Corrections Chief Executive Barry Matthews said the Expert Panel’s endorsement of the Community Probation Services' Change Programme would help the organisation improve public safety by increasing the capability of staff and the quality of its service delivery.
Mr Matthews said the Panel had made an important contribution towards refining the focus of Community Probation Services (CPS) from primarily ensuring sentence compliance towards the delivery of three key outcomes.
“Sentence compliance will continue to be a very major outcome for CPS and they will be measured against this, however, it will not remain their sole focus.
“CPS will pay increased attention towards its other two key areas – reducing the likelihood of offenders re-offending, and minimising the risk of harm to others.”
Mr Matthews said the Panel had recognised that current heavy focus on rules needed to be refined and had recommended a move from a procedure to a practice based approach.
The need was identified for a system of practice which had specific standards for compliance and was reinforced by a framework that supported the professional judgements of staff.
“There remains mandatory standards that must be met – such as an offender’s compliance with a court order and staff will be held to these standards. A risk based approach will be applied over this – mandatory standards are the bottom line, but some things must be done over and above this.
“Staff need to make reasoned decisions about the risk that offenders present, but there will now be more comprehensive guidance and frameworks in place to support them.
Mr Matthews said more assistance would be put into place for CPS staff including extra management support and an improved database of international research and best practice to help support their own professional judgement.
A new tool to assist probation officers to assess dynamic risk was also being piloted which would assess offenders during their sentence and identify factors which need to be taken to minimise the offender’s risk.
“We’ve been very good in assessing an offender’s historical risk, but this new tool allows us to better identify current circumstances in an offender’s life which may by increasing or decreasing their risk of reoffending and manage the offender accordingly.”
Offenders will be managed by the actual risk they present. The risk an offender presents is not always a reflection of the sentence they are on. We will continue to insist on heavy monitoring of high risk offenders, but will also now manage the risk an offender presents irrespective of the type of sentence they are serving.
The Expert Panel had also recommended appointing a Chief Probation Officer with the ability to perform conduct practice reviews and investigations and to report to the Chief Executive on their findings and recommendations.
Mr Matthews said the Panel had recognised that CPS had been under pressure and that it needed to undertake change.
“They have spent a significant amount of time understanding the work of CPS and had received a significant contribution from staff as to how the organisation could most effectively operate.
“The Panel provided an external focus that can help the Department achieve its outcomes. I thank them for their work to date and look forward to their ongoing contribution which we will use to continue to refine and improve our performance.”
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