree of tenacity to handle indifference, antagonism, minimisation, denial, obfuscation, manipulation and very rarely abuse, but in the end I'm paid to absorb it, challenge it, try and understand it and most importantly interpret and assess it for the Parole Board.

    It should go without saying that the job is easier and the outcome more likely to be positive if all this work is undertaken in a spirit of co-operation and mutual respect. If not, it doesn't stop the work, it just means that the whole process takes infinitely longer and the chances of a positive outcome recedes significantly.

    By the way, none of this has anything to do with targets, or 'working for victims'. It's a professional piece of work undertaken for society at large to try and rehabilitate offenders and protect the public. With lifers the re-offending rates are pretty good, but there are always likely to be a few that repeat earlier serious violent behaviour. Sadly nowadays, probation officers are likely to get the blame for such behaviour, which is precisely why this job can never be just about winning popularity.


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