The HMPPS Insights22 Festival in May was a fantastic success, with over 500 events and 14,000 tickets registered. None of this would have been possible without our wonderful hosts, who joined us from across the CJS and generously donates their time, skills and experiences to provide a vibrant and unique programme for staff.

Thank you to everyone who hosted an event and to the staff who took time away from their busy day jobs to take part.

We are delighted to offer you the chance to look back over the Festival and celebrate what we, the justice community, achieved together. Through the following pages, you will see a summary of just some of the hundreds of amazing events that took place, with images and feedback from staff and hosts.

Click below!

The HMPPS Insights22 Festival: A Celebration

Elly Gale, Head of the Offender Rehabilitation Research Team, MOJ, leading academics and probation practitioners consider:

• What is trauma, and how it contributes to (re)offending?

• How can the probation service implement a trauma-informed approach and what this looks like?

• the impact of trauma on people in our care, and can a trauma-informed approach contribute to desistance?

Hosted by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation, this event explores and highlights:

• effective supervision for people on probation with mental health and substance misuse needs, and

• getting the right sentence

Guest speakers include:

• Mignon French, Mental Health Treatment Requirement (MHTR) Programme Manager, NHS England & NHS Improvement

• Charlie Brooker, Honorary Professor Centre for Sociology and Criminology, Royal Holloway, University of London

• Sunny Dhadley, Strategic Adviser and Consultant

Please select subtitles/closed captions when viewing if required

In this guest blog, Meave Darroux, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise at Brilliant Parents, talks about their innovative approach to supporting parents of children at risk of criminal exploitation through Parent Champions, earning them a place as a finalist for the Butler Trust Kathy Biggar Trophy.

As Chief Executive of Social Enterprise, I am often asked what makes a Brilliant Parent? The answers of which are numerous.  However, one key aspect is the ability to empathise and show compassion not just to our children, but also to ourselves.  Society expects parents to have all the answers, however we know that most parents will face challenges with their child at some stage, whether that be when they are a toddler or teenager.  All challenges are relative depending on the parent, their background, culture, and perception.

Brilliant Parents is commissioned by the London Borough of Hillingdon and supports Hillingdon parents who can self-refer or are referred by statutory bodies.  There are some parents whose teenage children may be on that trajectory of being exploited and this can be particularly difficult for all those concerned.  Parents are often at a loss as to what to do and who to turn to.  They often feel judged by family members, schools and of course the self-judgement and feeling of shame can be overwhelming.  Do they keep things 'hush hush' and ignore the situation hoping it will go away, or do they reach out for help risking as they see it, the possibility of their child going into an alternative school or worst still into care?

Working in partnership with the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment at The London Borough of Hillingdon, Brilliant Parents facilitates access to parents and explores any barriers to engagement or programme delivery. By using the Hillingdon AXIS analytical database to identify families, localities, and communities at risk of criminal exploitation, we enable the effective targeting of resources.

In turn, the London Borough of Hillingdon Youth Justice and Adolescent Services:

  1. Promote and embed the “offer” within adolescent social care teams including the Adolescent Social Work Team, AXIS and YJS.
  2. Ensure Brilliant Parents is linked with other 3rd Sector and voluntary agencies to facilitate parent access and continued support.
  3. Provide Brilliant Parents with oversight, management, and challenge of delivery.
  4. Support the introduction to targeted schools and facilitate introductions to community groups.
Brilliant Parents Awards Day

Brilliant Parents provide both a traditional method of parent support and an innovative method of peer-to-peer support.  The latter came about from research by the MOPAC’s Violence Reduction Unit which concluded that parents preferred peer-to-peer support by people who looked like them and spoke their language in more ways than one! 

Brilliant Parents enlisted the support of fifteen Parent Champions in Hillingdon and have matched them with two families each to connect in a way that many of these families have not experienced before. Testimonials have confirmed that they no longer have feelings of being treated like a tick box exercise, but are supported by people who they feel are genuine, empathic and on their side.

Parents are contacted once a week, whether that be by phone or virtually over a six-to-eight-week period for support with the parent’s concerns.  Sometimes, it may be more important to discuss unemployment or mounting debt and other times it may be their concerns about their child’s disappearance.  Whatever it is, our Parent Champions are trained in a variety of relevant skills including Positive Parenting principles, Soft Counselling Skills and Trauma Informed Practice to name a few so that they can offer a non-judgemental listening ear for the parent.  They can also assist that parent to engage with the schools and/or council services if needs be, which many families are hesitant to do.

Brilliant Parents have recently launched their five key principles and Parent Champions are encouraged to discuss these with the families they support:

If, as an organisation we can help our families to implement these concepts, they will in turn feel more confident and competent in their parenting skills and identify with the Brilliant Parent within them who is just waiting to appear.

Julie Kelly, Director of Service Delivery, Children and Young Peoples Services at Hillingdon Council said “We commissioned parenting organisation ‘Brilliant Parents’ to deliver family support services in Hillingdon in 2015, and since then they’ve established a detailed understanding of our borough and its communities. Through the delivery of targeted online and place-based sessions, Meave and her team have worked with hundreds of families to empower them and their children to make positive changes. Brilliant Parents has proven itself to be a dynamic and responsive organisation, adapting programme content and delivery to emerging themes such as child criminal exploitation with the introduction of Volunteer Parent Champions.” 

For more information on Brilliant Parents see or email

As a pre-Insights22 Festival treat, Simon Shepherd, Director of the Butler Trust, is offering one of our Hidden Heroes the opportunity to attend the 2022 Butler Trust Awards Ceremony.

Launched in 1985, The Butler Trust Awards provide an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to people working in probation, prison and youth justice settings. Our Awards are the most prestigious of their kind and are presented each year by our Royal Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, at our Annual Award Ceremony, usually held at St James’ Palace.

Most nominations come from people’s colleagues, but we also get many from people with lived experience of probation and prison, and from people working in partner agencies. Awards and Commendations are given to people for outstanding work which “goes above and beyond” what might normally be expected of them. They are for people not projects, and may be given to someone for doing something new or innovative, or ‘just’ for doing their ordinary job extraordinarily well.

Due to the pandemic, the Trust was unable to hold a Ceremony in 2020 or 2021, so the 2022 event will cover the last three years’ Award Winners and Commendees. In the lead up to the Insights22 Festival, we are offering one person the chance to join senior figures from across the Criminal Justice System in celebrating their achievements.

The offer is open to all of the Hidden Heroes who work in prison, probation, youth justice, HMPPS HQ and immigration removal centres, including contracted services. This is an opportunity to connect, learn about innovative work and celebrate success with colleagues.

The Awards Ceremony will be taking place in March 2022 but the exact location and date is yet to be announced. Please speak to your line manager in advance about being released from work to attend and claiming travel and subsistence.

If you would like the opportunity to attend this prestigious event, please click below. The closing date for entries is 7th January 2022.

You can find out more about the Awards, and the Award Ceremony, at

In this guest blog, Helen Schofield, Acting Chief Executive at the Probation Institute, talks about the history of the Sir Graham Smith Research Awards, and invites you to a the launch event of for the 2022 awards programme on 13th December.

The Probation Institute has offered the Sir Graham Smith Research Awards since 2014.

Sir Graham Smith was the Chief Probation Officer in the Inner London Probation Service from 1980 to 1992. He then became the Chief Inspector of Probation until his retirement in 2001. Sir Graham championed evidence-based research and practice in its very early stages. The Sir Graham Smith Research Award Scheme was established in his memory.

The scheme is an excellent opportunity for practitioners to carry out a short piece of practice-based research, develop their skills and help build probation’s evidence base. If you have an interest in research and a passion for practice you may be our ideal candidate!

Previously open to practitioners in Probation and the CRCs, we paused the scheme early in 2020 due to Covid19 and we took the opportunity to review how the scheme would operate going forward.  We are now keen to launch a new round of awards, and we will be inviting applications from practitioners in probation and the voluntary and community sector. Importantly, the award scheme relies on support from the employer and the agreement of the line managers/s to enable the majority of the research to be completed during work time:

You can see the final reports of our previous award winners here.

The next round of the scheme will be launched at our on-line event on Zoom on Monday 13th December. At this event we will hear from

We will then invite applications early in the new year, providing plenty of time for the development of research proposals.

Do join us on 13th December to find out more. To Register please send an email to and we will send you the joining instructions – this event will be on Zoom.

For any further information please contact Helen Schofield Acting Chief Executive at the Probation Institute.

Probation Institute logo

In this blog, Jason Swettenham, Head of Public Sector Prison Industries, provides an insight into the range and volume of essential goods produced in prison workshops, and their important role in supporting safe and decent regimes, as well as providing transferable skills for employment on release.

Six-hundred thousand toothbrushes, 100 million teabags, and textiles that could stretch from London to Cairo.

You could be forgiven for not automatically thinking of HMPPS when you hear those statistics, but this is exactly some of the work that is undertaken by Public Sector Prison Industries (PSPI). PSPI manages a wide range of workshops across all public sector prisons from catering and canteen, to essential goods and services. We operate almost 350 workshops that provide employment opportunities for over 7000 people in prison.

Brewing up wellbeing support

Within that remit falls critical decency kit, clothing, and the all-important cup of tea.

The focus for us is the provision of essential goods for the custodial market and the ability to meet the demands of prison establishments. We see our job as supporting prison governors to help them run safe and stable prisons by the production and delivery of clothing, kit, retail products, daily meals, and the enablement of physical education activities to further support prisoner wellbeing and health.

PSPI food packing services supply 100 million teabags to public sector prisons every year. A commodity appraisal panel independently tested the tea against leading brands and it was chosen as the best tasting product.

As well as teabags, PSPI produce boxer shorts, sweatshirts, jogging bottoms, t-shirts, towels, pillowcases, sheets, blankets, fleeces, workwear, gym vests, jeans and kitchen wear. The total amount of textiles used annually would be 2,200 miles long, enough to stretch from London and Cairo.

Don’t forget your toothbrush

When it comes to toothbrushes, innovation and partnership working ensures prisoners’ oral hygiene is not forgotten about.

Toothbrushes were previously bought from outside of the UK, but the product provided didn’t support a strong or positive oral health message.

A new partnership was launched with Public Health England last year, and a small workshop was opened at HMP Garth. This created an opportunity to provide higher quality toothbrushes that could be manufactured by people in prison using new state of the art machinery. This workshop is one of the small number of toothbrush manufacturers in the whole of the UK.

Studies show that people in prison are more likely to suffer from oral diseases. They have lower uptake levels of dental treatment, and have less motivation to maintain their oral health in comparison to the general population.

The design of the new brush was influenced by prisoner focus groups at HMP Garth and HMP Standford Hill. The toothbrush is florescent yellow for ease of visibility on the wing and has a crown logo on its handle. 

During the design process, sustainability was an important objective, with the toothbrush being fully recyclable. The finished product has achieved the Oral Health Foundation accreditation for its recyclable production.

As well as offering improved health and wellbeing to people in custody, the manufacture of this product also brings the benefit of purposeful activity places for people working in the production site.

This has a positive impact on the health of those in prison. This small, yet incredibly critical item supports decency, activity and work within the prison population. It also helps the individuals engaged in the manufacture of the items to gain transferable skills for them to use on their release.

After the bitter disappointment of the cancellation of Insights20 due to the pandemic, the Insights Festival is back for 2022!!!

Insights22 will be taking place 9-20th May 2022 and will offer staff across the Criminal Justice System a range of exciting free opportunities to learn, share, connect and celebrate.

We want to bring you some exclusive VIP learning opportunities that you wouldn't normally get to experience through the usual L&D offer. So, what would make a really special event or experience for you? Is there a part of the Criminal Justice System that you'd love to find out more about? Is there an individual or team you'd like to shadow? Is there an academic you'd love to have a chat with?

We can't promise we can make it happen but we'll give it a really good try! Let us know your ideas by clicking below!

I have a great idea for Insights22!

In this article, Sonia Flynn CBE, Chief Probation Officer, talks about the establishment of a new advisory panel, helping to shape and bring innovation to learning and development for the Probation workforce.

The Advisory Panel on Probation Learning (APPL) was established in 2021 and comprises of academics, partners, voluntary sector organisations, senior leaders, and people with lived experience of probation, bringing together subject matter expertise and innovative thinking from across the Criminal Justice System. This is the first of what we hope will be a series of blogs from panel members in which we want to share some of the topics covered, the challenges we face and the exciting opportunities that are arising through working together.

The Advisory Panel provides the Probation Learning Design Faculty (part of the Probation Workforce Programme) with the opportunity to seek input into the development of a learning product at an early stage, utilising expert advice right from a product's conception. Since the start of the year the panel has met four times and has covered a wide and varied range of topics related to probation learning.

An example of how the advice of the panel has already had an impact is in the development of a learning product on Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) for probation staff. The panel advised across a range of areas including recommendations on improving links with the College of Policing, incorporating content around unconscious bias into the product, developing staff confidence in presenting at multi-agency settings, and how to ensure that the voice of the person on probation is heard within the MAPPA process.

For each new learning product, working groups established to support its development and the Design Team are keen for these groups to include representation from different grades of probation staff. If you are a practitioner who would be interested in being involved in supporting the development of future learning and development products, then look out for opportunities in Probation News.

In addition to providing expertise on individual learning products, the Advisory Panel also advises on wider learning considerations for example:

It has been invaluable to have such a range of views and expertise from the Panel’s broad membership, using expertise from both in and outside of the Probation Service  to inform our thinking on these big questions. For example, the panel has helped the Probation Workforce Programme in thinking through the evidence base for the skills and knowledge that are most effective in probation practice and has supported the understanding of where the evidence is strongest.

Stay tuned for further updates on the work of the APPL through the Insights blog.

Jason Morris and Laura Baverstock work as Senior Policy Managers within the Service Design Team in the Probation Reform Programme (PRP). In this blog, they explain the work that has been underway to uphold key commitments to increasing the availability of quality RAR interventions in Probation; make best use of evidence and evaluation; and, preserve Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) innovation with a collaborative approach to service design.

On 26th June 2021, 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) were renationalised and unified with the National Probation Service (NPS) to form a new Probation Service for England and Wales. Since then, the Probation Reform Programme (PRP) has continued its work to implement probation’s Target Operating Model (TOM). The TOM provides a blueprint of how the new Probation Service will operate. As part of this effort, we’ve been working to equip Probation Practitioners and Regional Interventions Teams with quality interventions that enable the delivery of Rehabilitation Activity Requirements (RARs).

The Rehabilitation Activity Requirement

RARs form part of a Community Order or Suspended Sentence Order to set the amount and type of rehabilitation activity for people on probation. They were introduced in the Offender Rehabilitation Act (2014), as a distinct sentencing option to the ‘programme requirement’ (fulfilled through Accredited Programme completion, as defined in section 202 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003).  Prior to reunification hundreds of identifiable RAR interventions were available across the CRCs alongside many other bespoke interventions. Over recent years, room for improvement has been identified in the delivery of RARs both from the academic community and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP).

The TOM sets out how the Probation Service will deliver RARs. A large amount of RAR activity will be commissioned from partner organisations through “Commissioned Rehabilitative Services”. The main vehicle for Probation Service-delivered RARs will be in the form of Structured Interventions and Probation Practitioner Toolkits (also referred to below simply as "toolkits"). Structured Interventions provide a set of exercises delivered primarily to groups by interventions facilitators in a set sequence. Toolkits are comprised of similar material delivered by the Probation Practitioner on a one-to-one basis as part of supervision.

The following animated video was developed and shared with probation intervention teams in the lead up to probation unification, and helps to explain this:

Our task now is to ensure that the TOM is fully implemented to ensure consistency in the availability and quality of Structured Interventions and toolkits. This will improve confidence amongst stakeholders (including the courts) around how the Probation Service delivers RARs.

Approved Suites: Structured Interventions and Probation Practitioner Toolkits

The national Effective Interventions Panel (EIP) played a key role in the lead up to reunification, by enabling RAR interventions to be appraised against seven core principles set out by the Correctional Services Accreditation Advice Panel (principles that are distinct from those required for Accredited Programmes).

The Seven Principles used within the EIP to assess Structured Interventions and toolkits are as follows:

  1. Alignment with an evidence base
  2. Credible rationale for how, why and for whom the intervention will work
  3. A structure that allows replication
  4. A selection process that targets the intervention appropriately
  5. To equip people with useful skills and ensure that no one will be disadvantaged or harmed
  6. Quality assurance to ensure it is delivered as designed.
  7. A commitment to research and evaluation

The EIP is made up of experts from across HMPPS and its partners. Panel sessions involve a democratic scoring process, which results in recommendations and conclusions that are fed back to developers.

HMPPS Contract Management and the PRP Service Design Team identified interventions from CRC rate cards to continue as Structured Interventions in the unified Probation Service “post contract”. In addition, the EIP sat eight times between October 2020 and January 2021 to appraise 45 Structured Interventions. A total of 37 were ear marked for incorporation into an Approved Suite of Structured Interventions that would come into effect by April 2022.

The EIP also sat 10 times to appraise Probation Practitioner Toolkits between April and May 2021. During these toolkit EIP sessions, a total of 24 sets of materials were appraised and seven toolkits were provisionally approved for inclusion in an 'Approved Suite of Probation Practitioner Toolkits'.

EIP decisions were then ratified through a further governance process which approved development work to finalise the approved suites of toolkits and Structured Interventions. The overarching ambition for Probation Practitioner Toolkits was to create greater alignment across the suite to increase their potential to work as wraparound support for other interventions. In addition, several overlapping EIP-approved Structured Interventions were identified for amalgamation into single offers via workgroups comprised of staff from Regional Interventions Teams. A total of 12 Structured Interventions would account for all Structured Intervention delivery from April 2022 onwards.  

The Structured Intervention workgroups offer a key opportunity to refine innovation in a stepwise fashion to:

- fully adhere to EIP principles

- build on CRC innovation

- involve people on probation as co-creators

- integrate sentence management support through alignment with toolkits

Clinical and strategic oversight for Structured Interventions and toolkits will continue to be provided by the national EIP process. This governance will help establish toolkits as the vehicle for RAR delivery within the role of the Probation Practitioner; a step that aims to help put the supervisory relationship back at the heart of probation work. Furthermore, continued EIP governance will help us to work towards greater content alignment between supervision and in-house interventions (such as Structured Interventions and Accredited Programmes). This has the potential to enable interventions to combine more holistically, making the experience of probation more cohesive for people accessing a range of probation services.

Acknowledgements to Ruth Johnson and Mark Farmer for their contributions to this article

Following the success of last year's first UK-wide #HiddenHeroes Day, this year's special day will take place on Wednesday 29th September - and we hope you will join in and make it even bigger and better than in 2020!

Championed by the charity The Butler Trust, in partnership with the MoJ, it is an opportunity to pay tribute to those working in prison, probation and youth justice services and highlight the critical role they play in keeping the public safe and thank them for their truly outstanding service throughout the pandemic.

While each establishment and probation office will want to mark the day in their own way, you might also want to take a look at the write up, images and videos from #HiddenHereos Day 2020 for some inspiration. One of our favourites is this fab video by the staff at HMP Ashfield!

In the lead up to #HiddenHeroes Day 2021, The Butler Trust have also launched a national Hidden Heroes Charity Challenge. Every prison, youth custody and probation area has been challenged to raise as much money as possible for Mental Health UK before Hidden Heroes Day on 29th September. Fundraising activities are completed by staff on top of their usual roles. The campaign is going really well so far but there's still time to raise more - and don't forget that there's a prize for the establishment or area that raises the most money!!

Check out Chris McCammon from HMP Kirkham who braved a parachute jump this year for the Charity Challenge, raising over £3000 - well done Chris!!

Don't forget to tag your activities with #HiddenHeroes on social media (following HMPPS social media guidance, of course)

For more information, contact

In this Probation Day video we hear from Gethin Jones, who tells his inspirational story from a life in care and prison to becoming a businessman and entrepreneur.

Gethin spent much of his early life in care and custody, and in this short inspirational film describes how probation staff helped him change.

Gethin now has a company called Unlocking Potential and he works within prisons and probation to improve services.

His main objective is to find solutions on how staff can better support people in prison and on probation to achieve successful outcomes, focussing on humanity and kindness.

Gethin delivers his services through keynote talks, workshops, training, eLearning, and consultancy packages. For more information visit Unlocking the Potential – Gethin Jones.

Probation Journal was established in 1929 and now provides a national and international forum for sharing good practice, disseminating criminal justice research and developing debate about Probation theory and practice.

In this video, Dr Nicola Carr, talks about the history of the Probation Journal, its purpose, structure and how practitioners can get involved.

What does diversity and inclusion mean in today’s Probation Service and how can the HMPPS Staff Networks support those with protected characteristics?

In this video we have a conversation to discuss all of this and more with Staff Network National & Area Leads.

For more information please contact:


PiPP -


Watch the Butler Trust video featuring a few of our hidden heroes talking about what made them join the Probation Service.

For more information on jobs within the Probation Service, please see visit the Prison and Probation jobs website

As part of Probation Day, Professor Hazel Kemshall, a pre-eminent thinker on risk offers her reflections on the future of risk assessment and management within the probation context.

There is a famous adage that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’.  Never was this truer than when applied to the re-unification of the Probation Service.  United to deliver a range of work, but also united to manage a range of risks. 

The recent history of risk management has many lessons for us, but a salient one for probation is that risk operates along a continuum and not as a binary concept of ‘yes/no’ risk, or tiered on easily applied gradations of low, medium, high or very high.  Managing a risk continuum requires not only a unified Probation Service but also highly skilled and competent staff, well able to recognise and manage the many complexities and challenges presented by risk; alert to escalating risk, and subtle changes in situations and behaviours. 

Over the last 20 years or so, the Probation Service has improved its use of risk assessment tools and procedures, and sought to balance the proceduralisation of risk tools with the skilled decision making of staff.  The current Risk of Serious Harm Guidance is a case in point; where well-informed and structured decision making is enhanced beyond the level of merely ticking off risk factors.  It is also increasingly recognised that staff have to carry out very challenging balancing acts, most notably risk and rehabilitation, and risk and desistance.  Such balancing depends upon the exercise of critical reasoning rooted in robust evidence, and an evidential approach to the options for case management subsequently chosen.  The overarching context for such balancing must always be public safety, thus evidencing and deciding that case actions are commensurate with public safety and are proportionate rather than merely precautionary. All risk work is ultimately a balance between risk and rights, protection and integration, desistance supportive work and control, with the appropriate balance tailored to the individual service user. The art of professional practice is the skill to weigh up such balancing acts in a transparent, defensible and evidential way (Kemshall, 2021).

The Probation Service is now well placed to focus on the delivery of a major public good: safety, both for local communities and wider public.  This will require the use of robust evidence on interventions and risk management strategies, continued skill development, and risk assessment tools that genuinely aid decision making in the real world of practice.  The Probation Service needs to embrace a culture of critical reflection that helps staff to weigh up the different options, and when considering risk solutions in the day-to-day challenge of busy practice.  Staff are often challenged to operate at their very best given the inherent difficulties of their working environment.  A shared commitment from staff and managers to foster a culture of critical reflection will best serve the difficult work of risk.  Practitioners work most effectively when they have developed self-management and resilience alongside the skills of problem-solving, emotion management, and self-reflection (Kemshall, Wilkinson and Baker, 2013). 

It has been a long road from ‘advise, assist and befriend’ to walking alongside the offender in their desistance journey towards rehabilitation, reintegration, and to the greatest public good of them all, community safety.  The Probation Service has always shown itself to be adaptable and responsive.  It is important not to dwell on past history, but to use the lessons of history to inform the future.  The key lesson here is ‘push on’ and do what the Service has always done, work with those who have committed acts of criminality and harm in order to minimize risk for us all.

Professor Kieran McCartan, University of the West of England, Bristol is a renowned researcher into the origins and causes of sexual offending and social responses to sex offenders. He has developed a wide ranging multi disciplinary network around sex offender management and reintegration.

As part of Probation Day, Kieran will discuss how probation works within the context of the socio-ecological model, how well it operates at each level, and some thoughts about how it can best frame, or at least consider, its engagement with the public at the societal level. Kieran will argue that probation needs to be more visible in its working so that its role in bringing together different voices to provide “unity” in the community integration of people who have offended is recognised.

The challenge probation often faces is explaining to people what it is that probation does, and therefore by default what probation staff do. Probation is often the mysterious relation in the triad of criminal justice working (i.e., police, prison, and probation) whereby policing and prison have the more publicly accessible and relatively easily understood roles. The role of probation is to work with people who have committed an offence, to hold them accountable while assisting their integration into the community in a way that promotes desistence and public protection. Which means that probation recognises desistence is a journey which takes time and their role is to facilitate the harm eradication process through controlled risk management, resulting in no more victims.

The challenge that probation faces is how to manage harm reduction in a way which protects the public, creates no more victims, and makes communities safer. Although probation does this successfully, in most cases all the public, and the media, hear about and discuss is those cases where probation fails to manage risk and people reoffend. To successfully manage risk and promote desistence while protecting the community probation staff need to understand the journey of the individual sat in front of them, which emphasises an individualised, “what works”, approach that is grounded in the biopsychosocial model. Probation, therefore, must balance rehabilitation, control, support, safety, safeguarding, and justice in their daily work.

The challenge of community integration of people who have offended, whatever their offence or risk level, is that it’s as much about community safety, public protection, and public relations as is about working with the individual client. How do you balance a person’s risk level with the realities of community life in line with the time and resources that you have? The easy answer is through increased control and surveillance, but the reality is that this approach does not enable the individual to learn to manage their own risk effectively and is very costly. Which means that we need to think beyond just the individual and the Probation Service and how they both manage risk, we must ask how does society understand risk and how do communities manage risk? Crime happens in communities and therefore communities, as well as individuals, have a role to play in preventing offending behaviour. Consequentially, probation needs to look at the whole socio-ecological landscape that it finds itself in to reduce reoffending and protect the public (see Figure 1) more effectively.

The socio-ecological model (Figure 1) argues that all behaviours and actions are caught up in the social landscape we find ourselves in and this landscape is made up of roles, relationships and contexts that effect our psychology and behaviour, restating the old nature vs nurture debate! Hence, a person’s criminal and anti-social actions are not purely because they are “bad”, “evil”, or “mad” they are because of the context that they are in and how that interacts with their biology, psychology, and socialisation. It’s important to state that the recognition that the context that someone is in can be a contributing factor to criminogenic and anti-social behaviour does not excuse or justify that behaviour, rather it gives us a platform to start from in the rehabilitative and risk management process. Also, what it does is offer insights into the ways that we can work together to prevent first time offending in new populations. The important take home is the fact that all behaviours are because of a series of interactions, and therefore if we can change those interactions, we can, over time, change behaviour. Which is why the work done by probation colleagues is grounded in an individualised, “what works” approach that emphasises a biopsychosocial model of behaviour change, through mainly psychoeducational and Cognitive Behavioural approaches. The work of probation colleagues is grounded in a holistic, recovery capital approach that emphases that to understand why someone offends and how they can stop offending, and ultimately to protect the community and prevent further victimisation, then we need to understand them individually and the surrounding context.

Figure 1: The socio-ecological model and its relationship with criminological and ant-social behaviour

Probation works across all levels of socio-ecological model, albeit more clearly and more distinctively at some levels as opposed to others (see Table 1). Traditionally the work of the Probation Service, and broader criminal justice system, is oriented around the individual, interrelationship, and community levels. The work of probation focuses on working with people one-on-one (individual) as well as working with their families, partners, and relevant other people (which can include victims) (interrelationship) in conjunction with partners (community) to plan their integration; but the challenge is how does probation operate at the societal level? Does probation change social and cultural norms around offending behaviour, victimisation, rehabilitation, integration, public protection, and community safety? The challenge is that while probation is working in the background managing the integration of people convicted of an offence into the community that community more broadly, beyond the people impacted by the person with a criminal conviction, do not know what probation does or the impact of their work. Although probation embodies societal values this narrative, and the work that they do does not come across expect when there are issues, challenges, and systematic failings.

Thus, raising the question of where the Probation Service’s message sits at the societal level, how that’s communicated, and how it allows society, as well as all the other levels of the socio-ecological system to understand it.  Is resolving this challenge about reworking the current message through reframing, media engagement, storytelling, a catchy hook, or a reality TV show? Or is it about changing the way that probation thinks about itself in society and the way that it represents society? Probation staff come from communities, work with communities, they are individuals with their own life experiences and interrelations dynamics. They are of society and part of society; therefore, they embody these values, attitudes, and behaviours but must let this narrative and experience shine through in the way that we discuss probation and it’s working.

Table 1: How Probation fits within the different socio-ecological levels

Socio-ecological levelDefinitionExamples of how probation works at this level
IndividualFactors in an individual’s biological & personal history that increases the possibility of becoming a victim or perpetrator of crime.Psycho-educational and behaviour change programs targeted at identifying the individual triggers for offending and facilitating their existence.
InterrelationshipFactors within the individuals’ closest relationships that increases the possibility of becoming a victim or perpetrator of crime.Working with and supporting family members and victims of the preparation to help them understand the offending behaviour and the potential safeguarding challenges and related risk management linked to the ex-offender’s release.
CommunityFactors on the community levels. such as relationships with schools, workplaces & neighbourhoods that may increase an individual’s risk of crime.Probation works in partnership with local communities through 3rd sector organisations, charities, and partner agencies to facilitate the safe integration of people convicted of an offence to the community.
SocietalSocietal or Cultural norms that create an environment that accepts or condones crimeProbation embodies the social and cultural values and norms of England and Wales, emphasising the importance of culture, rehabilitation, restoration, and intersectionality in working with different communities. In doing this they understand that crime maybe a social construct but that its impact is very real for individuals and communities. But is this evident to people outside probation and its working?

The last 18 months have been challenging across the board, but especially in probation with staff managing the realities of how COVID-19 has impacted their working practices, the home life balance, the lives of their people on probation, their families, the victims they support, the partners that they work with, and the communities that they protect. Covid 19 has forced a reconsideration at all levels of the socio-ecological model and probation has had to adapt. Some of these changes have been temporary and some will be more long standing, time, resource, and willingness will show. But as we continue into reunification probation is seeing a period of reflection, rebirth, and growth. Probation is building a new and adapted service that is fit for the new world. Therefore, probation needs to refine how it provides the basis for collaborative working at individual, interrelationship, and community levels that provides the unity needed for community integration. Now we must create the place to inform and deliver that at a societal level.  Probation provides the “unity”, the lynchpin, in community integration and will continue to do so moving forward into the future.

Helen Schofield (Acting Chief Executive of the Probation Institute) provides an overview of the work of the Probation Institute and their interaction with the Probation Service. She provides insight into the range of Position Papers developed by the Probation Institute and the range of events the organisation holds throughout the year.

Kevin Wong is Reader in Community Justice and Associate Director, Criminal Justice, at the Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU), Manchester Metropolitan University. He is responsible for leading the unit’s work on criminal and community justice and voluntary sector delivery of justice services. He has over twenty five years experience in criminal justice as a researcher, policy adviser, commissioner and practitioner. Kevin is Co-Editor of the British Journal of Community Justice, a member of the Advisory Panel on Probation Learning, Director of the Manchester Crime and Justice Film Festival, and Chair of the Criminal Justice Alliance.

As part of Probation Day, Kevin offers some reflections on the Probation Service, what it is and how it is perceived.

For the public at large, the Probation Service is probably the most overlooked and misunderstood of the agencies that make up the Criminal Justice System.

When was the last time that any of us tuned in or more likely streamed the latest noirish (scandi or otherwise) drama about dedicated probation officers with complicated personal lives and intriguing back stories?

Compare this media absence and lack of cultural pedagogy with the proliferation of dramas about the police, judiciary, prisons and lawyers – accuracy notwithstanding.

Perhaps it’s the nature of probation, the job that it does that confounds the public and therefore renders probation something of an enigma?  

In the last issue of the British Journal of Community Justice which he edited before his retirement in 2016, Paul Senior along with other probation academics authored a paper which explored the “essence of probation”.

They adroitly proposed that probation operated: “…in and around four major systems of social organisation – the correctional system, the social welfare system, the treatment system and the community” (Senior et al 2016).

And importantly that:

“If it did not exist, it would be created to provide a means of balancing the need for rehabilitation and reintegration with the requirement to administer court orders and offer a level of public protection and reassurance.” (Senior et al 2016)

What has altered five years on in England and Wales, since the paper was published?

First and most obviously structural change. The unification of probation occurred in June this year - with community rehabilitation company staff joining colleagues in an expanded Probation Service managed in a divisional structure, not unlike the probation trusts which preceded the Transforming Rehabilitation changes (MoJ, 2013).

Secondly, after a decade or more of austerity following the 2008 fiscal crisis, probation has received a jolt of new funding. £300 million since 2019, in part intended to double the recruitment of probation officers in this financial year from the usual annual intake of 600 to 1500 (MoJ, 2021).  This is welcome but perhaps inevitably, as noted by Senior et al in 2016, it is policing and prison which still occupies much of the lion’s share of new funding for law enforcement and justice[i]. A “bigger and better probation” (ibid) may require a greater orientation of spending towards rehabilitation rather than enforcement and prisonisation.

Thirdly, funding aside, what of probation’s role within the correctional system which includes the police, prison, judiciary and courts? Its unique role appears to have returned to the fore.  Of all the criminal justice agencies, probation is the one body which arguably has the key responsibility for building and maintaining effective relationships with people with convictions - over the duration of their engagement with the criminal justice system. No mean task and arguably one that the public fails to fully appreciate.  If one were to select one thing which perhaps captures the essence of probation, it is this – its vital relational role in re-engaging and re-integrating individuals in society.

And what of the staff called upon to fulfil this critical function?  Signalled by a change in language – set out in the Target Operating Model for the new service (HMPPS, 2021) ‘probation practitioner’ is to replace the former terms of ‘offender manager/responsible officer’ and ‘officer’; and ‘sentence management’ to replace ‘offender management’.

While one may have differing views on the extent to which nominative determinism[ii] applies - arguably the shift in language matters - when applied to the staff providing the service as much as to  the users of it.  The re-emergence of ‘probation’ with ‘practitioner’ connects staff to a practice, culture and ethos that is over a century old and importantly is still with us.

As Paul Senior – a lifelong supporter and advocate for probation might have robustly opined:

“Well, what else would you call people who provide probation services but probation practitioners?”

As the inevitable challenges and triumphs following unification unfold it is worth noting that the conclusion to the paper by Paul and his colleagues is largely as valid now as it was five years ago.

“It has been argued that boundaries between this ‘essence’ [of probation] and the four social systems will vary over time, place and jurisdiction. There will always be disputes and debates as this defines the boundaries of probation in any community or, indeed, it poses the question whether something identifiable as probation still exists. This is clearly going to be challenging for all those who have a stake in developing effective, just and fair probation practices over the next few years.” (Senior et al 2016)

And in answer to that question, in this its 114th year: ‘yes’ - probation is still clearly identifiable and ‘yes’ it exists and looks set to grow; and with it, one hopes the potential for it to become better understood by the public and rightly cherished.

[i] At the end March this year, the Home Office reported that 8,771 new police officers had been recruited towards meeting Boris Johnson’s much vaunted pledge of 20,000 new officers by 2023 (Home Office, 2021).  £4 billion of capital funding has been committed to the building of new prisons and expansion of existing establishments to provide 18,000 additional prison places – based on the expected throughput generated by 20,000 new police officers (MoJ, 2020)

[ii] The notion that people are drawn to jobs that fit their surnames.  For example, the long time arboriculturist for Manchester City Council was Mr Leaf.

Darren Thompson is the Resettlement Design Lead for the Probation Reform Programme at HMPPS. In this article written specially for Probation Day, he tells us about a new approach to resettlement and reducing re-offending.

An exciting development in the new probation reform resettlement approach is the Short Sentence Function (SSF), which will be created in each of the 12 probation regions. Consisting of a specialist team of Community Offender Managers (COM), the SSF will receive referrals for all individuals with 10 months or less to serve. This will enable a quicker more-timely offer of support via a fast-tracked route, providing reassurance, direct engagement to identify immediate resettlement needs and pre-release planning requirements.

Our aim is to reduce the rates of recall and reoffending for those people receiving short custodial sentences and in order to identify how we can do this, we have asked probation regions to look at introducing a new way of working, building upon enhanced Through-The-Gate (eTTG) and Offender Management in Custody (OMiC) pre-release work for those people who receive custodial sentences of 20 months or less. National data tell us:

Having a Short Sentence Function will ensure better connection with hard to reach/engage groups who have high levels of recidivism. The support provided builds better trusting relationships which are proven to be key in reducing the risk for both men and women being released from custody. There will be an additional focus on those cohorts who receive a disproportionate number of short prison sentences including women who, due to the geographical spread of the women’s estate, are often a distance from home.

The SSF will rely on specialist probation practitioner skills, bespoke intervention services and intensive community work with people on probation. The function will prioritise a flexible and responsive approach to managing people in prison and on probation, with an emphasis on dynamic risk management and professional judgement. A key role of the function will be to build effective and productive working relationships with all involved in sentence management, including Prison Offender Managers, where appropriate, to avoid duplication and Commissioned Rehabilitative Services (CRS) providers, to ensure the resettlement needs of people are met. 

Working collaboratively to develop and coordinate a release plan for each person leaving prison, the SSF staff identify pre-release requirements, with COMs making a referral to CRS providers via a digital “refer and monitor” tool, enabling direct enhanced post-release support and assistance for people on probation to attend appointments.

The Probation Reform Programme (PRP) Resettlement Design Team are taking the learning from the early SSF adopters in Wales and Yorkshire and the Humber Probation Regions to develop a national framework. This will further support Regional Probation Directors with the design of their approach to the SSF and their subsequent model of delivery.

The SSF will be rolled out across all probation regions during 2022.

[1] Office for National Statistics (January 2020), Proven Reoffending Statistics Quarterly Bulletin, England and Wales, January 2018 to March 2018, Ministry of Justice, Crown Copyright Licence 2020

[2] Office for National Statistics (May 2020), Criminal Justice Statistics Quarterly, England and Wales, Year Ending December 2019 (Annual), Ministry of Justice, Crown Copyright Licence 2020

In this video made especially for Probation day, Dame Vera Baird speaks about the role of the Victims Commissioner, her thoughts on the victim contact scheme and the improvements since the scheme was introduced in 2001. She describes the vital role played by prison and probation staff in a victim’s journey and the broad range of crimes for which victims are support by Victim Liaison Officers.

There is also insight into how the Victim Contact Scheme adapted during the pandemic and what’s been learnt from this period.   For more information visit An independent voice for victims and witnesses - Victims Commissioner

Clifford A Grimason is a the HMPPS Restorative Practice Lead and manager of re:hub - the restorative practice hub for HMPPS. This article written especially for Probation Day relates the story of Restorative Justice and how it came to have a place in modern probation practice.

Restorative justice is a process whereby parties with a stake in a particular offence come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future.

As we look back over a hundred years of probation, it’s perhaps surprising to realise that restorative work has been an intrinsic part of the Service for the last four decades. The use of family group conferencing by social workers supporting families in the 1970s helped inspire social work trained probation officers in Canada and Britain to take a similar approach in the criminal arena.

In the mid-1980s the Home Office sponsored four ‘reparation scheme’ pilots to explore how victim needs might be better met. These restorative pilots helped grow understanding about victims’ need for information and in turn led to the Victim Contact Scheme and the victim liaison work now well established in probation today. Under the Victims’ Code, victims now have a number of rights to be kept informed, including about RJ process, and access to MOJ-funded RJ services where appropriate.

Through Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, RJ was delivered as an intervention by Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and probation staff in some CRCs such as London and Wales took the opportunity to develop probation RJ work further. Now probation staff involved with RJ, whether recently working in CRC or National Probation Service, are together again in the unified Probation Service.

Two probation staff in particular have lived this unfolding story - Barbara Tudor and Liz Dixon.

Barbara Tudor

Barbara was involved with the initial ‘Marshall’ pilots in the West Midlands in 1986 and continues to be a manager in the Victim Liaison Unit there. Already a winner of the Longford Prize in 2003 for her work on RJ, Barbara’s contribution has been repeatedly recognised in the last few years. She won a Butler Trust Award in 2018/19 and was then presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 Probation Awards. This was followed in 2020 by receiving an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Liz Dixon

Liz Dixon was also recognised in the 2020 Birthday Honours with an MBE. Then the Restorative Practice Manager for London CRC, this was the culmination of long career in probation, innovating and latterly developing RJ programmes. Liz manages the restorative unit for London.

Liz and Barbara are both part of the unified Probation Service and their combined contribution to restorative work is both impressive and fascinating. HMPPS staff will get a chance to hear directly from Barbara and Liz at a Restorative Justice staff event at 12.30pm today - please see the intranet for details.

Of course there are many other officers up and down the country in probation who are long-term restorative practitioners and who have been trained in RJ and use a restorative approach in service. RJ requires a lot of the skills we see generally in probation staff and beyond applying it in mediation or ‘conferencing’, much routine probation work can be informed by a restorative approach.

The strong evidence base we have for RJ is based around acquisitive and violent crime. With all offender management now within one united Probation Service, there is an exciting opportunity for probation to lead in helping make RJ available to those we are confident it will benefit and deliver the outcomes we expect to see.

An effective probation service values knowledge and the ability to use knowledge.

Effective organisations are based upon the intelligence to transform information into ideas… The research into "What Works" offers probation services the opportunity to use information to improve effectiveness. This requires evaluation, research and a commitment to evidence-based practice.’

Chapman and Hough (1998)

The statement above is taken from Evidence Based Practice: A Guide to Effective Practice, which was produced on behalf of HM Inspectorate of Probation just before the turn of the century. While recognising that there had been significant advances in probation research, it was acknowledged that there remained much to learn.

HM Inspectorate of Probation Research Team

For the last five years, I have headed up the Research Team within the Inspectorate. Our primary goal is to continue developing and promoting the evidence base for high-quality probation services. We undertake and commission various research projects, and have been publishing Research & Analysis Bulletins and Academic Insights papers at regular intervals. These research findings are used to help develop our inspection programmes, guidance and effective practice products.

*Please note that the group photo was taken before COVID19 social distancing rules were implemented.

A new evidence resource

As part of our commitment to reviewing, developing and promoting the evidence base for high-quality probation services, we have now launched an area on our website summarising key research findings. There are sections covering high-level models and principles, organisational delivery, the supervision of service users, and specific areas of delivery.

We have designed this evidence resource to be concise, accessible and user friendly, promoting a research/evidence-based culture and an appetite to embrace and learn from research findings. Within the Inspectorate, we start with the principle that probation work should be evidence based or else evidence led. It is a strategic aim of government that probation services should reduce reoffending, while also taking all reasonable steps to keep the public safe. In our view, this is most likely if probation practice is aligned to the evidence base, and if the evidence base grows over time.

Looking ahead

Over the coming months, further sections will be added to the website on specific types of delivery and specific sub-groups. We will then continue to make updates when required to reflect the latest research evidence. In our inspections of probation services, we will continue to assess adherence to the evidence base, its development through evaluation, and how well the learning is communicated.

We are interested in all research which has the potential to develop the evidence base and help drive improvement where it is required. If you would like to highlight or discuss a completed project or research proposal, please contact us at

What is a rehabilitative culture and why is having one so important? Terry Williams, HMPPS Senior Rehabilitative culture Lead explains....

A rehabilitative culture is one where all the aspects of our culture support rehabilitation; they contribute to the prison being safe, decent, hopeful and supportive of change, progression and stopping offending. A rehabilitative culture is not about being soft or always saying yes to people. Instead it is about working in a way that supports the evidence for what can help reduce offending.

A rehabilitative culture not only helps to reduce re-offending. It also helps to make our prisons safer for everyone. It is related to improved job satisfaction and reduced stress. Hope makes people perform better and feel more satisfied, and so has benefits for everyone.


Respectful relationships, a stress reducing physical environment, processes that are fair, the use of FMI skills, encouraging personal development and identity change and leaders that consistently model and encourage rehabilitative attitudes and behaviours are key to having a rehabilitative culture.  The Rehabilitative Leadership Sourcebook is an excellent guide for staff at every level.

Rehabilitative Culture does not undermine Security, which should act as an enabler, not a blocker.  The Security and Rehabilitative Culture Sourcebook is an excellent guide for establishments with a number of suggestions about how to integrate Security and Rehabilitative Culture successfully.

Research shows that when staff feel that they are treated in a way that is procedurally just (fairly) they are more likely to have less stress, sickness absences and burnout, they are less likely to want to leave to job, they have  greater commitment to the Organisation and have better life and job satisfaction.

None of this is complicated and the benefits of having a rehabilitative culture for people who work and live in prisons which include having a safe, decent and fair environment speak for themselves.    

Make sure you also check out the SOCT video interview of  Dr Jamie Bennett, Deputy Director of Operational Security Group in which he talks through the new new Security and Rehabilitative Culture Sourcebook. you can view the video here.   

You can view a great associated video featuring Dr. Jamie Bennett, Head of Operational Security Group at HMPPS here

In December 2020 the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) published an updated Areas of Research Interest (ARI) statement. In this guest blog the Evidence and Partnerships Hub in the MoJ Data and Analytical Services Directorate (DASD) explain how they will use the ARI to engage with a wide range of external partners, to address some of the department’s critical evidence needs. The Evidence and Partnerships Hub supports and enhances MoJ’s research capabilities through collaboration with academic experts, research networks and funders, to address strategic evidence priorities.

What is the ARI?

The ARI initiative is a cross-government agenda that encourages departments to systematically outline their strategic evidence priorities. The MoJ published its first ARI statement in 2018, this has now been refreshed to summarise the priorities for the next three-to-five years. The 2020 ARI is structured in line with the department’s strategic objectives for the justice system and cross-cutting themes that link and transcend these objectives.

The ARI aims to encourage research that cuts across different objectives and outcomes, to develop holistic approaches to analysis and policymaking. Some key cross-cutting themes in the ARI are:

Finally, the ARI sets out how MoJ are keen to engage with researchers working across the spectrum of analytical and research methods, to unlock new insights and to build internal capability.

What are the next steps? How can you get involved?

The Evidence and Partnerships Hub are keen to facilitate collaborations with external partners to fill MoJ evidence gaps. They are instigating a range of activities as part of a targeted engagement programme following the ARI publication, including an academic network, seminars, knowledge echange events, and workshops, as well as supporting the delivery of the pioneering data-linking project Data First.  Data First is unlocking the potential of the wealth of data already generated by MoJ, by linking administrative datasets from across the justice system. Through Data First MoJ are also facilitating researcher access to justice data via the ONS Secure Research Service (SRS). Further information can be found in the Data First guidance.

The Hub are committed to collaborating with external partners to address the priorities outlined in the ARI, including via the Capabilities in Academic Policy Engagement (CAPE) project. They will be reaching out over the next year to discuss the evidence underpinning the ARI and beginning to collaborate on areas of mutual interest. If you are keen to work in collaboration, to answer key ARI questions, the Hub would be very pleased to hear from you.

More information on next steps and Hub activity will be shared over the coming year. In the meantime if you’d like to read more about the ARI it can be found on GOV.UK; or please get in touch with the Hub at

Throughout the pandemic HMPPS has been capturing and sharing lessons learned from our ongoing response to COVID-19.   It is important that we build on our evidence-based approach and seize the opportunity to learn from how we have adapted services. We have been listening to different experiences and perspectives, and have paid attention to the challenges and difficulties for our service users and staff alongside the many examples of positive practice and efforts to do the best in very difficult circumstances

This article focuses on learning in prisons.

Learning has focused on the following priority areas:

These echo many of the challenges we are all dealing with as a wider community, and it is clear that the conditions of imprisonment have added significant complexity and risks on a daily basis. The potential for serious loss of life and instability was clearly identified at the beginning of the pandemic. The relative calm, security and stability in the system and the management of infection have given us the opportunity to learn more about how to run our prisons well, whilst also identifying where things should be changed and improved, and where we need to pay more attention to specific groups.

How are we learning?

We recognise that learning is an ongoing process and that we are learning about complex issues influenced by many factors, not least in the midst of a fast changing public health crisis. We are being careful that we do not over-simplify, or over-generalise, what we have learned so far. We are also aware that new data and feedback are coming in all the time and that this is an evolving process.

This has been achieved by combining the existing evidence base with the work of colleagues and the voice of service users across the system. We continue to draw together multiple perspectives, a wide range of data and information sources. We have tried to minimise the demand on operations by learning from what is being done already before instigating new learning activity. We have been able to hear the voice of thousands of staff and service users.

Externally we focused on evidence from a range of scrutiny bodies and partners, including health organisations. We have also heard emerging findings from consultations undertaken by partner agencies in the voluntary and private sector.

Examples of learning in prisons

Some of the key messages from learning in prison have been:

As a system we have found multiple ways of identifying and sharing positive ideas and good practice within prisons. As the pandemic has continued prisons have used learning from the first wave to;

We have identified where learning will help recovery and progress the prison and probation system; we have been feeding insights into prison safety and wellbeing initiatives, regime redesign, winter planning and ongoing mitigations, Probation recovery, the reform of our culture and rehabilitative environment and efforts to drive more effective partnership working. We are reflecting the strong desire across HMPPS to build back better and to use evidence and learning.

Since the start of the pandemic, we have been bringing you stories about how HMPPS and partners have been adapting services to meet the needs of staff and service users. In our latest blog, we hear first hand from an individual currently serving a sentence at HMP Stocken about his experiences of the pandemic inside a prison and how staff and people in prison have been working together to support one another.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of HMPPS

The InsightsOnline Team Feb 2021

When we entered lockdown none of us within the prison estate knew what to expect.

Here at HMP Stocken we were both uncertain and fearful of the future. What seemed like this rabid new disease was spreading like wildfire all around the world. The byword on everyone’s lips was the dreaded COVID, its tentacles stretching across the globe seeking its next unfortunate host. We prisoners were advised to strap in for the ride ahead. There was a sense of urgency and apprehension in the voices of management which told us that something very different was unfolding.

What we have experienced however throughout this COVID period has been a togetherness formed by the highs and lows which shaped a positive path through these difficult times.

At the beginning of lockdown, myself and several other prisoners were asked by management if we would be prepared to take on what was described as a significant role. We were to be known as ‘COVID reps’ and would be the direct line between the prisoners on our individual wings and management. Our Governor, Neil Thomas, recognised very early that lockdown would have a detrimental impact to the Stocken community, particularly its prisoners. He decided that it would be a good idea to have members of our peers whose role it would be to attend COVID meetings alongside staff and Governors as direct prisoner representatives.

Our involvement is to receive information relating to the COVID situation, including infection rates in the wider community as well as within the HMP estate. We also share ideas (some of which have been adopted) towards the implementation of the most effective prison regime possible within the limitations enforced by the need for COVID safety. Operational and logistical information regarding the continued running of the prison is freely shared with us as far as reasonably possible (with an obvious eye on the need to preserve the integrity and security of the prison) in a way that pre-COVID would not have been offered. A consequence of this is that the men who we feed information back to feel informed and valued which does wonders in terms of prisoner cooperation. We display the minutes from each meeting on wing noticeboards where the men can read the information. For those who may have problems with reading we inform them by speaking to them individually. Any subsequent suggestions or concerns received we are able to take back to meetings for consideration.

As expected, the impact on the prison community was quite severe. There were visible signs that the mental health and general wellbeing of many of the men was deteriorating as a result of extended periods locked in cells. The majority of the men found it difficult to cope as they had not had to deal with this type of incarceration before. Staff also began to feel the effects of a restricted and stressful prison regime. We reps were able to help by working alongside them in supporting the other prisoners. Many prisoners complained of feeling more isolated and cut off than usual which added to their depressed, insecure state. We found that the COVID reps system helped to alleviate some of those feelings of isolation. Being a point of contact we are able to provide access to information regarding the developing situation which is relevant to them and we are available throughout the day.

Very quickly, we as a community understood the benefits of working together. Prisoners had to learn to trust staff in ways that we may not have done before. We had to trust them to deliver what they said they would, much of which were novel provisions like purple visits and the £5 phone credit, installation of wing barbers and the treat bags provided at meal times twice weekly. Staff also had to invest in a new kind of trust in us, for example, allowing us greater access to information in much more direct ways. We were also given considerably more autonomous and inclusive roles which contributed immensely toward the efficient running of the prison regime throughout this difficult period.

This new-found trust took courage from prisoners to be able to look within to that better part of ourselves, from staff who were willing to step outside of long held entrenched practices and from Governors open to trying new ways of working with/alongside prisoners. This development of trust paid off and the men are more willing to accept any necessary ongoing restrictions placed on the prison regime.

During the hardship of COVID the Stocken prisoner community is experiencing the very real concept of enduring loss. For many, this may be the first time that they have known the feeling of loss that those affected by crime go through. In part, an expression of that experience motivated us to do our bit to support others in getting through these testing times. We felt it would be a positive idea to focus on others as opposed to our own individual need. One of the men raised money for a charity organisation through a sponsored exercise challenge. The prison also set up a sponsored walk during exercise periods called ‘walk the line’ which raised a substantial amount of money. The money raised went to a local elderly care home to allow them to purchase much needed equipment such as tablets for video contact with family and relatives in the absence of regular social visits due to the COVID climate.

On a personal level, my goal was to try and find the positives that could come out of the COVID situation. As a community we had to pull together like never before, so it seemed like a good time to examine our shared values. Had we paid enough attention to the unselfish things that really mattered just as much as the things we wanted for ourselves? Had we cared enough about others or tried to develop a more reciprocal community spirit? I spoke about this at one of our COVID meetings and asked that we look at doing something to promote this idea. Following this, one of the Governors approached me and we discussed the creation of an action group.

Between myself and residential Governor Hussey, Elle Blyth and Lindsay Beadnall of the Equalities department we set up an initial group session where both prisoners and staff were invited. The purpose of the meeting was to outline the aims and intentions of the proposed group. We discussed how it would progress and also what the group would be called. It was decided that the group would be the ‘change forum’ and would have a suitable vision statement. We held several of these exploratory meetings until the shape of the group itself eventually came together.

We decided that the group would look at the staff/prisoner relations in all departments and how we could treat each other better. As a group it was felt that if staff and prisoners had better working relationships they would serve the long term interest of the prison more effectively. This meant examining how we could understand each other better and the resolution of conflict wherever possible, without the need for complaint procedures, IEP warnings or adjudications.

The group had to be able to have difficult conversations and we agreed that we would be prepared to have them. It was not an easy process, but we made the right progress and the group now holds regular monthly meetings. I was recently voted co-chair of the group along with a member of staff. Trustee positions will shortly be appointed to a number of prisoners who will be responsible for collating and disseminating relevant information. We also intend to develop a system of mediation for the prisoners who may feel the need to complain. The idea is to allow both parties to sit down together and discuss any issues or to resolve the situation avoiding the need for formal complaints if possible.

Throughout COVID, we at HMP Stocken have been fortunate to have a forward thinking Governor and Management team who have ensured that measures were taken to give the utmost protection from the effects of COVID. We have learned as a community that it is easy to become despondent, especially as prisoners when faced with challenging situations but a positive attitude goes a long way defeating despair.

HMP Stocken, as a community, can be proud of its achievements. We have seen what can happen when we genuinely work together. We came to realise our shared aims which has given us a new vision for the future based on mutual understanding, trust and togetherness.   

On 12th February 2021, we are delighted that Professor Ben Crewe, along with Dr Susie Hulley and Dr Serena Wright, will be delivering a InsightsOnline event about their research into the experiences of those serving life sentences. In our latest guest blog, Professor Crewe provides us with some background to this research and some thoughts on how individuals can be supported in prison.

To attend the event on 12th Feb, please click here.

For several years, along with my colleagues Dr Susie Hulley and Dr Serena Wright, I have been researching the experiences of men and women serving very long sentences from an early age. Our research has led to a number of publications, including a book (Life Imprisonment from Young Adulthood: Adaptation, Identity and Time) which summarises all of the findings from the study:

In all research projects, there are some participants who stick in the memory for longer than others. In 2013-14, when we were interviewing lifers in a range of establishments across the prison estate, I was especially affected by a long interview with one man, Alfie (a pseudonym), whose circumstances felt particularly dire. Like many of the men and women in our study – given tariffs of fifteen years or more, when aged 25 or under – he had been convicted under joint enterprise, and given a minimum sentence that was almost as long as the number of years he had been alive. He disputed his guilt, but had come to realise that his options for challenging his conviction and sentence were extremely limited and were unlikely to be successful.

Facing many years of imprisonment, Alfie felt almost completely hopeless about his future and struggled to make it through each day, reporting bouts of very severe depression. He was physically small and timid, and although he did not feel especially unsafe, his fear and despair about the years of imprisonment that awaited him were palpable. Among the few sources of meaning in his life were art, which provided him with a creative outlet and a means of psychological escape, and the budgerigar that he was allowed to keep in his cell, but his overall outlook was bleak.

In the intervening years, I have often wondered about Alfie and how he has adjusted to his sentence. In our study, we deliberately sampled individuals at different sentence stages, to help us better understand how the experience of ‘doing life’ varied according to the amount of time served. The majority of the people we spoke to who were within the first few years of their sentence were, like Alfie, in a fairly dire psychological state. Most felt that they had no control over their life; few could envisage a meaningful future; the majority were ‘drowning’ in emotions, of anger, bewilderment and shame.

Those who were further into their sentence tended to have found ways of coping, rather than simply surviving, often through finding meaning and self-understanding through education, faith and therapy. They had come to realise the importance of trying to build some kind of life within prison, even though the opportunities for making friendships and finding some kind of everyday purpose were limited. But these men and women were also aware of how much they had missed out on life i.e. on key years in their 20s and 30s, when most people put down roots, develop long-term relationships, start families and build careers.

An increasing number of men and women are in the same situation as Alfie: entering prison when relatively young, and facing sentences that are much longer than were typically given out a generation ago. Tariff lengths for murder have increased significantly in recent years, and the current direction of sentencing reforms means that any change in this situation is very unlikely. According to the response to a recent Freedom of Information request, that there are now 1,359 men and women in custody with tariffs of 15 years or more, sentenced when 25 or younger, compared to 895 in 2013. The study we conducted, which involved interviews with 146 men and women, and surveys with more than 300, therefore provides important insight into the consequences of these ultimate sanctions, for the men and women who are serving them, as well as for the people and organisations who are managing them in prison as well as in the community.

Ensuring that people in the same position as Alfie are held humanely and given a reason to keep going is now one of the key challenges for the Prison Service. How can life be made meaningful for people facing many years in custody? How can prisons ensure that young lifers entering the system fully understand what their sentence means, including how their current behaviour might impact on their future? What might make the difference, in terms of helping early stage lifers to process their emotions? Among the policies and practices we think might have value are: mentoring schemes, involving late-stage lifers guiding their early-stage peers; the greater use of clinical therapy for lifers coming into the system; improved information about what a life sentence entails; and more ‘generative’ opportunities, i.e. opportunities for lifers to ‘give something back’ to the wider community. We will discuss these ideas in more detail in our talk on February 12th.

In our latest guest blog, Sarah Daniels Project lead in HMPPS Safety Group shares the importance of the Five-Minute Intervention (FMI) in our prisons and an exciting partnership with correctional services in Australia.

What is Five Minute Intervention?

Five-Minute intervention (FMI) is an established training package for HMPPS staff. It builds on interpersonal skills and promotes meaningful conversations with those in our care. All staff have the skills to make every conversation matter. FMI makes us aware of how to best use these skills. Even a brief interaction can make a very big difference.

FMI is a cultural change. It’s neither an overnight quick-fix nor a magic wand. Using FMI to support interactions can build confidence and enable progress towards rehabilitation. FMI contributes to the wider work staff do in prisons which helps:

‘Five Minute Intervention’ does what it says -it isn’t designed as a programme or course but a means of making the often-brief everyday interactions between staff and people in prison more purposeful. FMI encourages conversations to improve behaviour and relationships in prisons as well as focussing on success after release. Emphasis is put on staff asking questions, encouraging individuals to think and resolve issues for themselves and encourage empowerment. FMI is not about having more conversations; it is about having those conversations in a more effective way. FMI helps staff turn their everyday conversations with those in their care into opportunities for change.

We should use FMI in all our interactions. It may be saying “good morning” to someone as they come onto a landing, asking how their visit was, encouraging individuals whilst escorting them to work and importantly during Key Work sessions. Part of using FMI skills is about identifying the best time to use them– using emotional intelligence to know when someone will be more receptive and which skills suit the situation. It also means knowing when to back off and give people space and return to the situation later.



Progressing from a project at HMP & YOI Portland commencing in 2013, an initial pilot was extended to a further 10 prisons then rolled out nationally across the prison estate in 2016.  FMI now underpins Key Work training for officers as well as supporting the introduction of Physical Safety initiatives such as Body Worn Video Cameras.  It is therefore included as part of the initial curriculum when new officers are being trained.  Staff attend a two-day group training session to encourage discussion and reflection. The aim is to provide staff with a range of skills to help turn their everyday conversations into opportunities for change by coaching and enabling people in prison to identify and resolve issues for themselves, commit to change and engage with rehabilitation.

Most staff already have a lot of great interpersonal skills and the training raises awareness of how these can be used to best effect and further developed. Providing staff with training and the right tools helps to create a protective and supportive environment for everyone who lives and works in our prisons. We know that one of our most effective tools in managing people safely are the interpersonal skills of our staff which is why new tools we introduce follow FMI and Keyworker rollout at establishments, recognising the enhanced relational skills these provide to our staff.

The experience of staff

Listening, building trust and confidence, giving people hope and rolling with resistance are just some of the FMI skills that staff can draw upon in these challenging times. One of the main things we have had to communicate effectively are the processes being put in place during the pandemic -this is where FMI and Procedural Justice go hand in hand. Our role to rehabilitate and keep people safe has continued and having effective and proactive conversations has never been more important.  HMP Risley for example have continued to run COVID-safe Key Work sessions and Officer John McCrea was commended for his good use of FMI skills during his conversations with individuals inside and outside of Key Work sessions. John noted simple, but effective use of FMI skills in his interactions, for example, he concluded a Key Work session by thanking the individual for their time. He also included things such as “while we walked over, we chatted about his release date next month” and “when he finished his call, I asked if everything was well and he told me about his family and friends.”

Staff have responded positively to the FMI training and the benefits of using it with special thanks to HMPPS Delivery Manager Kim Hocking for her hard work supporting the training and gathering many of the staff interviews:

"It saves time and reduces conflict." - Officer Nathan Jones, HMP & YOI Lincoln

"Many staff bought into FMI - we've always had a good reputation for building rapport with the people in prison and FMI really works. The training received good feedback; it provoked thought. The establishment have been delivering reduced levels of COVID-safe key work which our Governor, Mr Yates, recognises as still essential work, even during COVID." - Lee Hellings, Safer Custody Manager, HMP & YOI Lincoln.

FMI and beyond!

FMI is an evidence-based approach and since the publication of the evaluation we have received increasing interest from around the globe. Most recently New South Wales prisons in Australia have progressed to rolling out FMI to 7 prisons, contributing to one of the NSW Premier’s priorities to deliver a prison environment which enables rehabilitation. 10 Training Managers have been recruited and now delivered FMI training to over 1000 staff. Equipped with the training manuals supplied by the England and Wales prison service, the team spent two weeks learning the material, gathering resources, developing videos and scheduling training. Australian colleagues benefitted from the support of the HMPPS Delivery team during the roll out with manager Kim Hocking being particularly flexible joining WhatsApp groups at 11pm!  It was a very quick turnaround to bring a team of people together from various backgrounds within Correctional Service New South Wales (CSNSW) but the team very soon came to value each others’ diverse skill sets and how to best to use them.

Word of mouth from staff that have participated in the training has seen more people eager to attend. There have also been several occasions where sites have requested prioritisation for training to assist with culture change. Training has also been delivered to a team of senior executives at their request and the feedback was very positive. Members from the Corporate Research, Evaluation and Statistics branch also requested training to gain a better understanding of the programme. They participated on site with front line staff. Inclusive Leadership training has been refined and continues to be delivered to local leadership teams. This is a really positive reflection of just how relevant the skills are in a range of custodial settings.

We recognise that keeping FMI current is important and requires effort, which is why it has become an established part of our work to improve safety and we continue to update and improve our materials. The manual has had a full revamp, new posters produced and a really helpful infographic that gives quick prompts to each of the skills.

Further Reading

Effective prison officer – prisoner relationships

A summary of evidence relating to how the prison officer - prisoner relationship can support rehabilitation.

Analytical Summary 2017

Prisoners’ perceptions of care and rehabilitation from prison officers trained as Five Minute Interventionists

InsightsOnline is pleased and indeed proud to continue its association with Care Leaver's week by introducing some amazing work being done in the North East Prison Estate by NEPACS to support care leavers in custody. Please read on, learn and be inspired!

Following Lord Farmers final review in 2017 one of the key recommendations was that:

Governors should be intentional about ensuring all prisoners who do not have family or other support – for example if they have been in the care system – are helped to form relationships with people outside or peers inside.

In July 2018 Nepacs were awarded an HMPPS innovations grant to deliver a pilot project in two north east prisons, HMPYOI Deerbolt and HMPYOI Low Newton, engaging and supporting care experienced prisoners.

The aims of the project were to improve contact with their local authority personal advisers, families, carers and significant others; and to improve resettlement outcome by supporting this group of young people to feel more connected to their communities.

Alongside one to one support throughout their sentence and planned release, long term aims included co-producing a programme with the young people which focused on issues that are important to them. These included:

When I took up my post in October 2018 one of the main areas of concern was the identification of care experienced prisoners.

At HMPYOI Deerbolt, governors felt the demographic was around 5% of the population.  

However we also knew that care experienced young people are statistically over represented in within the criminal justice system. This is why the project was commissioned and why as project workers we realised the importance of “getting it right”.

Government statistics published in 2019 reported that: Care leavers are estimated to represent between 24%2 and 27%3 of the adult prison population. This is despite less than 1%4 of under 18s entering local authority care each year

It quickly became clear that this number was underestimated and following work with OMU, staff and local authorities many more young people were identified. Within a few months we had 128 care experienced prisoners in our population of 472.

Once we had developed a procedure for recording each care experience prisoner upon reception I began by contacting all of the care experienced prisoners and explaining what the project was about and how I could support them.

In the beginning I was greeted by mixed attitudes ranging from despondency at their situation and lack of support, to shame and embarrassment when talking about their childhood experiences and crimes.

One young man in particular described how he had been “in care” from an early age due to his parents being drug dependant, leading to them being unable to take care of him or his siblings.

He went on to explain that having 54 placements in 8 years, ranging from foster care to care homes and finally secure residential schools, he found it difficult to trust people or make relationships and that he suffered with mental health and anxiety issues.

Although grateful for my support he didn’t think he would achieve anything and wouldn’t have anything to offer in group work or with the co-production a programme for other care leavers.

I explained to him that by sharing his experiences with me I had recognised that he was the expert not me and therefore had exactly what I needed to help me develop the project.

Another young man explained that although he was in the north east, his only family support (his sister) and his local authority young people’s adviser, were based in his home county on the south coast.

He went on to say that he felt he wasn’t deserving of support as he was a prisoner and was ashamed that he had resorted to crime following his family breakdown. I discovered that he had never had a visit in the last three years and that he was concerned that coming up to release he would have lost all ties with his local community.

I was able to contact the local authority for him and remind them of their obligations to him. 8 weekly visits were established along with support in letters to and from his sister and grandmother.

Following many one to one support sessions those important ties were re-established and he grew in confidence. His self-esteem even improved enough to enable him to represent other care experienced prisoners by speaking to visiting HMPPS professionals and sharing the difficulties that care experienced prisoners encounter.

He informed our practice whilst he was with us and continues to do so now in the community. Following his planned release we were able to ensure, with the support of his LA and COM that he had his own accommodation and he went on to secure a job.

He remains in touch with us and continues to support the project by speaking at care leavers conferences and raising awareness through various forums.

He has a lasting legacy at Deerbolt by inventing the phrase “ every jail needs a Gail” which to this day is repeated by our care experienced prisoners on a regular basis and fills me with pride every time I hear it.

The last two years have been a constant learning curve. Although I have worked with young people for almost 30 years, some of the life stories I have heard and the adversity many of the care experienced young people have had to overcome, has been both inspiring and heart breaking in equal measure.

I have come to understand that being part of a gang for some young people is they only way they were able to feel “wanted and part of a family.” Gaining the security and love amongst their peers that was lacking in their personal lives.

One young man described how he was first approached at 8yrs old by an older local lad,

“He noticed that my trainers were falling apart and offered to buy me some new ones, it made me feel wanted and cared for.” “He would come to my house when my mum was out of it on drugs and bring me food.” He described how being the youngest member of the gang when he was given “jobs to do” made him feel important and a “somebody.”

We have had many heated discussions mainly around him challenging my feelings that he was groomed and his beliefs that although the situation ended tragically, he was “looked after” during that time - although he is adamant he will never return to it.

As I explained we had clear and concise aims at the start of the project, but how it developed and progressed went way above our expectations. Not only did the young people embrace it they took ownership of it, especially around co-production.

 They freely shared ideas in group work session that were supportive and inspiring they “told” us what was needed in the programme and made sure every module was engaging and fun.

Not only did they help design the modules they chose the art work and colours used on the course materials.

The end result is the “Paving the Way” programme which covers all of the issues professionals thought it was it was important to focus on, along with the ideas the care leavers came up with. It includes profound exercises looking at relationships and practical things, for example measuring for curtains or cooking on a budget.

The original young people who helped develop the programme now assist with delivery to their peers, ensuring that they understand how important their input was to the process and allowing them to see how their hard work supports other and that they truly are experts by experience.

The final piece of development work again came from an idea put forward by the young people.

Following the completion of the grant funded project in March 2020 and the inability to secure any additional funding, Nepacs agreed to fund my post for a further 6 months while the prison continued to explore options. I explained to the young men that although I would be still in post, unfortunately my capacity to support would be reduced.

This is when they came up with the idea of peer mentors. Two care experienced prisoners on each wing, trained in listening skills, confidentiality and care leavers entitlements, who would be supervised by myself and would provide first contacts for any care experienced prisoner, hand out information leaflets and refer to me on their behalf of their peers where necessary.

We worked with reducing reoffending and activities, drawing up guidelines and a job description, along with a pay scales. Although the young men said wages weren’t a priority, I felt it was important that it was seen as employment, not only to provide accreditation but also to instil in them the importance of the role.

Post Covid we were almost ready to go live with the programme but unfortunately due to the restriction in regime, things have been delayed slightly but our first two mentors are being launched next week which is very appropriate being national care leaver’s week.

Covid has brought us all many challenges, however we have kept ourselves busy liaising with local authority colleagues and facilitating small socially distanced support groups, art workshops and poetry competitions.

Surprisingly many of our care leavers have enjoyed “lock down” as they have explained:

 Not having to move around the prison when at times they may have felt vulnerable or threatened, not having to attend education when due to their educational experiences they feel anxious about being in a classroom environment and not having to physically sit across the table to visitors asking numerous questions and increasing their feelings of anxiety and inadequacy.

Purple visits have allowed them to speak to people remotely, given them the control to end the conversation when they have felt overwhelmed and to see a beloved pet, grandparent or significant other who would never have been able to travel in person.

We are however all looking forward to once again starting group work session and developing new links with outside agencies like the princes trust which will support not only through sentence but more importantly upon release.

Engaging with our experts by experience now in the community, supporting them in having a voice and sharing their expertise with professionals, continuing the legacy of the original project.

This week InsightsOnline brings you something special as part of National Care Leaver's Week. Tusnyme "Tee" Ghilani is a care leaver and former prisoner who has excelled following her release and is now reading for a Criminology degree. Read on for her truly authentic, inspiring and thought provoking blog which takes us inside the hugely challenging world of young adults who leave care, struggle and then find themselves in the prison system.

I didn’t know what it meant to be a care leaver. As far as I was aware, I was just an abandoned child who was constantly being passed around by different systems. It started with the parental system which wasn’t very effective, so I moved on to the care system where I was repeatedly passed around care and foster homes. Then finally, I fell into the criminal justice system, further isolated and separated from society when my behaviour became uncontrollable. As a care leaver, I already associated bad behaviour with being removed from placements. So, arriving in prison at the age of 19 I didn’t care, because you don’t understand the impact of that metal door closing on you and being all alone with only your thoughts.

Throughout my time under social services and the leaving care team I had many different workers which could be frustrating. This can be the case for many different reasons - breakdown in relationships, probably a bit to do with my bad behaviour and possibly lack of staff to maintain caseloads. All of these factors led to at least some of us as care leavers building up a very negative image of workers from that sector. However, being a care leaver in custody is the perfect time to work on the relationship between personal advisers and care leavers as they are in a stable environment where progress and goals can be monitored by all the people involved in the young adult’s care. During my time in custody I started to become more aware of the issues around services provided to care leavers in custody. It quickly became apparent that many care leavers in custody feel that because they are in custody and not actively causing an issue, that they become lost and forgotten within the system.  Creating that stable environment with active support throughout their custody journey can have a very positive impact on prison community morale as well as teaching the young adult how to have meaningful interactions.

When a relevant or former relevant child enters custody, the leaving care service still has a duty of care and is required to continue pathway planning. They should also have seen the young person within 10 days of them being in custody. This is so important as it just gives the young adult a familiar face to interact with during their first few weeks as this can be the time that is especially scary and overwhelming. You also have to remember during this time most other inmates would have had contact with their family members which is something care leavers don’t always have the luxury of being able to do. If involved early, the responsible local authority can then begin to work with the criminal justice services to support the young person emotionally, practically and financially whilst in custody and heading towards release.

The prison’s approach to dealing with the care and development of care leavers is something that is constantly evolving and the more the support needs of care leavers are understood and explored, the better the outcomes will be. My own experience is limited to only two female prisons however I found that the peer advisor system was particularly effective when working with care leavers as they sometimes felt more comfortable approaching groups of their peers than members of staff. Peer support are also able to provide a more constant level of help as they are integrated within the prison and are there from day to day, whereas a particular member of staff may not be. Also, care leavers can be incredibly reserved about declaring their care experience due to the negative connotations being in care holds. However, I was privileged enough to see an abundance of real relationships and support networks being formed between care leavers who shared a common path and staff members who became role models and people to aspire to rather than individuals solely there to carry out our ‘punishment.’

Being a ‘care leaver’ comes with a stigma attached that is usually negative, so when asked the question on entry to custody if they have any care history you will find they rarely disclose willingly. Another reason they are not forthcoming with this information is due to their sometimes, shaky relationship with people in authority. Getting people to be more forthcoming with this information is something that is always going to present as a problem, but I once again recommend that staff use the peer system to encourage this. Engaging help from other care experienced individuals seems be very effective. Also, taking time to explain to the young adult exactly why the question is being asked will help. If they were made aware it was to better support them and identify key people involved in their progression, they would be more laid back about divulging key personal details. Some young adults are already defensive due to the situation they find themselves in and may only become more so when questions surrounding their care experience are approached. It is important for all prison staff to try and understand care leavers and adapt their approach when working with them.

The role Leaving care workers play within a young adult’s rehabilitation process is incredibly important. In my case it was the first time I had been isolated away from all the negative influences in my life and was finally thinking clearly about the direction I wanted my life to take. This provided the perfect opportunity for my leaving care worker to have new conversations with me about my personal development and ideas that I perhaps wouldn’t have been open to hearing had I not ended up in custody. My view is that there are also a lot of improvements to be made to the accommodation provided for care leavers on release. This could possibly be the most important part of a care leavers rehabilitation. For the period of their incarceration they were provided with a stable ‘home setting’ devoid of chaotic day to day life pressures. If they are then released to accommodation which doesn’t add to and encourage that development and stability, all that hard work and progress that was made whilst in custody has to start all over again.

Prison can provide an understanding and nurturing environment for the care leaver and positive progress is still being made on this. However, we must ensure that this support doesn’t immediately stop when they move through the gate. That constant level of care, being able to approach someone at any point, that constant safety net must not be removed all at once with no follow through. The preconceived ideas care leavers have about finally being released can be clouded by excitement and we rarely take the time to consider how daunting the process of a fresh start can be. Care Leavers probably require even more hands on post release support than they themselves could foresee.

Being back in the community, I had so many ideas of what I wanted to achieve, but no idea of how to go about doing so. There are a lot of things to be taken into account such as financial dependency, organising and running a house hold and also the difficulties having a criminal conviction can present. It is very important to build good relationships with your probation officer as they support your applications and advocate on your behalf as they have done for me many times when faced with adversity. However, of all people released from custody, I believe care leavers are amongst the most vulnerable of individuals, with many of them ending up back on the street, returning to bad associations or in some cases returning to abusive partners as they have nowhere else to go. I ask all professionals to please be mindful of this when dealing with us. People involved in my care learned that as a care leaver I really struggled to ask for help even when I desperately needed it. In order to help me the best way they could, they often checked in even if I didn’t and wouldn’t take ‘I’m fine’ as my final answer. Sometimes care leavers need a bit of a push before they will voice concerns.

Throughout my life, I haven’t been able to identify positive role models and have a bad habit of looking for that role model in negative people. However, during my time in custody I was surrounded by so many positive role models. For the first time, members of staff who only knew me due to a crime I had committed, believed in me and that I had the potential to achieve so much more. The staff provided me with a clear environment for growth and development and supported me every step of the way. I am an incredibly ambitious individual with dreams most of society would believe not to be possible for me. But the prison staff I encountered and who were paramount in my rehabilitation never let me stop reaching for the stars and adapted my care plan to ensure I was fulfilling these goals. If it wasn’t possible me to achieve something immediately due to being in custody, they looked for alternative ways for development or alternative solutions. These members of staff continue to have a positive impact on my life even after release, either directly or indirectly and have provided me with not only the skills to achieve but the hope that it is possible.

As prison staff, for most people in custody you will be their first port of call and be the people who interact with the individuals the most. Therefore, the care and time you give, particularly to care leavers, listening to their troubles and dreams goes a long way towards them having a ‘can do’ mind-set on release. Even on my bad days, I remember the staff from OMU, the safer custody teams and all the brilliant external agencies I was able to interact with while in custody who gave me back my voice. When I first entered custody, for a long time I was very reserved. I hardly interacted at all as I was very broken-spirited. But going to prison was the saving grace that I so desperately needed as I then was guided and championed into becoming the successful adult I am today.

Through all areas of the criminal justice system I have had the pleasure of interacting with a range of staff. Prison officers, Probation workers and local authorities individually do amazing work, but I feel a more inclusive and coordinated programme of support needs to be given to care leavers. From my own experience there is sometimes a lack of communication between supporting agencies. A lot of care leavers leaving custody, like me, choose to move to a different area of the country for a fresh start. However, this is one of the hardest tasks you can attempt and a more full-on care plan and interaction is necessary because if you’re anything like me, I struggled to ask for help and found myself suffering in silence at many points. There are many different ways to bridge gaps in communication between agencies, but I definitely recommend having all parties together either electronically or face-to-face prior to the young adult’s release. This ensures everyone is aware of the role they are playing within the care leavers rehabilitation as well as giving professionals enough time to carry out any remaining tasks before the young person’s release.

On entry to custody, I had a very single-track mind, I was there for punishment and I had every expectation of returning to the life I led before custody. I never imagined that people who were essentially strangers would see something different in me. Yes, I already had the passion, but without the platform and support I don’t think it would have been a reality. It wasn’t something I was able to do alone and thankfully I wasn’t, despite my pre-conceived ideas surrounding prison staff. You never know the impact you will have on another person’s life. Something as simple as a little time out of your day can become a lost young person’s redemption.

“When I lost my job during the lockdown, his abuse got worse. He got more controlling. I had no access to money. He stopped me talking to my daughter. I felt trapped and alone.” Natalie

Lockdown has seen a surge in domestic abuse reports like Natalie’s. During the six months of lockdown, police received a call about domestic abuse every 30 seconds[i]. Calls to domestic abuse helplines have also rocketed.

Before Covid-19, one in four women and one in six men would have been a victim of this abuse in their lifetime[ii]. But the restrictions placed on people’s movements, coupled with the stress and strain of increasing numbers of job losses, has sadly piled pressure on already unhealthy relationships and contributed to the level of abuse at home that victims are now reporting across the UK.

With domestic abuse causing victims long-term mental and physical trauma, society cannot stand by and allow more frequent, more severe and more dangerous incidents of abuse to continue.

We must break down barriers because this type of abuse is happening in all our neighbourhoods, to people we know. Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of ethnicity, religion, income, age, gender, sexuality or social background. It’s a stark reminder that someone you sit next to in the office, a person you pass in the street, a friend or family member could be suffering at the hands of an abuser.

We have seen in the news recently that even high -profile figures can be perpetrators and victims of abuse. With their responsibility as role models, there should be no free passes for famous people who abuse their partner.

Spotting the signs

Sometimes the signs abuse is happening are clear. You may have heard arguments or constantly raised voices coming from your neighbour’s house, but other times it’s not easy to spot. Individuals who carry out this type of abuse can control every aspect of a victim’s life, such as their money, who they see, what they wear or where they go.

As lockdown measures began to ease, some victims have come forward to ask for help. But the truth is that post-lockdown may have only been a momentary pause in the intensity and cycle of abuse some victims experience. Two-thirds of victims still feel unable to seek help because they fear the repercussions of speaking out[iii]. The recent increase in coronavirus cases and the potential for further restrictions may have compounded their anxieties. 

Thankfully for Natalie, her story has a positive ending. While she was on probation for a fraud offence, her probation officer was able to spot the signs of abuse because of the learning and development programmes she went on. She helped her to escape an unhealthy relationship that left her in fear for too long. With our support, she found emergency accommodation. She started a new job and has regained a sense of independence.

But for many others trapped in an abusive relationship, they feel unable to break away or build the confidence to seek help.

In recent weeks, the government has announced more local lockdowns across large parts of the North. Many other communities could face a similar situation nationally. Our society must make sure there is additional support for victims, including a focus on hard to reach groups, so they too can have the courage like Natalie to leave.

While the government has produced guidance to support domestic abuse victims to get help during the pandemic, and provided funding to charities, we must still to do more to help victims seek a place of safety too. We take this responsibility to work together with other agencies and our Police and Crime Commissioner to address domestic violence in our local communities seriously.

Work with perpetrators much-needed too

Supporting victims must always be a priority, but if we want to stop abuse in the first place, we must also work with those who cause harm to change their ways.

Research by Safer Lives found that a quarter of perpetrators in the UK who cause serious harm are repeat offenders – in some cases having at least six victims. But currently fewer than one percent receive a specialist intervention to change.[iv]

Our domestic abuse and stalking programmes give perpetrators the psychological understanding and strategies to avoid turning to coercion, control, violence and intimidation again. By using these newfound skills, the perpetrator can make a positive life-decision and end their abusive past.

Programmes like these that address the way the perpetrator mentally processes the reasons for carrying out such violence and intimidation, cut an individual’s physical and sexual abuse by more than 80%.[v]

It is through these types of interventions we play our role in helping victims when they need us the most. Society must also continue to work together to address these hidden crimes, to prevent more people from becoming victims and to offer those trapped in the cycle of abuse a route to a life free from fear.

Carl Hall is Deputy Chief Probation Officer for Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company.






Around 3 years ago our bakery team at HMP Berwyn had an idea that changed the way we look at prison catering and how we hope to rehabilitate people in prison working for us in prison kitchens in a different way.    Along with a local restaurant group we created The Custodial Pie Corporation early in 2017 and have worked hard ever since developing the project and weaving it into the catering & hospitality pathways inside the prison.  In addition, our ROTL program, in providing realistic experiences and development of individuals' skills in catering & hospitality, is helping the men find employment upon release and integrate back into society.

Berwyn’s multi award winning Custodial Pie Corporation Release on Temporary Licence project is currently producing some of the best pastry products in Wales with locally sourced Welsh ingredients baked by the people working in our bakery in the kitchen.

The project, in partnership with the Dylan’s Restaurant Group, has offered men on ROTL at Berwyn the chance to work as part of a small team both inside the prison and externally in selling a homemade, hand finished food product in a retail setting across Wales. The prison bakery team has also mobilised a pie production process, in line with similar external bakery business, that is developing the existing skills of men working in the prison kitchen. 

The project has won various nationally recognised food based awards and catered for a variety of events with some celebrities and royal clients.  Our plans are to continue over summer 2021 and beyond working at multiple food festivals throughout Wales delivering the message and building up the project with men on ROTL.

Following on from our success, the catering team at Berwyn hope to develop the project into a wider commercial enterprise in 2021. Through the publicity surrounding the project and the awards recognition there has been a great deal of commercial interest in both the story and the products that we sell.  So much so that we have been exploring the possibility of either setting the project up as an external business or working with internal partners in setting up a commercial side of the business using the prison kitchen after hours.  Both ideas will be explored more in coming months this year after successful implement of our additional apprenticeship scheme. 

Our award winning pie products have already had interest from various companies looking to stock the pies and recently Wrexham FC have got into contact to discuss us supplying them on match days.

Berwyn is also exploring partnership working with external charitable partners in creating opportunities for people upon release in setting up their own food retail units.  Market stalls, street food trucks and a range of other small food outlets are being researched, as well as how and where we can access funding to assist in the mobilisation of their own businesses. This will promote business ownership & employment for the men who leave the establishment after working with us on the project in the catering department.  It’s still early days, but hopefully the project will be able to offer indivdiuals a route to owning their own food related business upon release from custody in the next 12-18 months.

Moving into 2021 we hope that, after COVID restrictions lift, we can develop the business further and create a viable business model in delivering our pie based business with both internal bakery operations and with Through the Gate assistance to men who have worked on the project. 

Offering the individuals in the kitchen hope and the potential of their own business upon release is changing the way we work with the men in the kitchen at Berwyn.  Granted, recent events throughout the service have resulted with us having to postpone our plans for 2020 but as soon as possible we will be pushing on to develop the project even further.

After all the hard work over the last few years by the catering team as a whole we were lucky enough to win the Public Sector Catering “Team of the Year Award 2020” this year.   This is a great achievement for all staff & people in prison in receiving the accolade. It’s a team effort to deliver what we do and every member of the team is delighted in receiving the award through delivering our service to the prison.

The award is recognition for everyone who works in the catering department here at Berwyn, staff and people in prison alike and we are proud to be able to continue doing the work that we do in helping change individuals lives for the better whilst they are with us.

Following the devastating but necessary cancellation of the Insights20 Festival in May due to COVID-19, we knew that we wanted to continue to offer opportunities for people to connect across the Criminal Justice System, as this was needed now more than ever.

The response to InsightsOnline has been so great and has made us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but we know there is so much potential to make this resource even bigger and better!

Our aim is to help people who work in the CJS, from big organisations like HMPPS and MOJ, to small, local charities, come together to learn, share ideas, build relationships, and celebrate success. We have a range of free virtual events taking place throughout the year, as well as some brilliant (and often funny) guest blogs, as well as videos and resources. We are incredibly grateful to our hosts and guests who have given up their valuable time for free to bring these gifts to you.

However, providing this service has not been without its challenges. We know that some of you have trouble accessing virtual events and resources due to IT restrictions at work (we are particularly looking at prison colleagues here, some of whom I have seen dial into events from their cars outside the prison gates!). We are also not convinced that we have our communication strategy quite right and would like improve this so we can worm our way into every corner and crevice of the CJS!

We would really value your thoughts and ideas on how we can improve this service. Please complete this short survey before 16th October and help us to help you!

Insights survey

Both our personal and professional lives have changed in so many ways over the last six months. Professionally, instead of being in busy offices and in regular contact with co-workers, supervisors and friends, many of us are working remotely or at a physical distance from other people. It is unclear exactly what sort of long-term impact these new ways of working will have on us or on the people in our care, but there is research we can draw on to help us understand some of those things that could help to protect our psychological well-being during these uncertain times.

Since the start of the pandemic, the HMPPS Evidence-Based Practice Team has been working with the HMPPS COVID-19 central response team to support staff well-being by reviewing and summarising evidence about what we know supports resilience in critical situations.  We also worked closely with NPS London to support the well-being of probation staff who were adjusting to new ways of working as a result of the lockdown and subsequent restrictions.

We identified and reviewed hundreds of peer-reviewed papers.  We also read “think pieces” and summaries by experts, and looked at relevant resources, including those published by the World Health Organisation and the British Psychological Society. We prioritised papers with the strongest research designs: meta-analyses (which combine, statistically the results of many studies), and systematic reviews, (which identify and synthesise the findings of the best quality research relevant to a particular question), but also included smaller scale and qualitative research where is was highly relevant to our area of work – prisons and probation - or to the current context in which we’re working. We explicitly searched for and included studies that tell us something about how people have been impacted by working through previous outbreaks including H1N1 influenza, SARS, MERS and Ebola, as well as one study from China about responses to psychological support offered to healthcare staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a study of social workers living and working in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, which highlighted some interesting considerations about secondary traumatic stress/ vicarious trauma.

We’ve been adjusting to our new circumstances for a while now, so it could be tempting to think that we should all be okay and that things should start to feel more normal. However, we’re still living with a great deal of uncertainty, and that’s hard. We have put together some resources which provide sound, evidence-based ways to look after ourselves and our colleagues. We encourage you to have a read and watch the video, and hope that you find them helpful.

Protecting the Psychological Well-Being of Staff

This short video produced by HMPPS offers helpful tips and insights around how to protect and promote the well-being of staff.

How to detach from work: Protecting your psychological health

The best available evidence indicates that psychological detachment is crucial for recovery from work, helping to replenish your mental resources and protect your well-being. This one-page infographic from the Evidence-Based Practice Team provides some evidence-based tips on how to detach from work.

Protecting the psychological health of staff: Evidence-based tips for managers and supervisors

Research suggests there are a range of potential work-related stressors, which could be exaggerated as staff try to work while living with uncertainty, in new circumstances both at home and at work. Theory and evidence point to a number of possible ways in which to manage these possible stressors. This one-page document from the Evidence-Based Practice Team provides evidence-based tips on how managers, supervisors and leaders can help protect the psychological well-being of staff.

Evidence Resources: Using procedural justice in probation work

Research suggests that procedural justice – feeling that processes are fair – is really important to probation work. For service users, feeling treated in a procedurally just way is associated with less self-reported crime, fewer official arrests and greater compliance with licence conditions. For staff generally, feeling fairly treated is associated with a number of positive outcomes including less stress and burnout, and better job and life satisfaction. This one-page document from the Evidence-Based Practice Team gives some examples of how to use the principles of procedural justice in probation work, and the checklist provides a structure for integrating these principles into communications.

Over the last few years, the Evidence-Based Practice Team (Insights Group, HMPPS) have completed a huge amount of work within prisons and wider HMPPS, to promote the use of evidence around, and develop people’s perceptions of, ‘procedural justice’. 

Procedural justice is a key component of developing rehabilitative cultures in prisons, and has been something all prisons around the country have been working hard to develop.

Procedural justice is all about people feeling they are being treated fairly.  Put simply, when people feel processes are applied and decisions are made fairly, they are more likely to trust authority figures, respect rules and follow them.

This sounds pretty obvious. 

However, in the last few years there has been a lot of research in prisons, and some in probation settings, testing what kinds of things procedural justice effects, and the results really made us sit up and pay attention. 

For example, when people who live in prison feel treated in a procedurally just way, this is related to significantly lower levels of violence, better psychological well-being, and even lower reoffending after release.  For people under supervision in the community it is linked to significantly better adherence to rules and conditions, as well as less crime.  And for staff, it is linked to outcomes like significantly less stress and lower burnout rates, greater commitment to their work, and greater support for rehabilitation rather than punishment for the people in their care. 

The robust research evidence, from our country and from around the world, has acted as a springboard for a vast amount of work to improve procedural justice for everyone in HMPPS.  For example, thousands of staff have attended workshops or training, many individual prisons have incorporated procedural justice into their rehabilitative culture strategies, many people have developed how they communicate to make sure notices and letters include the four principles in the way they are written, and some places have identified specific processes they want to develop in light of the evidence, for example disciplinary adjudications.

To learn more about the research in English and Welsh prisons, you can access a summary of our recent study here.

We have developed a handy infographic summarising the key principles behind procedural justice, which you can download below.


We have also developed the short animated video below, which explains more about procedural justice, including the four principles which influence how fairly we feel we have been treated: voice, neutrality, trustworthy motives, and respect.

I’m delighted to work within a number of English prisons, facilitating collaboratively owned theatre companies in which I and the inmates involved work together to choose, edit, adapt, rehearse and perform Shakespeare plays. The positive impact of creative arts in the criminal justice system is widely known and the physicality of theatre means that it appeals to a wide cross-section of inmates.  I have been working in prisons for a number of years and have the pleasure of being the Artistic Director of The Gallowfield Players in HMP Gartree and Emergency Shakespeare in HMP Stafford. The theatre companies give those involved the opportunity to develop a wide range of transferable skills such as public speaking, working collaboratively, memory exercises and confidence. The rehabilitative benefits of them developing positive autonomy, emotional resilience and a sense of supportive community are significant during their sentences and upon release.

The Gallowfield Players was founded as a theatre company in spring 2018 and since then have produced adaptations of Macbeth, Julius Caesar and The Merchant of Venice. We were beginning the read-through phase for our next play – Sycorax’s Storm when COVID-19 temporarily suspended our rehearsals. The inmates take ownership for everything including script editing, props and costumes, fundraising, inviting dignitaries, programmes, and supporting each other with line learning and rehearsals. The Merchant adapted Shakespeare’s famous play so that it opened with Shylock at the gate of HMP Gallowfield – awaiting his release and considering how society would judge him as a released lifer. His daughter hated him for the missed years and his criminal record made life difficult for him on the outside. Those involved used this play to explore some of the issues which are real for them and their loved ones (many of whom shared in a special Family Day performance of it and who gave a tearful standing ovation at the end).

Emergency Shakespeare began the following year and follows the same model – the group make the decisions and work closely to create productions, with the support and involvement of numerous members of staff (many of whom play roles in the performances and join us for rehearsals). The first two plays were Macbeth (although vastly altered and set in a modern day theatre company where the first death is accidental but from there life spirals out of control) and The Merry Wives of Windsor and the third, Othello, was just being discussed as the pandemic took hold. We have been involved in the Talent Unlocked Festival and were delighted to be part of the Rehabilitative Culture Day in 2019.

During the pandemic I have been writing Activity Packs which have been made available to all prisons (public and private) using the stories and themes from Shakespeare’s plays to encourage creative writing and drawing whilst inmates have been in their cells the majority of the time. These packs take a different play each week and are produced at three levels –

Level 1 – limited literacy or limited use of English – responses are often drawn, language used is very simple. Level 2 – average literacy (can read a newspaper unaided) with slightly more complex language and a mix of activities. Level 3 – higher levels of literacy, using some of Shakespeare’s quotes, inviting creative writing responses.

Rowan Mackenzie is the founder of Shakespeare UnBard and Artistic Director of The Gallowfield Players (HMP Gartree) and Emergency Shakespeare (HMP Stafford.) Both are collaborative theatre companies based in prisons  which work on editing, adapting and performing Shakespeare plays.  She co-own the theatre companies with the inmates in the prisons. All decisions - from choice of play, setting, costumes and adaptations are made collectively and the actors own the process end to end. Throughout lockdown Rowan has maintained weekly communication with prisoner colleagues and in HMP Gartree managed to edit a full length script of an adaptation entitled Sycorax’s Storm (the prelude to The Tempest) through correspondence. Join Rowan for an InsightsOnline webinar on 3rd September and learn more about how this amazing project is making a huge and positive difference to the rehabilitation of men in custody.

Get tickets here

More information about Rowan's work can be found in the following articles

Shocking statistics revealed that domestic abuse has surged since the start of the coronavirus lockdown (Guardian, April 2020).

Sadly, I’m aware that the impact it has had on this type of offending is likely to continue for some time.

To respond, like many organisations, we have had to adapt the way we protect and support victims when risks to them have increased. These risks will continue to rise long after lockdown eases.  Having a job, for example, is a stable factor for many perpetrators of domestic abuse, but damning figures estimate that unemployment is set to triple (Office for Budget Responsibility, July 2020). These stressors strain relationships and unfortunately increase the risk of further abuse.

To respond to these increasing risks, we’ve prioritised seeing known perpetrators of domestic abuse face-to-face and have continued to give victims support through a Domestic Abuse Safety Advisor. But the sad reality is that domestic abuse is a hidden crime. There will be people we are working with who are experiencing or perpetrating domestic abuse, but initially are presenting to us with other issues such as alcohol misuse.

Equipping employees to work in the new world

As with many other organisations, the advent of lockdown has meant our staff had to change the way they work almost overnight. And less face-to-face contact can make it more difficult for our employees to notice who is vulnerable and at risk of abuse.

We’ve developed new training to help equip our employees with the skills and confidence to use their professional curiosity to uncover signs of abuse in this new Covid-19 world.

The new virtual training has refreshed what the key identifiers of domestic abuse are for our employees and how Covid-19 is changing these. It has also helped our practitioners, through critically reflective discussion, to identify and overcome current challenges specific to the pandemic and apply their existing expertise in new ways. Everything from thinking about how they can use video calls to help them assess the risks, read a person’s body language and see who else is in the room, to using the opportunities to challenge and ask more questions so they can identify, assess and manage the risks.

With the delivery of this timely, effective training, we’ve been able to show that working under Covid-19 restrictions doesn’t have to be a barrier for them.

Probation Service Officer (PSO) Yolanda Corney from Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire Probation Services said she will “use Facetime or Skype to see service users, to assess their living situation, needs and risk more.”

PSO Charlotte Stone who works in West Sussex said the reflective discussion has given her the confidence “of how to best deliver interventions in this environment.”

While we were concerned initially about doing training virtually, it has had unexpected benefits.

People say they’ve felt more confident to contribute to discussions than they would have in a classroom environment. They are also meeting and sharing experiences with people they would not usually see as they are in different areas of the country, providing a wider pool of knowledge to reflect on and solve their practice issues.

If we are to spot domestic abuse and tackle the issue, we need to ensure we’ve got the skills and can apply these in the new ‘Covid-19 world’ for our practice to be effective. Virtual learning has helped us to rise to this challenge. And by investing in learning and development we can help staff to reflect upon their practice and ways in which they can effectively respond to domestic abuse under the current circumstances at a time when victims need us the most.

Jane Port is Assistant Chief Probation Officer and lead for learning and development at Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company, part of the Seetec Group, an employee-owned company operating in the UK and Ireland.

The nation has been in lockdown and we hear of the excellent work happening in our communities, the shout-outs to all the heroes, who in their ways, both great and small, have come up trumps to help neighbours, friends and families in need; all those making PPE and volunteering their help during this time of crisis and of course the emergency services and NHS, all of whom we want to save and show our support for.

What you don’t hear though is that in prisons -  for example at HMP Dartmoor - some prisoners too are shining out as heroes and pulling together to make prison a caring community, working alongside wing officers, health and social care staff and on the front line supporting shielded prisoners, those at risk of death should they catch Covid-19.

These unsung heroes are called ‘Buddies’.

Pre-COVID 19 the role of the Buddy was very well established throughout the prison, with over 50 prisoners receiving daily buddy support through local authority assessment and care planning.

Recoop first started training Buddies in 2009, expanding the training as need was identified. Buddies continue to be trained by RECOOP to National Care Certificate Standards to support fellow prisoners with the day-to-day challenges they face within an often difficult environment.  The training now extends through to palliative care and end-of-life care as dying in prison became a reality for more individuals.

On the outbreak of the pandemic, Buddies too have stepped up to the plate (albeit a blue plastic one) and have worked tirelessly, 7 days a week, supporting the most vulnerable prisoners.

With extra training, delivered by Prison Care UK NHS staff, in the correct health and safety use of PPE when working with shielded individuals, they have become closer working team members with health care and wing officers. This partnership has really come into its own with staff and prisoners working side by side and all parties expressing appreciation of the other.

The prison custodial manager wrote: “I consider the Buddies to be vital to the work we do.  I simply cannot begin to imagine how we would cope without them. This is true even more so during the difficult times we currently face.

The Buddies team works alongside the staff on the establishments 'shielding' unit for our most vulnerable men.The way in which they have all risen to the challenge is remarkable; they care for others from the moment they are unlocked in the morning until the time they return to their cells for the night.They show patience, compassion and selflessness when looking after those in their care. It is a credit to the training they receive that they are equipped to carry out this challenging work to such a consistently high standard.”

The prison’s head healthcare agreed by saying, “The role of the Buddy is crucial, not only for practical support, but for social interaction, health and well-being. The Buddies have real insight into the care needs of their clients from a holistic sense and understand the impact extended time in the cell would have on their well-being. Collaborative working with key stakeholders has supported the success of the shielding unit.”

I know that I for one have thought of HMP Dartmoor Buddies along with prison officers and prison healthcare staff when clapping on a Thursday night for all essential and front line workers.

But we are not out of the woods yet... There are new difficulties and problems ahead.

Whilst the strict lockdown measures have been successful in controlling the virus in this high risk home to many vulnerable people, Recoop is concerned that being locked up in lock down has hit hard. Particularly hard hit are those many prisoners who already suffer from poorer mental and physical health. We have yet to see how the long periods of solitary confinement has contributed to a further deterioration in their health. As movements are severely restricted and visits, workshops and education still on hold, the longer term consequences are yet to be realised.

We do know that there will be demand for additional support and hope that similar formalised peer-led support models are introduced in far more prisons. What better way to empower individuals to learn new skills, find their inner compassion and give something back to aid those in need, in prisons.

Liz Ropschitz has been working for Recoop since 2008. Over the last 7 years she has been working with Devon County Council and HMPPS to develop and deliver the Buddy Support Worker Training Programme and is overall manager of this service in the Devon prison cluster. More recently she has been working nationally with prisons to adopt recognised social care peer support good practice initiatives. Liz was awarded an MBE in 2015 for Services to older prisoners in Devon.

Since 2010 RECOOP @RECOOP_UK has been delivering services in prisons to support the care, preparatory resettlement and rehabilitation of older prisoners who are over 50 years old and is one of the very few organisations working specifically with this group. With a national remit, Recoop works to empower people to take control of their lives, to optimise their physical and mental health, to remain free of re-offending and to make an active and positive contribution to their communities.

Governing a large, complex prison brings many challenges, not least how best to communicate with your staff, prisoners and of course other stakeholders in ways that are effective, accessible and operate both ways. By that I mean that those groups, not only receive information, key messages etc., but also have a way of communicating back to me and the Senior Leadership Team.

I was fortunate to have an executive coach, as part of the 10 Prisons Project (seeking, amongst other things, to improve leadership capability) and it was my coach (massive shout out to Angela Sabin) who encouraged me to think differently about impactful communication.

Being involved with an NHS funded project around the same time, looking at accessible information for prisoners in our care many of whom, as we know, have poor literacy levels, also helped shaped thinking and practices locally.

And so HTV (Hull TV) was born!! A way of piping a whole range of visual information, live or recorded, into prisoner cells and staff offices!

I couldn’t have achieved any of this without my fantastic Staff Officer (another 10PP benefit) and the Design & Printing Workshop team (Jorge and a group of talented prisoners). HTV has been massively important through the COVID-19 pandemic to keep prisoners and staff updated and to keep prisoners occupied during unprecedented regime restrictions.

One of the key elements (I would say this wouldn’t I) is my access to all staff and prisoners through my weekly vlog which goes into more detail about this highly effective, impactful and well received communication media #TeamHull @HMPHull

I hope you enjoy this video, so you can see how we bring the magic to life!

We have all been struggling under conditions of ‘lockdown’ since mid-March. But this can in no way compare to the conditions faced by prisoners in England and Wales, where near 24- hour lockdown and very little (if any) contact with the outside world has become the norm.

There are particular anxieties faced by people serving Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) and other indeterminate sentences, whose progression and release is heavily reliant on engagement with training programmes and demonstrating in other ways efforts to lower their risk. All of this is made difficult, if not impossible, in the current circumstances. These difficulties also impact on families and friends.

For several years now, I have been conducting research on the experiences and needs of families of people sentenced to IPP. I have drawn on this collaborative work with families in order to advise stakeholders on specific actions that would help. First, to help families cope with the particular challenges of the IPP sentence. And second, to help people sentenced to IPP, and their families and others providing support to them, to achieve release and to manage the difficulties of life post-release and under licence.

In support of these goals, we – Spurgeons Children’s Charity, with Southampton University – have recently published a booklet ‘Offering a Helping Hand’, which is designed to support families of people sentenced to IPP, and those working with them. It has been developed to complement publications targeted at families of prisoners that have been, or soon will be, published by organizations including the Parole Board and HM Prisons and Probation Service (HMPPS).

In particular, the booklet:

Especially in the dramatically altered COVID-19 landscape, it is essential that criminal justice organisations recognise the particular needs of both people serving IPP sentences (including in the community) and the families and friends who provide support to them. We hope that this booklet contributes to this goal.

The booklet is available at

To request printed copies, please contact  Samantha Williams at

If you use the booklet and find it useful, or have other comments, we would be interested to hear from you. Please contact Dr Harry Annison at

Dr. Harry Annison is an Associate Professor at Southampton Law School, with main research focus being criminal justice. Harry is also working with the Parole Board and HMPPS to support their development of information materials for families of indeterminate-sentenced prisoners and also training/guidance for their staff. Follow Harry on Twitter at @harryannison

The emerging findings from the Public Health England report “Beyond the data: Understanding the impact of COVID – 19 on BAME groups” states that there is clear evidence that Covid-19 has not affected all population groups equally. Death rates from this pandemic were higher for Black and Asian ethnic groups.  

Although this report does not specifically include reference to people from Gypsy, Roma or Traveller backgrounds, it states, “BAME groups tend to have poorer socioeconomic circumstances which lead to poorer health outcomes. Economic disadvantage is also strongly associated with the prevalence of smoking, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and their cardio-metabolic complications, which all increase the risk of disease severity”. These factors are equally applicable to people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds. It remains an area of concern that although Irish Travellers and Roma people have the same protection under the Equality Act 2010, as other ethnic groups, reliable data for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people does not exist.

Partners and advisors of the “A Record of Our Own” Campaign have vast knowledge of, and access to, prisoners, prison leavers and their families.  Many of us specialise in providing support to men and women from diverse Black, Asian and Gypsy Roma and Traveller backgrounds. 

This Campaign is our attempt to provide them with a ‘voice’ in order to share their experiences in this most unprecedented of times.  It is vital that we gather the thoughts and views of all those affected by Covid-19 and our focus at ‘A Record of Our Own’ is on the people whom we support and whose voice is often lost in the general conversation.

The Zahid Mubarek Trust, The Traveller Movement and POPS, have always been at the forefront of engaging with the communities affected by the CJS. Demand for our support and advocacy services has reached a new record level since the lockdown. 

In response to urgent needs and challenges raised by our communities, we have been focused on three key areas of work: obtaining better information on behalf of our beneficiaries, recording their experiences and learning lessons from their stories of struggle. This joint work has led us to launching ‘A Record of Our Own’ campaign. 

In order to capture as many stories as possible, the Campaign will be engaging with prisoners, prison leavers and prisoners’ families. Our approach is based on compassionate listening to those affected and providing a safe space for them to share.  We will utilise technology and adhere to social distancing to speak with people in the community both individually and in groups and forward a questionnaire to those prisoners who hear about the campaign and wish to become involved.

Many of us who work in the Criminal Justice field and especially within the confines of a prison wall, have recognised the importance of listening to and learning from those we work along side of and provide services to. Over seventy stories and interview requests have been received from prisoners, prison leavers and families describing the impact of these 100 days.

‘A Record of Our Own’ gave us the opportunity to do something differently, not because we can but because we should.

We will hear their voices, share their concerns and encourage others to listen. 

Check us out at

It’s not systems, processes or procedures that change people. It is not even programmes or courses. In my view it is people that change people and this is done by creating human to human relationships.

You will know this, think about those in your life that have impacted you and were instrumental in who you are now. Some of these people may have only entered your life for a moment and gave you a nugget of information that stopped you in your tracks. Everyone you meet in life you will learn something from. Those we meet every day are our true teachers.

I was once told that there are 3 types of relationships. These can be personal, professional or intimate. They are one of these:

A season

A reason

A lifetime

I believe that everyone appears for a reason, nothing happens by chance. When we meet someone, our responsibility is to understand the purpose. We can be either the pupil or the teacher. The learning can be many things, as you may even think "I would not want to act in that way or be like that".

Let me now talk about Prison and Probation. In my day job I deliver talks and workshops on how to break down the 'them and us' narrative. People in prison and probation and staff adhere to an identity. It is this identity (in my view) that gets in the way of creating a supportive relationship.

The identities we create are not always the real us. They are what you present when you turn up to whatever environment you live or work within. Let me use prison as an example:

When a prison officer wakes up in the morning they wake up as a human being. They then put on their uniform, they walk through the gate, collect their keys and become a prison officer. When a person in prison wakes up in the morning they wake up as a human being. They then put on their sentence, their file and identity. The door opens and the two shall meet.

As you can see both staff and client have completely different identities linked to life experiences but what they do have in common is being human beings. The way to support change is for both professional and client to connect as human beings.

This has to be a mutual agreement and in my view it is the professional that has to make the first step in developing the relationship. Why you may ask? Well, simple - you are a professional and your job is to support rehabilitation, and the first step is to truly understand the person behind the file. We are all more than the worst thing we have ever done.

I know this works as I have been both the client and the professional. I was bought up in care. I first went to court at 11 years of age. I received my first sentence at 14. I spent a total of 8 years behind the door. I was a dependent heroin user and I trusted no one.

What I know today is that it was not the system that rehabilitated me. It was individuals that worked within it. This included prison officers, therapists, probation officers, support workers.

I could tell you so many stories about the way they helped me. Within all these stories there is a silver lining. They all treated me as a human being and showed me love, care and kindness, no matter how hard I tried to push them away… they never gave up on me.

Together we can truly make a difference when we move past identity and connect with humanity.

My name is Ralph Lubkowski, and until my recent transfer to Governor at HMP Hewell, I was the proud Governor of HMP Stafford. The wonderful team at Insights seemed to think, I can’t imagine why, that some ramblings from me on my time at Stafford, and in particular the last few months as we dealt with COVID, would be of interest.

The helpful guidance on how to write a blog suggested I need to start with a hook. So having already failed to do that in my first paragraph, here goes…I’d like to write about the prison as a community, and how becoming a true community over the past few years enabled Stafford to deal so successfully with a pandemic.

You see up until now, there have been no positive tests for COVID at Stafford. Some of that is down to good luck, no doubt, and we have had a number of staff contract the virus, and a number who have tragically lost family members. But no people in prison have had it. When we started to see the images coming from Italy and read about how the virus targeted older people, with our population of over 40% over 50, I’ll be honest we were extremely worried. I delivered a full staff briefing I sincerely hope I never have to deliver again. People were frightened.

We acted quickly, set up our Protective Isolation Unit, shielded the most vulnerable, changed our Segregation Unit into a COVID ward, posted sanitiser and foot dips in the gate, made the best of the PPE we had, and drilled home social distancing and a restricted regime. Stafford is very old, built in 1783, but it is beautifully maintained and extremely clean, with wonderful architecture and gardens, and lots of artwork around the site. The regime is very progressive, with a lot of time out of cell, 100% employment and a huge range of enrichment activities. To go from this to 23 hour lock up and a heavily restricted and controlled regime was incredibly sad at first, and a huge shock to people in prison and their families. But our community responded magnificently. 

Some of you will know about Active Citizenship, and how that has developed into a truly rehabilitative culture at Stafford. Active Citizenship encourages citizens to do good for others, and for those good deeds to be recognised and reinforced as of value to our community and those within it.

This manifested itself in the way the cleaners on our PIU and wings got to work straight away, volunteering to be part of a magnificent team of alongside staff at the front line working non-stop when we had over 50 individuals isolating at one point (if you stood still for more than a few seconds, someone would be spraying you with titanchlor and wiping you down with a blue cloth!); in our textiles workshop, which stayed open to support other prisons and the NHS, making scrubs in their breaks for a local charity who were helping local hospital staff to find PPE; in our laundry, where people in prison continued to work to do not just our own laundry but also laundry from outbreak sites without a word of complaint; in our residents' council, who carried out a collection to buy hampers for staff to say thank you; in our bistro, who made a wonderful cake for our healthcare team and have worked seven days a week since the pandemic began to make sure staff have access to decent sustenance; in our Senior Support Group, where people in prison and staff worked together to provide support and activities for our older residents, most at risk and isolated from the support structures they were used to. All over the prison staff and people in prison worked together, rolled their sleeves up and got on with doing what needed to be done.

These are just some of the examples that stand out, but what really made the difference was the sense of everybody being in it together, working to save the lives of vulnerable members of our community.

There will be countless examples similar to those I’ve shared across the estate, but I can safely say that the way in which everyone at MP Stafford responded to the unprecedented challenge was truly humbling. In a way it was incredibly sad to leave in such circumstances, but in another way it was a perfect end to a wonderful 2 and a half years as Governor of a truly exceptional prison that dealt with everything that could be thrown at it and never lost it’s spirit, compassion, humour, togetherness, and can do attitude.

A true community, tested in a way we would never have imagined, coming through that test stronger and ready to move into recovery and beyond. I will watch with pride as it carries on it’s journey, happy to have been a part of it through such extraordinary times.

Just before leaving HMP Stafford, we made this video, to give viewers a virtual tour and behind-the-scenes peak at how the prison is operating during lockdown. We hope you enjoy it.

I work for the Evidence-Based Practice Team, which is part of the HMPPS Insights Group. We are a headquarters team that aims to integrate the best evidence on relevant issues into our practice across prisons, probation and youth custody.

A colleague alerted us to research from the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insights Team. This indicated that young adults (particularly young adult men) between the ages of 18-25 were those least likely to properly engage with or to intend to follow the Government’s advice on protecting themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19. Given that we have a large number of men in this age group in our prisons, on licence or serving sentences in the community, we wanted to produce some advice for staff based on what research tells us about how we can maximise compliance among people in this age group. We wanted to help young adults in our care protect themselves and others.

What does the research tell us about how people respond to advice about protecting themselves and others against COVID-19?

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) have been running trials to establish the effectiveness of communications about the Government’s advice on how to limit the spread of COVID-19. An analysis combining the results of these trials found that:

Initially they thought this might be related to a lack of worry about the Coronavirus among younger people, but further analysis suggested that this group were similarly anxious about COVID-19 and its impact. Instead, BIT suggested that the format of the guidance (which was all long-form), may have been less engaging for this group, and that it could be a result, at least in part, of over-confidence (an assumption that they knew and understood and advice and didn’t need to read it fully).

Why do people find it hard to follow health advice, and why is this exaggerated in younger adults?

There are a number of reasons that people fail to follow advice that could improve or maintain their health. Some of these are linked to biases in our thinking, such as:

Present bias – which means we tend to focus on the here and now, and prioritise this over the longer-term. For example, the immediate discomfort of exercising now often takes priority over the longer-term benefits of getting fitter and healthier. The inconvenience and effort of hand washing, the pain of not being close to or interacting with peers might have more of a bearing on a young person’s decision than the longer-term impact of failing to observe these guidelines.

Attributional bias – we tend to overestimate the chances of something good happening to us, and underestimate the chances that something bad will happen to us, which could undermine people’s motivation to stick to the Government guidelines.

The Romeo and Juliet effect – we tend to react against being told what to do, and this tendency is stronger among younger people. Our freedom to act as we choose is really important to us.

These biases are common to us all. However, we would expect people up to the age of around 25, who are still maturing psychologically and socially, to face an extra set of challenges that can help to explain why younger people are those least likely to follow the Government advice.

So, drawing on the work of the Behavioural Insights Team and research into psychosocial maturity, we created a one-page guide and an accompanying video, to explain what we can do to make it most likely that young adults in our care will follow the advice on COVID-19, and protect themselves and others. It’s a simple message. I think we just need to do all we can to get it across.

Thanks to Sam Denman in the HMPPS Effective Practice & Service Improvement Group (EPSIG) for helping us put this video together.


Locking Down.

Four months ago, this week, I went, with my husband, on a long-planned holiday to Vietnam. The country was as beautiful, as busy and as full of history as we expected and, for nearly three weeks, we saw the sights and drank in the culture, first amidst the noise and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City and, then, in the peaceful, idyllic coastal resort of Nha Trang. The only clouds on our picture-perfect horizon were the messages from home, talking of the gradual restriction of normal life and the fear of a still largely unknown virus that was sweeping the country. Our hotel was, without doubt, quieter than we’d expected and some staff were wearing masks but the stories from home were in complete contrast to what we were seeing, hearing and experiencing half way across the world. As our holiday drew to its end, the pandemic started to feel more real. Two days before we were meant to fly home, our flights were summarily cancelled and we had to return to the UK with a different airline, an unplanned stop in Dubai and a sense that the holiday was, well and truly, over.  

Back to Work.

The day after we returned home, the lockdown across England was announced. Instead of getting up at 0430 on Wednesday 25 March to go back to work in Canary Wharf, I spent the next few days with PPO colleagues planning how we would transition to a new way of working, with everyone at home and no access to our offices. The challenges of doing that were, possibly, different to those faced by other parts of the system. Many of you will know that we investigate complaints from people in prison and deaths in custody. Fortunately, most of our staff worked from home some of the time already and so our IT was up to the job, with both hardware and software in place to support home working. We already carried out some interviews in prisons via video link or on the phone so we knew how that worked, which allowed our investigations to continue. And HMPPS agreed straight away that the documents and other material we needed could be scanned and emailed, sent by courier or retained until we could access prisons again. So far so good. The problem, though, lay in our not being able to get to the letters that people in prison use to complain to us and, consequently, not being able to investigate complaints at a time when that part of our role was more important than ever.  

Finding Solutions.

There seems to be agreement that, despite the many negative aspects of lockdown and the restrictions we have all faced, a positive has been the appetite to find creative, innovative solutions quickly, where they might have taken much longer to broker and deliver in more normal times. At the PPO, we certainly took advantage of this changed mindset and we quickly found ways to carry on our work, at first with a reduced service but, as I write, back to what feels like normal. Finding a scanning company to securely scan our incoming post and email letters to our investigators at home meant we could start investigating complaints again. Some limited use of Email a Prisoner followed, supported via adverts on prison radio and in cell TV to explain our new processes to complainants. The final stage, possible from this week, sees a small number of colleagues back in our offices to print off complaints investigation reports and send them to complainants, suitably franked as confidential access mail. 

The Future.

Like many organisations, we have a Business Recovery Group focused on when and how we can return to normal working. There is, though, no sense that the new normal will simply replicate what went before and we are determined to fan the flames of creativity and innovation that have served us so well since March. More home working, more, and better, use of technology and a determination not to lose the fantastic ways we have seen staff supporting one another, and caring for their own, and one another’s wellbeing; these must figure in our Business Recovery Plans.

These strange times will pass and we will emerge from lockdown not only as a more flexible and responsive organisation but, we believe, one which has improved the service it delivers to those in custody and the services in our remit.          

Odd Arts uses ‘non-traditional’ theatre to challenge the way people see the world.  Our projects and workshops specialise in working with vulnerable, disadvantaged and excluded groups including within the criminal justice sector.

We aim to empower people to see their own world and the wider world in new ways.  Our theatre-making process and performances are influenced and underpinned by a number of psychological and behavioural theories or approaches (including non-violent communication; restorative approaches and are trauma informed).  We are always mindful that we are theatre practitioners and not psychologists, but at the same time we understand theatre is at its best when it changes or challenges the way people think, feel and behave....  Perhaps even more important when theatre exists within the criminal justice sector.

We create performances addressing challenges in society, such as radicalisation, domestic abuse, cyber-bullying, mental health (anxiety & self-harm), and sexual assault/consent. We deliver performance workshops to around 20,000 ‘non-traditional’ theatre-goers and venues, including:  Trainee construction sites, secure units, prisons, homeless shelters, schools, youth centres and religious institutions.  We also deliver longer therapeutic theatre programmes in various secure settings.

The workshop ‘Blame and Belonging’, which we are sharing via Insights, (in non-Covid times, a live and interactive theatre workshop; in Covid times an interactive online performance workshop) explores how individuals come to hold a belief so strong they are willing to hate, harm and even kill people that see the world differently to them. 

The workshop explores both the far right and DAESH inspired radicalisation (We try to refer to ‘DAESH’ rather than ‘Islamic State’ to avoid it being confused as something reflecting or influenced by Islam). It uses an interactive theatre technique to bring in audience members to try and influence the outcomes and prevent the harm being done.  Participants are asked to explore the process and vulnerabilities leading to radicalisation, seeing them as something that exists in our communities rather than an event that is separate to society. 

Often radicalisation, radicalised people, and those that commit terror are depicted as ‘aliens’ that land without warning.  Our work aims to unpick this and understand that all of us have the power and ability to combat hate, support vulnerable people and contribute to the prevention of radicalisation. 

Accepting that we all have a role to play is hard work, uncomfortable and takes ongoing consideration of how we challenge and engage with people we do and don’t know.   Sometimes we may even need to consider that the grievances of a radicalised person may be legitimate, and in order to prevent unacceptable hate and extremist views, we may need to take the time to support and understand the people who could potentially offer the greatest risk.  However, in these times of uncertainty, fake news, and division we think the belief that hate is not inevitable offers hope and a sense of empowerment.

If you are interested in finding out more about holding challenging conversations with people at risk of radicalisation please sign up for our Insights workshop on 21st July.


On 29th June, I hosted an Insights event on co-production, involvement and people-centred practice. For those of you who could not attend, I am sharing some resources which you will hopefully find useful.

During the event, we talked about the wider policy, economic and social context for this work, and a bit about complexity theory since it is relevant - in terms of making choices about when to gather people and co-produce, and when not to and call in the experts instead.

Then we dived into the conceptual framework: the definition of co-production and the 5 principles that underpin this work, and where it fits in with all the others kinds of interactions between citizens and professionals like participation, engagement and consultations.

Finally we unpacked a few case studies and touched on the practical tools and methods for co-production, including doing robust evidence! It was a bit of a whistle-stop tour and I could easily talk all day about all of this... but take a look at the slides for a glimpse of this introductory summary, and do check out the Network resources and information which are free and online here:


I believe it’s really important for Civil Servants and partners we work with in the Criminal Justice Sector to see MoJ Ministers in action, as they face questions from the opposition and a range of MPs. Doing this helps connect the work we do every day to how our elected politicians view and shape the system we work in.

To that end, I wanted to offer an opportunity for a facilitated session which gives insight into how MoJ oral questions are answered and how the department prepares for them.  Who even decides what questions get asked? How does the minister prepare the answer? What part do Civil Servants play in this?

I’ve been preparing a short presentation on the role of Parliament, MPs, and the purpose of parliamentary questions. Some of it may surprise you, but I’m hoping anyone who attends the event will come away from it feeling closer to the centre of it and that the work you do whether on the front line or in the support services feels more relevant to the direction we are taking as a country.  In short, that you are making a contribution for the national good.

If you can join the session, you will watch the questions session in the chamber and see how Ministers answer those questions.  There will also be a wash-up session at the end where we can dissect and examine some of the content. 

Whilst we do not know at this stage what questions Ministers will be asked (this can be very dynamic!) it is safe to assume they will be questioned closely about how MoJ services will emerge from the lockdown and when.  For example, when prison visits will be allowed and how safe it is for probation officers to resume face to face meetings with service users under supervision. There may be other, 'business as usual' questions, for example, on the shape of the probation system, when the latest reforms will be completed, and the nature of the new prison builds announced last week. These are issues close to us all and what better way to form a view than to hear it direct from the source?

It's a very interesting point in history on many fronts and in years to come it would be significant to say that when it happened, you were actually there – virtually!

Join me for the next session of MoJ Orals questions on 14th July, which will be the last before the summer recess.


I was honoured to be appointed as Governing Governor of HMP Guys Marsh in September last year and I could never have anticipated in the early days of this role the challenges that we would face just 6 months later. The Covid-19 pandemic almost overnight changed our day-to-day working practices, affected nearly all aspects of our well-established prison regime and required us to think very differently about how we kept staff and prisoners safe.

Prisons are complex environments and daily regimes were quickly replaced with a limited offer, which prioritised meals, healthcare, time in the open air, showers, prisoner safety wellbeing and family contact. All non-essential services were curtailed as the national Covid-19 response established the seriousness of the pandemic and the potential impact to those living and working within custodial settings. We really did throw the rule book in the bin and start again!

Throughout my career, I have always been proud of the ability of our prison service to step up when things get tough and meet operational challenges head on with determination, professionalism and humour. These attributes have served HMP Guys Marsh well in recent times. They helped us to implement a wide range of measures to prevent Covid-19 cases within the prison. This included establishing social distancing, changing our entry and exit processes, cohorting men in their individual residential units and working with a range of key stakeholders to ensure our response to any suspected cases is managed effectively.

Beyond implementing a restricted regime, the team have worked tirelessly to improvise and find new ways of working to maintain staff/prisoner relationships which are the bedrock of all we achieve in our prisons. In-cell education packs and supporting local hospitals by making scrubs bags are just some of the ways we have kept individuals occupied and maintained good relationships. We have utilised in-cell telephones to enable socially distanced activities to continue including appointments with Healthcare, contact with prison offender managers for continuity of parole/sentence planning, as well as bible studies with the Chaplaincy. These are aspects of today’s regime that I could not have conceived we would have needed in our prison three months ago!

As well as the men having to adapt to the restrictive regime, staff have had to develop new skills and embraced new opportunities brought about by COVID. Instructional Officer GH is working with men in a Covid-19 scrubs bag workshop. “The most challenging element is getting myself up to speed with the sewing as I am not a seamstress so I have enjoyed the learning process. Bags were easy, scrub uniforms are something else, very complicated but we are all getting there. The most rewarding aspect for me is working with the men and seeing how they very quickly pick things up. I am so super proud of them all.”

It has also presented challenges for our officers around how they maintain good relationships with men within the new regime. Officer KJ has worked throughout the Covid pandemic… “Although the time out of their cell is limited, we are spending more time talking to each prisoner and supporting them with issues they have.  The relationship we had built before this pandemic between staff and prisoners was already a trusted one, so we built on that while we have had so many limits on the regime. This has led to a deeper knowledge of each prisoner and have hopefully changed that for the long haul when this lockdown has been lifted and we can return to some degree of normality.  Prisoners have been mostly very compliant in engaging with the rules of social distancing. They have reminded us at times about washing our hands!!”

It has been particularly hard for those men shielding during this time, spending almost all their time in their cells. Mr B has been shielding since the end of March... “The simplest things can offer comfort. For me, mealtime has taken on a disproportionate significance to any day. This may not be the view of the majority, but I love the food and count down the time between meals.”

We continue to look ahead and we are planning ways to expand our regime in the coming weeks. We continue to keep staff, prisoners and their families informed through regular newsletters and our Twitter page, please do follow us @HMPGuysMarsh. Our #hiddenheroes have really appreciated the support and encouragement through social media and you never know, you might even see this Governor in the latest Tik-Tok challenge!

Stay safe and well in these extraordinary times!

Last year, the Criminal Justice Alliance, a coalition of 160 organisations working towards a fairer and more effective criminal justice system, investigated the value of lived experience in the criminal justice workforce, culminating in the Change from Within report.   

Employers told us that employees who have been through the courts, prison and probation service have unique insight into the system’s strengths and weaknesses and can generate systemic solutions. As one employer said:  

"He brings understanding to what happens in custody and probation. He has given us another standpoint to understanding what we are trying to achieve here. He has brought a real focus around what we want to do with the vision moving forward."

To truly maximise the potential of people with lived experience, we must include them in the criminal justice workforce in a meaningful way, not just in voluntary and consultative roles, but as paid employees, managers and leaders. But people with lived experience often face a range of structural, systemic and cultural barriers to employment in the criminal justice system, many of them unique to the sector. These barriers do not effectively support them to achieve their full potential as key influencers and decision-makers. 

Organisations working in mental health and substance misuse often involve those with lived experience at the heart of their workforces, recognising that they can play a vital role in improving policy and practice. The majority of organisations in the criminal justice sector are yet to fully harness this potential. To weather the storm and rebuild a better criminal justice system beyond COVID-19, the criminal justice sector must put lived experience front and centre. 

On 25 June, I’ll be leading a discussion on the Change from Within report's key findings and recommendations. I will be joined by two inspiring individuals working in prison and probation settings who both have personal and professional experience of the criminal justice system. There will be plenty of time for questions, conversation and sharing ideas. 

Order your ticket here and join me on the 25 June. 

We work in the Evidence-Based Practice team in HMPPS, and our purpose is to bring the best available and recent scientific evidence into practice and policy, with the aim of achieving better outcomes wherever we can.

We recently published an evaluation of something we have called ‘rehabilitative adjudications’.  In this blog, we will summarise our findings, but you can also find the full report here.

We have been interested in disciplinary adjudications for some time.  For those of you not familiar, this is a formal process in prisons used to respond to more serious rule-breaking.  It works a little like a court does in the community; if a person is formally charged with breaking a prison rule, they attend a hearing where this is discussed, evidence is presented, legal advice can be sought and so on.  If the person is found guilty of the rule-breaking, then punishment(s) can be issued.  If you want to know more about adjudications, you can read the policy here.

We were interested in whether there was a way of making this process do more than investigate and punish (if proven) rule-breaking.  For example, we wanted to know if the way the process is conducted could improve how fairly people felt treated; if this could influence their intentions to cooperate and comply with rules and staff; if it could help them to reflect on and develop skills to make rule-breaking less likely; and if this could change people’s future conduct in prison.  We also wanted to know what it was like for staff to deliver this process a little differently, and what this meant for how this process fitted within all the efforts that prisons around the country have been making for some time to develop rehabilitative culture.

We drew on existing scientific evidence about skills and practices that adjudicators could use during hearings, which we believed could make the adjudication process more rehabilitative and constructive.  These included ‘rehabilitative skills’ (or ‘core correctional practices’) and ‘procedural justice principles’.  More detail on these can be found in section 2.2 of the full report.

We trialled the approach in four prisons in the North West of England.  The findings are covered in detail in the report, but some headlines include:

We are enormously grateful to all of the staff and people in prison who agreed to take part in this trial.  We could not be on site in four prisons for the six months, and so we relied on four ‘go to’ people who coordinated the activity in each prison, got the trial off the ground and kept up momentum for the duration.  And they did all this on top of their usual roles! 

We did face some stumbling blocks, especially getting as many questionnaires completed as hoped for.  This is such a common challenge with real-world research, where regardless of people’s commitment to develop practice and the evidence-base, prisons are very busy places and sometimes a lack of time or clashes with other activities or priorities are inevitable.  However, what we hope we have achieved, in conjunction with those four prisons, is to show how we can develop long-established practices and culture, and do things in ways that feels more rewarding and constructive and fair for everyone involved.

When I went to jail, I didn’t know what to expect. We’ve all seen Midnight Express (and Porridge for that matter). What was in store for me? I felt alone, petrified and above all else scared out of my wits. I was welcomed onto a wing and immediately locked up for the night. Because my family lived in Spain and the officer’s PIN didn’t allow him to dial internationally, I had no chance to talk to the one person who could calm me down; my wife. Indeed, it would be 3 long days before I could talk to her. The next morning, I was opened up with the scream “INDUCTION!!!!!” My induction into custody lasted about 30 minutes and all I had to do was to fill out some forms. I still didn’t know how to contact my family, how to see my solicitor. Heck, I dint even know when I was allowed to take a shower!

I am lucky; I left prison a better man than when I entered. I decided that I wanted to pay back to the very service that saved me. I created a pseudonym on social media that gave clues to my Scots background: I write under the name of The Tartan Con. I started writing about what I thought the prison service could do differently; to perhaps understand the machinations of the mind of a former prisoner. I wanted people to understand that a former prisoner could add benefit in shaping how we deal with those remanded to the custody of society’s jails. 

Those Early Days in Custody are so very nerve wracking for an individual. We need to remember that some of the people who are arriving at the front gate have never been to prison before. Remember the nervousness you felt when you went to a new school or started a new job? Good! Then multiply that anxiousness by a thousand. Now take into consideration that the person in front of you isn’t going home to their loved ones that night or possibly for many more nights.

Look, I am not saying that we need to cover the new arrival with cotton wool and pretend that nothing is wrong. Something is!! What we need to do is to treat the person with decency. We need to understand that the person in front of us, is grieving. They are grieving for their lost life, their lost family. We talk a lot about re-settlement, don’t we? We don’t talk about settlement. This is where I wanted to add my experience.

For me the Early Days in Custody are the most important of a prisoner’s journey whilst incarcerated. I say, deal with them decently and with respect as a fellow human being, then you will have taken the first step to breaking down that barrier that exists between prison officer and prisoner.

However, Early Days in Custody shouldn’t just be looked at during the first week they are on the induction program. I believe that Early Days in Custody is just that. The EARLY DAYS. This means for the first few weeks not days. In 2019 we had 84 Self-inflicted deaths in custody of which almost 45% were in the first 6 months of being detained (Self-Inflicted Deaths in Custody). Furthermore, in 2018, 55,615 incidents of self-harm took place throughout the entire estate. Of those, 61.7% happened within the first 6 months (Self Harm Statistics to 2019). If nothing else, these sobering statistics show that we need to place more emphasis on the entire early days in custody of a prisoner not just the first 24 hours!

I wanted to help staff understand from “the other side of the door.” You see being a former prisoner I have the experience that those who carry cell keys can never have. I know how it feels to be a deer stuck in the headlights, I know what it is like to be spoken at and not hear a word. I know what it is like to have the fear of the unknown.

A few years ago, I did what I thought I never would, I walked into a prison with a smile on my face. Now perhaps that smile might have been because I knew that I would be leaving again the same day and I was entering without being in handcuffs!  I think it was more than that!  I think it was because I knew that I was to be welcomed by a Governor as someone who could help him, and his staff understand things a little better.

I have yet to cross the threshold of a prison and not been welcomed by the staff. I have always been treated as an equal. People knew and indeed do know about my past, but they have never judged me for it. Rather they have taken me into their fold as someone from whom they can learn. Just as I have always learnt from them. To a man and woman, they have taken the time to explain the reasons why they carry out certain instructions and they have listened to me explain that perhaps if they understood the thoughts of the prisoner, they would achieve a better result.

Fortunately for me (some would say unfortunately for the governing governor!), I have had my work inspected by HMIP fairly regularly over the years. Indeed, the program that I have implemented in numerous jails has been mentioned as good practice by the inspectorate (HMP Dovegate). A few other reports mentioning the program can be found here ( Oakwood, Lowdham, RyeHill)

Another avenue I really enjoy is when I am asked to talk to the new prison officers during their training programs. Let me give you just two of the things I tell them:

  1. If I am locked up in my cell and you are walking the landings; don’t jangle your keys. Why? Because I am convinced that you are coming to open me up for some reason.
  2. If you are on your lunch break and I am “behind my door” don’t stand outside my cell and have a natter with your colleague. Why? Because my ear will be sore form pressing it against the door listening to you, as I am convinced you will be talking about me!

Now some of you, I am sure, are thinking “Well he must be guilty of something if he is thinking like that!". I will grant you that occasionally that might be true, but do you understand that as prisoners and former prisoners we live with constant paranoia?  We just always assume something bad is going to happen. I live with it today. Let me give you a for instance; a few months ago (pre-covid) I was sitting in a Starbucks (other overpriced coffee shops are available!). It was located on the second floor of a bookshop. Out of the corner of my eye I spied a police car stopping outside the store. As four burly officers got out of the car, my mouth started to go dry. As they climbed the stairs, the palms got a bit sweaty. The all got to the top of the stairs and looked around, I almost jumped out of my seat to shout, “I am over here” The result? They bought their coffees, went back outside and drove away. Now I hadn’t done anything wrong and there was no reason for them to be looking for me, but I just assumed. It’s like I wear a sign on my chest that says “FORMER PRISONER”

The sad fact of the matter is that I will wear that badge for the rest of my life. I wonder if you think that’s fair. Have I not paid my debt to society? Served my time? Then why I am labelled as something? Intriguing question, don’t you think? It’s more of how society treats a former prisoner. I will end this with a 'thank you'. Thank you to all HMPPS staff who have welcomed my input, my ramblings on social media, my passion to ensure that we deal with all those we come into contact with whether they be staff, serving prisoner or former prisoner with decency. After all that’s what makes a good society isn’t it? Decency.

On 30th June, I will be delivering a workshop on 'Co-creating animation' as part of InsightsOnline.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been fortunate enough to work on projects to co-produce Complementary Digital Media (CDM) for behaviour change interventions in HMPPS. Through this work, I’ve explored how co-production can uncover and give permanence to the valued voices of lived experience with the potential to change interventions for the better.

Recently, it's been a real pleasure to collaborate with colleagues at Merseyside and Cheshire, and Greater Manchester CRCs. Rob Ferguson (one of the experts-by-experience on the project) has written an insightful blog giving some great insights into this area of work

Rob’s insights highlight that that the business case now seems stronger than ever for interventions to integrate blended learning modes where media is used during in-person and remote contacts with service users (as well as self-directed learning between sessions). I am really keen to help build the capability of criminal justice professionals to co-create digital media to reach their audience in new ways. I’m keen to promote the potential of digital media as a vehicle to put service user voices and stories at the heart of services.

I have written about my CDM approach with Dr Victoria Knight in a paper setting out the following CDM design principles:

■ purpose – everyone involved in making and testing a CDM asset must understand its aims, objectives, and how it will be used;

rich and multifaceted – each CDM asset will bring together a range of modalities;

■ clarity – concepts/skills should use visuals and text to elucidate key components;

accessibility – information should be presented in plain English, and when needed in easy read;

■ involvement – service users should be involved in CDM development as early and frequently as possible; and

authenticity – media should genuinely sell the benefits of skills in a relatable way

In our paper, we also talk about digital platforms that are already available in custody and community criminal justice settings. We have begun using these platforms to enable access to CDM:

■ The in-cell HUB delivered by HMPPS Digital Studio on laptops available to every prisoner at two HMPPS prisons.

The Virtual Campus provides a service user-facing e-learning platform available in every prison education department.

A number of private companies offering secure software and tablet solutions which can host CDM in both custody and community settings.

■ WayOutTV (currently available in 47 prisons) also provides a platform that has broadcasted CDM content to reach a broader prison audience.

Experts-by-experience like Rob are essential to helping the transition to more digitally enabled ways of delivering services in criminal justice settings. There is a real opportunity for prison and probation providers to employ more of these experts to ensure the design and delivery of services is responsive to the needs of their peers.

I hope you can join me at my workshop and I look forward to showing you how to make your very own co-created animation!


The Young Advisors Project through Leaders Unlocked has helped me be part of creating a platform for empowerment. We are a group of young adults from across the country all with experience of the Justice System directly and indirectly. We have key priorities for change and run workshops in multiple settings to gather voices of other young adults.

As someone with lived experience of the Justice System, being in rooms with decision makers to put across the voice of the young adults we’ve worked with is amazing. 'Informed reform' (catchy, I know) is something that we’re all passionate about and it's important for young adults impacted by the criminal justice system to feel listened to.

Over the 2018-19 period, the Young Adult Advisors have worked in collaboration with a range of public and charitable bodies to provide advice, challenge and insight from a young adult perspective. Some of these collaborations included:

• Work with HMPPS on their 10-year strategy for prisons and probation;

• Work with MoJ presenting insights and solutions in relation to racial disproportionality in youth justice;

• Being guest speakers and panellists at events held by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMI Prisons) and Unlocked Graduates to reach their current and future workforces;

• Work with Revolving Doors to inform an initiative to improve approaches to policing vulnerable young adults;

• Work with the Howard League for Penal Reform to inform new sentencing principles for young adults. 

The Young Advisors project has created experiences, not just for me, but for everyone involved that I never thought were possible. I’ve had the privilege on being on this project since it’s creation 4 years ago and every year we have done more and more to reach young adults experiencing the justice system and we are driven to reach more as the project goes into its 5th year.

Our work and our recommendations from the past 2 years can be found here

For those who are interested in finding out more about our latest report and how you can collaborate with us on our recommendations, we will be holding an Insights event on 17th July - click below to get your tickets!


Thank you all for reading and stay safe! 

The Criminal Justice System (CJS) may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of gambling harms, but research has shown that there are a higher number of people affected by gambling harms within the CJS than in the general population.

Gambling has been called  the ‘hidden addiction’ - there is little awareness around this topic for people going through the system or amongst the professional working in it, and therefore gambling related harm is going unnoticed and untreated.

Gambling harms have not received the same level of awareness as other behavioural or substance issues/addictions across the CJS. The right questions need to be asked to uncover issues so we can work with individuals to overcome them – if a gambling problem is left unaddressed, rehabilitative work in other areas of the individual’s life is not likely to be successful.

There are some people in the CJS that are experiencing gambling related harm because they had turned to crime to fund their gambling, or to pay off debts. Some gambling may form part of a wider ‘criminal lifestyle’. For others, crime may have been a result of someone else’s gambling behaviour, for instance a partner. The relationship between gambling and crime is complicated and we continue to learn more and more about it.

GamCare is an independent charity, working to minimise gambling harms for gamblers and their loved ones since 1997.

We operate the National Gambling Helpline, providing information, advice and support for anyone affected by gambling harms. Advisers are available 24 hours a day on Freephone 0808 8020 133 or via web chat at We also offer a range of free treatment across England, Scotland and Wales, as well as a moderated forum and daily chatrooms so that people can speak to others experiencing similar issues and seek support.

GamCare and our network partners are actively working within the CJS to raise awareness and support those affected. This includes work in prison settings (e.g. Breakeven) and police custody suites (e.g. Beacon Counselling Trust). We have hosted workshops and training sessions, providing free resources to be used in community and custodial settings, as well as facilitating conversations to support development of screening points and referral pathways to refer those needing support for their gambling problem to the appropriate help and/or treatment. More recently, we have provided an In-Cell Activity Pack for prisoners in response to COVID-19, aiming to build awareness of gambling and gambling related harms.

As gambling harms gain momentum in mainstream conversation, and we begin to better recognise the ways we can better raise awareness and reduce harms for specific groups, GamCare will contribute to the conversation on Wednesday 17th June 2020 with a one-hour virtual session as part of InsightsOnline.

The session will begin with an introduction to gambling behaviour in the UK, looking at where and when people gamble, which activities are generally most popular and why.

We will look at what differentiates gambling as a form of entertainment and gambling behaviours which may lead to negative consequences, as well as exploring some of these potential impacts. We’ll briefly look at the way women specifically experience gambling related harm, how GamCare are reaching young people at risk of developing a gambling problem, and the current conversation around gambling related financial harm.

We’ll look at the ways gambling and crime are related, which will lead on to a conversation around how gambling operates in prison. We’ll then look at the free support and treatment options that are available to people who are in contact with the CJS who have been affected by gambling related harm.

We hope you can join us.


The current Coronavirus pandemic is probably making many of us think about risk in our personal as well as our professional lives, with risk literally now very close to home.  This provides a moment when we can reflect on risk and how best to assess and manage it going forward.  In this blog I am going to highlight three key areas:

In a world where ‘risk’ has been described as the largest industry (Adams, 1998) and risk assessment tools proliferate and vie for practitioner attention it is critical that assessment tools are well rooted in the available evidence.  The current pandemic has highlighted the important role of evidence in guiding policy and practice responses to risk, but has also raised the question of what constitutes robust evidence, and how evidence is interpreted and used.  The selection of rigorous and effective risk assessment tools is one area where evidence and its availability to practitioners is key.  One example of robust evidence use is the Risk Management Authority’s “Risk Assessment Tool Evaluation Directory” (RATED) (  RATED outlines clear criteria for judging and comparing risk assessment tools, with links to key data and peer reviewed evaluations.  It is updated on a regular basis and aids policy makers, senior managers and practitioners in their adoption of risk assessment tools, focusing on effectiveness and the ‘right tool for the right job’.

Increasingly assessment tools are designed for computer use.  This presents challenges because such computerisation often presents assessment as a linear, narrative experience for practitioners.  However, much research shows that assessments are often ‘confirmatory’, pursued in a way that merely confirms what practitioners already think; or in a more investigatory mode where practitioners explore judgements and hypotheses, and refine them through testing and gaining further information (the ‘practice wisdom’ approach).  Computerised tools don’t usually take this into account, and are rarely underpinned by ‘Decision Theory’, that is, a thorough understanding of how decisions actually get made.  This results in a dissonance between how practitioners want to use assessment tools, and how they are required to use them.  More recent approaches have attempted to consider ‘Decision Trees’, enabling a greater focus on exploratory approaches to assessment rather than set menus which have to be worked through. Such approaches have to be embedded in a sound knowledge base across the workforce.  At the end of the day there is no substitute for good decision making underpinned by sound evidence.

Desistance and risk are sometimes presented as opposing approaches.  In reality this is rarely the case, and in 2008 I argued for a “blended approach” bringing the two together. This encourages practitioners to focus on: desistance, pro-social supervision, and holistic risk assessment- resulting in an integrated approach that balances control with rehabilitation. The process and journey of desistance is now better understood, and assessments that focus on motivation to desist as well as to offend are likely to improve interventions. Self-risk management and the acquisition or skills by offenders to enhance their transition out of crime are now emphasised, with strengths based work focusing on enhancing strengths and protective factors.  Desistance and risk are not mutually exclusive and can be combined to provide both safety and reintegration to the benefit of both public and offender.

Finally, the desired outcome of all risk management and of all interventions is safety, individual, community and public safety, and safety for the offender going forward.  If practitioners focus on safety, and always ask: “Is what I am doing today contributing to safety?”, then precious resources including practitioner time will be used more effectively.  Safety production also mitigates against a default position that everything is too risky.  Too often the phrase ‘he/she is too dangerous’, or that is ’too risky’ is stated.  If the question becomes: “How can we do this safely?” then more defensible decisions are likely to follow, and where something cannot be done safely sufficient evidence and justification is produced to support this.  Currently in the Coronavirus pandemic we are seeing numerous “how can we do this safely” debates going on, with very public tests of evidence and scrutiny of the arguments made.  One key lesson from the pandemic experience is that all risk brings scrutiny, and evidence-based, defensible practice is the key.

Professor Hazel Kemshall,

Suggested reading:

H. Kemshall (2008) Understanding the Community Management of High Risk Offenders.  Open University Press/McGraw-Hill.

Kemshall, H. Wilkinson, B. and Baker, K. (2013) Working with risk. The Social Work Skills Series. Polity Press.

Kemshall, H. (2018) The rise of risk in probation work: historical reflections and future speculations. In: P. Priestley and M.Vanstone (eds) The Rehabilitation of Probation. Palgrave.

Kemshall, H. (2019) A critical review of risk assessment policy and practice since the 1990s, and the contribution of risk practice to contemporary rehabilitation of offenders. In: Fergus McNeill et al, (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Rehabilitative Work in Criminal Justice.  London: Routledge.

The Domestic Violence Evidence and Practice Network is a collaboration of multidisciplinary researchers and practitioners from The University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, and the University of the West Indies Open Campus. Our network members are psychologists, social workers, lawyers, and criminologists and are located in Barbados, Trinidad, Australia, New Zealand, India and the UK.

We undertake cutting edge-research and share our evidence with practitioners for policy creation and evaluation. We are guided by the needs of society in our research endeavours.  On May 6th 2020, we held an international online workshop on the impact of COVID-19 on domestic and interpersonal violence across the world, where we explored how Covid-19 related policies and laws relating to confinement, stay at home orders and the early release of prisoners have led to concerns over the protection of the vulnerable in the domestic domain. Some countries noted a sharp increase in domestic and inter-personal violence reports by victims to government and non-governmental agencies. Our workshop presentations summarised Network members’ on-going research which we will follow up with a fuller discussion and more formal seminar presentations in Oxford later in the year.

We are delighted to bring you some of the presentations from the workshop on May 6th, as part of InsightsOnline. If you would like to find out more about the Network, please contact me: or

Intimate partner violence in teen relationships: Insights from metasynthesis. Dr Sarah Bekaert, Oxford Brookes University.

There is a growing body of international evidence relating to intimate partner violence (IPV) in teenage relationships which emphasises the parallel and unique effects for teenagers as compared to across the life-course. Negative personal health and social effects are manifold, and, for pregnant teenagers, episodes of IPV are linked to negative pregnancy outcomes.  This presentation brings together findings from two literature reviews; one regarding the experience of IPV in teenage relationships and the other teenage mothers' experience of IPV.  The presentation discusses how the experience of IPV among teenagers is frequently located in a context of gendered expectations, family disruption, gang involvement, and community violence.  The role of digital media in perpetrating harassment, threat and control is notable. Adolescent development is considered both a rationale for tolerating IPV in a relationship, but also, with time, for avoiding, or extricating from, a negative relationship. Barriers to seeking support are discussed.  IPV in teen relationships should be viewed as a public health concern which practitioners should recognise and be equipped to offer trauma-informed response and support. 

Unseen victims: Understanding and meeting the needs of gay and bisexual male victims of intimate partner violence. Joseph Patrick McAuley, DPhil Candidate in Criminology, University of Oxford.

Gay and bisexual (GB) men are frequently left out of the conversation regarding intimate partner violence (IPV), and this silence has implications for how these men recognise abuse, navigate violent relationships, and potentially attempt to leave. Moreover, their status as sexual minorities ensures that their experiences of intimate partner violence take place in a context radically different from that of heterosexual men or women.

In this presentation, I will consider four broad issues:

- The barriers GB men have in identifying and recognising abuse within their relationships.

- The barriers GB men have in attempting to navigate help-seeking.

- The challenges of conducting research instruments and designing interventions for sexual minorities.

- The effects the Covid-19 pandemic has had on GB male victims of IPV.

I will conclude by outlining some potential strategies for overcoming these barriers.

Rape adjudication in India: A reflection of female autonomy or a reinforcement of stereotypes. Aradhana Cheruparavadekkethi, M.Phil Student, Law, University of Oxford

The December 16, 2012, Delhi gang-rape case sparked a sorely-needed debate in India on the issues of consent in rape law, leading to the 2013 criminal amendment to rape law.  In my presentation, I will  be discussing my MPhil thesis findings - my thesis undertakes a comprehensive analysis of Indian judicial decisions adjudicating rape, to ascertain (whether and) how underlying preconceptions and prejudices (continue to) percolate through rape cases in a variety of settings (despite the 2013 amendment). Using direct evidence from the cases I have studied, I will present the argument that the judicial discourse reveals that the complete silence on concepts such as bodily integrity/sexual autonomy, the lack of engagement with the new definition of consent, the emphasis on factors like absence of resistance, and the dominance of stereotypes in the post-2013 law judgments indicate that there is a huge disconnect between the Parliament’s intention and the Judiciary’s implementation.

Domestic violence in Trinidad and Tobago: Protective rights and international treaty obligations. Professor Florence Seemungal, Visiting Academic, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies,University of Oxford; Adjunct Staff, Undergraduate Academic Programming and Delivery Division, University of the West Indies, Open Campus. 

This presentation examines the current incidence and nature of domestic violence recorded in Trinidad and Tobago, based on agency reports. The discussion focuses on an evaluation of the extent to which Trinidad and Tobago fulfils its international obligations to promote and enforce the protective rights of citizens against domestic violence. A summary of the relevant international treaties signed by Trinidad and Tobago will be outlined followed by a review of the country’s performance targets and treaty obligations. This review includes data from needs assessment and status reports of Trinidad and Tobago by the United Nations. The presentation contains a discussion of how Covid-19 related policies and laws relating to confinement, stay at home orders and the early release of prisoners have led to concerns over the protection of the vulnerable in the domestic domain. The measures taken by the Government and agencies in Trinidad and Tobago to mitigate the problem, to address concerns and to support victims are outlined. 

Decolonising responses to family violence in Aotearoa New Zealand. Penny Ehrhardt, Senior Associate, Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, Victoria University (New Zealand); DPhil student, University of Oxford.

Aotearoa, New Zealand has among the highest reported rates of family violence in the developed world. Recognition that criminal justice centred responses are inadequate has grown. In this presentation I outline political, legislative, policy, research and programme based responses, including the Government's Joint Venture on Family Violence and Sexual Violence. which brings together at least 10 government agencies working on family and sexual violence, as well as tribal and civil society to support an integrated response. I outline the promises and challenges posed by the Family Violence Death Review who last week released a report calling for the decolonisation of failed Eurocentric systems of family violence response, and recommending widespread structural change. I examine the reasons for their plea, and ask about the likelihood of it succeeding. 

On 11th June, I will be hosting a 'virtual coffee' session as part of InsightsOnline.

There’s so much to talk about! But as a starter, here a few things that have been on my mind where I’d be interested in what you have to say.

What have people started doing that they should carry on doing when this is all over? I know it’s a question everyone is asking but so they should.

“Never waste a crisis” is an old cliché, and we ought to be thinking now about how the crisis becomes a turning point. For me, a big part of that is what now constitutes “normal” in the community and which ought to be normal in prisons. For example, after Strangeways and Woolf, it was as basic as not having to pee into a potty, and having a television “at home”. Now I think it should be about having access to the internet, which for most people has been essential to getting through this.

And on a completely separate tack, how do organisations behave in a crisis? Having spent years inside the system, I really notice what it’s like to be outside it. That experience can be frustrating in normal times, but it’s even more marked when people and departments are under intense pressure. HMPPS Insights is a bit of an exception to the rule , and hugely positive for being so. What should we be learning about what transparency and collaboration really mean, including the risks? How should government reach out and involve, but also how do external organisations balance helping with holding to account? Should I be angry or sympathetic?

Of course, a huge focus for PRT is how prisoners get a say in the future of the system that governs their lives. So how are we going to make space for that to happen in this crucial period? It’s already obvious that a main reason prisons have coped as well as they have so far is that prisoners have consented to the restrictions placed upon them. If we want that to continue and to inform much longer term issues about how prisons operate, what are the implications for how policy is made and how prisons are run? And that’s just as important for how probation works – are prisons maybe having to rely more on consent at the very moment that probation moves towards coercion?

Looking forward to the conversation…



In addition to hosting our own InsightsOnline events over the coming months, we are also delighted to be partnering up with the Academy for Social Justice to bring you some co-hosted events.

Stay tuned to book tickets to discuss Probation reform with Chief Inspector, Justin Russell, or learn how we can work together to respond to modern slavery and online child sexual offending.

In the meantime, tickets are now available for the following event:

A story of Crime and Justice: How to Engage Effectively with the Media

The media landscape is constantly changing. However the narratives in the media typically hinge around ‘soft’ and ‘tough’ justice.

In this free online seminar Kieran McCartan, Professor of Criminology will be in conversation with Penelope Gibbs of Transform Justice and former BBC journalist Philippa Budgen about how the public conversation around crime and justice can be reframed and more nuanced.

Transform Justice recently published ground-breaking research which showed the need for charities, academics and campaigners to use different language and techniques to inspire more nuanced attitudes about responses to crime.

Philippa Budgen, a journalist for 15 years, now independent consultant, is working with social justice charities, lawyers and NGOs to help raise media and public awareness of often demonised and polarised issues and people. She will offer practical advice about what works and what doesn’t work in dealing with the media.

Tickets are available here

The Parole Board is an independent body which considers whether a prisoner’s continued imprisonment is necessary for the protection of the public. We make thousands of decisions a year for those who have committed some of the most serious offences. Due to the nature of these offences, our decisions can attract the interest of, and sometimes criticism from, the public.

It is crucial that there is confidence in and understanding of the Parole Board’s role in protecting the public. As Chief Executive, there are common myths and misunderstandings that I have come across in the five years that I have led the organisation.

During my InsightsOnline event, I will attempt to answer some of these questions; explain how we go about our difficult task, including during a global pandemic. I will also ask fundamental questions about how we define success, and the extent to which we can take account of the views of victims, and public opinion.

To give a taster of some of the issues I intend to tackle… 

Why do we have an independent body to make these decisions?

A: When the Board was established in 1967 it was not independent. I will explain why that changed, the Board’s status today and pose some questions about future change…

Does the Parole Board release everyone?

A: Actually, we are more likely to direct people to stay in custody?  I will explain the facts and trends….

Why does the Parole Board release people so early?

A: In reality the Board only consider release once the period set for punishment has passed. I will talk about the legal framework and explain how we decide if someone has changed…

Do people go on to commit terrible crimes after being released by the Parole Board?

A: It is extremely rare for people to go on to commit a serious offence; but I will talk about how we learn lessons from this… 

What is the “value” of parole? 

The Parole Board is not focused on saving money, we are only focused on the protection of the public. However I will talk about the human and financial costs of our decisions... 

Why does life not mean life?

A: Well it does… but it does not necessarily mean spending the rest of a person’s life in prison – though it can in some circumstances.  I will talk about the legal and practical operation of life sentences and how it has changed over time.

Does the Board listen to victims (and the public)?

I will explore in-depth how the role of a victim fits in to the Parole process and how we have proven to be a resilient organisation by making huge strides in opening our doors to the public and transforming the way we work, in the face of misunderstanding and recent challenges.

How has the Parole Board adapted to COVID 19?

The recent global pandemic has put to test the resilience of the Board. Annually, the Parole Board conducts around 8,000 face to face oral hearings. What do you do when face to face conduct becomes impossible?

Join me on 11th June to discuss these issues, and more.


‘Lockdown’, ‘social distancing’ or ‘Covidiot’ - terms never heard before March, now commonly used on Zoom calls with friends and family.

Covid-19 is disrupting all daily life, including Probation. Appointments via Skype; interventions on digital platforms so users can complete from home.

When normality begins to return, what if, instead of going back to old ways, we keep on transforming?  Maintain what is working well during these exceptional circumstances and embrace further change. Streamlining processes and delivering in ways our users consume other services.

I am thinking of Digitization, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality.  I am sure there are many others.

Firstly digital - can we use apps to put the probation process into the user's pocket? Provide access to training and interventions online from home? Can we make interventions more effective by moving to a mixed classroom and online model?  Technically, the answer is yes. We just need the evidence and the will to make it happen.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), or Machine Learning, is one of those scary sci-fi terms. In reality, most of us use some flavour of this every day. Algorithms enhancing our ability to find what we’re looking for (Google), predict our shopping preferences (Amazon) or understand what we’re asking for (Alexa). Can we use these same techniques to enhance risk management and improve understanding of efficacy of interventions?

Virtual Reality is being shown as highly effective for dementia and other areas of treatment, including rehabilitation. Virtual Rehab claim that 87% of patients showed improvement. Described by the US Government as “a capability very promising for public services”.

Join me on 28th May to discuss how technology may influence the future of Probation.


As the old proverb says, "Necessity is the mother of invention"...

Whilst our current situation brings its many challenges, it also provides opportunities to explore new ways of reaching out across the system and keeping us connected in these uncertain times.

Whilst we wait in anticipation to reschedule the Insights20 Festival to later in the year, we are delighted to announce the launch of InsightsOnline!

Over the coming months, we will be offering a range of online opportunities that you can enjoy and participate in from the comfort of your own home (or workplace). We will be working with our Insights20 hosts and criminal justice partners to bring you a series of exciting virtual events, videos and guest blogs.

InsightsOnline will provide the opportunity to learn from each other, share ideas, and connect across the System, albeit from a safe distance!

Our first events will be advertised soon.

If you would like to contribute, please get in touch - we'd love to hear from you.

We are sad to say that, due to COVID-19, we have decided to postpone Insights20 until later in the year. Fear not, your tickets remain valid and you can continue to register for events until 27th April. We have had an amazing response - over 8000 ticket registrations in under 2 weeks!!

We will be following the situation closely and will be abiding by advice from the Government, Public Health England, and Public Health Wales. Our current plan is to review the situation again in June, with the hope of rescheduling the Festival to October 2020. We will let you know the new dates as soon as they have been rescheduled.

Thank you for all of your support so far. We have been overwhelmed by the response.

This is not the end! We will be back and look forward to seeing you soon. Stay safe everyone.

Visit our digital brochure to browse over 400 free events, open to all staff who work for, or along side HMPPS! Just click on the individual links in the brochure to book your ticket.

Staff from across the organisation, as well as our colleagues from across the public, private and third sector, have generously donated their time, skills and venues to create this fantastic programme of events.

Ever fancied shadowing one of our senior leaders for the day? Or perhaps you would like to see how HMPPS and third sector partners work together to support people on release? Maybe you would like to enhance your knowledge of the evidence and research that informs the work we all do? Every event will provide the opportunity to learn something new, develop and share insight, and build effective practice. Let’s all take this chance to step away from the day job, experience something new and see how the different parts of the system work. Let’s connect with others and build relationships so that we can work in partnership to achieve our common goals.

We hope you will join us and be inspired. See you there!

This is it! We are proud and excited to launch the Insights20 Festival on our brand new website! Our digital brochure includes over 400 free events taking place this May, open to all staff who work for, or alongside HM Prison and Probation Service. Tickets will be available from 6th March by clicking on the individual links within the digital brochure.

Check out our promotional videos below. Thanks to everyone who took part.

Follow us on Twitter @hmppsinsights

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