In this Insights guest blog, Tammie Burroughs from HMI Probation informs how professional curiosity can be used practically and effectively to enhance case management.

Being curious sometimes gets a bad reputation; people can be labelled as nosey, accused of asking “too many questions” and be reminded that “curiosity killed the cat!” However, if you apply curiosity to that phrase itself and ask where it originates and what the phrase actually means you will find that it is often misquoted. Whilst there does not appear to be one succinct explanation of its origin and meaning, historical records suggest it was in fact care which killed the cat, in terms of sorrow or worry. Other explanations, and my preferred one, is that it should read “curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction bought it back.” Suggesting the real meaning encourages people to be curious instead of killing your curiosity, especially when learning something new.

And for me that sums up professional curiosity, its about learning something new about ourselves and thus how our practice is impacted by our own identities. It’s about those with whom we work, about the type of service we are delivering and the impact this is having, and about the evidence our work is based on. Reflecting on professional curiosity in this manner means it would be a useful skill for anyone working within the Criminal Justice Service from people delivering front line services (whether that be in probation, prison, Voluntary, Charity and Social Enterprises) right though to senior leadership. This is because it means asking the right questions and using the responses to critically evaluate how we achieve improvements.

Despite the importance of curiosity, it is often an overlooked approach. This can be for many reasons including a lack of a true understanding of the concept, workload and skill set, amongst other factors. Inspections of probation services have cited a lack of professional curiosity in their reports and this is one of the top themes highlighted within Serious Further Offence reports. Conversely, where practitioners and leaders employ curiosity, and have generative discussions about what is driving specific behaviours, both positive and negative, on an individual and service level, we see a positive impact on delivery.

Consequently, HM Inspectorate of Probation were keen to find a way to harness the learning from inspections and from effective practice and share across the Criminal Justice System. As a result, we have developed two guides, one for practitioners and one for managers, to translate our findings into learning. Mindful of how busy people are in operations, we have designed these as a modular resource which people can dip in and out of. We have used multiple methods to illustrate the learning including quotes, videos, interviews, practical exercises, reflective questions and links to academic articles, to appeal to the different learning styles and allow the reader to jump into the sections which feel the most relevant to them.

You can access these guides via the links below:

Practitioners – professional curiosity insights  guide explores what professional curiosity is, why it is important, errors, bias and barriers that impede its use and how you can mitigate these. It highlights themes where a lack of professional curiosity has impacted on the quality of case supervision, and we share case illustrations where professional curiosity has improved the quality of supervision. Finally, we talk about its importance in continuous professional development and share some theories around identity and blending risk and desistance.

Middle managers – professional curiosity insights guide is designed to help middle managers consider how they can create a culture that enables and promotes professional curiosity. It also covers how it links to the Inspectorate’s standards, errors, bias and barriers to professional curiosity and how managers can support mitigate against these and finally, we focus on the importance for continuous professional development, sharing some leadership theories to promote reflection and discussions. It is designed as a supplement to the practitioner insights guide

I would encourage you to access these during any protected learning time, or maybe discuss in team briefings/meetings or within action learning sets. Maybe share examples of things which have got in the way of your curiosity and how you have addressed this, or if you haven’t ask your colleagues for any tips on have they have mitigated against these.

I am also curious to understand how helpful you believe these are for your practice so please do feel free to reach out to me with any feedback at  This will allow us to improve future guides.

A firm favourite for many during Insights22 was the opportunity to observe, and get involved with, prison dog handler training, hosted by HMPPS National Dogs and Technical Support Group. In this guest blog, Anna Siraut from the Prison & Probation Ombudsman blogs about her experience.

The Insights Festival has always been one of my favourite events of the year. Past experience has taught me that the opportunities offered really do live up to the Insights invitation: to learn, share, connect and celebrate. After the past couple of years, I was particularly keen to utilise the opportunity to get out there and remind myself what it was like to work outside of my office environment. Consequently, when I saw the opportunity to observe prison dog handler training, I could not sign up fast enough. After all, most prison dogs tend to be the cutest and most adorable members of staff, right? OK, depends on your particular perspective, but that’s my viewpoint! After an email promising that I should expect to get covered in at least some dog hair and possibly paw prints, dog handler training had some anticipation to live up to!

The day itself meant an early start for me, but this was more than compensated for by the warm welcome from the trainers and officers on the course. Several handlers went off with their dogs to complete their 'explosives' training, so we were left with the new-ish dogs; four weeks into training, learning to detect drugs. Finally, the fun part! Having new people coming to watch, meant new people for the dogs to practise their recent drug detection skills on. So it was on with the prison jackets and lining up, before taking it in random turns to 'conceal' drugs in our pockets. Yes - in case you’re wondering, drug sniffing dogs are trained using actual drugs (just small amounts), thanks of course to their exceptional sense of smell. The dogs' reward when they correctly indicate the location of concealed drugs? In this case, tennis balls from their handlers, most of which got progressively soggier with dog slobber.

The end of passive training meant a break for the dogs to stretch their paws, and a chance for me to meet Lucy, 'champion prison dog', who, on meeting me, immediately indicated that I had my mobile telephone in my pocket! Tolerated by Lucy was Bramble, at just 10 months old, she had a couple of months to wait until she could start her training. Bramble behaved like any small child; over excited and full of enthusiasm for meeting new people. Bramble’s energy was finally brought to a halt when Lucy made it clear she had tolerated enough of the 'new kid'. Against this background, we had loads of opportunities to ask questions to the trainers. Everything from, "What happens if the dog fails training?, "How do you decide which drugs a dog is trained to detect?", "What has been your biggest find in prison?", "How do you pair a dog with a handler?"…no prison dog based question was left by the end.

Having seen the dogs working in passive mode, it was time for them to demonstrate their active search ability. The training room was cleared, drugs were concealed, (or were they?), and it was time for a full search of the room. It was great to see lots of super happy dogs when they found the concealed items, secreted everywhere from a wheelchair to a baby chair, and dog handlers with pockets full of soggy tennis balls - I was in awe of the skills of the dogs and the handlers. Even though one of the dogs decided to relieve itself on a couple of prison uniforms, this did not deter my admiration! The trainers, not to be left out, decided to demonstrate how the dogs learn to find a new drug. Expecting all sorts of clever gizmos, it is actually done quickly, using the association of smell with the reward of the favourite toy and then some play time.

The day was over all to soon. Everyone had been very generous with their time, not only answering endless questions but also sharing their knowledge and experience. Saying "thank you" on the day really did seem totally inadequate. Suffice to say, I left with a smile on my face, and while I didn’t have any paw prints on me, I was more than happy that my trousers were covered in dog hair!

One of the exciting opportunities during Insights22 was to visit the National Justice Museum to explore the extraordinary collection on show. In this guest blog Jan Fotheringham, a Project Manager in the Secure Schools Team within the Youth Custody Service informs of her interesting day there.

I have always been fascinated in how criminal justice has changed over the years, and so I was delighted to be able to visit the National Justice Museum as part of the Insights22 Festival.

The National Justice Museum is based in Nottingham’s former Shire Hall and County Gaol, a Grade II listed building featuring a Victorian criminal and civil courtroom and an Edwardian police station, and exhibitions explore the fascinating history of justice. It houses collections of over 40,000 objects that cover the history of the British Criminal Justice System. The museum opened in 1995 and welcomes 35,000 visitors annually.

The learning programmes offered by the museum are delivered in centres across England, in their historic courtrooms in Nottingham, the Royal Courts of Justice and the Rolls Building in London, and in active courts in the North West. Their ambition is to widen their learning offer to more UK locations. In 2018 the museum became an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) and in 2021 they won the ‘Museums Change Lives’ award for their innovative workshops in an envelope project.

On arrival, after a lovely welcome by Bev, the Senior Curator and Archivist, and Bex, the Collections Curator and introductions, we set off down to the museum’s store.


The first item shown was a prison Medical Officer’s Amputation Kit (undated) but similar to one in the Wellcome Collection, London, dating between 1866-1871- utterly horrifying to learn of Medical Officers tying veins and sawing off limbs in a Victorian prison setting!

After correctly guessing the second item was an electro compulsive therapy machine, Bex, the Collections Curator, brought out the ‘big guns': a blunderbuss used by the Civil Guard who presided over work parties along with prison staff, back in the 19th Century.  Bex said they were known as the silver knights rather than the Civil Guard… although we were all at a loss to know why – including Bex!

A large wooden case emblazoned with the word ‘spectacles’ landed on the viewing table, which we thought to be a big clue.  However, no spectacles were to be found within, but several objects which had been removed during operations, or ‘passed’ naturally by prisoners, including buttons, nails (removed from Prisoner 317 in August 1915), chess pieces and lots of cutlery… plus Foxy Fowler’s false teeth ‘passed’ by him in April 1961!

Touring through the collection, we came across part of the 500 strong police truncheon collection, a couple of man traps, lots of examples of prison staff uniform and meandered our way to the far end of the collection, to items made by prisoners (alas unclaimed).  Among the etched metal washing bowls and not-so-cuddly toys, there was a fragile stitched sampler, pinned to a large cushion and covered in tissue to preserve it.  Its beautiful, intricate work was met with praise and wonder, until we read the last stitched section - "Annie Parker, aged 33 years, done by her with her own hair 1880. Cast thy burden upon the Lord”. For some reason, this horrified me more than the amputation kit!

Finally, to the pink corset and non-prison issue shirt.  The pink corset, beautifully stitched and in perfect condition, has an uncertain past as it was part of the collection inherited from Newbold Revel.  To confuse matters, there is not much history available on prison industries, although another guest, Laura, was able to provide some contemporary insight.  The prison shirt belonged to Reggie Kray and, as the story goes, was a present from Buzz Aldrin.  As you can see, more Harrods issue than prison issue!

You can find our more about the National Justice Museum here - well worth a visit!

The museum | National Justice Museum

A pioneering residential community for women and their children

Denise Norton is the Diversity and Inclusion Lead for the Devon and North Dorset Prison group within HMPPS. In this guest blog she tells of her fascinating Insights22 VIP day with Lady Edwina Grosvenor at Hope Street, the first purpose built, county-wide residential network designed by women, for women with multiple needs

I consider myself to be a lifelong learner and so every year I apply for as many of the Insights events as I can fit into my busy diary. As the Diversity and Inclusion lead, I was delighted to learn I had won a VIP ticket to visit Hope Street followed by a coffee and chat with Lady Edwina Grosvenor. This was a great opportunity to learn more about this exciting project which aims to support justice involved women and their children.

After brief introductions, Edwina and her Community Director, Jane Smith described what their vision was for the women and children with whom they would soon be working and how they would achieve that. It was clear from the first moment I met them, they are hugely passionate about providing wrap around rehabilitative services to the women in a holistic environment providing a much-needed place in the community where women can recover without the need for their children to be removed into care.

Lady Edwina Grosvenor & Denise Norton visiting Hope Street

From this passion arose Hope Street, a place being built in the heart of Southampton from the ground up. It provides a place of safety for women to live and heal in a trauma informed manner, encouraged by on-site staff who are there to support reintegration and eventual move on to one of the sister houses where there is ongoing support and an opportunity for the women to live independently. At the heart of that is partnership working with other agencies to ensure the women have access to services which support their ongoing recovery.

I was privileged to see the building both inside and out and dressed in the obligatory hard hat and boots combo, I had a full tour and an invite to return for tea and biscuits when it is fully operational. Each part of the build has been in consultation with a variety of stakeholders and the result is a careful balance between an enabling environment that fosters independence. As this is an innovative pilot project, I look forward to following their progress and hope this is the first of many across the UK.

My thanks go to the Insights team, Lady Edwina and Jane Smith for being such gracious hosts and sharing their vision for the future of women’s services in Hampshire. I took from our meeting, the importance of compassion and understanding when working with justice experienced people who have often being victims of trauma. I will use this in my current role when developing narratives around diversity and inclusion across my prison group.

Redesign — One Small Thing

South Asian Heritage Month runs from 18th July to 17th August every year. The Month aims to amplify and celebrate British South Asian heritage and history across the United Kingdom through education, arts, culture and commemoration, helping people better understand the diversity of present day Britain and improve social cohesion across the country.

The theme for 2022 is Journeys of Empire. In this Insights Guest Blog, Sukhwinder Singh explains more about the Punjab culture and an intriguing travel experience. Sukhwinder is a Sikh and is Deputy Managing Chaplain at HMP Berwyn. He is Sikh Regional Manager to HMPPS Wales and the National Deputy Lead for HMPPS staff network, RISE.

I always encourage people from various backgrounds to be proud of their language and cultures and to celebrate them with everyone. Being based at HMP Berwyn, I am proud to be celebrating the Welsh culture alongside colleagues, whilst drawing on my proud South Asian heritage.

My background

I was born in the Punjab which means the land of Five Rivers; referring to the rivers Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas. In 1947 partition of the Subcontinent divided Punjab into two parts – the West Punjab, belonging to Pakistan and the East Punjab became part of India. Both sides share the same heritage especially when it comes to the traditional home cooked Punjabi style food!! And they proudly take their heritage and culture with them wherever they go around the world.

I was 9 years old when I arrived in the United Kingdom. I gained qualifications in education and religious studies and started in HMPPS in 2003. I have been working for HMPPS now for nearly 20 years and have learned so much that I could write a book. However, I shall wait for that moment. 

Punjabi culture

The culture of Punjab is the one of the richest cultures in the world. Punjabi songs are full of melody and energy.

Pretty much every Bollywood film includes Punjabi music or song for its popularity and traditional Bhangra and Giddha (Punjabi dance).

The majority religion of Punjab is Sikhism, which originated from the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first Sikh Guru. Hinduism is the second largest religion.

A significant population of Muslims and small communities of Christians and Jains in some areas who have lived together for many years.

Whether you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Pagan, Jains, Rastafarian, Buddhist or even if you are atheist; Sikhs will still respect you and treat you equally and serve you where possible as if we are serving God.


Recently, RISE has been able to do more work face-to-face alongside Diversity & Inclusion and Race Action Plan teams.

Our visits to establishments have been acknowledged by staff and prisoners from Black Asian Minority Ethnic backgrounds who were able to discuss some concerns or suggest ideas for improvements.

Those of South Asian heritage would speak to me in Urdu, Hindi, or Punjabi. I’m proud to understand the needs of others and to assist them accordingly.

In photo below you will see Rev. David Gould of Holy Trinity church, Imam Nasir Zameer from Abrahamic Foundation Mosque and me, with the students hoping to be Imams, who welcomed us warmly and asked many questions about our friendship. We held hands together in the picture to affirm each other’s faith and the friendship we share. In that friendship and respect, we have explored what each other’s faith means and how we work out that faith living and working in a society of many faiths and cultures.

Whereas my friends learned and enjoyed the Indian heritage and culture, I was extremely impressed to have explored even more during our travels across a few states in India.

I have visited and travelled though many countries with my faithful friends and observed many cultural events. My recent visit to Israel/Palestine and walkabouts on the streets of Jerusalem surely opened my eyes towards its centuries saved historical culture, which reminded me of some similarities with the Indian subcontinent!!

However, our history and traditions enable us to develop an awareness about ourselves. It helps us understand and explain why we are the way we are. Heritage is a keystone of our culture that plays an important role in our politics, society, business, and world view.

In this Insights22 blog, Mark Stanley, Deputy Director and Head of Digital Probation writes about one of his recent HMPPS Insights22 experiences, a day doing Community Payback (a.k.a. Unpaid Work).

I don’t mean to imply you haven’t attended such events, but if like me you had no idea what HMPPS Insights events were and weren’t sure if you could make the time to attend, I hope to persuade you otherwise. So this is directed at people who might wonder next time what HMPPS Insights are about and whether it’s worth their time to attend one.

For me nothing beats going back to the front line, meeting people who use the services we build and who are asked to follow the policies we create. Even more, nothing beats meeting people in prison or on probation. I’m lucky to work with teams that have user researchers, so I get to see, nearly first-hand, how people respond to the digital services and technology we’re delivering. On these occasions I’m observing silently in the background, usually on a MS Teams call. Getting to physically work alongside people is exponentially better and more engaging.

Having signed up for the experience, I was sent a letter mandating my attendance, just like a person on probation would receive, and I pitched up at a large park in Highbury, London, to do Community Payback. I had to supply my shoe size (10 – average UK male) as we’d be working outdoors in steel toe-capped boots, and the supervisors are there to ensure safe working. I was also kitted out with a high vis vest- turned inside out to conceal ‘COMMUNITY PAYBACK’- the supervisor wanting to differentiate others of us from those sentenced to perform unpaid hours. I was also given a hoe.

I cleared weeds, I picked up litter, I planted plants, but while all very healthy and outdoorsy my reason for being there was to meet and speak to people. Especially to understand the needs of those my teams and I are working for. I met the person who has the interesting and complex job of identifying suitable opportunities for Community Payback. Of all the suggestions communities send in, only a few are suitable to occupy a large team of people, or have essential facilities like toilets, or areas to shelter if it pours.

I also spoke to the area delivery manager, who assesses who can do a given form of work- you can’t just assign anyone to work in a public space like the park we were in. And I met the supervisor, who must ensure people turn up on time to begin their ‘hours’, formally log these, and ensure everyone is working effectively, not endangering themselves or others.

It was great to understand the processes, and the digital (or not) tools these front line staff use. The highlight for me though was speaking with people on supervision - those carrying out the work. I was amazed at how most responded to being in the open air, tidying the park and putting in plants. It wasn’t a surprise to hear how they gained from the experience, not just the residents of a prettier park; after all it was quite something to be outside in warm weather, in as green and natural an environment as London could muster.

Here's an image of the lovely high vis get-up we had on and the cheery supervisor in front of the well-equipped tool shed.

Mike Prouten is a Senior Administration Officer in the East and West Lincolnshire Probation Service. In this blog he tells us of the fascinating day he had in the Insights22 event, ‘Join the Metropolitan Police for a Ride-Along’.

Browsing through the Insights22 website, I spotted something that looked right up my street – a ride-along with the Metropolitan Police at Croydon Police Station. I signed up for the draw but didn’t expect to hear anything further, so when an email appeared saying ‘Congratulations Insights22 Winner!’ I actually thought it was spam!

Shortly after, I received back a document from the Metropolitan Police via the Insights Team explaining what the process and rules of a ride-along were. There were some pages that I needed to complete relating to emergency contact details, which I did expect to do if I was going to get the chance to sit in a Police car.

I did become concerned when the document stated that I might need to ‘consider the adequacy of your own accident, life or health insurance cover’ – what was I letting myself in for…?

The day of the ride-along arrived and I got up early, ensuring I had plenty of time to get there for the 1pm shift (I live in Lincolnshire so Croydon isn’t exactly around the corner).

I arrived at the station in plenty of time and sat in the waiting area.

A female officer from the ‘Fugitive and Manhunt Unit’ opened the door, so I followed her and was introduced to her Sergeant. He went to make me a cup of tea (always welcome!) whilst the female officer explained what they do – searching for people wanted on bail, recalls, suspects, that type of thing. I watched as they deciphered multiple sources of information to try and track down the different fugitives that were wanted, and the morning shift arrived back from a ‘visit’.

After sitting there for a while, the Sergeant called me over and told me that they might not be going out on a visit for a good few hours, so it would just be me sitting there watching, which wouldn’t be very interesting. He had spoken with the Inspector of the Safer Transport Team (STT), who are a group of officers tasked with keeping people safe on the transport network and dealing with traffic offenders, and she said I could join them on a joint operation with the British Transport Police (BTP) at the Croydon rail stations; stopping and searching those they suspected of carrying knives or drugs.

I got fitted with a stab vest - which is surprisingly comfy but very heavy – and boarded the Police minibus with 5 officers, the Inspector and a Sergeant, and off we rode down to East Croydon.

After struggling to get out of the minibus (because of the stab vest) I stood with the team at the entrance to the station, the back entrance being blocked to funnel all the travellers into one place.

There was an arrest – to the expected cries of disapproval from some younger members of the public - until one of the officers shouted “knife!”, which changed their minds somewhat as they realised what the officers were trying to achieve.

There was also another young man who was pinned down to the floor by officers right next to me, which is a lot scarier in real life compared to when you see it on the TV! Turned out he was going equipped to steal – why else would you have a balaclava and gloves in the sunshine?

The Police presence also seemed to make some regular fare-jumpers see the error of their ways and cough up the money to pay for their travel.

Overall, the majority of the public I spoke to were very much for what the Police and BTP were doing. I had a very enjoyable time with the Met; they work under difficult pressures in a very challenging environment, yet they do so with pride, camaraderie, enthusiasm, positivity and a great sense of humour.

In this blog, Justin Tracey a Business Development Executive from Nacro retells his amazing day at Twickenham, hosted by the 3Pillars Project during Insights22.

The 3Pillars Project uses rugby, a bio-psychosocial intervention, to rehabilitate young offenders. At the event I learnt that, counterintuitively, visceral contact sports like rugby, unlike football, actually reduces aggression and anti-social behaviour, not encourages it. 

Using trust-based relationships, the project nurtures the young person’s pro-social identity: they learn self-control, emotional modulation, boundary and goal setting, self-discipline, empathy and the importance of collaboration and teamwork. 

The project can support the young person on their whole journey from prison into the community: after completing an 8-week rugby apprenticeship in custody, they can receive one-to-one mentoring through the gate and support into employment. This can be supplemented with sport qualifications, placements and a leadership programme.

Leon, a charismatic ex-apprentice, who now works for the St. Giles Trust as a mentor for children excluded from mainstream education, gave us an inspiring talk on the 3Pillars Project.

We all have our own personal super-heroes that we love and aspire to, luckily for many of us, they are family and friends. The 3Pillars Project through sport provides super-heroes for the many young people in the criminal justice system who sadly do not have one. Even more amazing 3Pillars Project takes young people like Leon and help them become the inspirational super-heroes and role-models of tomorrow. 

Jennifer Mustoe-Castle, Chief Operating Officer at 3Pillars Project commented, ‘Not often do we have the opportunity to welcome staff from across the MOJ to discuss sport and rehabilitation so it was such a joy to hear the passion from everyone in attendance. After brilliant feedback, we are already planning a return to Twickenham for 2023 for the next Insights event!’

For further information on this fantastic organisation please visit

Wayne George (Insights), Leon (3Pillars Project) and Justin Tracey (NACRO)

In this guest blog Gill Hunter from the Institute for Crime and Justice Policy Research (ICJPR) & Suzanne Smith from the Centre for Justice Innovation highlight how best to support both people in the Criminal Justice System who speak English as a second or additional language and the practitioners on the frontline assisting them.

Language barriers can have a substantial impact on individuals’ interactions with the criminal justice system. However, there is limited research on this issue and a lack of practical guidance to support practitioners working with individuals who speak English as a second or additional language (ESL). A new wide-ranging research and practice series, Language barriers in the criminal justice system, from the Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research, Birkbeck, Victim Support, and the Centre for Justice Innovation, funded by The Bell Foundation, has  explored this topic to gain a greater understanding of the impact of speaking ESL on individuals’ experiences of the justice system, whether as victims, witnesses, suspects, defendants, or people in prison/under supervusion. This work also highlights the challenges posed for criminal justice practitioners when working with individuals who speak ESL. Here, we summarise some key research findings, and provide an overview of the good practice guidance for practitioners working through interpreters.

The research

This was a small-scale, exploratory project. We reviewed legal rights and entitlements to language support (mainly access to professional interpretation and translation). We interviewed 63 practitioners working in statutory and voluntary sector criminal justice agencies, largely in two geographic areas in England, and we interviewed and received written feedback from 26 individuals about the lived experience of ESL speakers in the criminal justice system.

In brief, the findings were:

Guidance for criminal justice practitioners

In response to research findings, a guidance tool was developed to support practitioners to communicate more effectively with individuals who speak ESL. This focuses on good practice when using an interpreter to work with individuals who speak ESL. The guidance was developed in consultation with probation practitioners and interpreters and aims to provide guidance to probation officers for working with interpreters, both in court and in community settings.

Working with individuals resettling in the community

The guidance includes pointers for practitioners to support effective communication from the initial point of contact with people resettling in the community through to supervision appointments using an interpreter. These include recommending that questions about their preferred verbal and written languages are incorporated into initial assessments to help identify language support needs at an early stage. If staff are unsure whether an interpreter is required, they should always check with the indivdual. Some may present as proficient speakers of English, but they may find it difficult to understand the complex language and legal jargon commonly used in the criminal justice system and in documents such as court orders and licence conditions.

Although it is recommended that all efforts be made to ensure that an interpreter is present for most, if not all, communications between probation and people resettling in the community with identified language support needs, this is not always possible as not all contact is pre-planned. Therefore, the guidance includes advice on effective communication when an interpreter is not present, including the importance of using plain English without colloquialisms, using translated materials and pictorial resources where possible, and checking understanding regularly. Practitioners are advised to avoid using friends or family members of a person being resettled to support with interpretation as there is no guarantee that the information will be translated correctly or treated sensitively and confidentially.

Where an interpreter is present, the document offers tips for aiding effective communication between the practitioner, the individual and the interpreter before, during and at the end of a probation appointment. Some examples of good practice outlined in the guidance include preparing the interpreter ahead of the meeting for discussions about sensitive and distressing topics, using clear and concise language and providing full explanations of any complex terminology used, and using short answers, yes/no or closed questions to regularly check understanding. Finally, the guidance outlines how gathering feedback on the session from the individual and interpreter can help to develop relationships and improve the effectiveness of future appointments. The guidance also includes a help-sheet, which can be translated and given to the person or read by the interpreter at the start of the meeting, and provides the individual with some information about how the appointment will run and what to expect of the interpreter, to help the session to run smoothly.

These are just a few examples of the advice provided in the guidance, which aims to support practitioners who want to better address the needs of people with English as a second or additional language . For more information and to view the whole series, please go to

If you would like to discuss the research in more detail, please contact Gill at, or if you have suggestions for how we can further improve practice for working with individuals who speak English as a second or additional language, please get in touch with Suzanne at

Gill Hunter is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Crime and Justice Policy Research, Birkbeck. ICPR undertakes academically-grounded, policy-orientated research on justice. The research is informed by concerns with justice and fairness and a commitment to bringing about improvements in justice policy and practice. Gill’s research interests focus on lay experiences and understandings of the criminal justice system and perceptions about access to justice across the court and tribunals system.  

Suzanne's role as Innovative Practice Officer at the Centre for Justice Innovation involves working directly with frontline practitioners and supporting them to develop and implement new and improved ways of working, as well as identifying and sharing best practice. This includes bringing practitioners together at multi-agency workshops and providing a range of practical tools to assist with the implementation of new initiatives. Previously, Suzanne worked as a frontline practitioner having worked in both the male and female prison estates and in youth justice, working with children involved in or at risk of involvement in the criminal justice system

HMPPS Young Adult Awareness Week takes place 7th - 13th February, in this blog Clare and Jemma explain the work that has been progressed to improve how young adults transition between youth and adult custody, and between youth offending and adult probation services. 

The transition from the youth to adult justice system is a challenging time for young adults. By blowing out the candles on the birthday cake at 18, individuals are suddenly perceived and treated as adults, with the child-friendly ethos and services available to them as adolescents, often abruptly coming to an end.

Community Transition

The unification of Probation Services created an opportunity to improve young adults’ experience of the transition between Youth Offending Services (YOS) and adult Probation Services.  In response, the Probation Reform Programme has been exploring how we can better address the particular needs of those who move between the two services.

In September 2021, London Probation region won The Butler Trust’s Kathy Biggar trophy for its locally developed ‘Transition Programme’ as an example of excellent local innovation.  With the support of the Probation Reform Programme, it has now been developed for national roll out, and is being treated to a design refresh to align it with other resources that support Probation Practitioners in their work. 

The programme will be renamed ‘Next Steps’ and will be used by secondees in the YOS and receiving probation practitioners to ensure that young adults understand and engage with transition, alongside the support of families, carers and other key professionals. Delivered through a series of modules, it demystifies probation supervision for the young adult and ensures that timely information is exchanged between the two services so that the sentence plan is delivered uninterrupted.  It encourages practitioners to move away from treating transition as a purely procedural task and provides practical exercises that support relationship-building and engagement. 


The transition of a young person from the Youth Custody Service (YCS) into the adult prison estate can be a critical period in the young person’s journey through custody. It is imperative that this is carefully planned, is focused on the young person, meets their needs and takes place in a collaborative and multi-disciplinary way with the young person at the centre of it.

Through enhanced partnership work, a centrally managed model has been developed to improve the process for placing children into the adult estate with a person-centred and consistently applied approach, to ensure that the specific needs of the individuals are met.

The new process will improve the sharing of information between the youth and adult estate to ensure more streamlined and comprehensive sentence and care planning, thereby providing a more smooth transition.

It aims to improve the experience of all young people who will be in custody beyond the age of 18 and create a consistent and transparent process that will meet the specific needs required for each individual. The new process will include the views of the child and their family/support person in decisions that are made about their future and increase awareness for staff involved in all stages of transition, of the specific needs of this age group.

The transitions guidance along with the National Probation Service Management of Young Adults Policy Framework will be available from 7th February 2022.

As Head of Volunteer Engagement for Sing Inside, Kate Apley works to build relationships with volunteers in new parts of the country, while ensuring that current volunteers continue to feel included and valued. Alongside Sing Inside, Kate combines training to be a music therapist with work as a music teacher and musical workshop leader. In this article, Kate talks about how they have adapted their approach during the pandemic to keep people singing!

One of our primary aims at Sing Inside is to create meaningful, humanising connection between people. We believe that group singing has a unique power to facilitate this: it can break down social barriers, and encourage creativity, confidence and self-worth. But with the pandemic meaning our last in-person prison visit took place 17 months ago, facilitating humanising musical connection has been much more of a challenge. Sing Inside has therefore been developing sets of remote learning resources for prison communities, trying to find ways to offer musical connection without being able to sing together.

Our packs offer a number of different things. Firstly, musical education: the packs cover learning to sing several songs, some background to those songs, working through physical and vocal warm-ups, and an introduction to reading and writing music. The paper pack has the option of an accompanying CD, making the information sections more accessible and making the musical sections more engaging. In our most recent pack, we added a learning section about classical composers of colour whose work has often not been granted the recognition it deserves.

Additionally, we have brought a wellbeing focus to the packs. We know that sitting alone in a cell singing is not for everyone, so our warm-ups have focused on breathing, mindfulness and feeling connected to our bodies and voices. Taking a good breath in and making any kind of sound can be such a powerful release of energy and tension, and we can only imagine how much that is needed in prisons at the moment.

But what about connection? This has been the hardest to cultivate, and we have improved across each of the 5 packs we have sent out, trying to show people in prison that they are still part of the Sing Inside community. In our latest pack, 7 different members of the Sing Inside team recorded parts of the accompanying CD, each adding their own personal touch to their section, giving a sense of the range of people involved with the Sing Inside community.

We have also been producing a virtual volunteer choir for increasing numbers of the songs on the CD: volunteers record themselves singing along to our backing track, and we edit all of the volunteer voices together into one group of singers. The hope is that when people in prison listen to these tracks and sing along, it will create a similar atmosphere to our in-person workshops and our community of singers will remotely connect.

Before our latest set of resources, I ran a virtual Zoom workshop for volunteers where we learnt one of the songs featured in the pack together – Summertime, by George Gershwin – before asking them to record themselves for the virtual volunteer choir. I then recorded myself teaching this song for the accompanying CD in the same way as I taught at the workshop – both strange experiences not being able to hear any feedback, but hoping to give volunteers and people in prison the same experience of a workshop.

Remote learning resources will never create as much connection between people as in-person group singing, but we are doing our best to remind volunteers and people in prison alike that Sing Inside is still here, still cares and will be back as soon as possible for some live singing!

The recording below is from a workshop completed in partnership with staff and people in prison at HMP Stafford, I hope you enjoy it.

'Build me up Buttercup" - Sing Inside workshop with staff and people in prison at HMP Stafford

Please find this link to our website if you would like to learn more about our organisation ( If you would like to engage with us please contact Maisie Hulbert at in the first instance.

Please Note: The National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance have an evidence library with numerous evaluations of arts-based work in criminal justice setting.

Photograph courtesy of MBP Creative Media Solutions.