August 17, 2021

Short Sentence Function: Specialist Teams to Support Individuals Serving Short Sentences

Darren Thompson
Resettlement Design Lead, Probation Reform Programme

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:

  • the reconviction rate (62.7%) is 15.9% greater than the general reconviction rate for all individuals released from custody (46.8%).[1]
  • People in prison who receive sentences of 12 months or less constituted 33.2% of total licence recalls in England and Wales between January and December 2019.[2]
  • People who receive sentences of 12 months or less constituted 33.2% of total licence recalls in England and Wales between January and December 2019.

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

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